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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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BBC Poetry Season on TV, on radio and online – introduction

Poetry season

Spring 2009 sees the launch of a landmark commitment to the arts with a pan-BBC season dedicated to poetry.

Some of the nation's best loved poets and celebrities will take part in a season of big, bold content across television, radio and online; exploring the far-reaching, compelling and truly fascinating world of poetry.

Griff Rhys Jones launches the Poetry Season on BBC Two on 20 May at 9.00pm with a passionate plea about Why Poetry Matters – how verse has the power to move and why everybody needs it.

Also on BBC Two, My Life In Verse With... Robert Webb is the first in a four-part series exploring the rich terrain of poetry from Milton to Shakespeare through the eyes of four well-known personalities also including Sheila Hancock, Malorie Blackman and Cerys Mathews; and Off By Heart on Friday 22 May at 9.00pm follows primary school children across the country as they take part in a nationwide recitation competition, culminating in a grand final, compered by Jeremy Paxman.

BBC Four features an enlightening six-part series, A Poet's Guide To Britain, presented by Owen Sheers, (Mondays, 8.30pm), which explores six great works about the British landscape; and Ian Hislop welcomes the new Poet Laureate in Ian Hislop Changing Of The Bard – featuring an entertaining history of one of the oldest and, he argues, oddest offices in the British establishment on 16 May at 10.00pm.

Also on BBC Four poet Simon Armitage goes in search of one of the jewels in the crown of British poetry, Sir Gawain, and historian Michael Wood returns to his first great love – the Anglo Saxon world – to reveal the origins of our literary heritage in Michael Wood On Beowulf.

BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4 will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Lord Tennyson, while The Essay – A Laureate's Life, also on Radio 3, offers five personal takes on the role of Poet Laureate from around the world. Radio 4 will showcase its second Poetry Slam competition following on from its hit 2007 contest.

For younger viewers CBeebies cooks up a fresh, daily serving of scrummy Poetry Pie in a specially created new series for three to six year olds. Starting on BBC Two on May 18 poets from Brian Patten, Roger McGough and Children's Laureate Michael Rosen to primary school pupils from across the UK contribute to a mix of funny and original rhythms and rhymes.

A dedicated website,, launching on 18 May, will feature a wealth of content including a vote to elect the Nation's Favourite Poet, with short films from a host of celebrities making their case for their favourite poet including John Sergeant on Betjeman and Alex James on Auden. Plus the Poetry Season's dedicated website will feature a poetry search engine to find poems according to a particular theme or mood.

George Entwistle, Controller Knowledge Commissioning, BBC Vision, says: "The Poetry Season offers viewers a fascinating and accessible insight into verse; there really is something for everyone.

"The UK has an extraordinary poetic tradition. We hope this season, the BBC's fantastic accompanying online offering, and the other initiatives with the likes of the Poetry Society will inspire and motivate people to discover and reacquaint themselves with the poetry greats. In addition it may also inspire them to discover their own poetic voice."

The BBC is working closely with external partners on the season including the Poetry Society and National Poetry Day.


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