The BBC’s director-general, Tony Hall, today announced a new strategy for the BBC’s arts and music programming, with a new emphasis on collaboration both within the BBC ‒ as evidenced by two cross cutting ‘director of arts’ and ‘director of music’ roles ‒ and with national institutions and artists.
Bob Shennan, controller of Radio 2, 6 Music and the Asian Network, has been appointed director of music, and Jonty Claypole, previously head of arts, is now director of arts. They have been charged with ‘joining up television, radio, iPlayer and online’ and will be ‘thinking globally, nationally and locally’.
Sir Nicholas Serota will lead a group of arts leaders ‘to act as a sounding board’ for the corporation, with a brief to spot opportunities. Royal Court director Vicky Featherstone will also sit on this group. Nicholas Hytner is to join the BBC as a non-executive director.
Hall confirmed the previously announced ‘BBC Arts at…’ strand, which will be seen on television, radio and online. ‘Our ambition is to give everyone front row seats at the very best cultural events, up and down the country, right across the year.’
BBC Arts at… will open in May with coverage of evening events at museums across the country. Hall confirmed output in early weeks would come from English National Ballet at the Imperial War Museum North, The Choir With No Name in Liverpool, Gemma Arterton starring in The Duchess Of Malfi at the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and the Hay Festival. In the near future the strand will include Glyndebourne (Richard Jones’ new production of Der Rosenkavalier), the Manchester International Festival, Opera North, the Barbican and the Edinburgh festivals. BBC Four will run a documentary in collaboration with the Voice of Black Opera awards and Scottish Opera, and ‘A Knight at the Barbican’ will dedicate an evening to Sir Simon Rattle.
Hall described the BBC and Arts Council England’s partnership on The Space as ‘an enormous opportunity to work together’, saying that it was ‘vital that we, the BBC, lead audiences to it’. The date for the project’s relaunch under interim launch director Ruth Mackenzie, however, was pushed back from spring to summer 2014.
Hall also announced a new focus on artist-driven productions ‒ ‘finding new ways for artists and performers to speak for themselves ‒ in their own voice ‒ with our audiences’. Examples included a portrait of Dylan Thomas by actor Tom Hollander and architect Zaha Hadid making a film on Russian artist Kazimir Malevich, though no musical subjects were mentioned.
Classical music highlights in coming years include a three-part series on BBC Three in 2015 which will follow young musicians as they attempt to establish careers as orchestral musicians (The Orchestras), an animated feature at Christmas 2015 based on Michael Morpurgo’s story Mimi and the Mountain Dragon with music by Rachel Portman performed by the BBCNOW (which will also ‘have a life in the concert hall’), and BBC Four dedicating a year of programming in 2015 to song and dance including Sir Antonio Pappano exploring ‘the story of the classical voice across the last 500 years’ in The Golden Age of Singing.
Further details of classical music programming are expected later in the year.