Radio 3 reveals more details of its celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Third Programme

In September we are going use our birthday to draw on the strength of our past and forge a new way forward, drawing from the spirit of the Third Programme in a contemporary way...Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3
Date: 01.02.2016     Last updated: 02.02.2016 at 09.22
Radio 3 today announces a series of special commissions, initiatives and broadcasts to mark the 70th anniversary of the BBC’s Third Programme (launched on 29 September 1946), the radio station which was the forerunner of BBC Radio 3.

BBC Radio 3’s 70 At 70 will see a series of experiments in music and culture commissioned to reflect the anniversary on air, showcasing and exploring the Third Programme and Radio 3’s joint and ongoing mission of bringing the most remarkable music and culture to audiences, and as part of the station’s role as a patron of the arts. 70 At 70 showcases Radio 3’s ongoing commitment to commissioning new works across speech and music.

Radio 3’s 70 At 70 will include:

  • Seven composers given their first Radio 3 commission for a 10-minute work, to be performed by either a BBC Performing Group or Radio 3 New Generation Artist
  • The Visa Affair - a new play inspired by an unpublished Joe Orton short story, written by crime-writer Jake Arnott. Joe Orton sold the Ruffian On The Stair to the Third Programme in 1963 – before any of his plays had been produced anywhere else
  • Three established composers commissioned to write a significant work marking the 70th anniversary
  • Three innovative newly composed 45’ music projects conceived specifically for radio, celebrating the broadcasting medium
  • Winners of the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composer’s Competition 2016 commissioned to write pieces inspired by the musical trends in the lifetime of the Third Programme and Radio 3 - from serialism to musique concrète – filtered through the imaginations of these composers, born in the 21st century
  • A satirical play called The Present Experiment about the birth of the Third Programme, written by Robin Brooks
  • An evening of new productions of Samuel Beckett radio plays, recorded in binaural sound with newly composed musical accompaniment
  • A new production of The Birthday Party by Pinter, who received his first commission from the Third Programme at the start of his career
  • An international radio co-production Tower Of Babel created by renowned director Robert Wilson
  • A tribute to Philip French
  • Radio 3 will be revisiting radio poetry – championed by producers at the Third Programme – with new commissions written for this anniversary

The station also today announces two new initiatives reflecting its mission to champion, nurture and showcase new musical talent.

Drawing on BBC Radio 3’s reputation as the most significant commissioner of new classical works, and following our New Year New Music focus, Contemporary Composer In 3 is an opportunity for a composer to become embedded in Radio 3 and to compose regular works for frequent broadcast during the period of the Third Programme anniversary. A key role will be to make contemporary classical music part of everyday listening and to explain and demystify new music and the process of composition.

Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme will be extended to include conductors. The scheme supports musicians to reach the next stages of their careers and brings some of the world’s most promising new talent to listeners across the UK through Radio 3 broadcasts. Today, Radio 3 announces that it will be extending the scheme to include conductors for the first time. The first New Generation Artists conductor will be announced during this anniversary year.

Further highlights of the Third Programme anniversary include commissions for two BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers each to write a 70-bar celebratory anniversary fanfare for the Third Programme and BBC Radio 3; and a spotlight on past Third Programme and Radio 3 commissions as current New Generation Artists choose their favourite works to champion In Concerts and broadcasts for Radio 3.

As announced last week, Radio 3 will return to Southbank Centre, London, for two weeks in September around the anniversary itself, broadcasting live from its pop-up glass studio in the Royal Festival Hall foyers (23 September – 7 October 2016). Radio 3 will take over the Royal Festival Hall public spaces for a fortnight of special broadcasts featuring Southbank Centre artists, ensembles, resident orchestras, visiting musical and literary guests, and more. 

Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3, says: “BBC Radio 3 is the direct ancestor of a remarkable cultural phenomenon - the Third Programme which began broadcasting on 29 September 1946. That ancestry echoes an unbroken line of ambition: to champion great works of music and culture, innovating in radio, supporting new talent, and connecting audiences all over the country with the joys of distinctive music and culture experiences.

"In September, we are going use our birthday to draw on the strength of our past and forge a new way forward, drawing from the spirit of the Third Programme in a contemporary way – to ensure our audiences can connect with remarkable music and culture. We’ll be commissioning 70 experiments in music and culture to mark our birthday, continuing our role as one of the most significant commissioners of new musical works and our role as a commissioner of some of the most talented playwrights in the world.”

Further programming to be announced in coming months.