Theatre News

BBC promises 'strongest commitment to the arts in a generation'

Nicholas Hytner and Vicky Featherstone have been appointed to advisory roles at the organisation

Tony Hall took over as director general last year
Tony Hall took over as director general last year

BBC director general Tony Hall, formerly chief executive of the Royal Opera House, has pledged to put the arts back at the heart of the corporation's output.

In a speech to mark the launch of BBC Arts at Broadcasting House this morning, Hall said he was announcing the "biggest push we've made in the arts for a generation".

New initiatives will include the airing of productions from Shakespeare's Globe, Glyndebourne and the Edinburgh Festivals, while the National Theatre's Nicholas Hytner and Royal Court's Vicky Featherstone have been appointed to 'key consultation roles'.

Gemma Arterton in The Duchess of Malfi, which will be broadcast on BBC4
Gemma Arterton in The Duchess of Malfi, which will be broadcast on BBC4
© Hugo Glendinning

Hytner, who steps down as NT artistic director in April 2015, has been appointed a non-executive director, while Featherstone will join a group of "creative leaders" to act as "a sounding board" across the BBC.

Productions slated for broadcast include the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse's recent inaugural staging of The Duchess of Malfi starring Gemma Arterton, which will be shown on BBC4 in May.

"The arts are for everyone, and from now on BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do," Hall said today. "We're the biggest arts broadcaster anywhere in the world, but our ambition is to be even better."

BBC Arts Online will work in conjunction with iPlayer to provide an online home for all the corporation's arts coverage, while radio offerings will include a night of drama on Radio 3 celebrating Paines Plough's 40th anniversary and two weeks of dramas by emerging writers on Radio 4.

Newly commissioned programmes include an animated film by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, a new series of Shakespeare's history plays from the team behind 2012's The Hollow Crown, and a ballet version of Three Little Pigs for CBeebies.

Hall added: "You just have to see young people talk to each other online about films or music or live performance – the way visitors flock to our museums, our theatres and galleries, and the millions that join in with festivals and big events – like the Proms. The arts are more and more part of people’s lives – part of the discourse of modern life – they express who we are – and we really must reflect that."

Read Tony Hall's full speech here