Art and the 60s
Three part series starts Thursday 1 July
London's art scene in the Sixties wasn't just swinging - it was exploding.
A tidal wave of ideas, experimentation and social revolution brought
the era of Pop Art; a landmark moment in the development of Abstract
Art; and the early days of Conceptual and Performance Art.
The radical, flower-power Sixties spirit which gave birth to peace
activism and civil rights also brought such highly influential artists
as David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Anthony Caro, Patrick Caulfield and
others to the fore, changing the artistic landscape forever.
With archive footage and a rare cast of interviewees, many of whom
haven't spoken on camera for decades - if ever - BBC FOUR tells the
extraordinary story of London's art world in the Sixties.
Each of the films highlights a different aspect of this era. With its
tale of two influential dealers - businessman Kasmin and wildly promiscuous
socialite, 'groovy Bob' Fraser – one most closely conjures up the Sixties
Another tells the story of St Martin's School of Art, where the seeds
of today's contemporary art were sown. It traces art's progression,
in just 10 years, from Henry Moore's bronzes, via Anthony Caro, to Gilbert
and George serving up baked beans in ice-cream cones.
A third considers artists working outside the commercial art world
whose stance reflected the countercultural politics of the time.
From the makers of BBC FOUR's BritArt, and accompanied by a major exhibition
at Tate Britain, this is the captivating and often eccentric story of
one of art's most definitive decades, told by the artists, dealers and
The Truth about Sixties TV
Saturday 5 June (opening night of season)
Even people who have never seen it claim that television in the Sixties
was better than it is now, perhaps the best there has ever been.
For three decades, commentators have hailed Civilisation, Cathy Come
Home, Dad's Army and The Wednesday Play as prime examples of a 'golden
age' of television.
Far less time is spent recalling the ratings success of Miss World
and The Black and White Minstrel Show.
As part of BBC FOUR's mind-expanding trip back to the Sixties, writer
and broadcaster Mark Lawson takes a fresh look at 1960s television and
explodes some long-cherished myths about the era.
Interviewing leading figures from Sixties television, he discovers
that few of the practitioners of the time now regard it as a 'golden
age' of television.
Dipping into the archive he uncovers some of the loved, loathed and
plain bad programmes of the decade.
The archives do reveal remarkable achievements but the vaults are also
filled with material which suggests an age not of golden television,
but of tin or something baser.
Comedies such as Curry and Chips, dramas including The Dustbinmen and
Hot Line, a live phone-in programme that went disastrously wrong, all
question the long-held assumption that 'they don't make 'em like they
Lawson explores the television of the Sixties and finds that while
the medium existed then in a very different world, the questions and
tensions affecting television are surprisingly similar to those facing
viewers and makers of television today.
Is 60s television simply lucky that it was so bulky and expensive to
keep shows for posterity at that time that most of the failures have
conveniently vanished or died live on air?
Or perhaps in a decade when television was technically infantile, an
audience excited by the novelty of the box in the corner would forgive
Mark sets out to discover whether the 'golden age' truly existed or
is a smug myth perpetuated by nostalgics and the artistic and political
enemies of television today.
A Night in the Sixties
Saturday 5 and Sunday 27 June
For two whole evenings during Summer in the Sixties, BBC FOUR takes
the schedules back forty years for two dream evenings of 1960s classics.
From children's to news to entertainment – even the weather forecast
– almost every component in A Night in the Sixties is authentic programming
from across the decade.
Highlights feature from ITV as well as BBC ONE and the fledgling BBC
Throughout the evenings there will also be important televised news
and entertainment clips from the era such as the moon landings and the
Additional archive programming
Classic 1960s programmes will also air throughout the season alongside
new documentaries and Sixties films.
Highlights include BBC FOUR screening the whole series of cult Sixties
phenomenon The Prisoner.
Time Shift: Black And White Minstrel
Show – Revisited Sunday 6 June
With around 14 million viewers, the blacked up singing and dancing
routines of the Black and White Minstrel Show ruled BBC ONE's weekend
schedule for 21 years from 1957 to 1978.
Time Shift tells the strange story of the rise and fall of the Black
and White Minstrel show.
To its devoted viewers it was 45 minutes of harmless, glamorous escapism.
To others it had less palatable connotations and in one of the most
extraordinary turnarounds in broadcasting history, the once top-rated
show was banned from the small screen.
Combining fresh interviews with original minstrels Bob Hunter, Les
Want, dancers Dorothy Mitchell and Kay Matthews and comedian Keith Harris
with expert insight from historians, authors and critics, the show is
put in the spotlight.
The premise of the show was simple: blacked up men and gorgeous women
with sing-along dance routines performed in the grandest manner television
Intended as good clean family entertainment for a post war Britain,
it aired at the same time as the 1958 Notting Hill riots – some of the
worst racial violence the country had ever known.
But it was nine years later that debate about the show's future was
sparked when a petition, signed by 200 people, branded it 'racist, hideous
impersonation' and called for it to be taken off air.
Fans responded and the row spilled out in the press but still the show
In the Seventies, more unease emerged and audiences declined.
Minstrel Les Want recalls that Diana Ross refused to go on stage at
a Royal Variety performance while the minstrels were in the auditorium.
Attempts to revitalise the format with comedy appearances from young
talent like Lenny Henry and Keith Harris failed, and finally the show
was axed in 1978.
The BBC conceded that entertainment was being redefined and the show
was an anachronism in the modern world.
All that remains is a strange infamy and abandoned performers.
The show became a screen pariah in one of the most extraordinary episodes
in television history.
The Race Age
Sunday 6 June
From mixed race marriages to racial hatred, from Conservative MP Enoch
Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech to Luther King's dream of "a
promised land" - The Race Age is a powerful impression of the black
experience in Britain in the decade of love.
More than any other decade, the Sixties polarised attitudes to race
in the UK and television was quick to reflect the mood of the times.
The Civil Rights movement inspired the documentary maker Dennis Mitchell
to explore segregation in a small US town while filmmaker Jack Rosenthal
brought the black experience closer to home with his angry investigation
into discrimination on Britain's doorstep.
It was also a time for the satirists: black US comedian and activist,
Dick Gregory, commented on racial issues with lines such as, "My
daughter doesn't believe in Santa because no white man would be seen
in our neighbourhood after dark".
The film also reveals a time when Britain opened its ears to the black
people trying to make their voices heard - thrilling, passionate, funny,
It's these voices together with the music and literature of the time
which marked the shaping of an era.
Completely archive-led without commentary, The Race Age depicts the
attitudes, opinions and images that defined Britain in this extraordinary
decade, through the interweaving of image and narrative.
Vivian Stanshall: The Canyons of His Mind
Friday 11 June
BBC FOUR presents a profile of Vivian Stanshall - "The late, majestic
Vivian Stanshall, one of the most talented, profligate, bizarre, infuriating,
unfathomable and magnificent Englishmen ever to have drawn breath"
– Stephen Fry.
A veteran of the common law marriage between Sixties art school and
rock ‘n' roll, Stanshall was co-founder, lead singer and co-writer of
cult Sixties sensation The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, the missing link
between satire and psychedelia, pop and performance art, pastiche and
Stanshall was a dapper Zappa, perfecting what he called "ballet for
Like Peter Cook, he burnt himself out tragically early, virtually drinking
himself to death before dying in a fire at his house in 1995.
He was, as the title of his last ever broadcast put it, a Renaissance
man: writer, composer, performer and painter.
This film tells Viv's life story from mum and dad to Dada and Mummery.
It follows his progress from an 'odd boy' Southend seaside childhood,
through art school, his intro to and outro from the Bonzo Dog Band and
subsequent spectacular resurfacings as solo artist with his Peel Show
monologue about Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (later a book and a film
starring Trevor Howard), his comic opera Stinkfoot performed on board
the Bristol Showboat and at London's Bloomsbury Theatre and his final
appearances with Rawlinson DogEnds.
Tracing Viv's musical journey from its Bonzo beginnings to Rawlinson
End and beyond, this expedition into the archival canyons of his mind
is peppered with contributions from colleagues, close friends and comic
But at its centre is a portrait of the man who made his life and art
into what he called "a sur-Ealing comedy", drawing on a wealth of largely
BBC audio and video.
It combines interviews with his collaborators from the Bonzos and beyond,
including band members Neil Innes, Legs Larry Smith, Rodney Slater and
manager Gerry Bron, plus later associates like John Peel, Jack Bruce
and lifetime fan and Stinkfoot financier Stephen Fry.
I Hate the Sixties
Saturday 12 June
For some people, the Sixties were when it all went wrong for British
In their view it was the decade's moral permissiveness, collapse of
respect for institutions and failed experiments in 'progressive' education
that led directly to the state we are in today.
Ranging across culture, politics, fashion and morality, this provocative
but entertaining film will be shamelessly revolutionist, challenging
head-on what Norman Tebbit once memorably described as, "the insufferable,
smug, sanctimonious, naďve, guilt-ridden, wet pink orthodoxy… of that
third-rate decade, the Sixties".
Sixties Dinner with Portillo
Saturday 12 June
In a special 'Dinner' Portillo and his guests debate the true legacy
of an era in which the established order was being challenged, subverted,
and ultimately buried.
Portillo says: "I am definitely a child of the Sixties and as
such I am a fan of the period. It introduced colour after the drab Fifties
and liberated us.
"It was a period of meritocracy which gave people like me a look-in.
"It was filled with excitement and Britain had a key role in driving
global fashions in culture."
But Portillo says it also created problems: "It brought moral
and intellectual flabbiness.
"The architecture of the Sixties is a disgrace. It's knocked us
sideways in attempting to have any value judgements.
"It was the precursor to the Seventies with their hopeless mismanagement
of government and spinelessness towards terrorism.
"It's been a real struggle for children of the Sixties to get
back on an even keel. Blair is a good example, maybe I am another."
Portillo's guests in the discussion will include Oscar winning film
producer Lord David Puttnam, raconteur Ned Sherrin, artist and activist
Caroline Coon, author and columnist Bel Mooney and political commentator
The Gay Decade
Sunday 13 June
The Sixties are remembered as the decade when homosexuality came out
of the national closet - but what was life actually like for Britain's
Using a combination of oral history and TV archive, this film paints
a picture of life as a homosexual both before and after the Sexual Offences
Act of 1967.
Looking at the contrast between the relatively open lifestyle of gay
bohemian London (as remembered by Wayne Sleep, the dancer, and Peter
Schlesinger, David Hockney's then boyfriend) and the reality of life
for gay men and women in slightly less glamorous circles, we hear from
writer Paul Bailey, artist Maggi Hambling and writer Maureen Duffy (acclaimed
as Britain's first public figure to come out as a lesbian).
Presented by journalist Philip Hensher, the film will also chart the
start of gay campaigning in both the UK and America, with personal testimony
from Allan Horsfall, a Bolton-based colliery worker who set up the Campaign
for Homosexual Equality, and Jeremiah Newton, a veteran of the 1969
Stonewall riots in New York.
Round the Horne… Revisited
Sunday 13 June
In an age of great radio comedy, Round the Horne was arguably the
greatest and best-loved.
At its peak, some 15 million listeners tuned in each week to hear Kenneth
Horne – the ultimate unflappable BBC straight man – encounter figures
as diverse as Dame Celia Gruntfuttock, Rambling Syd Rumpo and the legendarily
camp Julian and Sandy.
With its endlessly inventive innuendo and cheerfully British twist
on surrealism, Round the Horne ran from 1965 to 1969, and proved a brilliant
showcase for the talents of Kenneth Williams, Betty Marsden, Hugh Paddick
and Douglas Smith.
Now the one surviving member of the original writing team, Brian Cooke,
has developed the scripts into a hit stage show, Round the Horne...Revisited,
which will come to the screen exclusively for BBC FOUR's Summer in the
Time Shift – Art School
Saturday 19 June
What do Mary Quant and The Who have in common? What links Carnaby
Street boutiques with the Hornsey student sit-in of May '68?
Like so much of what made the Sixties swing, they were the product
of the British Art School, the engines of the 1960s counter culture.
With fresh interviews with luminaries such as Mary Quant, Brian Eno
and Brian Rice and with archive footage and interviews with Ian Dury
and Pete Townshend, Time Shift probes the stories of Art School's contribution
to pop, its experimental graphic design and its unique place in further
With few places for the artistic non-academic teenagers to escape the
world of work, and universities the preserve of the middle classes,
many found their local art school was an escape route from the drab
terraced house and the job waiting at the local factory.
For many socialites it was a cheap finishing school, and the mixture
of classes and talents created many opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs.
Art school became the breeding ground for much of the decade's hot
While the courses didn't leave a great mark on the subsequent careers
of John Lennon, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, other pop artists were
profoundly influenced by their time there.
Pete Townshend famously smashed his guitars on stage, similar to the
deconstruction artists he was exposed to as a student, and Brian Eno
began his first experiments in ambient soundscapes on a battered old
reel-to-reel tape machine at Ipswich Art School.
The Royal College of Art student magazine – ARK – became a prototype
for the 1960s colour supplement, defining the look of the decade, influencing
pop art and decades of style magazines.
Inspired by the American revolutions, students stood up to the educational
authorities during the 1968 Hornsey sit-in.
Dr Kim Howells MP, one of the sit-in's more radical student leaders,
remembers how the college's bureaucracy effectively crushed the student's
creativity, and how the sit-in was a sincere attempt at reform.
But police guards were drafted in, gas and electricity supplies cut
and the revolt disappeared over the summer holidays as the authorities
reclaimed the college.
As the defeated students arrived for the autumn term, the school was
a changed place, with barred windows and secure doors installed to lock
down entire sections of the college.
Not Cricket: The Basil D'Olivera Conspiracy
Sunday 20 June
In 1968 Basil D'Oliveira, a brilliant Cape Coloured cricketer from
South Africa who had made his home in the UK, became the subject of
a row that rocked the British political and sporting establishment.
Immediately after scoring a brilliant 158 in the fifth and final test
against Australia, he was excluded from the England team to tour South
Africa - apparently because of his race.
The 'D'Oliveira Affair' which resulted led directly to the sporting
isolation of South Africa and was crucial in ending the Apartheid system
of white rule in South Africa.
Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous events of 1968, this is
the untold story of the betrayal of Basil D'Oliveira by the English
establishment and includes exclusive interviews with D'Oliveira himself.
Sport in the Sixties: a TV Revolution
Monday 21 June
It was the decade when sportsmen became sports stars, when home grown
heroes became international icons and we learnt to love sport like never
The Sixties set the template for sport on TV. At the beginning of the
decade men in blazers lectured the viewer on the finer points of swimming,
show jumping and cycling and we listened attentively.
By the end, household names like Coleman, Carpenter, Vine and McLaren
raved about boxing, football, rugby and cricket.
TV brought the national games to the nation. In this affectionate history
of the decade, the pioneers and stars explore how sport itself was transformed
by a revolution in broadcasting.
Contributors will include Harry Carpenter, Martin Peters, Peter Dimmock,
David Attenborough, Anne Jones, Barry Davies, Jackie Stewart, Cliff
Morgan, Jimmy Hill, David Vine and Henry Cooper.
Time Shift – Fantasy
Saturday 26 June
Between the launching of Sputnik and the first man on the moon, there
was a golden age in television – Fantasy – with classics like The Avengers
and Dr Who.
The Soviet satellite bought a wave of global paranoia and the space
race created a new vision for the future, breeding a new genre of programming.
Gripping stories, peppered with good humour and naughty sexuality,
pushed further and further from reality as the storylines played on
people's fears about the sinister side of technology.
With interviews from those that made the shows such as scriptwriter
Brian Clemens, the actors who starred in them like Gerald Harper, the
critics and the fantasy TV pundits, the genre is stripped to the bones
and laid bare.
There are rare clips from gems such as Adam Adamant Lives!, Danger
Man, A for Andromeda, Dr Who, The Avengers and The Prisoner.
In the Sixties, the TV industry was booming. By 1968 television households
had increased by 50 per cent since the beginning of the decade and Britain's
fantasy shows' diet of leather-clad women and violence was being exported
around the globe.
The Avengers reached audiences in 120 countries - a record that still
By the end of the decade, some storylines became more intellectual
and less conclusive.
Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner angered so many viewers with its incomprehensible
finale that Patrick, the highest paid actor at that time, went into
hiding to escape the anger directed at him, while the production company
ATV frantically issued written explanations of the symbolism behind
Even the director, Peter Graham Scott, didn't understand the show saying:
"The script arrived and I couldn't make head or tail of it, it
was so way out."
But when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon in
1969 and TV stations screened the real life cliff-hanger of bringing
the crew back to earth alive, setting a story in space was never going
to be pure fantasy – anything now seemed possible and the fantasy shows
Various transmission times through June
The image of Britain in the Sixties is irrevocably shaped by the icons
The Summer in the Sixties season will feature a number of classic films
from the era, including A Hard Day's Night, Alfie, Cul de Sac, Billion
Dollar Brain and Repulsion.
Plus there will be a special edition of The DVD Collection in which
Stuart Maconie makes a personal selection of the most interesting British
films of the decade, including Blow-Up and Performance, and meets some
of the key figures behind them.
Dennis Potter: The Nigel Barton Plays
TX: to be confirmed
Political controversy has always dogged the BBC and these early classics
by playwright Dennis Potter are a case in point.
Highly autobiographical, Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote
for Nigel Barton chronicle a young man's journey from student activism
to his attempt to stand for parliament as a Labour candidate in a safe
Potter's depiction of a manipulative party agent dismayed BBC executives
and led to a controversial re-write.
As an early tribute to mark the tenth anniversary of Potter's death,
BBC FOUR will screen these two famous but rarely-seen dramas alongside
a new programme exploring the controversy they provoked.