New leaders to give arts 'biggest push'

Tony Hall Tony Hall: 'the arts are not for an elite or a minority'

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Tony Hall has created pan-BBC director of arts and director of music roles as he prepares to give arts programming its 'biggest push' for a generation.

Jonty Claypole (arts) and Bob Shennan (music) have been tasked with 'thinking globally, nationally and locally - driving the BBC's vision for arts and music' across all platforms and parts of the BBC.

They will provide 'strong, clear leadership' in these areas, while continuing with their existing responsibilities as, respectively, head of arts production, BBC Inhouse, and controller of Radio 2, 6 Music and Asian Network, said the director general.

Speaking to a packed and illustrious audience at London's Radio Theatre, Hall said he would also seek cultural advice from external experts, as the BBC presses ahead with its ambitious plans.

Better together

Nicholas Hytner, former director of the National Theatre, will join the BBC's executive board as a non-executive director.

The Tate's Nicholas Serota, meanwhile, will be at the helm of a group of creative leaders, including the Royal Court's Vicky Featherstone, who will 'act as a sounding board' for the BBC's ideas.

'With you we can be so much more ambitious and do so many more exciting things,' explained Hall.

He told the audience that he wanted to make the arts as synonymous with the BBC brand as its news, with the creation of a new BBC Arts at… strand, to be launched in May to give the nation front row seats at the UK's best cultural events.

The BBC will 'break down the walls' between the corporation and the country's artists, performers and cultural institutions, he added, pointing to plans to collaborate with Shakespeare's Globe, Glyndebourne and the Hay Festival in the coming months.

The BBC will mark the opening of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, for instance, with a BBC Two documentary and BBC Four airing of the Jacobean theatre's first candlelit performance, The Duchess of Malfi, starring Gemma Arterton.

Hall also spoke of his digital ambitions for the arts, which now has its own home on the latest generation iPlayer. As well as BBC arts programmes, visitors will be able to find exclusive arts content and archive collections.

New Civilisation

The DG picked out archive collaborations with the Tate, to make old film and audio recordings of rare artist interviews publicly available, with the Royal Academy, focused on previous Summer Exhibitions, and with Glyndebourne, looking back at 80 years of the festival, as examples.

BBC Arts Online, meanwhile, will stream performances and events, provide extended coverage and encourage debate around the arts, while The Space - the BBC and Arts Council's digital arts forum - will relaunch in the summer after its successful pilot.

Hall confirmed that Civilisation, the landmark 1960s arts series which prompted the DG's 'lifelong passion for the arts', will be re-imagined 50 years on for the digital age.

And he enthused about BBC celebrations of the life of Shakespeare in 2016, including a Radio 4 writers' project to dream up sixth acts of some of Shakespeare's plays and a mass retelling of the bard's plays for school children.

'The arts are not for an elite or a minority,' Hall insisted. 'They are for everybody... and from now on, BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do.'

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