The BBC has unveiled its “strongest commitment to arts in a generation”, set to include more books and literature content, including BBC1's "The One Show" broadcasting live from the Hay Festival for the first time.
Plans include a series of new radio and television programmes focusing on books, capturing the best of the BBC’s literary content for the first time at BBC Arts Online in a dedicated section called Books on the BBC, and the expansion of the BBC Radio 2 Book Club outside of Simon Mayo’s drive time show, as previously reported by The Bookseller.
"The Secret Life of Books", a new BBC Four series created in partnership with the Open University, will explore the creation of six great literary works by returning to the earliest texts and writers' notebooks and letters. The show will include Simon Russell Beale exploring Shakespeare’s First Folio of plays, with a focus on King Lear. Other works to be featured are Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and The Mabinogion.
In the BBC Two series "Radical Lives", Melvyn Bragg will give viewers his insights into the lives of two radical writers, John Ball and Thomas Paine.
There will be “unprecedented coverage” of Hay across the BBC, including "The One Show" broadcasting live from the festival for the first time, Martha Kearney will be broadcasting from the site, and Razia Iqbal interviewing major literary figures for three programmes called "Talking Books" on BBC World News.
On radio, Chris Evans will broadcast BBC Radio 2’s literary competition 500 Words from Hay; BBC Radio 3’s "Free Thinking", "In Tune" and "The Verb" will also be live on-site alongside BBC Radio 4’s "Front Row", "The Write Stuff" and "Four Thought". For the first time ever, BBC Radio 6 Music presenters Cerys Matthews, Gideon Coe, Chris Hawkins, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie will be on site. BBC Wales will also host live coverage and highlights, and BBC Arts Online will capture a range of festival events.
Meanwhile Books on the BBC will include “treasures from the BBC’s TV and radio literary archive” alongside “a wealth of new material”.
Expanded online coverage will include BBC iPlayer showing news coverage celebrating the Man Booker Prize winner.
The plans do not mention "The Review Show", which was cut from a weekly to monthly slot and moved from BBC2 to BBC4 last year.
Announcing the plans, which also cover music, theatre and more, BBC director general Tony Hall said: “This is the strongest commitment to the arts we’ve made in a generation. We’re the biggest arts broadcaster anywhere in the world – but our ambition is to be even better.
"I want BBC Arts – and BBC Music – to sit proudly alongside BBC News. The arts are for everyone – and, from now on, BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do. We’ll be joining up arts on the BBC like never before – across television, radio and digital. And, we’ll be working more closely with our country’s great artists, performers and cultural institutions.”