BBC Four

Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, today unveils the channel’s autumn 2010/winter 2011 line-up, packed full of insightful, opinionated and bold new programmes for the discerning viewer.

New announcements include a brand new literary adaptation of Douglas Adams’s masterpiece Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and an opera about the life of Anna Nicole Smith, a season on sculpture and an entire village that has dug up their back gardens to unearth a fascinating history.


Culture and knowledge

Unashamedly expert, undiluted and in-depth, the season consists of an extensive range of intelligent programmes focusing on the arts, music, culture and knowledge in all its forms.

2010 has seen the channel enjoy its best ever performance, with both share (1.1 per cent) and reach (15.4 per cent) up considerably on the same period last year and an average of 8.4 million viewers coming to the channel each week. With the new line-up, BBC Four continues its mission to be the most culturally enriching channel within the UK’s digital broadcasting world.

Richard Klein says: “BBC Four is the channel that seeks to offer television to those parts of the brain that other television channels don’t reach. We always aim to provide context and complexity, and all with a strong flavour of wit and opinion. So I am delighted to be able to offer a host of deliciously inventive, thought-provoking and entertaining programmes over the next six months. From arts to performance, drama and comedy to social culture, history and science, there is programming here to satisfy the most curious and interested of minds, as well as one or two surprises for the fun of it.”


Visual arts

In line with BBC Four’s goal always to add context and champion opinion, this season features the channel’s strongest ever line-up of visual arts, reflecting and commenting on the cultural DNA of the UK and the wider world. There’s a major season embracing one of Britain’s greatest contributions to the art world – sculpture, with the channel’s widest range of in-depth programmes celebrating everything from the world’s most fascinating tombs, gargoyles and royal statues to the meaning of the fig leaf in 2,000 years of Western art and ethics. As part of the season, journalist Alastair Sooke delves deeply into the three golden ages in The Story Of British Sculpture and actor David Thewlis becomes part of art itself by having his head recreated by three different sculptors in How To Get A Head In Sculpture.

As part of one of television’s most ambitious arts projects ever to assess and document the Western tradition of painting, BBC Four turns its undivided attention to a fourth country in Art Of Germany, having already scrutinised the art of Italy, Russia and Spain. The programme features unprecedented access inside Cologne Cathedral and rare footage of Franz Marc’s sketches from the First World War trenches – his last before he was killed. The season also includes an examination of some of the most influential and impressive avant garde artists of the 20th century who dwelled upon our own shores in Art Of Cornwall.


In-depth knowledge

Always proud to provoke lively discussion and debate, BBC Four continues to seek out new points of view from the finest experts in their field. This autumn, critic and author Laura Cumming brings her in-depth knowledge of self portrait to the channel in Portrait Of The Artist and acclaimed writer, actor and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss turns his hand to presenting and indulges his passion for horror films in A History Of Horror With Mark Gatiss, part of a blood curdling new season on the genre.

The season also sees Patrick Stewart play Macbeth in a spectacularly dark, contemporary and stylish film version of Rupert Goold’s highly acclaimed production, set in an undefined and ominous central European world. And, following the BBC’s recent focus on opera, BBC Four reinforces its commitment to representing the arts in all its forms, as one of popular culture’s enigmas – glamour model Anna Nicole Smith – is immortalised in an opera about her life by the Royal Opera House and Olivier Award-winning composer Mark Anthony Turnage in Anna Nicole – The Opera, to be screened on the channel early next year.

In other areas of performance, BBC Four goes behind the scenes of one of the country’s most respected arts institutions in a documentary celebrating 60 years of the English National Ballet, and examines the impact of traditional dance on our cultural heritage as Charles Hazlewood stages the UK’s biggest clog dancing event in Get Your Clogs On.


The best in drama writing and performance

BBC Four is committed to championing the very best screen-writing, dramatic performance and hosting drama of significance. Two of Britain’s best-loved actresses take centre stage in two original screenplays. In a remarkable display of acting, Jessie Wallace stars as Pat Phoenix playing the role of Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street – A Star is Born. The drama examines how one writer defied convention and Granada TV’s management when he wrote the first Coronation Street script 50 years ago this year, bringing northern working class kitchen sink drama into people’s homes for the first time.

In Hattie, Ruth Jones is magnificent as one of Britain’s most adored comediennes, Carry On queen Hattie Jacques. Far from the matronly woman she so often portrayed, the drama reveals the secret romance between Hattie and a younger man.

In Dirk Gently, we see the celebrated character’s first ever on-screen appearance. The hapless detective stumbles upon more than he bargained for when he sets out to solve the disappearance of a cat from an old lady’s house.



Inspiring knowledge

Also this season, BBC Four combines its reputation for inspiring knowledge and providing an alternative view on a subject in Michael Wood’s Story Of England. Utilising a completely new approach, Michael embarks on his most ambitious television project to date as he convinces an entire village to dig up their back gardens, resulting in the discovery of 2,000 years’ worth of fascinating artifacts and real-life stories. By taking a seemingly ordinary village and turning it, literally, upside down, he creates an incredible living, fluid picture of how Britain has changed, complete with Tudor teachers, highwaymen, Suffragettes and First World War soldiers, along with discovering an entirely unique way of bringing history to life on the channel.


Reassessing great arts and artists

BBC Four is also committed to re-calibrating and reassessing some of our greatest arts and artists. And early next year, as part of that commitment, the channel will bring together DH Lawrence’s two great works of early modern erotic fiction, Women In Love and The Rainbow. Originally written as a single novel, Billy Ivory’s script is an ambitious reinterpretation, reuniting the two stories to form one stunning drama for the first time. Starring Rosamund Pike, Women In Love is part of a season exploring love and sexuality in 20th-century literature, which also includes Amanda Coe’s adaptation of John Braine’s celebrated rite-of-passage novel Room At The Top.


Classical and contemporary music

In all of its music offerings, BBC Four strives to provide not only the widest range of content spanning classical and contemporary artists, but unique insight about the musician behind the melody. This season it goes even further as Tony Palmer returns to BBC Television after 40 years with the first feature-length biography of Gustav Holst, including unseen footage in which his daughter explains how Holst wrote The Planets during weekends and school holidays.

An all-star cast including Jane Horrocks (Little Voice, The Street), Jessie Wallace (EastEnders, Marie Lloyd), Celia Imrie (After You’ve Gone, Kingdom), Lynda Baron (Open All Hours, Fat Friends) and Christian McKay (Me And Orson Wells) have just begun filming a new BBC Four drama on location in Manchester, telling the story of how Coronation Street was born.

The one-off drama made for BBC Four, by ITV Studios, tells the story of the birth in 1960 of Britain’s longest-running soap, which was very nearly called Florizel Street, and how creator Tony Warren, played by David Dawson (Gracie, The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl) fulfilled his dream of bringing characters from the Salford he knew and loved to the small screen.

Jessie Wallace plays Pat Phoenix, who became Tony’s “tart with the heart”, Elsie Tanner; Celia Imrie plays Doris Speed, who became Tony’s “snob”, Annie Walker; and Lynda Baron plays Violet Carson, who became Tony’s “harridan in a hair net”, Ena Sharples.

Jane Horrocks plays Granada’s casting director Margaret Morris; Christian McKay plays Tony’s boss, Canadian producer Harry Elton; while Coronation Street’s longest-serving cast member, William Roache, will be played by his real-life son, James Roache (The Innocence Project, Cold Blood).

The stellar cast also includes Steven Berkoff (A Clockwork Orange, War And Remembrance); Sophia Di Martino (Casualty); John Thomson (The Fast Show, Cold Feet); Shaun Dooley (Five Days, Married, Single, Other); Henry Goodman (The Damned United); Michelle Holmes (The Red Riding 1980, The Chase); Phoebe Nicholls (Clapham Junction, Persuasion) and Tara Moran (Waterloo Road, The Bill).

Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, says: “It’s wonderful to have such an amazing cast to tell the story of how Coronation Street was born. This one-off drama tells the story of how, in 1960, British Television changed for ever. BBC Four is the natural home for this story to be told and this one-off drama forms part of the Great Northern season on BBC Four this autumn, which celebrates the culture, history, life and architecture of northern England.”

Tony Warren is consultant on the 75-minute drama that has been written by Bafta-nominated Daran Little, who worked on Coronation Street for 20 years. The drama is being directed by Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited, Shackleton, Longitude) and began filming in Manchester this week.

Kieran Roberts is the executive producer for ITV Studios and Kate Evans is the executive producer for the BBC. Rebecca Hodgson is the producer for ITV Studios.

Commissioned by Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, and Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, the title of the drama is to be confirmed at a later date.


Writer Robert Jones and director/producer Edmund Coulthard explain why one of the icons in British music became a fascinating subject, in a new 90-minute drama for BBC Four.

“Robert (Jones) and I spent over two years researching the story of John Lennon and developing the script,” says director/producer Edmund Coulthard. “The material is already out there – most of the key players have written books, and Yoko and John did really live their lives in public in a strikingly unmediated way. There is a huge amount available in the public arena – you can spend a long time just watching interviews on You Tube.”

“All the research I did was from my desk,” continues writer, Robert Jones. “I read everything I could on, or by, John Lennon. I scoured websites, I read and listened to dozens of interviews and press conferences and chat shows. I listened with a new ear to his music, both solo and The Beatles.

“I decided early on that opinions amongst those closest to John seemed to differ so widely on the salient points of his life that I wouldn’t base ‘my’ Lennon on any one version. Because of this, I didn’t set out to interview Yoko (Ono) or Paul (McCartney) or Cynthia (Lennon) or Ringo (Starr), etc. I soaked up everything I could on the man, let the material settle in my mind and then went with my instincts.”

Ed continues: “As the title card says, the film is based on fact – but it’s not a documentary or a drama documentary. It’s an interpretation – principally by Robert as writer, but by me as director and by Chris Eccleston as the leading actor. It’s a drama which dares to reach inside Lennon’s mind during a very turbulent period in his life.

“Lennon is fascinating,” Robert continues. “He divides opinion but one way or another people feel strongly about him. Even those born long after his death seem to have a strong sense of the man, and of Yoko. The Sixties is the decade that has most influenced post-war Britain – and Lennon was arguably that decade’s most influential figure.

“Lennon grew in my estimation the longer the project went on. When I was a kid, it was cooler to like the Rolling Stones than The Beatles, but it was The Beatle’s music that permeated the culture. They were more than a band – they were like a national touchstone. And Lennon, marginally more than McCartney, I’d say was the driving force behind them. His contribution is hard to ignore.

“Ed and I had talked a lot about our recollections of reading the famous interview John gave to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine in 1971. Lennon had just been through Primal Therapy and released Plastic Ono Band, often referred to as ‘the primal album.’ The music, and the interview were spontaneous, raw and outspoken.”

“I’m a lifelong fan of Lennon,” continues Ed. “But what really inspired this idea is listening to tapes of that interview to Rolling Stone magazine, soon after Lennon had arrived to live in America. Lennon decided to completely open up for the first time – and reveal the truth about how he felt about everyone – and tell the story of what really happened during the time he met Yoko and The Beatles started to break up. This was clearly a time when he struggled to reinvent himself as a solo artist – and once I started talking to Robert, it began to feel like the basis for a film.”

Robert continues: “I hope the audience will take away the idea of a complex man who didn’t always do the right thing but who confronted with dignity, humanity and integrity an existence the like of which would have been unimaginable before he set out and lived it.”

“I think the greatest compliment to any film about an artist is that it sends the viewer back to the work,” says Ed. “This is a film about a man I think was one of the greatest British artists of the 20th century. He was also the man who wrote Mother – and I think if nothing else, it might help you understand more about the forces which led him to write that amazing song.”


BBC Four announces a new six-part series, How To Read A Church (working title), presented by author Richard Taylor, which will examine how imagery, symbols and architecture of English parish churches have inspired, moved and enraged people down the centuries.

How To Read A Church is about understanding just what we see in a British church – how the different styles of churches throughout the country reflect changing ideas of God, salvation, living and dying.

Visiting some of England’s finest parish churches, Richard’s journey will be full of stories and contemporary accounts, touched with his insight, humour and sense of wonder at what he sees and interprets.

The series has been commissioned by Aaqil Ahmed, Head of Religion and Ethics, Commissioning Editor for Television, who says: “Britain has a huge range of eclectic parish churches. Uniquely, what this series does is put these different style of churches into a historical and religious context.

“By examining the symbolism in these churches we can see how Christian worship and social attitudes has changed throughout the ages.”

How To Read A Church is a BBC Vision production, the executive producer is Bill Lyons and the series producer is Jonathan Mayo. The 6×30-min series will be transmitted on BBC Four in the autumn.


HRH The Prince of Wales will be exploring his love of classical music in a documentary for BBC Four.

The composer of Jerusalem, Hubert Parry, whose influence and significance far outweighs his reputation, is a particular favourite of Prince Charles. The Prince will be investigating Parry’s life and legacy in a film he is making with producer John Bridcut during the summer months.

The documentary has been commissioned by Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four and Jan Younghusband, Commissioning Editor, Music & Events, from Bridcut’s production company, Crux Productions and Peter Dale’s production company Rare Day. The executive producer for the BBC is Adam Barker.

Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four says: “I am delighted that The Prince of Wales has decided to share his enthusiasm by telling the full story of this extraordinary and too often overlooked British composer. This film will seek to go some way to try and open up that legacy.”

The programme will be shown next year on BBC Four.

Italian opera to soap opera, BBC Four explores the cultural spectrum this Spring/Summer

Whether it’s an in-depth season on opera, a bawdy series on satire, a film on fathers in literature or a drama on the birth of Coronation Street; arts, culture, music and knowledge programming are woven in to the fabric of the new spring/summer season on BBC Four.

Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, says: “BBC Four aspires to be the most culturally enriching channel in the UK and the channel of distinction for people seeking a depth to their programming they cannot find anywhere else. It gives us an excuse to be unashamedly ambitious and as curious as we want about the role of arts and culture in our modern society. From the big arts subjects like opera and modern art to examining how popular programmes have shaped our culture, from documentaries on the history of the sea to the biology of dads, BBC Four’s aim this spring and summer is to be as enjoyable as it is knowledgeable and insightful.

“The recent review of BBC strategy underlined the ambition for BBC Four to reaffirm its commitment to arts, music, culture and knowledge programming. I believe this season reflects a channel that is already heading firmly in this direction and we will continue to take our ambitions higher still.”

Arts and Music
This spring, BBC Four takes a major role in The BBC – A Passion For Opera, a pan-BBC season with BBC Two, Radio 3 and Radio 2. In Opera Italia, Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera, traces the history of Italian opera and the role that it plays in the country’s history and culture. Stephen Fry confronts Wagner’s troubled legacy and explores his fascination with the controversial composer in Stephen Fry On Wagner. Diva Diaries follows soprano Danielle de Niese as she makes her debut in the role of Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at the famous Metropolitan Opera House in New York, while tenor Rolando Villazon explores the technical, physical and artistic demands of his craft in What Makes A Great Tenor. Performances of The Marriage Of Figaro, Aida and La Boheme accompany other new programmes for this season on BBC Four.

A new two-part documentary, Goldsmiths – This Is Modern Art, follows a group of artists from Goldsmiths as they struggle to create art for their final masters’ show and make a name for themselves in the months that follow. BBC Four comes over all vulgar to explore three centuries of satirical, lewd and bawdy art, literature and popular culture in Rude Britannia. An accompanying programme, Frost On Satire, sees Sir David Frost charting the story of satire in the UK and America, and its impact on 20th century politics.

For The Love Of Mockingbirds marks the 50th anniversary of the influential novel To Kill A Mockingbird, with writer Andrew Smith visiting Monroeville in Alabama, the setting of the book, to see how things have changed in half a century. Meanwhile Rich Hall sets his keen eye and acerbic wit on his homeland, The Dirty South, sifting truth from fiction as he explores the southern states of the USA through Hollywood films.

Summer is the season for live music performance, with BBC Four taking extensive coverage of the BBC Proms, including regular live broadcasts. Plus, as Glastonbury celebrates its 40th anniversary, BBC has a special programme P Is For Pyramid: An A-Z Of 40 Years Of Glastonbury, as well as some of the best live performances.

BBC Four produces some of the most talked about and ambitious factual dramas. This season it turns its attention to Britain’s longest-running soap opera, which has both helped to reflect and create popular culture. As Coronation Street reaches its 50th anniversary, Florizel Street (as it was originally called) tells the astonishing story of its difficult birth. In 1960, Tony Warren was a writer with a dream of bringing to screen characters from the Salford he knew and loved. This drama charts how Warren’s vision made it to the screen against fierce opposition from his bosses. Florizel Street forms part of BBC Four’s The Great Northern season (see British Culture).

Christopher Eccleston plays John Lennon in a film charting his transition from Beatle John to enduring and enigmatic icon. Lennon Naked spans a period of wildly fluctuating fortunes for Lennon between 1967 and 1971, as he lost his manager Brian Epstein, re-established contact with his father and met Yoko Ono.

Plus, Sci-fi comes to BBC Four. In a move to bring more modern literatary adaptations to the channel, BBC Four will be showing HG Wells’s The First Men In The Moon, adapted by and starring Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Doctor Who) as the Edwardian scientist Professor Cavor.

British Culture
With its characteristic curiosity, BBC Four explores the influence of nature and location on British culture through a number of impactful seasons.

Sea Fever – The Story Of Britain And The Sea explores the crucial ways in which the sea has helped shape modern Britain, from history and culture to economics and science. The season includes Sea Fever: White Sails And Grey Mist, a series combining previously unseen amateur film archive with 20th century history and fascinating tales of our relationship with the sea. There’s also a series with Timothy Spall – Somewhere At Sea, plus documentaries on the history of British seafaring, on the changes brought about by global container shipping, and the art and literature of the high seas.

BBC Four will also be decoding Maps this summer. Maps: Power, Plunder And Possession, which is an HD production, tells the epic history of cartography and reveals the impact of maps on power, discovery, riches and belief, presented by Professor Jerry Brotton. The Beauty Of Maps has a supporting website which allows users to explore five historic maps in detail.

From great buildings to great food, great television to great big lads on the rugby field, The Great Northern Season celebrates the culture, history, life and architecture of northern England in a season of films. This includes, 1960: Year Of The North, which sees author Andrew Martin exploring how new voices in books, film, TV and music woke Britain from its post-war slumber, and Florizel Street, a drama charting the birth of Coronation Street (see Drama section).

BBC Four’s Outdoor Season celebrates the great British love affair with the countryside, including: Britain By Bike, in which Clare Balding embarks on a pedal-powered odyssey across the UK, rediscovering the magical world of Fifties-style cycling; Wild Swimming With Alice Roberts; and Dan Cruickshank revealing the rich history of the evolution of the Nation’s parks in Britain’s Park Story.

History and Science
A season of programmes encompassing documentary, science, drama and entertainment celebrate Fatherhood in an historical and contemporary context. A Century Of Fatherhood charts the revolution in fatherhood in Britain; child psychologist Laverne Antrobus investigates the psychology of families in The Biology Of Dads; and Andrew Martin takes a light-hearted journey through three centuries of literary fatherhood in Disappearing Dad. John Lennon’s role as a father and the impact of the brief and unhappy reappearance of his own absent father into his life is the focal point of single drama, Lennon Naked, starring Christopher Eccleston (see Drama section).

With a remit to work closely with BBC Two to create high impact factual moments, this summer the two channels will be joining forces to highlight the effect that the Normans have had on our civilisation. BBC Four turns the spotlight on art and culture with art historian Lady Helen Rosslyn examining one of the most famous medieval chapels in the world, in The Stones Of Rosslyn; Dr Janina Ramirez telling the story of The Art Of The Anglo-Saxons; and poet Simon Armitage demonstrating through literature how the legend of King Arthur matured, in Armitage On Arthur.

Also working with BBC Two, the channel marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle Of Britain with a documentary on the remarkable Spitfire Women who, against all odds, flew planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary in the Second World War.

In a welcome return to documentary making, Penny Woolcock examines social history at close range, with an intimate film about Britain’s homeless. Shot over a period of eight months, On The Streets tells the often surprising stories of some of the people living on our city streets.

Finally, BBC Four continues to offer viewers a window on the world with an in-depth look at international culture. In advance of this year’s World Cup, the channel looks at the arts and culture, life and landscape of southern Africa, in Wonderful Africa, with famous photographer, Rankin explaining why it’s the photography of South Africa that has always gripped his imagination; award-winning journalist Sean Langan telling the story of modern day Africa through those who live, work and depend on the Freedom Railway, in African Railroad Adventure; a series The Tutu Talks, in which Archbishop Desmond Tutu tackles the most challenging issues facing Africa today; and Richard E Grant, a native of Swaziland, exploring the controversial History Of Safari, among other programmes.

In John Sergeant’s Tracks Of Empire, the political commentator will be embarking on a 3,000 mile journey across India to discover how the lifeblood of the country – its railways – can be used to track an extraordinary history. Plus, Storyville continues to produce world-class films on international subjects, including a three-part series, Shanghai Tales, which takes an insider’s look at how the Chinese really live their lives.

Richard Klein, the Controller of BBC Four, today announced the third year of BBC Four’s broadcast media partnership with the Oxford Literary Festival.

The partnership enables festival goers to sample some of the forthcoming literary programming on offer from BBC Four, with added insight from presenters and consultants on the programmes.

Owen Sheers, Andrew Graham-Dixon, Andrew Martin and Vic Gatrell will all be talking about forthcoming BBC Four programmes, Richard E Grant will be revisiting his recent programme on diaries, while Sebastian Faulks will offer an exclusive insight to a major new literary series for BBC Two.

Running from 20 to 28 March 2010, this prestigious literary event takes place in Oxford University’s Christ Church and Corpus Christi College, with more than 300 events on offer, featuring over 400 of the top writers, academics and public figures from the literary world.

Richard Klein says: “Stories are what writing is all about – plots, characters, drama, dialogue – it is what makes up the bluster and storm of a great read.

“BBC Four is dedicated to offering viewers programmes of distinction for people who love to think – and what better way than to engage them in the great drama of writing, books and stories than with stories about how the sea has been captured in words, to fathers in literature, to the fruit and pith of vulgarity in writings, to the spicy detail of personal diaries? It is all here for people to enjoy.

“We’re delighted to partner with the Oxford Literary Festival again this year as we feel that we share very similar ambitions for intelligent, witty and in-depth discussion about a subject we both feel passionately about.”

Graham Benson, the festival’s film and television executive consultant, said: “I was an apprentice in the BBC’s brilliant TV drama department during the late 1960s and 70s so am delighted to be involved with them on this fantastic enterprise…

“Richard Klein is spot on when he describes it as a perfect marriage.”

BBC programmes and presenters at the Oxford Literary Festival are as follows:

Art Of The Sea: In Words – Owen Sheers
Majestic, dramatic, and sometimes terrifying, the sea has had an enduring fascination for British writers. From Shakespeare to Coleridge and Tennyson, Stevenson to Conrad, it has inspired some of our most gifted authors. In BBC Four’s Art Of The Sea: In Words, poet and author Owen Sheers sets off to discover whether there is anything that unites the great British sea stories. In the company of both seafarers and sea writers, he explores the transformative effect that the sea has had on the human mind.

Disappearing Dad – Andrew Martin
The world of literature reserves a special fate for fathers: they are either missing or marginalised, or regarded as an embarrassment. In a new programme coming soon to BBC Four, novelist and father Andrew Martin, takes us on a journey through three centuries of literary fatherhood from Jane Austen to Nick Hornby, while also looking at how real-life relationships between writers and their fathers have influenced fiction and non-fiction alike.

Rude Britannia – Vic Gatrell
Despite some of the illusions we have of ourselves the British are not, and have never been, a polite people. Some of our greatest writers and artists have mixed high art with a good measure of filth and red-blooded rudeness. BBC Four turns vulgar as it explores over three centuries of all manner of satirical, bawdy and lewd behaviour in its three-part series Rude Britannia. At the festival series consultant, and author of the acclaimed book City Of Laughter, Professor Vic Gatrell will be looking at the early history of Rude Britannia during the 18th century. This was a time when distinctions between high and low art were blurred – when you could find bawdy ballads sung on the streets, but find farts and sexual excess in poetry and prints.

The Man Who Ate Everything – Andrew Graham-Dixon

Andrew Graham-Dixon presents his affectionate BBC Four portrait of the late and indisputably great Alan Davidson, one of the world’s most influential writers and thinkers on food, together with an exploration of Davidson’s magnum opus, The Oxford Companion To Food. This programme forms part of a forthcoming BBC Four season on food. With contributions from many of Davidson’s friends and collaborators, such as Paul Levy and Raymond Blanc, the film charts a journey through Davidson’s life and work that takes Andrew from Davidson’s roots in England to his exotic flowering as a student of arcane fish cuisine on the banks of the great Mekong River in Laos…

Diaries – Richard E Grant
Why write a diary? Why read one? BBC Four’s Dear Diary sees Richard E Grant, a diarist since childhood, go in search of answers to those questions and discovers the power of the diary. This programme transmitted earlier this year, but is an opportunity to hear from Richard as he uncovers a sinister truth behind playwright Joe Orton’s diaries, meets Erwin James, a prison diarist, to understand the power of writing for a serving offender and talks to Sheila Hancock about Kenneth Williams’ diary, in which she appeared – at times to savage criticism.

Faulks on Fiction – Sebastian Faulks
In 2010 the BBC will be celebrating the brilliance of the British novel with a major four-part documentary series written and presented by novelist Sebastian Faulks. The BBC Two series will look at the history of the novel through its characters – each episode focusing on a different archetype and looking at how they have developed over the centuries: Heroes, Lovers, Snobs and Villains. Journeying around the country, with the occasional foray abroad, Sebastian will use his unique personal knowledge of characterisation to get under the skin of some familiar and not-so-familiar characters in British literature.

In addition, The Review Show on BBC Two will feature some of the highlights of the Oxford Literary festival in its weekly cultural round-up on 19 March.

Sally Dunsmore, Director of The Oxford Literary Festival, said: “The essential purposes of the festival are to bring literature closer to people; to make the connection between author and reader more direct; and to foster increased accessibility to, and enjoyment of, literature for the widest number of people.

“This significant partnership with BBC Four is a vital step forward in achieving these aims.”

Bafta Award-winning Anna Maxwell Martin (Freefall, White Girl, Bleak House) plays journalist and campaigner Heather Brooke, whose tenacious investigations brought about the disclosure of MPs’ expenses, in one-off drama On Expenses for BBC Four.

Brian Cox (The Take, The Bourne Supremacy, Troy) stars opposite Anna as Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, who finds himself in a battle against Heather when she requests details of MPs’ expenses and allowances under the Freedom of Information Act.

Written by Tony Saint (The Long Walk To Finchley, Micro Men) and directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Generation Kill, The Trial Of Tony Blair, Our Friends In The North), this humourous 60-minute drama focuses on the events leading up to one of the defining political scandals in recent history and reveals the David and Goliath tale behind the now infamous headlines.

Simon Cellan Jones says: “Everyone knows about the Telegraph scoop, but this is the story behind it and we wanted to tell it. It isn’t a party political piece – it’s the story behind the story.”

An American journalist living in the UK, Heather Brooke doggedly fought for details of MPs’ expenses under the Freedom of Information Act after her legitimate requests were declined by the House of Commons.

Taking her case all the way to the High Court, Brooke won the case against the House of Commons – but heartbreakingly lost the scoop.

Simon Cellan Jones continues: “I think this is going to set the story straight about how the news story came about. It also shows the lengths to which the House of Commons suppressed the story in the interest of trying to protect the MPs.

“I hope it will evoke a mixture of shock and laughter. It’s quite a surreal story in that the people who voted in the Freedom of Information Act were the very people that tried to get themselves exempt from it.”

On Expenses also stars Alex Jennings as Fees Office head Andrew Walker, the man in charge of approving MPs’ expenses; Tim Pigott-Smith (Quantum Of Solace, North And South) as Labour MP Alan Keen; and Neil Pearson (The State Within, Bridget Jones) as Hugh Tomlinson QC, who successfully led the legal campaign to force the Commons to publish the claims.

Bringing Down The House was commissioned by Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning.

The executive producer is Patrick Spence (Five Minutes Of Heaven, Occupation) and Stephen Wright (Five Minutes Of Heaven, Murphy’s Law) is producing.

Main credits
Anna Maxwell Martin – Heather Brooke
Brian Cox – Michael Martin
Alex Jennings – Andrew Walker
Tim Pigott-Smith – Alan Keen
David Calder – Stuart Bell
Christopher Good – Nicholas Bevan
Neil Pearson – Hugh Tomlinson
Jeremy Swift – Ben Leapman
Raquel Cassidy – Eleanor Gray
Steve John Shepherd – Vaci

Following her acclaimed documentary series Lefties and Jews, film-maker Vanessa Engle’s new three-part documentary, Women, comes soon to BBC Four.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March, Women will see Engle turn her attention to sexual politics, charting the rise of feminism and interrogating its impact on contemporary women’s lives.

Generational in structure, the first film, entitled Libbers, maps the ideology of women’s liberation in the Seventies, including interviews with legendary British and American feminists, including Kate Millett, Susan Brownmiller, Germaine Greer, and the last ever interview with novelist Marilyn French, who died in May 2009.

The second film, Mothers, documents the daily lives of ordinary women with children, exploring the extent to which the legacy of feminism has altered gender roles and the division of labour in the home.

The film features eight middle-class women, with differing attitudes to feminism, to see whether, as a result of the women’s movement, gender roles have changed. Are these educated women living the dream that feminism imagined for them?

The final programme is an observational film about a small group of passionate and angry young feminist activists in London now.

These young women believe that the need for feminist activism is now more urgent than ever. They are deeply concerned about the objectification of women, the ubiquity of lads’ magazines, and the rise in pornography and lap dancing clubs.

Activists follows the feminists over a three-month period, as they organise meetings and demonstrations, exploring their politics and motivations. Are these women a small group of insignificant extremists or is a new wave of feminism about to be unleashed?

Writer and producer Vanessa Engle says: “The feminist revolution was probably the fastest social revolution of the last century – but maybe it shot out of the bottle too fast?”

Women is a BBC Vision Production for BBC Four. The writer and producer is Vanessa Engle and the executive producer is Nick Mirsky.

In March, the BBC will be showing a number of TV programmes to coincide with International Women’s Day, which marks the economic, political and social achievements of women.

The programmes will highlight the changing role of women and include: Women on BBC Four, a three-part series about feminism and its impact on contemporary women’s lives by acclaimed documentary maker Vanessa Engle; two documentaries for BBC Three which explore women’s rights during conflict, Judith: Going Back To Congo and Nel: From Camden To Kabul; and A Passionate Woman for BBC One, a drama about two stages in the life of a wife and mother, starring Billie Piper and Sue Johnston.

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, and Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four, announced today two new dramas which will spearhead a BBC Four season which explores love and sexuality in 20th century literature: Billy Ivory’s adaption of DH Lawrence’s Women In Love, which also draws upon The Rainbow, and Amanda Coe’s adaptation of John Braine’s novel Room At The Top.

Ben Stephenson said: “I am thrilled that two of our most exciting screen writers Billy Ivory and Amanda Coe are re-interpreting the works of two of the 20th century’s most daring and honest voices: DH Lawrence and John Braine, and bringing them back into the spotlight.”

Richard Klein said: “Modern adaptations are a new direction for drama on the channel and I’m delighted to bring alive for viewers these iconic, but sometimes overlooked, classic novels. They will form the backbone of a season exploring how relationships between men and women, including sexual relations, were written about and conducted.

“The 20th century has seen an enormous change in the way that men and women behave towards each other and how they conduct relationships between each other. This season aims to explore and contextualise those changes, as well as give viewers an opportunity to see how Lawrence and Braine approached the same subject in different ways.”

Women In Love was written as a sequel to The Rainbow although DH Lawrence originally intended to publish them together as The Sisters. The novels chart the lives and loves of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, as they move into adulthood, viewed chiefly through their relationships with two friends Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich. As the two relationships intensify the couples leave the Midlands and go abroad together, leading to conflict and tragedy.

Billy Ivory (Faith, A Thing Called Love, Common As Muck) brings these two novels together in a compelling two-part drama for BBC Four, and is executive produced for the BBC by Polly Hill, Commissioning Editor Drama, BBC England.

Company Pictures producer of Women In Love, Mark Pybus, says: “DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Women In Love have never been combined as a single television event before and this will very much be Billy Ivory’s unique take on his fellow Nottingham writer.

“Taking the two books together will allow Billy to tell a larger story, covering not just the relationships between men and women, but also the brutal impact of the First World War in transforming a rural community into twentieth century modernity. The whole area of sex and sexual relations is at the root of both novels: what we do, with whom, and why… that was what Lawrence was trying to fathom; questions (and answers) which are as valid today as ever.”

The Company Pictures executive producers are George Faber, Charlie Pattinson and Billy Ivory.

Room At The Top is a triangular love story about a young man who does damage to himself and to those closest to him in pursuit of his ambition. Set in Forties Yorkshire, John Braine’s novel tells the story of Joe Lampton, a man fighting to shake off his working class origins and enter the bright world of money and influence. It instantly caught the public’s imagination when it was published in 1957 and turned Joe Lampton into an icon of post-war Britain.

This exciting new two-part adaptation by Amanda Coe (Margot, Elizabeth David: A Life In Recipes; Dr Who), will be the first screen version of the book since Jack Clayton’s 1959 movie which cast Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret in the lead roles.

Great Meadow executive producer Robert Cooper says: “Amanda Coe’s bold screenplay of this classic novel is a sexually charged, highly emotional and tragic love story. It’s a portrait of a young man who is prepared to use every weapon and make any sacrifice in order to get what he wants.”

Great Meadow Productions executive producers are Robert Cooper, Kate Triggs and Amanda Coe. Room At The Top is executive produced by Bethan Jones for BBC Wales.

BBC Four’s new Season will explore love and sexuality in 20th century literature.

Recent commissions for BBC Four by Ben Stephenson and Richard Klein have been the acclaimed Margot, Gracie! and Enid Blyton, which were preceded by The Curse Of Comedy season; Marie Lloyd, Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk To Finchley, Barbara Cartland, Fanny Hill, Crooked House and Breaking The Mould.

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