BBC director of arts Jonty Claypole is stepping down from his role and leaving the corporation in April 2021.
Claypole was appointed in 2014, tasked with refocusing the BBC’s cultural mission, creating a new arts strategy, while leading the television arts commissioning team and working with colleagues across the BBC, including radio and digital.
Last year he helped launch a celebration of books at the BBC led by series "The Novels That Shaped Our World" and a subsequent festival. Claypole was also behind Love to Read, a campaign celebrating reading for pleasure, backed by a range of programming.
During his time at the corporation, he created BBC Arts Online, which worked with dozens of organisations and festivals across the country. Under his leadership, BBC Arts has produced a range of acclaimed programming including the ongoing Culture in Quarantine initiative. Most recently he secured a UK exclusive interview with former US president Barack Obama, whose memoirs are riding high at the top of the charts.
Claypole will continue to be chair of the board of trustees at Manchester arts centre HOME, as well as patron of Manchester’s Young Identity. His first book, Words Fail Us, a cultural history of speech disorders and argument for diversity in speech and communication, is published in January by the Wellcome Collection. Recruitment for his successor at the BBC will take place in the new year.
He said: “It has been an honour to serve as the BBC’s director of arts over the past seven years. In that time, I have striven to make the BBC a place where artists, film-makers and emerging voices can create their best work and communicate with millions in the UK and around the world. Today, at the end of 2020, I see a cultural landscape completely transformed by a global pandemic — and, like many, I have started to imagine a different future.
“After leading the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine initiative to its first anniversary in March 2021, I will step aside to support the arts in new ways and let others bring a different perspective to BBC Arts. I will miss the BBC greatly — because of what it stands for and does, and the people who make that happen — and I will continue to champion the irreplaceable role it plays in the arts and culture of this country wherever I am.”
Tim Davie, BBC director general, added: “I want to thank Jonty for being such a great champion for the arts at the BBC. He has helped us create and showcase more arts and culture than any other broadcaster. He has worked tirelessly to bring modern British creativity to the widest possible audience, while creating exceptional opportunities for new and diverse talent. The BBC’s Culture in Quarantine was his visionary response to the pandemic and it will continue to play a vital role in supporting the arts through these difficult times.”