Head of TV Commissioning for BBC England, Aisling O’Connor, has announced a series of new commissions and has heralded BBC England’s “new approach to TV commissioning, working with BBC One, Two, Three and Four to better serve audiences across the country.”

O’Connor said: “Our new slate of programmes delivers a fantastic range of stories which reflect life in every corner of England. We are working with a range of independent production companies, ensuring our audience sees itself reflected on screen and bringing the English landscape, locations and most importantly, people to all four channels and iPlayer.

“I’m also pleased to be working closely with the channel and genre commissioners. We are committed to nurturing fresh, young and diverse talent. Our new slate gives a voice to communities across the country.”

The new programmes include a series that will go behind the scenes of the Royal Marine Commandos, with “unprecedented” access to new recruits at their Plymouth base and as they embark on national and international operations.

Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham presents a special programme for BBC Two about one of his favourite walks in his home county of Hampshire.

BBC Four’s Winter Walks is back for a second series with political commentator Alastair Campbell, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake, Our Yorkshire Farm star Amanda Owen, and Reverend Kate Bottley taking viewers on trails through some of the most beautiful parts of northern England.

Walking with… will be a new BBC Two series with different celebrities, including comedian Shappi Khorsandi and TV chef Monica Galetti, enjoying stunning walks.

Villages by the Sea will return on BBC Two after a successful first run in 2019, showcasing coastal villages including Arnside in Cumbria, Alnmouth and Bamburgh in Northumberland, Staithes in Yorkshire, Thorpeness in Suffolk, and Charlestown in Cornwall.

BBC One’s Our Lives series will be back with three films about unique people. Finding Mum and Dad follows the story of a young girl, abandoned at birth, as she searches for the truth about her biological family in Manchester. The second film looks at Somerset-based Chris Bullzini who is a high wire artist and single dad. The final film looks at the life of Peak District shepherdess Chloe Hallam as she goes through the most dramatic weeks of the farming calendar – lambing.

BBC Four will screen a new one-off documentary featuring legendary Geordie folk band Lindisfarne.

Helen Thomas, Director of England comments, “Our aim has been to tell real stories from across England in new ways so our audiences see themselves and their lives reflected on screen. This is an exciting slate of new programming that fulfils that aim.”

New commissions announced today:

Commando: Britain’s Ocean Warriors

BBC Two (4×60′), Seadog Productions

This is the behind-the-scenes story of one of the most famous military units on earth. The Royal Marine Commandos are globally renowned and nationally revered, and yet widely misunderstood.

Filming will centre on Plymouth in Devon, the base for units at the heart of the Royal Marines Commando Brigade, such as 42 Commando Royal Marines.

With unprecedented access to all ranks, the series uncovers the role of a Commando in 2021. It is a rarely seen glimpse behind closed doors and the lives of the ‘Corps Family’, men and women who make up this extraordinary organisation, from the highest echelons right through to fresh-faced recruits and the not so fresh, but experienced faces of committed Royal Marine veterans.

The programmes will follow national and international operations. Commandos are a global emergency service – from the Arctic to Anglesey.

Danger and drama are part of the daily routine, with risk and rescues simply part of the job. This is the story of the world’s first responders; from international threats to UK interests, to environmental disasters, Britain’s elite sea-borne raiders, are the proud descendants of 350 years of military excellence.

Walking with Chris Packham

BBC Two (1×60′), Atypical

This one-hour special will see Chris Packham take a walk down memory lane. The route in Hampshire inspired Chris as a young man and sparked his love for the natural world. He enjoys riverside views, conversations with local people and witnesses the flooding of a water meadow. His walk is also an opportunity to explore personal thoughts and emotions on family, mental health and our relationship with nature.

Winter Walks

BBC Four, Atypical

Winter Walks was a massive hit last winter, with audiences asking for more. Viewers can expect the same gentle, unfolding narrative with stunning scenery, sensory moments and a rich soundtrack with lots of birdsong and the crunching of feet.

The series captures the natural beauty of our landscapes, and allows its presenters a chance to reflect and find peace of mind. Shot by the presenters themselves on a hand-held 360 degree camera, viewers can enjoy an intimate and immersive view of each walk, mixed with stunning aerial images.

The presenters for this series are Alastair Campbell, Nihal Arthanayake, Amanda Owen and Reverend Kate Bottley. Meeting locals and fellow walkers along the way, they discover breathtaking views and forgotten histories, and offer personal insights on how they see the world around them.

Filmed in the North of England, viewers will be able to relax and unwind with walks that offer unique perspectives on majestic landscapes from the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria and Lancashire.

Walking with…

BBC Two, Atypical

Our new Walking with… series features celebrities in different regions of England. Similar to Winter Walks, the series will be self-shot, sensory and immersive. This will be a six-part series for BBC Two with the full list of celebrities and locations to be announced later this year.

Villages by the Sea

BBC Two, Purple Productions

After a highly successful first series, popular history title Villages by the Sea returns to BBC Two.

Archaeologist Ben Robinson explores six of our most stunning coastal villages, from Northumberland to Suffolk and Cornwall, going beyond the postcard image to discover deeper stories about England’s past. Ben is joined by national experts and local enthusiasts in his quest. Using clues from buildings, street patterns, artefacts and the landscape Ben unwraps why the village is there, who lived there, and how.

Purple Productions based in Manchester, secured the commission after a competitive tender process. Purple was set up by Pam Cavannagh and Dympna Jackson in 2019.

Fog on the Tyne: The Alan Hull Story (w/t)

Daisybeck Studios

The story of the singer and songwriter from Geordie super-group Lindisfarne. Alan Hull was dubbed ‘the Geordie Dylan’ for his ability to compose a wide range of classic tracks in the 1970s. His songs included Lady Eleanor, Fog On The Tyne, Winter Song, Clear White Light and Run For Home.

Hull wrote about love and friendship, but also championed the underdog and the misunderstood, and celebrated working class culture in his hometown.

In this film, Brit award-winner Sam Fender explores the archives and discovers the real Alan Hull. We also hear contributions from Sting, The Unthanks, Elvis Costello, Kay Greyson and Mark Knopfler.

Our Lives

The Our Lives series is back, revealing extraordinary stories of people across the UK. BBC England brings audiences three films from three different production companies based in Norwich and Leeds

  • Finding Mum and Dad (w/t)
    Candour Productions (Leeds)

    This is the film documentary Director Carla Wright has wanted to make since she was a little girl. It follows the story of her cousin, abandoned at birth, as she searches for the truth about her biological family. Using DNA the women are hoping that they will at last find answers to a 26 year old mystery. Filming is focused on the North West.

  • Life on the High Wire
    Eye Film (Norwich)

    Chris Bullzini is Britain’s most accomplished high wire artist, wowing crowds as he walks high above town squares with no safety net. One slip could mean death.

    The rest of the time he’s balancing being a single dad. Chris is devoted to his artform and continues to train constantly so that he can push the boundaries. 2020 proves to be his most challenging year yet. His life and livelihood hang in the balance. Filming features Norfolk and Somerset.

  • Life in the Lambing Shed (w/t)
    True North (Leeds)

    The film follows young shepherdess Chloe Hallam through the most dramatic weeks of the farming calendar – lambing. Chloe is a fourth generation farmer from near Glossop in the Peak District. To ensure a future for herself and the next generations she must diversify. As well as delivering over 1000 lambs she somehow has to find time to deliver beauty treatments at her salon on the farm.

BBC Two co-commissions already announced

Yorkshire Firefighters
Wise Owl Films

The four-part documentary series has been commissioned by BBC England and BBC Two and follows the work of the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The programmes are made by Leeds-based independent production company Wise Owl Films and will show what it means to be a firefighter in 2020 and the challenges they face every day to keep people safe.

With access to firefighters working at emergencies, the series will take viewers from the control room to the front line. Firefighters will wear the latest helmet-mounted heat resistant cameras, transporting viewers into the heart of the action.

The West Yorkshire Fire And Rescue Service has over 900 firefighters and is a close-knit community with a diverse range of personnel dedicated to serving the public – often in highly dangerous and life-threatening situations. A specialist Urban Search And Rescue Dog called Jessie and water rescue unit are part of a team responding to an increasingly wide range of incidents. Expect drama and jeopardy – but also plenty of Yorkshire warmth and humour too.

BBC Three co-commissions already announced

Bricking It (w/t)
Button Down

A factual series that follows groups of young bricklayers working on building sites as they go head-to head to see who can earn the most cash. With the prospect of each bricklayer earning up to £2,000 per week, depending on how many bricks they lay, there are big financial incentives for working hard and it can be a rewarding career.

No More: Bad Girl
ClockWork Films

Following producer/presenter Persephone Rizvi and charting a personal journey into friendships in her hometown of Huddersfield in a surprising, funny, and fearless way. After abruptly leaving seven years ago, without disclosing the reasons why to some of her friends, Persephone revisits her ‘kidulthood’ and the life she led where her motto for having a good time was ‘go hard or go home, gal’.

Nail Bar Boys
LA Factual

Meet Astro, Little Kenny, Brandon, Bruno, Dragon and Big Tony. Together, they work in a nail salon in Liverpool which forms the backdrop to Nail Bar Boys from LA Factual. The second generation Vietnamese ‘lads’ from Manchester and Liverpool are local celebrities who have built a community based around their salon. The series follows these larger-than-life characters and gets to know them in their work and home lives. It also shows them preparing and taking part in a charity boxing match between local businesses which offers bragging rights to the winner.

Jon Creamer

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