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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Director-General announces season celebrating England's northern traditions as BBC leads creative and economic renaissance

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson today pledged to support the new renaissance of the creative economy and cultural life of the North of England – announcing the BBC's first season celebrating the culture, history, life and architecture of northern cities.

Mark Thompson and Director of BBC North, Peter Salmon, are visiting Teesside University today to launch a new drive aimed at expanding job and career opportunities in media and broadcasting linked to the relocation of key BBC departments to Salford.

The new season on BBC Four, tentatively titled The Great Northern, will include a series of factual programmes that will air this autumn and includes:

  • A two-part series with the working title The Golden Age Of Civic Architecture, which will explore the magnificent architecture of towns and cities across the North of England. The architectural historian Dr Jonathan Foyle will explore the dazzling showmanship of Georgian and Victorian of public buildings in Liverpool and Leeds, and tell the stories of the men who commissioned the magnificent municipal buildings of Manchester, as part of a wide-ranging look at the history and architecture of the region.
  • Presented by cultural historian Andrew Hussey, The Road To Wigan Pie Shop is a counter-intuitive journey through the history of the region's culinary traditions – from Lob Scouse to Pease Pudding, Parkin and beyond – that serves up a delicious overturning of lazy stereotypes about the north and its culture.
  • Eddie Waring and the Story Of Rugby League will depict the story of the sport through one man's experience of class, power and money.

Other programmes are still being commissioned for the season, but among the ideas being explored is the way that the northern working-class voice burst upon the British cultural sensibilities during an explosion of drama and writing in the late Fifties and early Sixties, with programmes like A Taste Of Honey, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning and Coronation Street.

BBC Four will also dig deep into the BBC's archive to find exciting pieces that reflect cultural life in the North of England over the years.

Mark Thompson said: "The move to MediaCityUK will help us better reflect the life, culture and stories of the north. These programmes are a great celebration of how the traditions and history of our northern cities have helped shaped the region and the country. Along with favourites like Tracy Beaker and George Gently, it shows our dedication to content and stories from the north that can be enjoyed by audiences across the UK."

Commenting on the BBC Four season, Channel Controller Richard Klein, said: "This season will be an eclectic and witty collection of films that explore some forgotten histories, some interesting by-ways and some major cultural influences of one of Britain's most colourful, historic and important regions.

"It isn't a set of films that seeks to position north against south, or tries to determine what is and what isn't north. Nor is it a season that seeks to define 'northerness' by its otherness from the south. In the best tradition of BBC Four, it will be an intelligent and witty collection of programmes that aim to shine a light on the best of British culture."

Full details on the programmes, including transmission dates, will be announced later this year.

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