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Happy Birthday OU: 50 Years of the Open University

Sir Lenny Henry, one of the Open University's best-known graduates, tells the story of the groundbreaking institution founded in 1969 as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

2019 marks the 50th birthday of the Open University.

In its five decades, the OU has educated more than two million students. Sir Lenny Henry is one of them.

Sir Lenny presents this documentary, which tells the story of the OU from 1969 to 2019, with archive and interviews with past graduates, observers and academics. It is nostalgic, affectionate, funny and a piece of cultural and social history.

The story begins with Harold Wilson’s idea of a ‘University of the Air’ through the times of late-night black-and-white TV programmes to modern-day landmark series such as Blue Planet II. Today the OU works with space research and avatars and looks forward to the next 50 years.

59 minutes

Last on

Thu 25 Apr 2019 21:00

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    KT Tunstall

    Suddenly I See

  • 00:02


    One Day Like This

  • 00:04

    Small Faces

    Plum Nellie

  • 00:05

    Booker T. & The MG’s

    Time Is Tight

  • 00:06


    The New Pollution

  • 00:07

    Nic Raine, City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

    From Russia With Love

  • 00:09

    Loose Ends


  • 00:10

    Jan & Dean

    Jennie Lee

  • 00:12

    Jeff Beck

    Shapes Of Things

  • 00:14

    David Bowie

    Queen B****

  • 00:17

    The Pipkins

    Gimme Dat Ding.

  • 00:21

    The Who

    Baba O'Riley

  • 00:25

    The Open Mind

    Magic Potion

  • 00:26

    Carl Douglas

    Kung Fu Fighting

  • 00:29

    Cabaret Voltaire


  • 00:30

    David Bowie


  • 00:31

    The Skatalites

    Guns Of Navarone

  • 00:33

    The Cure

    Close To Me

  • 00:40

    Clifford T. Ward

    The Open University

  • 00:41

    Spandau Ballet

    To Cut A Long Story Short

  • 00:44

    Lou Reed

    Satellite Of Love

  • 00:46

    The Flaming Lips

    Ego Tripping (Self Admiration With Blow-Up Mix)

  • 00:48

    Philip Glass

    Mad Rush (BBC Philharmonic 2015-16 Season)

    Performer: Jonathan Scott.
  • 00:48

    Fatboy Slim

    Right Here, Right Now

  • 00:49

    Depeche Mode

    Personal Jesus

  • 00:50

    Olly Murs

    Grow Up

  • 00:51


    These Days (feat. Jess Glynne, Rudimental)

  • 00:53

    The Silver Seas

    What If It Wasn't Out There?

  • 00:52


    Asleep In The Back

  • 00:53


    Computer Love (2009 Remastered Version)

  • 00:55



  • 00:58


    Good Grief

  • 00:56

    Noah and the Whale

    5 Years Time


Role Contributor
Presenter Lenny Henry
Producer Paul Baker