Today I’m delighted to be announcing a wide range of new commissions which showcase BBC Four at its very best, with bold, diverse and innovative content you won’t find anywhere else on TVCassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four
Date: 26.08.2016 Last updated: 26.08.2016 at 12.58
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, BBC Four Channel Editor Cassian Harrison today announced a raft of new commissions including a major new performance piece from acclaimed poet, Owen Sheers; special nights celebrating the first night of TV and the influence of hip hop on global popular culture; a season of programmes exploring modern identity with contributions from Alison Lapper, Peter York and Rankin; and gripping new international drama from Australia.
Cassian Harrison says: "Today I’m delighted to be announcing a wide range of new commissions which showcase BBC Four at its very best, with bold, diverse and innovative content you won’t find anywhere else on TV, from a major new performance piece from Owen Sheers, marking the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster to a season of films on modern identity, including Alison Lapper and Rankin on contemporary attitudes to beauty and Peter York on the hipster.
"Following the success of Trainspotting Live and our Slow TV content earlier this year, I want to bring other moments of scale to the channel and I’m delighted that we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the first night of TV this November with an ambitious attempt to restage the very first official broadcast on British Television.
"Finally, BBC Four has a strong tradition as the home of personal passions - celebrating everything from craft to trainspotting to - of course - Popular Music every Friday night. I’m delighted that we’re now embracing Britain's war gamers with a reboot of the classic historical military strategy show, Time Commanders. And of course, we have another cracking new international drama to look forward to on Saturday nights, with gripping new Australian thriller, Deep Water.”
Distinctive arts, music and performance content
The Green Hollow A Poem in the voice of Aberfan Then and Now, by Owen Sheers
The Green Hollow is a 1x60’ film poem marking the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster when, on 21 October 1966, a coal slag tip slipped onto the village primary school and local houses, killing 116 children and 28 adults. It was an event which touched people around the world.
The Green Hollow is written by poet, novelist and playwright Owen Sheers drawing on interviews with the contemporary community about the village today, as well as survivors of the disaster and those who travelled from outside to help in its wake. It is the voice of Aberfan as it was before the disaster and how it is now.
The film uses verse, imagery and music to explore the identity of the village pre and post 1966. It aims to be both an embracing of the disaster’s legacy as well as a celebration of the strength of the community today.
Building on their highly praised 2014 BBC adaptation of Under Milk Wood, it is masterminded by the creative team of Bethan Jones and director Pip Broughton, joined by producer Jenna Robbins.
The cast, including some of Wales' best known acting talent alongside new, young local acting talent, will be announced in the autumn as part of BBC Wales’ extensive plans for marking the anniversary.
The Green Hollow is produced by BBC Studios Wales in association with Vox Pictures. The Director is Pip Broughton, the Producer is Jenna Robbins and the Executive Producer is Bethan Jones. It was commissioned by Adrian Davies for BBC One Wales and by Cassian Harrison for BBC Four.
Frankenstein BBC Four is giving viewers an opportunity to see Liam Scarlett’s (The Royal Ballet’s Artist in Residence) acclaimed original ballet - a period adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Gothic tale of morality and our craving for love, companionship and understanding. This is a version filmed during the production’s world premiere run at the Royal Opera House earlier this year.
Hip Hop World News In this 1x90’ film, British rapper Rodney P sets out to show what the world looks like when it is seen through the lens of Hip Hop. In doing so, Rodney reveals a compelling and fascinating alternative version of reality, from the perspective of a culture which was created by poor people with nothing and has evolved into a world-dominating cultural powerhouse.
As a culture which has reportage, debate and social commentary at its core, Hip Hop is unique among musical genres in providing a continuous soundtrack to world events over the last four decades. Whether it’s chronicling life on the streets or offering a surprising twist on global events, this musical force has given a voice to the powerless and dispossessed while also acting as a platform for ideas, opinions and sometimes controversial theories to be shared and exchanged amongst its millions of followers.
Looking at big issues such as Power, Conspiracy, Education and Money from a Hip Hop point of view, Hip Hop World News also tackles issues like police brutality, extreme language and the role of women in a culture some see as misogynistic, to provide a fascinating take on what the world really looks like with a Hip Hop state of mind.
Rubble Kings In addition, BBC Four is broadcasting the terrestrial premiere of Rubble Kings - a documentary that tells the story of how hip hop was vital to the truce that ended the near-apocalyptic level of gang violence in New York during the 1960s-70s.
Using interviews with hip-hop pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa (an ex-Black Spade gang leader) and Kool Herc, as well as unseen archive footage of street gangs, director Shan Nicholson looks at the mayhem that inspired cult film The Warriors. Filmed over seven years, the film tracks life in New York during that period: the crime and the music.
Events - bringing moments of scale to the channel
Television's Opening Night: How The Box Was Born In a unique experiment, Dallas Campbell (Bang Goes The Theory), Professor Danielle George (The Christmas Lectures) and Dr. Hugh Hunt (Dambusters: Building The Bouncing Bomb) join forces in an attempt to restage the very first official broadcast on British Television, exactly 80 years after it made history.
The very first official live broadcast on British Television came from Alexandra Palace on 2 November 1936 - but there are no surviving recordings. To find out just what went on, this 21st century team will attempt to piece back together and recreate every aspect of the show from scratch - from the variety acts to the cameras - using the original technology and filming techniques to capture the excitement of the day.
It’s not going to be easy. At the dawn of TV, two rival camera technologies competed live on air to take control of the fledgling industry. The system that went first on opening night was a seven-feet tall mechanical monster built by John Logie Baird’s company. It was called the 'Flying Spot' and at its heart was a huge steel disc spinning almost at the speed of sound - meaning mechanical engineer Hugh Hunt had better be careful as he attempts to resurrect it. Meanwhile, Professor Danielle George will find out how the rival and highly experimental, all-electronic camera system had problems of its own.
As they prepare for broadcast, the team will discover a story of cogs and gears, electron beams and dancing girls - and one mad night that, for better or worse, helped invent television as we know it.
Television's Opening Night: How The Box Was Born is being produced by Windfall Films. The film was commissioned by Diene Petterle and the Executive Producer for Windfall Films is David Dugan.
Pictured (top): Emma Morgan performs 'Television’, originally composed for Adele Dixon to sing during the opening broadcast on 2 November 1936.
BBC Four - the home of singular voices
Modern Identity season
No Body’s Perfect In this 1x60’ documentary disabled artist Alison Lapper and internationally renowned photographer Rankin tackle contemporary attitudes to beauty and identity through the medium of photography. Alison and Rankin will meet four fascinating people who don’t conform to traditional notions of beauty, or who hate being photographed, and invite them to step in front of Rankin’s camera. Each person will reveal their incredible life story and their own personal struggle with their sense of identity.
Through hearing these stories and capturing them in Rankin’s studio, Alison and Rankin will explore how the explosion of digital media over the past decade, including social media and the craze for selfies, presents new challenges to our self-image.
The film was produced by Reef Television and commissioned by BBC head of arts commissioning Mark Bell and BBC Four channel editor Cassian Harrison. Executive Producer is Ben Weston for Reef and Producer/Director is Ian Denyer.
Peter York’s The Hipster Handbook Presented by cultural commentator Peter York, this authored documentary looks at the rise of the hipster and how this phenomenon has changed the world around us. Through his exploration of the hipster movement, Peter reveals a society desperate for the authentic and big businesses that are appropriating ‘authenticity’ in order to sell it back to us.
The term hipster has become popular as a movement and has developed into a higher quality alternative to mass market consumerism. Peter York uses his marketing expertise and unique wit to investigate this bearded cultural tribe and make sense of what it all means. Travelling to London and the birth place of the hipster, New York, Peter examines everything from their iconic fashion and the small industry of artisanal craft producers, to the big backlash against all things hipster.
The film delves into the complexity of the authentic versus the inauthentic, and how hipsters battle with the mainstream to reclaim the values and trends they have created.
Peter York’s The Hipster Handbook was commissioned by Mark Bell for BBC Four and will be executive produced by Tayte Simpson, Director of Programmes, for Mentorn Media, Geoff Moore for Moore Television and Emma Cahusac for the BBC.
The Protestor Bob and Roberta Smith, the artist best known for eye-catching placards with slogans like Make Art Not War, was starting to lose faith in the power of protest. But this year, his cynicism has been put to the test as the world has exploded in popular protest. From Brexit to Black Lives Matter, old to young, right to left, rich to poor - it seems that the world is reclaiming its right to protest.
In this documentary, Bob sets out to discover what makes a modern protestor. A wry, opinionated and passionate investigation into this age of activism, the film is also a very personal chronicle of a summer of popular revolt.
From the dramatic scenes of the Republican National Convention just days after the killing of three police officers, to meeting a group of Lancashire pensioners fighting fracking in Yorkshire, Bob travels among this international tribe of protestors, asking whether occupations, direct action, protest concerts and endless marches ever actually achieve anything.
This film was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning. Executive Producer is Richard Bright, Producer/Director is Simon Lloyd.
Time Commanders BBC Four and BBC Entertainment have commissioned a brand new series of Time Commanders from Lion Television, to be presented by Gregg Wallace.
The historical re-enactment gameshow puts two teams of battle enthusiasts against each other as they take control of ancient forces and compete against a computer, pre-programmed by historical experts The Creative Assembly, before taking each other on in one of history's famous ancient battles.
Military experts involved in devising the show include Mike Loades and Lynette Nusbacher, and VT inserts will be presented by action expert Gordon Summers.
The series was commissioned by Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor BBC Four and Acting Controller of BBC Entertainment Alan Tyler. The BBC Commissioning editor is Jo Street.
It will be executive produced by Lisa Hazlehurst, managing director of Lion Scotland, and director of specialist factual Bill Locke. The series producer is Jo Scott. It will be filmed at BBC Studios in Glasgow.
BBC Four - the home of international drama
Deep Water A gripping four-part crime drama set in contemporary Bondi, the series is inspired by the unsolved gay-hate crime epidemic that swept through Sydney in the 80s and 90s, known as the Bondi Beach Murders.
The drama unfolds when detectives Tori Lustigman and Nick Manning are assigned a brutal murder case. They begin to uncover mounting evidence to suggest the killing is connected to a spate of unexplained deaths, 'suicides' and disappearances throughout the 80s and 90s. Is this the result of shoddy police work, indifference, or something far more sinister?
Haunted by the mysterious death of her teenage brother, Tori’s fascination with the case soon turns to fixation, and when more ritualistic murders occur with the same bizarre signature, Tori and Nick will need to put their relationships, their careers and their lives on the line to finally reveal the truth.
The series stars Noah Taylor as detective Nick Manning; Yael Stone as detective Tori Lustigman; William McInnes as Inspector Peel; Daniel Spielman as Rhys; and Danielle Cormack as Brenda.
It is a Blackfella Films production for SBS Broadcasting Australia, Screen Australia & Screen New South Wales, and is distributed by DCD Rights.