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BBC announces new Factual, Arts & Classical Music commissions

BBC announces new Factual, Arts & Classical Music commissions

From the Falklands war to the AIDS crisis, stunning new Natural History and Arts series, new commissions set to champion talent and open up new worlds.

Speaking at the event, Fiona Campbell, Acting Director of Factual, Arts and Classical Music, said: “No other broadcaster has such an extraordinary breadth of factual, arts and classical music content: our programming is watched in huge numbers and gains international recognition – last year, BBC Factual titles reached 21.3m people every week and our programmes and talent won over 25 major awards.

“Coming up, we have an exciting range of new content being released across BBC channels and BBC iPlayer that demonstrates our commitment to championing talent on and off screen and bringing viewers high impact, high-value content that opens up the world to them and reflects their lives across the UK.”

Documentaries, History and Religion

Clare Sillery says, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, History and Religion, says: “The Documentary, History and Religion slate is in great shape with distinctive, high-quality new series coming up including House Of Maxwell and Freddie’s First Eleven, as well as powerful singles, such as Then Barbara Met Alan and Two Daughters and Katie Price: What Harvey Did Next, the follow up to last year’s acclaimed film.

“The new commissions announced today demonstrate our commitment to ambitious programming that tells uniquely British stories and brings fresh perspectives to viewers. Forty years on we are shining a light on the Falklands, hearing directly from those who fought in the war, while Trouble At Top Shop tells the story of the iconic fashion brand through the eyes of the visionary women who worked there.

“In addition, I’m delighted that the multi-award winning team behind Once Upon A Time In Iraq is back with another series, this time telling the story of the conflict in Northern Ireland and hit BBC Three series High is returning with another extraordinary tale.”

Falklands: The Frontline Story (working title)

Image Credit: IWM/Pete Holdgate

In April 1982, British forces sailed halfway round the world to fight a short, brutal war against Argentina. Ten weeks later they returned victorious. For many at the time it seemed a straightforward success story. But for its frontline combatants, its aftershocks persist to this day.

Marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War, this new 90-minute film, from the producers of the award-winning Gun No. 6, traces dramatic and deeply personal stories of the war and its long echo, through ten of the British soldiers who fought it on the frontline. Many have never shared these memories before.

These men who saw it all, side by side and up close, tell the story of their war in their words, beat by beat, with unflinching honesty. Revisiting the excitement, the adrenalin and the horror, they put us inside the fighting without filter. Battles fought, at times hand to hand, with bayonets on rifles. But it’s a story that didn’t end with the war. In the years since, they’ve had to come to terms with experiences that have defined their lives. For all of them it was a necessary war they were desperate to be a part of. For some it’s been a badge of honour, for others it’s torn them apart and haunts them still. Society’s understanding of war trauma was hastened by their return.

Told with four decades of perspective, from a very different world, many of these men are barely pension age. You’d pass them in the supermarket and never know, but they were all changed forever by those weeks at war and they still carry with them what they witnessed.

The film will let these men take control of their story, give dignity to their experience and reveal the human truth behind the headlines.

Falklands: The Frontline Story, w/t (1×90) for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer was commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, History and Religion. It is produced by The Garden, part of ITV Studios, where the Executive Producer is Zac Beattie. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Hamish Fergusson.

Trouble At Top Shop

For nearly 40 years Topshop’s iconic London flagship store dominated Oxford Circus, loved by women of all ages, from all backgrounds, including the likes of Kate Moss and Beyoncé. When the store shut its doors in 2020 waves of shock and sadness rippled across the country. How could this have happened?

This new documentary series tells the story of an iconic high street brand, its rise to global dominance and its fall from the dizzy heights of success.

During its time Topshop has ridden the waves of feast and famine. Its success, right up until the last five years on the high street, was rooted in the reinvention and rebranding by a group of creative brains who had made Topshop the go-to store. Launched in the 1960s in the basement of a dowdy department store in Sheffield, this youth brand struggled to find its place, and by the 80s was known as Flopshop.

But a change in fortune was on its way. It turned out they a secret weapon had joined their ranks: Jane Shepherdson. She rose from lowly distributor to head buyer to brand director. She built a team of visionary women. Their collective mission was to inspire and innovate and transform the brand into a multibillion-pound company.

When Sir Phillip Green bought Arcadia in 2002, Topshop went on to become a global phenomenon, opening stores across the world – and its profits soared. In 2006 he was knighted for services to retail and feted as king of the high street, but within 10 years his empire was crumbling. The hierarchies and corporate culture that had dominated since the 1990s were being challenged, both from within the boardroom and from outside.

What had been successful in the rapidly moving world of retail, stopped working. This new series reveals the stories of those who adapted and thrived, and those who failed to recognise and embrace the changes they needed to survive.

Trouble At Top Shop, a 2×60’ for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer, was commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, History and Religion and is being made by Voltage TV Productions. The Executive Producers are Jo Abel and Sanjay Singhal and the Director is Kate Scholefield. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Emma Loach.

Once Upon A Time In Belfast (working title)

Led by director James Bluemel, the team behind the multi-award winning documentary series Once Upon A Time In Iraq returns with a new four-part series telling the human stories of the people, communities and families caught up in the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland.

It is almost a quarter of a century since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement that brought an end to the conflict, but Northern Ireland remains haunted by twin spectres: its past and its future.

No shared story of the past has ever been agreed, and the future that many hoped might be peaceful is still clouded by uncertainty. This series aims to understand both those spectres and how they are a continuing presence in the lives of all those who live there.

Through evocative first-person testimony, the series will bring a fresh perspective on the Troubles, throwing light on the reality of lives lived in places where the past still casts a long shadow.

Mixing archive footage and personal testimonies from all sides of the conflict, untold stories emerge from the decades of war that tore apart communities living cheek-by-jowl, and still threatens the fragile peace more than two decades on.

Eddie Doyle, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC Northern Ireland, says: “This is an important co-commission and will provide a new perspective on the events and legacies of The Troubles. It’s a challenging subject and one that continues to affect everyday life for many people in Northern Ireland. This series will capture some of their stories and the human cost of conflict. And it will be a powerful addition to other BBC programming in this area.”

Once Upon A Time In Belfast (4×60) was commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, History & Religion and Eddie Doyle, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC Northern Ireland. The four part series is a co-commission between BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Two, and will be co-produced by Keo Films and Walk on Air Films. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Hamish Fergusson, the Executive Producers are Will Anderson and Andrew Palmer and the Series Producers are Vicky Mitchell and Rachel Hooper.

Science and Natural History

Jack Bootle says, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History, says: “2021 was a brilliant year for Science and Natural History on the BBC, and 2022 promises to be even more exciting.

“We’re going to explore the world’s most spectacular frozen wildernesses at a critical moment in their history, unveil astonishing new science about the extinction of the dinosaurs, take viewers on a thrill-ride into the frenzied heart of Brazilian politics, and paint a powerful social history of the AIDS crisis, built around beautiful, never-before-heard testimonies.

“Only the BBC can deliver Science and Natural History programming of this range, quality and scale. I can’t wait for viewers to experience it.”

Kingdom

Four powerful animal families – one stunning Kingdom.

One of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by BBC Studios Natural History Unit, Kingdom is a dramatic 6×60’ series for BBC One and BBC iPlayer, filmed in one spectacular location over four years. It chronicles the real-life sagas of four African animal families, all vying for dominance in a remote and fertile river valley in Zambia, one of the most stunning landscapes on Earth.

With more time in the field than any previous NHU production, never has a BBC landmark followed a group of characters so intensely over such a long period or spent so much time embedded in a single habitat. The audience will witness for the first time how the lives and fates of our four groups – leopards, hyenas, wild dogs and lions – are inextricably linked as they battle for supremacy over the valley, and wrestle for power within their own family units.

These gripping real-life storylines, spread across five hours of television, will be more dramatic than any work of fiction. As well as the intense power struggles between these top predators we’ll see how a colourful supporting cast – from huge elephant herds to the dung beetles beneath them – impact our central characters in surprising and diverse ways.

Working in close partnership with scientists, whose research stretches back over 20 years, we can reveal our characters’ true life stories with scrupulous accuracy. Records of ancient rivalries, internal battles for hierarchy and status, and epic shifts in seasons will allow our filming to uncover secrets of these animals’ lives that have never been seen before. These discoveries – and how they may lead to further protecting these vulnerable species – will be showcased in a sixth episode, dedicated to science and conservation. What does the future hold for our cast of creatures, and for the conservation of wildlife across the African continent?

The NHU will also be working closely with locally-based talent, both employing already established local crew and developing the next generation of Zambian wildlife filmmakers to chronicle this truly cinematic saga.

Kingdom, a 6×60’ series for BBC One and BBC iPlayer, is made by BBC Studios Natural History Unit, co-produced by BBC America. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History. The Executive Producer is Mike Gunton, the Series Editor is Simon Blakeney and the Series Producer is Felicity Lanchester. It will tx in 2025.

The AIDS Tapes

Forty years ago a mysterious disease first appeared in Britain’s gay community. As the deadly virus ravaged young lovers and friends, the stigma of the ‘gay plague’ incited a backlash of ignorance and fear across the country.

At a time when few gay men felt they could talk openly, the stories of many of those first affected by the AIDS crisis have been lost. However, a small group of historians set out to record interviews with those living at the heart of the unfolding epidemic, and these tapes were archived at the British Library.

The AIDS Tapes will bring these original recordings to a broadcast audience for the first time, and will be broadcast to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Terry Higgins, one of the very first people to die of an AIDS-related illness in the UK.

Actors lip syncing the original voices capture the men, their vibrancy, hopes and fears, as they were at the time in the 1980s and 1990s. They are supported by extraordinary interviews with the activists, doctors, nurses and survivors who were there by their sides.

As these voices unlock the past, The AIDS Tapes will tell the story of HIV and AIDS as it’s never been heard before.

Working with key experts and organisations including the Terrence Higgins Trust, this series will retell an unfolding scientific and medical detective story, exploring how doctors worked to discover the virus, how it was transmitted, how it could be prevented, and ultimately how it could be treated.

The AIDS Tapes is produced by Wall To Wall West, in partnership with The Open University, for BBC Two and iPlayer. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning Science and Natural History. The Executive Producer is Leanne Klein, Series Producer Morgana Pugh and Series Director Mark Henderson.

Our Changing Planet

Chris Packham, glacial lagoon

BBC One and iPlayer will show Our Changing Planet, the most ambitious environmental series the BBC has ever commissioned, and today we are delighted to announce the presenters: Ade Adepitan, Steve Backshall, Liz Bonnin, Gordon Buchanan, Chris Packham and Ella Al-Shamahi​.

For seven years, the acclaimed filmmakers of BBC Studios Natural History Unit will be closely documenting six key habitats around the world in California, Iceland, the Maldives, Kenya, Cambodia and Brazil. And over seven years, BBC viewers will watch as these habitats – and the species living in them – undergo extraordinary change.

These locations are bellwethers for the health of our planet. As pressure on the natural world increases, what happens here will happen elsewhere. As the series goes on, we will witness rapidly unfolding ecological change and observe surprising new animal behaviours as species adapt to their shifting environments.

But this is also a story of hope. In each habitat, we will meet incredible conservationists who are working to turn the tide, preserve ecosystems and save species from extinction.

The series will launch in April 2022 as part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations and return every year for the following six years – making it the longest environmental project ever commissioned for television.

The next few years will see enormous change around the globe. The world’s population is set to increase by almost one billion, one million species could face extinction and our seas are on course to rise by up to 20cm, flooding land where 147 million people currently live. Our Changing Planet will be the definitive document of a critical moment for life on earth.

Our Changing Planet, a 2×60’ series for BBC One and BBC BBC iPlayer, is made by BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, co-produced by PBS. It was commissioned Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History and the Executive Producer is Rosemary Edwards. International distribution will be handled by BBC Studios.

Arts

Suzy Klein, Head of Commissioning, Arts & Classical Music, says: “From world-class performances to landmark arts series and vivid one-off documentaries, I really believe that the range and ambition of BBC Arts programmes provides something for everyone, with stories of art, culture, ideas and imagination from across our cultural and creative history.”

More details can be found on future arts content here 

Big Jubilee Read

BBC Arts and The Reading Agency are launching the Big Jubilee Read, a national reading for pleasure campaign celebrating great reads from across the Commonwealth to coincide with Her Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee. An expert panel of librarians, booksellers and literature specialists has chosen 70 titles from a readers’ choice” longlist, with 10 books for each decade of Her Majesty The Queen’s reign.

The list offers brilliant, beautiful and thrilling writing produced by authors from a wide range of Commonwealth countries over the last 70 years to engage all readers in the discovery and celebration of great books. The final list of titles will be announced in April 2022 and there will be programming reflecting the Big Jubilee Read across the BBC including in the fourth series of the nation’s bookclub, Between The Covers.

Sunday Night Performance (from April)

The Play What I Wrote. Image Credit: Birmingham Rep and Geraint Lewis

From April BBC Four will cement its status as the home of performance on the BBC, with new Sunday Night Performances every week of the year showcasing some of the best of the UK’s dance, theatre, music and spoken word in specially made films for television.

These will include:

Prisoner C33, a new one-man play starring Toby Stephens, directed by Trevor Nunn and written by Stuart Patterson.
Eight specially-filmed performances from the BBC’s Orchestras, which will go out across the year.
Four seminal works from London’s Shakespeare’s Globe from its 25-year history.
The Read: emerging directors give fresh treatments to four absorbing tales, including Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing.
Ghosts In The Ruins, the Nitin Sawhney piece commissioned by Coventry Cathedral and Coventry City Of Culture Trust to mark 60 years since the consecration of Coventry Cathedral.
Theatr Clwyd and acclaimed playwright Tim Price bring a new dark comedy, Isla, to audiences following a successful run in North Wales.
BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists – some of the world’s most promising new talent – perform in a specially filmed concert.
Birmingham Rep’s acclaimed production of Olivier Award-winning comedy The Play What I Wrote, starring Tom Hiddleston specially filmed for the BBC at the Theatre Royal Bath.

Art That Made Us

Anthony Gormley in Art That Made Us

Art That Made Us is a landmark eight-part series for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer to air in April, alongside range of programming across BBC digital platforms and a nationwide festival that will run from 1-30 April across the UK.

Through 1,500 years and eight dramatic turning points, Art That Made Us presents an alternative history of the British Isles, told through art. Leading British creatives, including Simon Armitage, Anthony Gormley, Thomas Heatherwick, Lubaina Himid, Amanda Levete, Cornelia Parker, Maxine Peake, Thomas J Price, Shani Rhys James, Tai Shan Schierenberg and Michael Sheen join cultural historians including Gus Casely-Hayford, Nandini Das, James Hawes, Clare Lees, Afua Hirsch, Temi Odumosu, Jonathan Sumption and Patrick Wright to explore key cultural works that have shaped the history of the British Isles.

Examples of the artworks include the fifth century clay figure Spong Man; the epic Welsh poem Y Gododdin; the Lincoln Cathedral wooden carved misericords; The Book Of Margery Kempe by Margery Kempe; Veni Sancte Spiritus by John Dunstaple; The Penicuik Jewels associated with Mary, Queen of Scots; Shakespeare’s Othello; Milton’s Paradise Lost; Aphra Behn’s The Rover; Christopher Wren’s Dome of St Paul’s; Jonathan Swift’s satirical novel A Modest Proposal; Robert Burn’s poem A Man’s A Man for a’That; Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park; JMW Turner’s painting, Rain, Steam And Speed; North And South by Elizabeth Gaskell; Walter Sickert’s painting The Camden Town Nudes; Barbara Hepworth’s Contrapuntal Forms; W B Yeat’s poem Easter, 1916; A Taste Of Honey by Shelagh Delaney; Hanif Kureishi’s Buddha of Suburbia; the Belfast Peace Walls and Stormzy at Glastonbury.

Art That Made Us is a ClearStory and Menace Production for BBC Two. The producers are Melanie Fall, Russell Barnes, Denys Blakeway and Michael Jackson and it is a co-production with The Open University. The commissioning editor for BBC Arts is Emma Cahusac.

Factual Entertainment and Popular Factual

Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Factual Entertainment and Popular Factual says: “Factual entertainment at the BBC is in fantastic shape with a really distinctive, inspirational slate of new programming coming up, from Idris Elba’s Fight School to Hungry For It, as well as the return of Meet The Khans and The Speedshop, which is back on our screens after a successful pilot.

“Representing our audience across the UK is incredibly important to us and I’m delighted that we are working with BBC England on the new series we’re announcing today – Scarlett’s Driving School, filmed in Teesside. Who better than Scarlett Moffatt to help the nation’s learner drivers finally pass their test – it promises to be a really warm, funny and entertaining show.”

Scarlett’s Driving School

Scarlett Moffatt

Hold on to your L-plates and standby for joy, laughter and tears as Scarlett Moffatt – who has failed her driving test 13 times – opens the doors to her exclusive driving school.

Across the country, learner drivers have been missing out on driving lessons with professional instructors during the pandemic. Instead, the teaching duties have fallen to those closest to them, their unfortunate family members, spouses and closest friends. It’s testing loved ones’ relationships just as much as the learner’s driving skills.

But help is here as Scarlett Moffatt welcomes Brits who are struggling to pass their test to her unique five-day driving school in Teesside.

Each learner driver and their amateur teacher (their long suffering family member or friend) will be given some much needed help from some of the UK’s top professional driving instructors.

After an intensive crash course, can the duos work together to pass their test after just five days at the school?

Scarlett Moffatt says: “I’m over the moon to be part of such an exciting series on BBC One. Having failed my driving test 13 times I know exactly how these learners feel and how much strain it puts on the person teaching you – no one will get in a car with me anymore! I hope that that my new show will give us all the confidence to finally rip up those L plates and hit the road.”

Aisling O’Connor, Head of TV Commissioning for BBC England, says: “Scarlett is the perfect person for BBC England to work with, as we do our job of reflecting the people and places that matter to our audiences up and down the country.

“This new series examines an experience many people go through, and viewers will see learner drivers put their skills to the absolute test in the hope of passing the five-day intensive course. I’m delighted to be working with Frieda.TV and BBC Factual on this exciting proposition for the audience.”

Jon Lloyd, Founder and Creative Director of Frieda.TV, says: “We’re delighted to be bringing these amazing relationships, huge driving transformations and Scarlett’s unique personal experience and amazing warmth to BBC One. It’s another great step for Frieda.TV and we can’t wait to deliver a series that will appeal to viewers across the whole of the UK.”

Scarlett’s Driving School (10×30’) is a BBC Factual and BBC England co-commission and is being made for BBC One and iPlayer by Frieda.TV.

It was commissioned by Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning for Factual Entertainment and Popular Factual, and Aisling O’Connor, Head of TV Commissioning BBC England. The Executive Producer is Jon Lloyd and the BBC Commissioning Editors are Nasfim Haque and Tony Parker.

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Strawberry Blond TV wins double commission for Channel 4 and More4

Strawberry Blond TV wins double commission for Channel 4 and

Strawberry Blond TV has been commissioned to make two new series for Channel 4 and More4.

Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis sees the actor and comedian unlock the doors to some of the largest domestic dwellings across the UK. In a celebration of everything massive, Hugh explores a variety of gigantic homes from the colossal Broughton Hall with its own private railway to a jaw-dropping island fort off the coast of West Wales.

Over four episodes, Hugh will see astonishing conversions and meet eccentric owners as he journeys through a gargantuan domestic wonderland. Along the way, he’ll tell the stories of each immense property and he’ll also be getting his hands dirty with some of the tasks needed to keep the huge homes in full working order – including cleaning chandeliers and a marathon six hours of hoovering.

Strangers on a Plane is a new stripped daytime format that sees five strangers compete to prove they can holiday better than anyone else. At the start of the week, five holiday-hungry Brits jet off to the same popular holiday destination for a five-day getaway, with each traveller taking control of the group’s activities for 24 hours.

As each holidaymaker takes their turn to plan their perfect day, they must make the key decisions: what accommodation everyone stays in, where they all eat, what activities the group does and what the evening entertainment is. The sky’s the limit on imagination but the budget is set and if they overspend, they could soon end up with a holiday nightmare.

At the end of each week, the group votes on who planned the best day, with the winner enjoying another week in the sun with a friend or family member. Everyone has a different idea of what makes a good holiday and these strangers on a plane will need to please more than just themselves if they’re to emerge a holiday hero.

Gill Brown, commissioning executive for Channel 4, said: “I’m thrilled to have commissioned two hugely entertaining series from the team at Strawberry Blond. Hugh Dennis is the perfect tour guide around an eclectic mix of fantastic, not to mention gigantic, homes that I’m sure our More 4 audience will find fascinating, while Strangers on a Plane is set to be a wild and raucous daytime delight on Channel 4. I can’t wait to see what our holidaymakers get up to.”

Steve Wynne, CEO, Strawberry Blond TV, said: “We’re now only pitching shows that involve going on sunny holidays or looking around massive houses – luckily Channel 4 loved both ideas. It’s a dream to be making two original series for More4 and Channel 4 – they both have the humour and warmth that runs through Strawberry Blond.”

Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis is a 4×60’ peak series for More4 and Strangers on Plane is a 20×30’ daytime series for Channel 4. Both series were commissioned by Jo Street, Head of Daytime and Features and Gill Brown, commissioning executive for Daytime and Features at Channel 4. The series are made by Strawberry Blond TV’s Scotland base. Steve Wynne is executive producer of Strangers on a Plane and Audrey Neil is executive producer of Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis.

Huge Homes with Hugh Dennis will air on More 4 later this year and casting for Strangers on a Plane is underway now. To apply to take part, visit: strangersonaplane.co.uk.

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BBC examines the work of T.S. Eliot at the centenary of The Waste Land

BBC examines the work of T.S. Eliot at the centenary

Programmes across TV and radio examine the life and work of one of Britain’s most influential writers.

This year the BBC marks the centenary of T.S. Eliot’s groundbreaking work The Waste Land with a range of programming across the BBC looking at his life and work.

Beginning on 10 July on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds, He Do The Wasteland In Different Voices will see the poem performed for the first time as if an audio drama, the text unchanged from the original, but with a focus on the collection of voices within it. Permission was granted from the Eliot estate to mark the centenary with this new adaptation.

Recorded word for word, the performance features an ensemble cast including the likes of Paul Ready (The Terror; Motherland), Maggie Steed (Ten Percent); Adrian Edmondson (The Young Ones) and David Haig (My Boy Jack; Killing Eve) as they bring the characters from the poem to life. They include the mysterious Madame Sosostris who, in a seedy room, turns the cards; a poet and his wife, both miserable in their marriage, waiting for something to happen, and a street prophet with visions of the future finding his faith tested.

Capturing the slipperiness and unease of the post-war period, the performance will also feature the work of award-winning sound designer David Thomas. Carefully created to evoke a sense of fractured time, with haunting whispers of catastrophes to come, the sound remains faithful to the themes of anxiety, loss and anger found within the text as well as the uncertainty of the modern age we currently live in.

The programme will be preceded by a feature about the poem, with leading Eliot scholars Dr Lyndall Gordon, Professor Mark Ford, Professor Seamus Perry, Professor Stephen Connor and Nancy Fulford, archivist for the T S Eliot Estate. Taking listeners into the Eliot archive, the feature will contextualise the text and provide insight into Eliot’s own inspirations as well as the story behind the Waste Land.

Later this year on BBC Two and iPlayer is T.S. Eliot: Into ‘The Waste Land’, a new documentary uncovering the hidden personal story behind Eliot’s creation of his celebrated poem, directed by Susanna White.

For decades, Eliot actively discouraged biographical interpretations of his work, developing an ‘impersonal theory’ of poetry in which the private life of a poet was deemed irrelevant. But in 2020 there were dramatic new revelations which uncovered that, behind Eliot’s mask, there was a much more personal story to be found within The Waste Land.

In January 2020, more than 1000 of Eliot’s private letters were unsealed at Princeton University Library, 60 years after they were first deposited there. These letters to his confidante and muse Emily Hale have finally unveiled Eliot’s hidden heart, and the personal breakdown behind the creation of his most famous work. Eliot’s letters illuminate what appears to have been a complex yet unspoken emotional triangle within the poet’s life in which he was pulled between his troubled relationship with his first wife Vivien, and his enduring feelings for his first love, Emily Hale.

Both women appear to have played key roles in the genesis of the poem.

Moving through all five sections of the poem, the documentary explores many different facets of The Waste Land, from Eliot’s state of mind during each phase, to the different places where it was composed. Featuring contributions from actor and director Fiona Shaw and composer Max Richter; poets Hannah Sullivan and Daljit Nagra; Eliot’s biographer Lyndall Gordon, Vivien’s biographer Ann Pasternak Slater and Faber Poetry Editor Matthew Hollis. Simon Russell Beale performs specially recorded readings of the poem, in conjunction with Eliot’s own hypnotic reading of his work.

In October on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer, Ralph Fiennes’ exquisite performance of T.S. Eliot’s poetic masterpiece Four Quartets is translated from stage to screen by director Sophie Fiennes. Early in the Covid pandemic, Fiennes set himself the challenge of committing Four Quartets to memory. Written by Eliot in the shadow of the Second World War, the poem is a searching examination of who – and what – we are. Four Quartets offers four interwoven meditations on the nature of time, faith and the quest for spiritual enlightenment in one of the poet’s final great works and the questions, imagery and emotions it produces still bear powerful relevance today.

On Radio 4 and BBC Sounds in November is Hold On Tight: The Women Of The Waste Land, arts writer and broadcaster Jude Rogers immerses herself in the worlds and the voices of the women inside and outside T.S. Eliot’s extraordinary poem. Blending historical and literary insight with radiophonic and aural magic and imagination, Jude’s explorations are arrestingly sound designed by producer Steven Rajam.

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Channel 4 appoints Charlie Perkins as Head Of Comedy

Channel 4 appoints Charlie Perkins as Head Of Comedy

Channel 4 has appointed Charlie Perkins as Head of Comedy. Charlie will report directly into Chief Content Officer Ian Katz and will manage a team comprising newly promoted Commissioning Editor Laura Riseam and Commissioning Executive Joe Hullait. Charlie will also oversee the appointment of a new Senior Commissioning Editor.

Ian Katz, Chief Content Officer, Channel 4 said: “Channel 4 comedy has always been about betting on brilliant and iconoclastic new talent and Charlie is squarely in that tradition. She has an unerring ear for funny, has nurtured and collaborated with some of Britain’s most exciting and distinctive comedy talent and had an ambitious and original vision for the future of Channel 4 comedy. With a succession of wonderful shows from Derry Girls to We are Lady Parts and Big Boys, Fiona McDermott has delivered a purple patch for Channel 4 comedy and, along with Laura and Joe, I’m convinced that Charlie will continue that success.”

Charlie joins the multi-award-winning Channel 4 Comedy department from Blink Industries where she was Head of Comedy, having begun her career working on shows such as Little Britain, French & Saunders, Benidorm and Mock the Week, moving on to become a Producer at the infamous alternative comedy venue The Invisible Dot, BBC Radio Comedy and Cave Bear Productions. In 2009, Charlie founded the Bristol Revunions whose alumni during her time included Jamie Demetriou, Charlotte Ritchie, Ellie White and Joe Hampson. In 2013, Charlie founded The Paddock comedy collective, an experimental, new material platform for performers and filmmakers. She is also one of the Co-Founders of the Live Comedy Association and Founder of the Free-Free Movement.

At Blink Industries, Charlie Produced cult comedy series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared which will air on Channel 4 later this year and during her time there the company has been behind the hit Netflix 2D animated series Dead End: Paranormal Park as well as E4 short-form animated format Blind Love on a First Date Island; and C4 Blap Sam Campbell: Get Real Dude.

Charlie Perkins said: “Creating platforms and opportunities for people to develop and thrive in their work has been the primary focus of my career to date – prioritising creative freedom, originality, tenacity and passion. I’m unbelievably honoured to now get to do this at scale at Channel 4; the place where all of our favourite comedy shows come from, a place which has vitality, risk-taking and art at its very core. Comedy is tattooed on my soul and I cannot wait to get started.”

Charlie joins later this year. Recruitment is underway for the new Senior Commissioning Editor role.

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