BBC director general Tony Hall today unveiled plans for what he described as the Corporation’s “strongest commitment to the arts we’ve made in a generation” with an extra £2.75m given to arts programming.
Just weeks after announcing plans to move youth-orientated digital channel BBC3 online to save money, the former Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House outlined a raft of new initiatives including new appointments within the BBC, new partnerships and a number of new programme strands. The drive will bring spending on the TV arts budget from the current figure of £15.5m for the years 2014/15 to £18.25m for the following year.
New BBC jobs go to Jonty Claypole and Bob Shennan, appointed Director of Arts and Director of Music respectively. Senior names associated with the Tate gallery, the Royal Court theatre and the National Theatre will also work with the BBC to help “share their knowledge and insight.”
A new BBC Arts strand will see the Corporation partner with Shakespeare’s Globe, Glyndebourne and the Hay Festival while a new digital push will see more arts programmes on iPlayer and a partnership with the Arts Council England as part of BBC Arts Online.
Among other ambitious plans, Hall announced that Sam Mendes is making three new Shakespeare history dramas for the BBC as part of the Corporation’s renewed commitment to arts programming.
The commissions will come from the same team that brought Richard II and Henry IV parts I and II to BBC2. Mendes was executive producer of the dramas which aired under the umbrella title The Hollow Crown and featured a range of major stars including Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale. It is understood that Mendes will oversee the new projects – Richard III and two plays from the Henry VI trilogy. which will air in 2016.
The raft of shows sees a new BBC Arts At… strand broadcasting major live arts events. These include the Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi starring Gemma Arterton at the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in London.
The BBC has also commissioned a new take on the classic 1969 Kenneth Clarke documentary series Civilization. However the BBC said it is too early to name a presenter for the new series, a fresh examination of Western culture told through its art.
Other projects will see the BBC digitising more of its arts archive and exploring new ways to make available rare and previously unseen film and audio arts interviews and documentaries.
The new push for arts coverage will see the BBC team up with some of the biggest names in arts, with productions involving Simon Russell Beale, Tom Hollander, Darcey Bussell, Antony Gormley and Sir Simon Rattle in the pipeline.
A series of arts programmes for young children including an animated music film by Michael Morpurgo, a ballet version of Three Little Pigs for CBeebies and an observational documentary about an orchestra for BBC3 underline Hall’s commitment to bring the arts to all ages.