Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

BBC Four Spring/Summer 2011



And in that decay, starts all new life. Afterlife is an ambitious project revealing 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 it is planned will go on display to visitors at Edinburgh Zoo, kicking off the festivals period in August.

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.

Recorded using the latest technology in time-lapse photography and microscopy for a feature-length programme later in the year, Afterlife is presented by Oxford University's Dr George McGavin (Lost Land Of The Tiger).

Events in the box will be augmented with specially shot documentary pieces exploring wider aspects of decomposition and people's attitudes to it. There will also be support for the project from BBC Learning.

Afterlife is an example of BBC Four's mission to create, as well as broadcast, cultural events.


BBC Productions Scotland

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Botany with Timothy Walker


This major new season traces the history of botany, following on from previous BBC Four journeys exploring physics, biology, chemistry, psychology, surgery, maths, time and light. At the heart of the season is an authoritative three-part main event, Botany – A Blooming History, supported by the one-off documentaries Apples – British To The Core, Wonderful Weeds and Hidcote.

Botany – A Blooming History reveals how a band of pioneers came to understand the mysteries of the plant kingdom and in doing so helped to unlock the secrets of the natural world.

Presented by the director of Oxford University Botanic Garden, Timothy Walker, this new three-part series features tales of ingenuity and intellectual rivalry.

It tells the story of how we came to understand the natural order of the plant world and how the quest to discover how plants grow uncovered the secret to life on the planet.

The series features the latest plant science and shows how botanists today are at the forefront of advances which fight disease, provide radical new forms of renewable energy and help feed the world's growing population.

Timothy Walker reveals how the breakthroughs of botanist Carl Linnaeus and naturalist John Ray moved the variation in plants from a matter of religious faith to a scientific discipline.

When nurseryman Thomas Fairchild created the world's first man-made hybrid flower – an entirely new plant that didn't exist in nature – he set botany a challenge to discover how plants breed and how they are related.

It was a botanist, William Bateson, who invented the term "genetics". He discovered how living things pass on their characteristics from generation to generation.

And in the Forties botanist and geneticist Nikolia Vavilov died in a Soviet prison for his dream of using the new science of genetics to develop a new generation of super crops.

Today plant scientists are spearheading an ambitious attempt to re-engineer rice so that it can harness the energy of the sun more efficiently to help feed the world's growing population.

In Wonderful Weeds horticulturalist Chris Collins travels the UK to illustrate the extraordinary story behind the plants most people call weeds.

The word "weed" has almost entirely negative connotations among the British but Chris sets out to challenge that.

Travelling from back gardens to giant greenhouses, and encountering experts in botanical history, genetics, pharmaceuticals and wild food along the way, he sets out to discover exactly what weeds are.

Garden designer and presenter Chris Beardshaw looks at how Britain has helped to shape the apple and explores the history of some favourite varieties in Apples – British To The Core.

He visits a piece of living history – the original Bramley apple tree from which every Bramley apple ever eaten has originally come – and goes in search of some lost varieties.

Chris also finds out what drove Victorian horticulturalists to create more varieties of apple than anywhere else in the world; and he uncovers the amazing work of British scientists who have unlocked the apple's deepest secrets and helped make it a mass market success.

The most influential garden of the 20th century, and its enigmatic creator Major Lawrence Johnston, are explored in Hidcote.

The Gloucestershire garden is considered by many to be the epitome of the English country garden, yet until recently little was known about the tortured genius behind it.

But as part of a major facelift, researchers are piecing together Johnston's vision for the garden and in so doing have uncovered a compelling story encompassing Edwardian high society, the horrors of the First World War and dangerous plant-hunting expeditions to Mount Kilimanjaro and China's Yunnan province.


Botany – A Blooming History, Wonderful Weeds and Apples – British To The Core: BBC Productions
Hidcote: A Keo Films production

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Unnatural Histories

Unnatural Histories

How natural is the natural world? Unnatural Histories takes a new look at three of the world's most iconic wild places and discovers that each has been shaped over time by man.

The Serengeti first became wild when a colonial disease crippled the economic livelihoods of local people, emptying the land and allowing the modern vision of Africa as a pristine wilderness to take hold.

In the American West, Yellowstone was born when a romantic European ideal was imposed on the homelands of Native Americans by ambitious politicians and railroad tycoons.

And today, as the loggers move deeper into the world's last great wilderness, strange earthworks emerge from the destruction of the "virgin" forest – evidence of ancient cities in the very heart of the Amazon.

With the purity of even the most pristine wild places under question, what is the future for wilderness?

Front Desk

BBC Productions

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History Of The Home with Dr. Lucy Worsley

History Of The Home

This spring, BBC Four explores the fascinating history of the British home with a collection of revealing documentaries.

In a new four-part series, Dr Lucy Worsley, chief curator of the Royal Historic Palaces, explores how homes have evolved into what they are today – and how our relationship with them has changed over time.

If Walls Could Talk tells the story of British domestic life from the Middle Ages to the present day. Through the prism of four rooms – the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom and the lounge – Lucy examines ever-shifting attitudes to privacy, class, cleanliness and technology.

Featuring interviews with a range of specialist historians, curators and history experts, this revealing series will change the way you look at your home for ever.

In the Big Spring Clean, Andrew Graham-Dixon goes behind the scenes at one of Britain's most beautiful stately homes – spending a winter working with the National Trust's conservation team at Petworth House in West Sussex. As a mammoth exercise in spring cleaning, it requires not just elbow grease, but in-depth specialist knowledge of the unique history of the objects in the house.

In The Great Estate, journalist and author Michael Collins presents a hard-hitting and heart-warming history of one of Britain's greatest social revolutions: the story of council housing. Along the way, Collins meets the people whose lives were shaped by an extraordinary social experiment that began with a bang at the start of the 20th century, and at its height provided housing for over a third of the British population.


If Walls Could Talk: A Silver River production
Big Spring Clean and The Great Estate: Wall To Wall Media Ltd productions

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