British culture highlights on BBC Four


Award-winning actress and comedy writer Ruth Jones (Gavin & Stacey, Tess Of The D’Urbervilles) stars as larger-than-life Carry On actress Hattie Jacques, in this one-off film about her secret affair with a younger man in the early Sixties, while still married to Dad’s Army star John Le Mesurier.

Written by Stephen Russell (Garrow’s Law, Shameless) and directed by Dan Zeff (Consuming Passion, Lost In Austen), Hattie is a bittersweet true-life drama about a very English love triangle and a celebration of an extraordinary icon of UK comedy. It is a hot-blooded romance in stark contrast to the matronly roles that made her famous.

Ruth Jones says: “Hattie Jacques is one of my comedy heroines and I’m thrilled to have been asked to play her. She was an incredibly talented and fascinating woman both on and off screen and so much more than just the ‘funny fat lady’. I can’t wait.”

Hattie also stars Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet) as John Le Mesurier and Aidan Turner (Desperate Romantics, Being Human) as her youthful lover John Schofield.



BBC Four explores the meaning of justice in the modern world in a series of new films.

In Michael Sandel On Justice, the Harvard Professor examines how three of the most influential schools of thought, led by Aristotle, Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant, have combined to forge the modern understanding of justice. In eight lectures, the prominent political philosopher opens his classroom to the world as he explores a number of difficult moral dilemmas revealing how the solutions are never black and white.

The BBC’s international strand Storyville is contributing a number of documentaries, including a season of films around the topic of human rights to mark the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International. These include When They Are Free, an inside look at the current state of Amnesty International; the award-winning Sergio, which describes the last day in the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian United nations diplomat, who was buried under rubble by a car bomb in Baghdad; and Khmer Rouge Executioner, a film about the life and times of Comrade Duch, who ran the Tuol Sleng death camp in Pnomh Penh, Cambodia.

Time Shift has two specials exploring crime and punishment. A Good Flogging chronicles the evolution of corporal punishment over the past 200 years, while The Story Of Capital Punishment digs into the archive to trace the history of the ultimate sanction.

Timeshift also tackles Rough Justice, looking at the creation of the extraordinary BBC series of the same name, which ran for 25 years and achieved the overturning of the wrongful convictions of 18 people in 13 separate cases.


Coronation Street – A Star Is Born

Granada Studios Manchester, 6.55 pm, 9 December 1960. With minutes to go until the live transmission of episode one, creator Tony Warren (David Dawson) is being sick in the toilets, actress Pat Phoenix is missing… and so is the cat from the opening shot.

Coronation Street – A Star is Born [working title] is the epic story of one man’s struggle to make a programme that no one wanted.

Granada’s formidable bosses, Sidney Bernstein (Stephen Berkoff) and his brother Cecil (Henry Goodman), are not enthusiastic. But together with producer Harry Elton (Christian McKay) and director Derek Bennett (Shaun Dooley), Tony takes up the battle. He wants cobbles, a pub, seven houses and a shop, but above all he wants northern actors.

Led by casting director Margaret Morris (Jane Horrocks) and her young assistant Josie Scott (Sophia Di Martino), the hunt begins for the legendary cast – Doris Speed (Celia Imrie), Pat Phoenix (Jessie Wallace), Violet Carson (Lynda Baron) and William Roache (played by his son James Roache). Coronation Street is born.

Directed by Charles Sturridge, written by Daran Little, produced by Rebecca Hodgson and executive produced by Kieran Roberts, Coronation Street – A Star is Born is part of a season celebrating the culture, history, life and architecture of northern England. This information was first published in the BBC Four Spring/Summer 2010 press pack.


Time Shift – 1960: The Year Of The North

The Sixties, according to popular belief, was the decade that swung. But the Sixties began with a great roar that emanated not from swinging London, but from the north of England.

Time Shift explores how, in books, film, television and music, new voices were making themselves heard that would wake Britain from its post-war slumber. The likes of Alan Sillitoe, Shelagh Delaney, Tony Warren and the Beatles, began a process that would make the northern voice central to the decade that followed.

Time Shift – 1960: The Year Of The North is part of a season celebrating the culture, history, life and architecture of northern England.


Churches – How To Read Them

Author Richard Taylor examines how the imagery, symbols and architecture of British parish churches have inspired, moved and enraged people down the centuries.

A six-part series, Churches – How To Read Them is about understanding what we see in a British church and how the different styles throughout the country reflect changing ideas of God, salvation, living and dying.


The Story Of Variety

Sixty-five years ago every British town had a variety theatre. It was a world of fast talking agents, ruthless theatre managers, strict or saucy landladies and, above all, it was about the entertainers – the comics, dancers, singers, musicians and speciality acts who criss-crossed the country in search of the next show.

Michael Grade grew up against this backdrop and became a variety agent himself. In this two-part documentary he rediscovers this lost world of British entertainment and tells of its brutal demise with the theatre walls literally coming down before the acts had finished.


Michael Wood’s Story Of England

Historian Michael Wood presents Michael Wood’s Story Of England, a new series that shines an intimate light on the lives of ordinary people over the last 2,000 years. Set in the Leicestershire village of Kibworth, Michael unites the villagers in digging up their own back gardens to unearth artefacts and look into the history all around them.

Kibworth is modern Britain in miniature; located in the very heart of England and split now by the A6, it’s the kind of place that most people drive through without a second thought. But like most places in England, scraping just beneath the surface reveals an incredibly rich historical tapestry.

From the Romans to the Vikings, from the Black Death to the Civil War, this series lays bare a history peopled by fascinating real-life characters, including Tudor teachers, highwaymen, Suffragettes and First World War soldiers.


Battle Of Britain Season

As part of a special season marking the 70th anniversary of the Second World War air campaign, BBC Four broadcasts a series of programmes that bring to life the most significant air battle in British history.

Wellington Bomber takes a look at a challenge posed by the RAF and the War Ministry during the war – could a Wellington bomber be built from scratch in a single day? Combining archive footage of the attempt with testimonials from the workers involved, this fascinating film documents the amazing attempt bolt by bolt.

Spitfire Women tells the story of the remarkable women who, against all odds, flew planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary from 1939 until the end of the war. The film captures the drama, danger and significance of the story of these unsung heroines, who came from around the world to fight for Britain, but whose tales of courage and determination remain largely unrecognised.

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