BBC launches year-long campaign to 'get nation reading'

BBC launches year-long campaign to 'get nation reading'

The BBC is pushing reading “even higher up the agenda” with a concentrated year-long campaign in 2016 called Get Reading, which aims to "ignite a spark" in the nation and encourage people to read.

The year-long programme is in partnership with the Reading Agency, Book Trust, the National Literacy Trust, the Society of Chief Librarians and the Scottish Library and Information Council.

Director-general of the BBC, Tony Hall, announced Get Reading today (17th November), a campaign that celebrates great authors and their works in order to galvanise the nation into talking about books as well as reading them. Across BBC One, Two and Four, the campaign will recognise the work of well-known authors such as the Brontës and Rudyard Kipling, while Radio 4 will explore the work of figures such as Alex Garland, Toni Morrison and Jeanette Winterson. Its crescendo will be a BBC-hosted ‘Get Reading Weekend’ featuring specially commissioned programmes across BBC TV, Radio and online in November 2016.

Tony Hall at the announcement of the Get Reading campaign.

At an event at Sir John Soane's Museum in London this morning (17th November), BBC Arts director Jonty Claypole said: "In 2016 we want to work with all of you to get everyone reading. Reading is one of those few pleasures in life that is really good for you - broadening our horizons and sharpening our imaginations, and it's how we learn to empathise, and right now that is so important."

He added: "We want to take the spirit of The Big Read in 2003 which many of you were involved in and which saw three quarters of a million people voting on their favourite book...And we want to bring it into the digital age. We want to get more people reading to nurture a new generation and for them to have their say in the books that matter most to them. And we're going to use the full range of our services - television, radio and online - to support that."

The Reading Agency partnered with the BBC Radio 2 Book Club in 2013 to get more people involved in reading. Its host Simon Mayo will be one of the BBC’s Book Ambassadors for 2016. Mayo, with Mariella Frostrup, will be helping to enhance website Books on the BBC with personalised blogs and tips as the BBC seeks to create a "one-stop shop for book lovers across the country".

The Get Reading campaign kicks off in spring with the BBC Shakespeare Festival 2016, a "major season" celebrating William Shakespeare 400 years after his death. It includes a BBC Two live broadcast of the RSC’s Shakespeare Show with David Tennant, and the next instalment of the Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and, on BBC One, Russell T Davies’ adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Over the summer will be a season of children’s books on the BBC, at the heart of which will be programming marking the centenary of children’s author Roald Dahl. It features a major BBC Two documentary celebrating Dahl’s life and work, and BBC Four programmes, including a film following a group of primary school children as they learn to read. Meanwhile Radio 4 will offer dramatisations of Dahl’s autobiographies Boy and Going Solo. And CBBC are planning an Awesome Authors Live event to complement their storytelling season; whilst short story competition 500 Words returns to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2.

Finally, autumn will mark a "landmark season" on BBC Two with The Book that Inspired Me, a nationwide online campaign led by BBC Learning to get the nation sharing its favourite, most inspiring books. It will culminate in a major gala celebration, revealing the results of the nationwide campaign discovering the books that matter most to Britain.

Deborah Moggach, Children's Laureate Chris Riddell, Malorie Blackman OBE, Joanna Trollope OBE, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz OBE and Michael Morpurgo OBE join Tony Hall (centre) at the announcement.

Hall, director-general of the BBC, said: “We want to get everyone talking about stories that have influenced them – and inspire them to discover something new. If we can pull that off, it’s going to be very special. I hope we can ignite a spark – and I’m sure we’ll surprise some people. Let’s not forget – a book can change your ideas. It can change your life.”

Claypole added: “Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but also plays a huge role in broadening our horizons and sharpening our imaginations - which is why authors and books have always been at the heart of the BBC. Whether you’re catching an author with their latest book on BBC Breakfast, watching the CBeebies bedtime story with your child, celebrating the lives and works of our greatest authors on television, or being transported by our many evening radio book shows, you are joining millions of others in a shared love. So, I’m delighted that in 2016 we’ll push reading even higher up the agenda. Get Reading will depend upon and amplify the work of our partners who include the Book Trust, the National Literacy Trust, the Reading Agency, the Society of Chief Librarians and the Scottish Library and Information Council, as we inspire everyone to Get Reading and talk about the books that matter most to us all.”

At the Costa Book of the Year prize earlier this year, author Robert Harris castigated the BBC for failing to support the books industry with sufficient TV coverage - a poor comparison with the early 1970s when the Costa [then Whitbread] prize was launched, and BBC TV sported both Robert Robinson's "The Book Programme" and "Read All About It" with Melvyn Bragg. "There is no dedicated books programme on the BBC; I really do think the BBC should have one...I do wish the BBC would fulfil that part of the Charter remit," he said, calling the lack of one a "disgrace", particularly given the degree to which books contribute as the basis for films and TV series. Harris was a BBC journalist before beginning his career as a writer.

In 2011, the BBC also held a Year of Books, which included World Book Night programming, upcoming adaptations and a Dickens season to mark the author's bicentenary.

The BBC supports a range of literary schemes including the BBC National Short Story Award and BBC’s Young Writer’s Award with Book Trust. The BBC also offers media support to major literary prizes and schemes including Man Booker, Samuel Johnson and Costa Book Awards.