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BBC announces new arts highlights and reveals major initiative to engage audiences in arts participation


Mark Bell, BBC Commissioning Editor, Arts, today announced a major new BBC initiative, Things To Do, which aims to engage audiences to participate in arts and cultural activities linked to BBC programming. He also revealed a number of forthcoming programme highlights across BBC television.

The BBC Knowledge and Learning Things To Do website will, for the first time, enable the BBC to highlight the outreach work of publicly funded and not-for-profit partners long-term, further helping to support the UK’s cultural endeavour.

To enable this, the BBC has announced a data-sharing partnership with the online aggregator for the cultural sector, Culture24, to allow cultural institutions across the country to share their public-facing learning activities that are related to BBC programmes and brands.

The Culture24 partnership follows an increased commitment from the BBC over the last two years to find new ways of working with the creative sector and offers BBC viewers the opportunity to enrich their experience of BBC arts programming through related events and activities.

Mark Bell said: “This is a hugely exciting pairing of content that unites BBC arts programming and audiences with activities in the UK cultural sector. BBC partnerships enable UK arts organisations to extend and broaden their audiences – last year 24.7m people tuned into BBC arts programmes across BBC television channels.”

Jane Finnis, Director, Culture24, said: “Culture24’s data-sharing partnership with the BBC has huge potential. It gives individual cultural venues of all shapes and sizes an open door to mass audiences in a way that would be impossible on their own. It is also an opportunity to respond creatively to BBC programming plans and engage local audiences in targeted activities. The partnership works in a sustainable and cost-effective way, building upon and adding value to our existing networks and technical infrastructures.”

The BBC creates partnerships with the arts sector that go beyond broadcast, from sharing expertise to widening public engagement in UK arts. From Sculpture on Screen, a series of free BBC archive screenings in partnership with the Royal Academy’s Modern British Sculpture exhibition earlier this year, to the Oxford Literary Festival and Hay Howthelightgetsin Festival, partnerships are central to the BBC Arts story.

This year the BBC will launch Your Paintings, a nationwide partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation to put the nation’s oil painting collection online, and celebrates the bi-centenary of Dickens’s birth with the BBC Dickens Season working together with Dickens 2012.

Bell also revealed a host of forthcoming programmes including the topical commission for BBC Two, Arts Troubleshooter, a three-part series that follows arts business guru Michael Lynch as he helps three UK arts organisations to overcome artistic and financial challenges.

Details of the latest series of BBC One’s flagship arts strand, Imagine, were also revealed, highlights include presenter Alan Yentob following six Iraqi artists as they represent their country at the Venice Biennale for the first time since 1976 and a film on the strange case studies of clinical neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks.

In a one-off programme for BBC One, broadcaster and art critic Alastair Sooke discovers what the 10 most valuable paintings in the world are and how they came to have such a large price tag. His exploration takes him to auction houses, galleries and the discreet banks of Zurich as he seeks to balance quality with cost.

BBC Two’s enduring arts documentary strand, Arena, turns its focus to the extraordinarily versatile talent of British theatre and opera director, author, television presenter, humorist and sculptor, Sir Jonathan Miller.

In addition, art critic and Culture Show anchor Andrew Graham-Dixon joins chef Giorgio Locatelli to discover the rich culture of Sicily in Sicily Unpacked and PG Wodehouse enthusiast Sir Terry Wogan interviews fellow admirers to discover more about the work and life of this elusive genius.

Arts Troubleshooter (working title), BBC Two
From Sydney Opera House to CEO of Southbank Centre, Michael Lynch has established himself as a formidable force in the arts business world. Now, for a new BBC Two three-part series, Lynch will use his extraordinary experience to help three UK arts organisations to overcome artistic and financial challenges in a period of enormous change for the arts in the UK. Over the course of a year, he will scrutinise every aspect of each organisation from audience attendance to financial management, artistic decisions to how they secure funding. The series will chart the highs and lows for each of the organisations during turbulent times and show Michael trying to ensure their futures.

Sicily Unpacked, (working title), BBC Two
Art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon teams up with chef Giorgio Locatelli to embark on a journey around one of the most mysterious and fascinating islands – Sicily. Poised between Europe and Africa, ruled over by the Spanish, Greeks, Romans, Normans and Italians, Sicily has remained over many centuries a place apart. Over three hour-long episodes, our two presenters will unpack the rich cultural heritage of this island with the aim of revealing Sicily as you’ve never seen her before. From art and architecture to food and wine; landscape and literature to politics and religion, Sicily Unpacked will unravel these different elements of Sicilian culture revealing the surprising connections between them.

Wogan On Wodehouse (working title), BBC Two
Terry Wogan explores his own long-standing enthusiasm for the work of PG Wodehouse and attempts to solve some of the paradoxes he sees in the life and long career of this much loved, undeniably prolific and occasionally controversial comic writer. As he attempts to get to grips with the nature of Wodehouse’s genius and his elusive personality, Terry draws on rarely seen interviews with Wodehouse himself and shares opinions with several well-known admirers of Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, Lord Emsworth, Mr Mulliner and other famous Wodehouse creations.

Alastair Sooke’s Top Ten Most Valuable Paintings In The World (working title), BBC One
Art critic and journalist Alastair Sooke explores the remarkable stories behind the 10 most expensive paintings to have been sold at auction. What makes someone pay as much as $100m for a painting? Who is prepared to pay that much? Can an artwork ever be worth it? Alastair follows the trail of the priciest paintings in the world, how they were created, and the often bizarre circumstances that brought them to market. Alastair will hear stories of scandal, war, exile, revolution, paranoia, and economic turmoil – stories which range from the Holocaust to the discreet banks of Zurich and the boom of Japan in the 1980s. Alastair will discover that the art market operates to its own logic which may not always have much to do with the quality of the art.

Arena: Jonathan Miller, BBC Two
The BBC’s arts documentary strand Arena returns with the first ever documentary exploring the extraordinary life of Sir Jonathan Miller CBE. A brilliant humorist, a qualified doctor and a practising artist, Miller has straddled the great divide between the arts and sciences whilst impacting British culture through the medium of television, radio, theatre and opera. Arena follows Miller as he reflects on his participation in television and rediscovers his work on the stage, as well as taking him back to his formative years in Cambridge, and giving us a glimpse into his Camden Town house, an enticing wonderland of books and artworks. Departing London, Arena also observes Miller at work in opera in Florence, a city that has become his second home due to its artistic and scientific heritage. With Miller himself at the film’s centre, Arena will explore his rich life and examine how he makes these connections between the worlds of the imagination and scientific fact.
Notes to Editors

The BBC is the biggest producer and investor in original arts and music programmes in the UK.

The BBC creates partnerships with the arts sector that go beyond broadcast, from sharing expertise to widening public engagement in UK arts.

Things To Do brings together activities and events run by the BBC and its partners that link directly to its TV, radio and campaigns output.

Culture24 are an independent charity who support the arts and heritage sectors to reach audiences on digital platforms. Culture24 has thrived in the digital space for over 10 years. Originally conceived as just one website, Culture24 has grown into the UK’s digital hub for arts and heritage. Their network includes 4,400+ UK cultural organisations (museums, galleries, libraries, archives, heritage sites and more) and their database holds information on their events, exhibitions, resources and collections. More information can be found at and


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