Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC, Outlines Future Commitment To Arts

·         Extending Culture in Quarantine for further months

·         Summer opera programming on TV, radio and online

·         Classical archive released in Autumn following the BBC Proms

·         Brand new landmark art-history series on British Creativity for 2021

The BBC will broadcast the first performances from The Royal Opera House since lockdown as well as performances from other top opera houses that have had to cancel performances due to Coronavirus, in an extension of the Culture in Quarantine programme.

Culture in Quarantine, which was launched to keep the arts in the homes of the nation during lockdown, will now be extended, with a range of musical performances and hundreds of hours of archive classical music content also being released on whilst BBC Radio 3 will continue its crusade to return live music making through specially staged concerts.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, said: “The pandemic has had a severe impact on the UK’s creative industries, which prior to lockdown were worth £100 Billion per year. The BBC wants to do all it can to bring British Creativity to the widest possible audience. That’s why we are working with cultural organisations and artists to make that happen.”

Successes of Culture in Quarantine include a 500% increase in audiences participating in Life Drawing Live and over half a million tuning in to programmes on museums that were closed to the public during lockdown.

The next phase of the programme will see increasingly ambitious music programming within the social distancing guidelines. And then in September, will build on the collaborations in the cultural sector over the lockdown period by releasing a wealth of archive classical music content. Work will also start on a major new Civilisations-style landmark series for BBC Two focussing on British Creativity.

Tony Hall added:  “Upcoming programming will see a deeper evolution of previous Culture in Quarantine collaborations and partnerships, including utterly unique projects focused on museums and galleries, a specially curated release of classical music archive from the BBC Orchestras and  Choirs, the performing arts, and the world of books and poetry as well as more specially staged classical concerts working with venues across the UK. We will also start production on our next big landmark for 2021,  our follow-up to Civilisations if you like, which will be a 7 part history of art series focussing on British Creativity and how arts and culture have helped to define what we understand to be British.”

Full list of announcements here:

Classical Music programming across the BBC

In June The Royal Opera House will have its first performances since lockdown with Tony Pappano. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the first concert and BBC television will broadcast highlights from all three concerts, following a rebroadcast of Pappano’s acclaimed Opera Italia series. Alongside this, as part of a wider focus on opera in the summer, a number of performances will be made available on iPlayer from opera houses who have had to cancel their runs due to the present restrictions, amongst them will be Barber of Seville from Glyndebourne, Turn of the Screw and The Marriage of Figaro from Garsington and a performance filmed from backstage in La Traviata from Opera North. There will also be a documentary on Benjamin Britten, Britten on Camera in collaboration with Aldeburgh Festival. Whilst BBC Radio 3 will keep the flame burning for Edinburgh International Festival by broadcasting a summer of Queen’s Hall Concerts. A major new Beethoven series on BBC Four and a performance from the Royal Opera House, before they closed their doors, of his opera, Fidelio, will also feature in a summer of classical music.

Live Classical Music

Following the success of the socially distanced, specially staged, Wigmore Hall live classical concerts  which have been broadcast also around Europe, at a time when classical performance is not available to audiences from the stage;  BBC Radio 3 has confirmed it will return to Wigmore Hall in the autumn. There will be another run of socially distanced specially staged concerts. The station will also cover other events elsewhere in the UK in the summer and autumn with the aim of putting on more specially staged live concerts, as part of its role as the home of live classical music, keeping the lights on at a time when performance venues have been closed.

Classical Archive – BBC Archive

Building on the increase in audiences enjoying the escapism of classical music during lockdown, and off the back of this summer’s BBC Proms, this September the BBC plans to launch a new online classical experience featuring hundreds of unique archive performances from BBC Orchestras, Choirs and New Generation Artists alongside Radio 3 programmes and podcasts. Targeted at newer classical listeners, they will be able to listen to iconic and lesser-known recordings from the BBC archives and then delve deeper into the music and composers through related episodes of Composer of the Week, The Listening Service and many more. This classical experience will be curated and accessed on the BBC’s archive website (


In addition, there will be special  classical music documentaries with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the royal wedding cellist, and his family in a BBC One Imagine presented by Alan Yentob which culminates in a  concert given from their home in lockdown. Bryony Kimmings will explore Opera and John Bridcut’s latest portrait will be on Bernard Haitink for BBC Four, whilst BBC Radio 3 will also broadcast an audio drama of Beethoven with Peter Capaldi playing the great composer, in addition to regular Beethoven Composer of the Week episodes from Donald Macleod, essays and more.

The Making of Us: the History of British Creativity – BBC Two

Following on from BBC Arts’ outstanding TV series Civilisations, comes a new 7 part history of Britain, told through the artists, the makers and the creators who have driven the story of the nation.   In this bold new telling of Britain’s story and vivid exploration of the roots of creativity, the best of today’s British artists, designers, and makers explore our past and those whose creativity came to define who we are today.

Imagine: This House is Full of Music – BBC One

Imagine: This House is Full of Music (w/t) on BBC One is the first “remote access” Imagine film. The film offers a unique and intimate portrait of an exceptionally gifted musical family in lockdown – The Kanneh-Masons. In 2016, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason won BBC Young Musician, in 2018 he released his debut album and, earlier this year, his second album Elgar entered the top ten of the UK official album chart. He went on to global fame when he performed solo at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 in front of a TV audience of two billion people worldwide. But it doesn’t stop there, his six siblings are also phenomenally talented musicians; three are former BBC Young Musician category-finalists and the eldest sibling, pianist Isata, has also presented for the Proms.  Ever since lockdown began, the seven young prodigies aged 10 – 24 have been isolated in the family home in Nottingham, along with their parents Stuart and Kadiatu, and Sheku and Braimah’s flatmate, fellow Royal Academy of Music student, Plinio Fernandes. Unable to perform publicly, the family decided to stage a vibrant and eclectic concert in the only place they can – their own home – and granted the BBC exclusive access using fixed rig cameras installed in the house that were remotely operated, with video messaging to capture interviews. Exploring both the family’s music-making and their family life, the programme culminates in a moving concert that is a testament to the power of music to carry us through the most difficult of times.

Bernard Haitink in His Own Words  – BBC Four

Following the success off a portrait of Dame Janet Baker, acclaimed documentary maker, John Bridcut moves his lens to the retirement of one of the world’s most admired conductors at the age of 90, Bernard Haitink. In a feature length film for BBC Four: Bernard Haitink In His Own Words, John Bridcut explores the secrets of the art of conducting with Haitink himself and the international musicians who’ve worked with him in his 65-year career.

Britten on Camera – BBC Four

Documentary exploring the dynamic relationship that developed between British composer Benjamin Britten and the BBC as they worked together to broadcast modern classical music further and wider. Through this collaboration, Britten’s music reached television audiences, from elaborately staged studio operas, intimate duets featuring his partner Peter Pears, to the massive Proms performance of his War Requiem. The programme features interviews with Britten’s collaborators and singers as well as those working behind the scenes including Michael Crawford, David Attenborough, Humphrey Burton and soprano April Cantelo. Britten on Camera will also feature archive footage of Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh Festival and is being broadcast as part of the BBC’s coverage of the festival in partnership with Radio 3. James Naughtie narrates.

Drama on 3 – Beethoven Can Hear You by Timothy X Atack

Peter Capaldi stars as Ludwig van Beethoven, in this original 90 minute Drama on 3, marking 250 years since the composer’s birth. Tim X Atack wrote the hugely successful science fiction podcast Forest 404, starring Doctor Who’s Pearl Mackie, and now he’s working with the Doctor himself – Peter Capaldi brings Beethoven to life in a story that also has time travel at its heart. In Beethoven Can Hear You, Beethoven is visited by a deaf traveller from another time. The Visitor (played by Sophie Stone, who also worked with Capaldi on Doctor Who), is shocked to discover that Beethoven can hear; it seems that in this timeline the composer never lost his hearing. Beethoven is haunted by the idea his ears could fail him. But the Visitor must make him understand his importance as history’s first deaf composer.  An immersive exploration of Beethoven and his music from writer Timothy X Atack (Forest 404). Starring Peter Capaldi as Beethoven and Sophie Stone as The Visitor. And with an original score by deaf composer Lloyd Coleman. Produced by James Robinson, BBC Audio Drama Wales for BBC Radio 3

Tongue and Talk the Dialect Poets

In the third series of Tongue and Talk the Dialect Poets (16 August, 16:30) we explore little heard voices via dialect poetry in East Lincolnshire, The Black Country and Gloucestershire across four parts – finishing with a special programme celebrating dialect poetry in all its glory at the National Dialect Festival in Blackpool. A Made in Manchester production for BBC Radio 4.

BBC Bitesize Daily – Shakespeare Fortnight

BBC Bitesize Daily, the BBC’s biggest ever push on education returns in its full form on Monday 8th June. A host of special lessons and themed weeks are planned over the coming weeks including a special Shakespeare fortnight in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Over the course of the two weeks, Bitesize Daily which is available on BBC iPlayer and Red Button will see famous faces read adapted Shakespeare extracts for the daily Book Club (primary) and Big Read (secondary) features. Famous RSC actors appearing include Niamh Cusack, Bally Gill, Natalie Simpson and Jamie Wilkes alongside other well-known actors to be announced soon.

Online, special lessons made in partnership with the RSC include ‘Shakespeare’s words’; ‘Shakespeare’s audience’ and ‘Kings and succession in Shakespeare’ for KS3 and ‘Shakespeare and the language of love’, ‘Character journeys in Shakespeare’ and ‘Meaning in Shakespeare’s language’ for Year 10’s. All lessons will use Romeo + Juliet and Macbeth. Reading lessons on the second friday for years 1-9 will have a focus on Shakespeare based on the Book Club and Big Read of that day.