New head of BBC Arts and Classical Music TV, Suzy Klein, has announced a range of new and forthcoming commissions, including a major new commitment to performance with a new dedicated Sunday evening slot and more details on the landmark arts series Art That Made Us.

Suzy Klein said: “I hope everyone will find something to love and enjoy in what we have announced today. Our programmes show a really exciting range and ambition, with stories of art, culture, ideas and imagination from across our cultural and creative history. I’m thrilled to be able to bring to screen the very best performances from leading creatives across the UK, including from our own BBC Orchestras, The Globe, Coventry City of Culture, Theatre Clywd and the RSC. At the BBC we are making it even simpler for audiences to find the things they love about the arts, with our new performance strand coming to BBC Four and some great series and single documentaries on BBC Two as well as all on BBC iPlayer. Whatever you watch, we hope you love our programmes as much as we do.”

From April, BBC Four will feature new Sunday Night Performances every week of the year showcasing some of the best of the UK’s dance, theatre, music and spoken word in specially made films for television.

These will include:

  • Prisoner C33, a new one-man play starring Toby Stephens, directed by Trevor Nunn and written by Stuart Patterson, which finds Oscar Wilde in Reading Gaol in 1896, condemned to solitary confinement because of his sexual identity. He begins a conversation with himself, sometime as torturer, sometimes as comforter: together the pair wrestle with the humiliation of his fall from celebrity to convict because he loved another man.

  • Eight specially-filmed performances from the BBC’s Orchestras, which will go out across the year. Starting with Marta Gardolińska conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Grażyna Bacewicz’s rousing and triumphant Overture at BBC Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, audiences will be treated to concerts from around the UK from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as well as BBC NOW.

  • Four seminal works from London’s Shakespeare’s Globe from its twenty five-year history.

  • The Read: emerging directors give fresh treatments to four absorbing tales including Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners. Working in conjunction with Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime, The Read will bring audiences readings delivered by an interesting and exciting cast of actors.

  • The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing, set in an imagined futuristic world, starring Akiya Henry (Beatrice), Luke Wilson (Benedick) and Taya Ming (Hero), directed by Roy Alexander Weise with an original score by Nigerian-born British guitarist and MOBO award-nominated musician Femi Temowo and costume design by Melissa Simon-Hartman, a London-based designer whose West African and West Indian inspired designs recently featured as part of Beyonce’s 2020 visual album: Black Is King

  • Ghosts in the Ruins, the Nitin Sawhney piece commissioned by Coventry Cathedral and Coventry City of Culture Trust to mark 60 years since the consecration of Coventry Cathedral, created with Coventry’s professional musicians, poets and communities

  • Theatr Clwyd and acclaimed playwright Tim Price bring a new dark comedy, Isla, to audiences following a successful run in North Wales. Following the exploits of Roger, a retired teacher, after his daughter buys him a smart-speaker digital assistant what unfolds is a thought-provoking story with a surprising twist where audiences will be left asking who’s really in control.

  • BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists – some of the world’s most promising new talent – perform in a specially filmed concert.

  • Birmingham Rep’s acclaimed production of Olivier Award-winning comedy The Play What I Wrote, starring Tom Hiddleston specially filmed for the BBC at the Theatre Royal Bath. ‘Thom’ has written a play, an epic set in the French Revolution called ‘A Tight Squeeze for the Scarlet Pimple’. ‘Dennis’, on the other hand, wants to continue with their double act. He believes that if they perform a tribute to Morecambe and Wise, Thom’s confidence will be restored and the double act will go on. But first Dennis needs to persuade a guest star to appear in the play what Thom wrote. First seen by audiences on stage in December 2021, this production is directed by The Rep’s Artistic Director Sean Foley and co-written by Hamish McColl, Sean Foley and Eddie Braben.



Art That Made Us (BBC Two, 8 x 60)


Art that Made Us is a landmark eight-part series for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer to air in April alongside range of programming across BBC digital platforms and a nationwide festival that will run from 1-30 April across the UK.

Through 1500 years and eight dramatic turning points, Art That Made Us presents an alternative history of the British Isles, told through art. Leading British creatives, including Simon Armitage, Anthony Gormley, Thomas Heatherwick, Lubaina Himid, Amanda Levete, Cornelia Parker, Maxine Peake, Thomas J Price, Shani Rhys James, Tai Shan Schierenberg and Michael Sheen join cultural historians including Gus Casely-Hayford, Nandini Das, James Hawes, Clare Lees, Afua Hirsch, Temi Odumosu, Jonathan Sumption and Patrick Wright to explore key cultural works that have shaped the history of the British Isles.

The series focuses on artworks that continue to inspire artists today – art from all genres that emerged at some of the most exciting times of crisis and turbulence in our history. Episode one begins with the story of battles and invasion after the Romans leave and the rise of a new vernacular language and the spread of a powerful faith, Christianity. The series goes on to explore the trauma of the Black Death in the Middle Ages and the creative renewal it inspires in its aftermath; the battle of queens and faith during the religious upheaval of the Reformation; the bitter culture war and Civil War that raged across all the kingdoms in the 17th century; the consumer boom of the Georgian era and the growth of a new conscience around the slavery that in part fuels it; the explosive growth of the city during the 19th century, dividing town and country; the artists who tried to imagine better worlds during the world wars of the early 20th century; and lastly the exhilarating expansion of culture since the late 20th century with new voices challenging the establishment.

Each episode of Art That Made Us explores eight to ten artworks from around the United Kingdom. The works and their context will be discussed and analysed by a wide range of contributors, as well as encountered on location by contemporary working artists. They link the past to the present, showing the impact and inspiration of historic works for their own art today.

Examples of the artworks include the 5th century clay figure Spong Man; the epic Welsh poem Y Gododdin; the Lincoln Cathedral wooden carved misericords; The Book of Margery Kempe by Margery Kempe; Veni Sancte Spiritus by John Dunstaple; The Penicuik Jewels associated with Mary, Queen of Scots; Shakespeare’s Othello; Milton’s Paradise Lost; Aphra Behn’s The Rover; Christopher Wren’s Dome of St Paul’s; Jonathan Swift’s satirical novel A Modest Proposal; Robert Burn’s poem A Man’s a Man for a’That; Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park; JMW Turner’s painting Rain, Steam and Speed; North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell; Walter Sickert’s painting The Camden Town Nudes; Barbara Hepworth’s Contrapuntal Forms; W B Yeat’s poem Easter, 1916; A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney; Hanif Kureishi’s Buddha of Suburbia; the Belfast Peace Walls and Stormzy at Glastonbury.


Art That Made Us Festival (nationwide)


In an exciting partnership between museums, libraries, archives and galleries, the Art That Made Us Festival is an opportunity for audiences to explore the astounding creativity held in collections throughout the UK. More than 150 organisations from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are taking part as Festival Partners, including the National Gallery in London, the Tate galleries, MOMA Machynlleth, Orkney Libraries, F. E. McWilliam’s Studio and Gallery in Banbridge and the Devil’s Porridge Museum in Eastriggs. During the Festival period from 1st – 30th April, events are being held across the country inspired by objects in partner collections, while their stories are being told across BBC television, radio and digital platforms. The BBC has opened up its archive to festival partners and using tools in BBC R&D’s MakerBox to bring rich and visual stories inspired by art and artists to BBC audiences.


Art That Made Us Festival has been created by working with stakeholders Culture24, Art Fund, Art UK, Association of Independent Museums, Libraries Connected, Museums Association, National Museum Directors’ Council and Scottish Library and Information Council.


Art That Made Us linked programming


Alongside the Art That Made Us series will be four new episodes of Inside Museums on BBC Four. Huw Stephens will explore the National Slate Museum, Llanberis; Lachlan Goudie presents an episode from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow; the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is the subject of Maria-Louise Muir’s programme and Diana Ali will explore the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.


On BBC Radio 4 Neil MacGregor presents The Museums That Make Us, which will be broadcast over twenty episodes at 1.45pm on Radio 4 from Monday 7 March, and be available as a podcast on BBC Sounds. He discovers the active role museums play in their communities, responding to the shifting social and cultural landscape they inhabit. Along the way, Neil will try to understand the purpose of these cherished institutions in 2022 and the challenges their directors and curators face.


Lenny’s One Love w/t (BBC Two, 2 x 60)


Sir Lenny Henry, national treasure and all round talent, celebrates his culture, background and future in two programmes about British Caribbean life. The first episode, Arrival, looks at the early British Caribbean pioneers of arts, activism, film, theatre, fashion, music and carnival; whilst the second explores contemporary topics from popular culture, social media, identity, food, comedy and the Black Lives Matter movement. Lenny speaks to leading British Caribbean figures including David Harewood, Benjamin Zephaniah, Dame Floella Benjamin, Judi Love, Jamal Edwards, Jazzie B, Billy Ocean, Trevor Nelson, Andi and Miquita Oliver and Jamal Edwards about their experiences of British Caribbean cultural life, and what it means to them.


Maryland (BBC Two, 1 x 30)


Hayley Squires, Zawe Ashton and Danny Mays will star in Lucy Kirkwood’s adaptation of her own play Maryland – first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London in October 2021. Lucy and acclaimed documentary maker Brian Hill have created a thirty-minute film which follows two ‘Marys’ and a chorus of modern-day furies as they deliver their story of what happens in the wake of various sexual assaults. Lucy said: “I wrote the play as a howl, a protest against the violence women are forced to reckon with in their everyday lives, and I hope the film will allow more people to share that protest”.


La Voix Humaine (BBC Two, 1 x 60)


Danielle de Niese will star as ‘Elle’ in a new film of La Voix Humaine, Jean Cocteau’s one-woman drama set to music by Francis Poulenc, shot on location in London and Paris.  Directed by James Kent (Aftermath, Testament of Youth), with cinematography from Laurie Rose (The Father, The Children Act) and designed by Peter Francis (High Rise, Rebecca) the film will have its UK premiere on BBC Two in the spring.


With an orchestral score recorded at the Royal Opera House, conducted by Antonio Pappano, the film breaks new ground, with de Niese singing her entire role live on location for her film debut.  This technique allowed de Niese – a performer already known for her high calibre dramatic performances – the freedom to approach the work in a way that no live stage performance could ever allow, resulting in an innovative cross genre work of art.


Production credits


Art That Made Us is a ClearStory and Menace Production for BBC Two. The producers are Melanie Fall, Russell Barnes,  Denys Blakeway and Michael Jackson. The commissioning editor for BBC Arts is Emma Cahusac.


Inside Museums (4 x 30’) for BBC Four is being produced in each of the UK’s home nations by Avanti (England); Cwmni Da (Wales); Oxford Film and TV (Scotland) and Walk On Air (Northern Ireland). The Commissioning Executive for BBC Arts is Stephen James-Yeoman.


The Museums That Make Us (20 x 15’) is a new series hosted by Neil MacGregor. It is a BBC Audio production for BBC Radio 4. Tom Alban is Producer. Editor is Philip Sellars. It was commissioned for Radio 4 by Dan Clarke and Richard Knight.


Lenny’s One Love is a Douglas Road (a Banijay UK company) production  for BBC Arts and BBC Two. The executive producer is Angela Ferreira and the commissioning editor for BBC Arts is Mark Bell.


Maryland is a Century Films production for BBC Two and BBC Film. The producer is Caroline Levy and the executive producers for the BBC are Suzy Klein and Rose Garnett. The commissioning editor for BBC Arts is Suzy Klein.


La Voix Humaine is a Trademark Films, Painted Doll & K418 Arts production for the BBC and the Royal Opera House. It is directed by James Kent and the producers are David Parfitt, Nikki Weston and Maurice Whitaker. The executive producer is Danielle de Niese. The commissioning editor for BBC Arts is Mark Bell.


Picture credit: Coventry City of Culture – Ghosts in the Ruins (Image: FiveSix Photography)

Jon Creamer

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