Wednesday 24 Sep 2014
A leading orchestra takes on the challenge of creating beautiful music out of rubbish for a high-profile performance, as BBC Four embeds itself in the heart of cultural life by creating, as well as broadcasting, cultural events this summer.
Conductor Charles Hazlewood leads the challenge, charging a group of the UK's top instrument makers with the mission of transforming junk, broken furniture and the contents of roadside skips into an orchestra of instruments in Scrapheap Orchestra. He then conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra, playing only scrap instruments, in the hope of performing a flawless medley of three classical pieces, including Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. And in doing so, we find out what makes a musical instrument actually work – the science of music.
In another ambitious scientific project, Afterlife, BBC Four will reveal the extraordinary science of decay and decomposition, with a unique exhibition this summer. A life-sized, typical kitchen and garden will be contained in a purpose-built box, which is planned to go on display at Edinburgh Zoo during the festival period. Visitors – at the event or online – will be able to witness the decay of everyday foods and substances over a two-month period, discovering the hidden beauty and significance of nature's ability to recycle the building blocks of life, also recorded for a programme presented by Oxford University's Dr George McGavin.
Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, also announced today that the channel has commissioned a drama exploring how a young working-class photographer changed the rules of celebrity and fashion, in telling the explosive love affair between photographer David Bailey and Sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton, played by Karen Gillan (Doctor Who). We'll Take Manhattan reveals how a young, visionary photographer refused to conform and insisted on using the unconventional model Jean Shrimpton on an important photo shoot for British Vogue, inadvertently defining the style of the Sixties along the way.
"We're curious about the world around us and will continue to take an in-depth exploration of subjects that you rarely see on television, from botany to Icelandic culture, as well as dramatising moments that have changed the course of cultural life, for example when David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton created an image that redefined the Sixties. BBC Four explores subjects with the most knowledgeable and engaging experts and passionate advocates. This season I'm delighted that HRH The Prince of Wales, a long-standing enthusiast of Hubert Parry's work, has made a film for us about the composer, offering fresh insight into his life and work.
"BBC Four provides enriching television for the discerning viewer, and this season is no exception, bursting with purpose, proposition and passion."
This season, two landmark series examine very different, but equally impactful, moments in British culture. In a major re-calibration of 20th-century British paintings, art historian James Fox argues that British painting from 1910 to 1975 was an extraordinary flowering of genius, in British Masters. Meanwhile, historian Dr Lucy Worsley examines the cultural significance of the Regency period from 1811-1820, when there was a riotous outpouring of art, fashion, architecture, design and literature, and when the greatest living artists – Turner, Constable and Lawrence – were all British.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is a long-standing enthusiast for the music of Hubert Parry, the unsung composer of such famous tunes as Jerusalem and the hymn Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind. In a feature-length documentary, The Prince And The Composer, he offers fresh insights into Parry's life and the range of his work, with the help of members of Parry's family, scholars and performers.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of playwright Terence Rattigan, whose plays are starting to enjoy a long overdue revival, one of the country's leading actors, Benedict Cumberbatch, presents a passionate documentary arguing why Rattigan is one of Britain's greatest playwrights. In The Secrets Of The Arabian Nights, Richard E Grant re-opens one of his favourite children's books, The 1001 Arabian Nights, to explore its extraordinary impact on Western culture.
To celebrate performance, there will be a Contemporary Dance Weekend, which includes a new, full-length dance work, The Most Incredible Thing, commissioned and produced by Sadler's Wells in collaboration with radical director and choreographer Javier De Frutos and featuring a specially composed score by the Pet Shop Boys. In a special Cello Night, BBC Four will be celebrating one of the orchestra's most charismatic instruments. Rostropovich – The Genius Of The Cello, directed by award-winning director John Bridcut, explores the unique talents of the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
This summer will be a festival of music on BBC Four, with two BBC Proms concerts a week and coverage of some of the key heritage and classic artists at Glastonbury 2011. Plus, from this spring, BBC Four will be playing out Top Of The Pops from 1976 episode by episode on Thursday nights at 7.30pm – the same time as the original programme transmitted.
From the autumn, BBC Four will be the gateway to the BBC's online television archive. This spring and summer, the channel continues to create in-depth seasons around more unusual or neglected subjects, reflecting its unique role as a curator of content on television, and soon to be online as well.
Following on from previous BBC Four science journeys exploring physics, biology, chemistry, psychology, surgery, maths, time and light, Botany is a major new season tracing the history of plant science. At its heart is an authoritative three-part series, Botany – A Blooming History, presented by the director of Oxford University Botanic Garden, Timothy Walker.
In Britain Through A Lens, BBC Four explores how Britain has taken a mirror to itself through its documentaries, from the earliest pioneers who first filmed Britain. Another season, Luxury, will ask, at the time of recession, what is luxury and why is one man's luxury another man's poverty? The season will uncover the fascination people have with the comfort, design, service and glamour that is associated with luxury products, and why these items are valued in everyday life, dating back to the Medieval and Classical worlds. The channel ventures to Iceland to explore Icelandic culture, with a series on The Viking Sagas, otherwise known as the Icelandic Sagas, priceless historical documents as well as great works of art, presented by Oxford University's Janina Ramirez. Plus, BBC Four continues its year-long focus on Justice with a focus on issues with a British, and then an international, perspective.
Other factual highlights this spring and summer include Timothy Spall – Somewhere On The Irish Sea, which follows the drama of Timothy and his wife Shane's mini-odyssey around Britain in their barge. In If Walls Could Talk, Dr Lucy Worsley stays closer to home for a series exploring how homes have evolved into what they are today – and how our relationship with them has changed over time, part of a season on the History Of The Home.
The Killing has been the most talked-about drama on television this year and reflects BBC Four's aim to offer an international perspective, screening the best, most complex and compelling drama from around the world. Later in the year, The Killing II will return to BBC Four, with Chief Inspector Sarah Lund tackling another murder investigation in gripping detail – the death of an ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan. Before this, BBC Four will see the return of French police series Spiral, with Police Captain Laure Berthaud leading her squad on the hunt for The Butcher Of La Villette.
This spring also brings a vibrant, visceral, modern and compelling adaptation of John Braine's post-war classic Room At The Top, part of the channel's ongoing season exploring love and sexuality in 20th-century literature. Comedy drama Twenty Twelve also continues into the spring, following the team paddling hard beneath the water to make the Olympics happen in 2012.
Finally, the success of BBC Four's cult quiz Only Connect, hosted by Victoria Coren, has not been confined to television screens; a spin-off web game, available on the BBC website, has proved a hit with over four million walls played in 2010. Now BBC Four is planning a Connecting Wall Night later in the year built around special editions of the TV Quiz, all fronted by Coren, and devoted entirely to Connecting Walls and their solutions.
Please note these are working titles and may change prior to transmission.
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