Channel 4 is hoping to generate the same buzz and transformative change that chef Jamie Oliver brought to the subject of school dinners with a new series about school music.
Classical pianist James Rhodes is fronting up The Great Instrument Amnesty for the channel in the autumn, hoping to bring attention to what he believes is the woefully underfunded state of music teaching in schools.
A central plank of the series will be an “instrument amnesty” in which people across Britain will be encouraged to donate unused musical instruments to impoverished schools.
Rhodes claims that “music education in this country has been obliterated” with the government prioritising maths and literacy at the expense of teaching children about music.
He focuses the three-part series on a Basildon primary school which is in “Special Measures” and which will be the first beneficiary of the amnesty, but he hopes to roll out the project nationwide.
The programme is being made by Jamie Oliver’s production company Fresh One and Rhodes is clear that he wants to instigate the same cultural shift that Oliver’s series Jamie’s School Dinners brought to the subject of school meals.
The 2005 series saw Oliver work with the government to improve nutrition for schoolchildren and saw a backlash against various foodstuffs served up to children including the notorious “Turkey Twizzlers”.
“What could be a better comparison than that,” Rhodes said of Jamie’s School Dinners.
He added that one school he has visited had a music budget of just £2.20 per child for the whole year – “less than the price of a cappuccino in Starbucks” and asked: “How many Adeles, how many, God forbid, One Directions are there going to be if this is not changed.
He told RadioTimes.com: “Studies show music literacy improves a whole range of things for children including behavioural problems. The kids I worked with, you can see when they hold a pair of castanets the impact it has on people. We want anyone with a violin or clarinet gathering dust in their attic to donate it to children who are not being given the chance to play anything.”
“We are hurtling into this place where the only successful musicans are Etonians and Harrovians and Oxbridge graduates and it’s not f*****g fair.
“Why is music education only available to parents willing to spend £40 a week on lessons? It should be available for everyone.”
Other programmes unveiled by Channel 4 at an event at London’s Serpentine Gallery last night include Love for Sale, a two-parter in which actor Rupert Everett examines the sex industry. It will include what C4 says is a “frank” discussion between Everett and Russell Brand about using prostitutes.
It will also show Freshers, touted as the first ever “digital rig” documentary in which viewers follow a group of students. But as well as having rigged cameras of the kind used in observational documentaries like One Born Every Minute and The Fried Chicken Shop, the news series also has access to the protagonists’ social media messages and posts.
The channel also gave more details about artist Grayson Perry’s new series, first revealed by RadioTimes.com in February.