Bennett, Russell, Morris to be celebrated on BBC2

Bennett, Russell, Morris to be celebrated on BBC2

A profile of Marlon James by Alan Yentob, Michael Palin on travel writer Jan Morris, a night-long celebration of poetry, and a programme about getting reluctant teenagers to read at a Lancashire school, will all be among the highlights of BBC2's coverage of books and reading this autumn.

The channel is devoting three Saturday nights to literature across the season as it seeks to create "occasion" television on arts and culture.

BBC arts director Jonty Claypole said the plan was to create "slots in BBC schedules to experiment more, to have themed evenings, and for Saturday nights to have an arts and cultural alternative to the very strong entertainment offering on BBC1 and ITV," as well as to put the focus on "the artists themselves."

A poetry evening on 1st October, ahead of National Poetry Day (6th), will see writer and performer Kate Tempest  among a trio of spoken word artists giving a live performance of "Let Them Eat Chaos", recorded at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley SE4. Meanwhile poets Sabrina Mahfouz, Michael Symmons Roberts, Liz Berry, Andrew McMillan, Imtiaz Dharker and Sean O'Brien will perform a modern twist on W H Auden and Benjamin Britten's "The Night Mail", interpreting the stories of those on board a railway journey from London to Glasgow, in "Railway Nation: Across Britain in a Day". Poems from Jackie Kay, Lemn Sissay and Ian Duhit will also feature between programmes on poetry night.

Another Saturday evening, with broadcast date yet to be disclosed, will see Julie Walters narrate "The Secret Life of Sue Townsend, aged 68 3/4", with Mangan, Ian Hislop and Isy Suttie telling her story – leaving school at 14, later a struggling single mother - with the help of her friends and family and the Leicester community. Walters will also interview Liverpudlian playwright Willy Russell in "Artsnight: When Julie Walters met Willy Russell" on the same evening.

Meanwhile a "candid" BBC2 documentary, "Alan Bennett's Diaries", will reveal "Bennett as he's never been seen before, following the author of The History Boys and The Lady in the Van to the iconic places in his life – from New York to his local library in Primrose Hill." The documentary is said to show "intimate encounters, filmed over the course of a year."

Also, in an "Imagine" special, Alan Yentob will profile Man Booker winner Marlon James; while "Artsnight: Michael Palin meets Jan Morris" will see Palin celebrating the work of travel writer Morris.

"The School That Ripped Up the Rule Book", still being filmed at Ripley Academy in Lancashire, will explore the challenge of inspiring reluctant teenagers to read. Actor and comedian Javone Prince comes in to shake up the classroom, with the help of locally born presenter Helen Skelton. The programme reflects the BBC's Love to Read campaign.

BBC2 will also cover the Man Booker Prize, awarded on 25th October.

While writing and storytelling is a prominent theme this autumn, in the New Year other arts will come to the fore on BBC2's Saturday night slots.