Sky Arts has marked its first anniversary as a free-to-air channel by announcing a raft of new programmes spanning every genre of the arts.

The commissions include a new theatre and performance season, Sky Arts On Stage, that will kick off in November. This will include Play in a Day, a new commission in which acting and dance graduates are given the chance to join one of three creative teams staging a 15-minute production in just 24 hours.

Also part of the season are  new original films Death of England: Face to Face from the National Theatre, and Beat the Devil, a film written and directed by David Hare recounting his experience of Covid-19 brought to life by Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominee Ralph Fiennes. They’re joined by filmed versions of Walden and Anna-X, two shows from Sonia Friedman Productions’ RE:EMERGE season in the West End by Stage2View and starring Gemma Arterton, Fehinti Balogun, Nabhaan Rizwan, Lydia Wilson and Golden Globe winner Emma Corrin. The season ends with Rumpelstilzchen, a Sky Original with BalletBoyz offering a fresh spin on the famous fable with Jane Horrocks in the title role.

Elsewhere on the channel, Frank Skinner and Denise Mina are back on the road together tracking the footsteps of seminal poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Literature enthusiasts can also enjoy a special package from the Cheltenham Literature Festival featuring sessions from Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo and national treasure Joan Bakewell.

For classical music fans, Sky Arts Ambassador Charles Hazlewood will front a new series in 2022 exploring the 21st Century orchestra, and treasure hunters can follow the mysterious story of The Lost Leonardo in a new feature film which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival exploring the lost Da Vinci painting, which reappeared in 2004 before becoming steeped in controversy and disappearing again.

Additional new documentaries on the channel will spotlight two pioneers in their respective crafts: African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux who succeeded against all odds in a racist, segregated society, and theatre company Punchdrunk, who ripped up the rulebook to create some of the most innovative, immersive theatre the world has ever seen.

Phil Edgar Jones, Director, Sky Arts and Entertainment, commented: “To mark our year anniversary as a free to air channel we are proud to be bringing some incredible theatre to screen at a time when the performing arts is only just emerging from the hardest 18 months imaginable. Despite those difficulties it’s inspiring to witness the great innovations our artists and institutions have dreamt up as culture has adapted to bring audiences brilliant work in new, exciting hybrid forms… it’s a real treat to be providing a home for such stellar talent on the channel.


Sky Arts On Stage

Beat the Devil
TX November

A new film written and directed by David Hare (The Reader) starring Academy Award®, Golden Globe® and BAFTA® nominee Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) based on the sell-out stage play which premiered at London’s Bridge Theatre last year, originally directed by Nicholas Hytner. Beat the Devil recounts Hare’s experience contracting Covid-19 on the day lockdown was announced in the UK. Suffering a series of apparently random symptoms, he recalls the delirium of his illness, mixed with fear, dreams, honest medicine and politics. Shot on location in David Hare’s studio, the film examines our universal battle against the pandemic through one person’s journey through illness, recovery, survivors’ rage and ultimately, gratitude.

Beat the Devil is produced by David Sabel for Sabel Productions and executive produced by Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle, Kevin Emrick and Skye Optican for Annapurna, and Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr for The London Theatre Company. Beat the Devil is a Sky Original, and is also available for streaming for subscribers on SHOWTIME in the United States.

Death of England: Face to Face
TX November

An original film for TV by Deputy Artistic Director of the National Theatre Clint Dyer and playwright Roy Williams, with Neil Maskell and Giles Terera, and featuring Phil Daniels. Shot on a transformed Lyttelton stage, Death of England: Face to Face follows acclaimed stage productions Death of England and Death of England: Delroy which ran at the National Theatre last year. In this new film, Michael and Delroy, the two characters of the one-man shows Death of England and Death of England: Delroy respectively, come face to face following the birth of Delroy’s child and Michael’s niece.

Death of England: Face to Face is presented by Sky Arts and No Guarantees, and produced by the National Theatre, in association with Sabel Productions and Cuba Pictures. Filming of Death of England: Face to Face in the Lyttelton theatre was made possible with generous support from Graham & Joanna Barker.

The Park Bench Plays
TX November

Five new micro-plays from Birmingham Repertory Theatre which illuminate, interrogate and even celebrate today’s socially distanced world. Originally staged as a pop-up tour around the city of Birmingham in parks, public squares and bus stations, the plays bring together playwrights including David Edgar (Pentecost), Tanika Gupta (Lions and Tigers) and Bryony Lavery (Frozen).

The Park Bench Plays are a co-production between Sky Arts and Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

The Invisible Hand
TX November (1×60)

A new filmed version of the sell-out revival of Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar’s seminal play which ran at Kiln Theatre in July. Directed by Kiln Theatre’s Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham, the production stars Tony Jayawardena, Scott Karim, Daniel Lapaine and Sid Sagar.

American banker Nick Bright knows that his freedom comes at a price. Confined to a cell in rural Pakistan, every second counts. Who will decide his fate? His captors, or the whims of the market?

The Invisible Hand is a Sky Original.

Play in a Day
TX December (3×60)

When the lights went out in theatres last year, hundreds of newly graduated young actors and dancers were left without the opportunity to kickstart their careers on stage and screen. Play in a Day will give some of them that chance as we assemble three creative teams who will each have 24 hours to stage a 15-minute production on a given theme. Industry heavyweight writers, directors, choreographers and designers will be joined by an acting company made up of one famous face and a handful of new graduate performers finally getting their time to shine.

Play in a Day was commissioned by Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content for Sky UK and Ireland and Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment. The Executive Producer for Sky is Benedetta Pinelli.

TX December

Also part of Sonia Friedman Productions’ RE:EMERGE season, this new play by Joseph Charlton directed by Daniel Raggett stars Golden Golden Globe® winner Emma Corrin. (The Crown) and RTS Breakthrough recipient Nabhaan Rizwan (Informer). This filmed version of the play sees the two rising stars make their West End debuts in this fictional reimagining inspired by real life events.

Immersed in an addictive world of front-row fashion shows, private views, and endless parties, Anna and Ariel find themselves struggling to keep up with New York’s dazzling social elite. How far will two outsiders go to construct the identities they want? And at what price?

Anna-X is a Sky Original.

TX December

A Sky Original from BalletBoyz, directed and produced by International Emmy Award-winning Michael Nunn and William Trevitt with theatre and opera director Richard Jones. The spellbinding fable is brought to life for the screen with an all-star cast including Jane Horrocks (Absolutely Fabulous) in the title role, alongside Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) and John Marquez (Doc Martin). The film’s wordless narrative is set to a bespoke score performed by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, accompanying pools of tears, wild wedding receptions and a desperate search for a mysterious name.

A Miller boasts to the King that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Three times the King demands she does so, promising marriage. If she fails, her life is forfeit. Three times she despairs until Rumpelstiltskin appears, spinning straw into gold in exchange for a gift…

Rumpelstilzchen is a Sky Original.

TX December

Filmed for the screen at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, Amy Berryman’s debut play premiered earlier this year as part of Sonia Friedman Productions’ RE:EMERGE season. Directed by Ian Rickson, the play stars Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace), Fehinti Balogun (Juliet) and Lydia Wilson (The Duchess of Malfi) in a three-hander exploring familial love and loss amidst a climate emergency.

After returning from a year-long Moon mission, Cassie, a NASA botanist, finds herself in a remote cabin in the woods, where her estranged twin sister, Stella, a former NASA architect, has found a new life with climate activist Bryan. Old wounds resurface as the sisters attempt to pick up the pieces of the rivalry that broke them apart.

Walden is a Sky Original.

Also coming up:

Cheltenham Literature Festival
TX October

The much-loved festival returns in-person this year, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers to celebrate the art of written and spoken words. A specially filmed package from the festival will include sessions with 2019 Booker Prize Winner Bernardine Evaristo, broadcaster and journalist Joan Bakewell and Mercury Prize-nominated folk singer Sam Lee, among many others.

Cheltenham Literature Festival is a Sky Original.

Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Romantic Road Trip with Frank Skinner and Denise Mina
TX weekly from December (3×60)

Following the success of Boswell and Johnson’s Scottish Road Trip, comedian Frank Skinner and best-selling novelist Denise Mina are back for a new series on the road. This year they’re following the footsteps of renowned Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor-Coleridge, weaving together the rich and occasionally dark tale of their lives as they drive, hike and ramble across some more remarkable British landscapes.


Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Romantic Road Trip with Frank Skinner and Denise Mina was commissioned by Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content for Sky UK and Ireland and Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment. The Commissioning Editor for Sky is Barbara Lee. The Executive Producer for IWC Media is Pauline Law.


The Lost Leonardo
TX 2022 (1×90)

The Lost Leonardo, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, is a documentary which feels like a heist thriller, painting an arresting portrait of some of the art world’s most colourful characters and the voracity of the Salvator Mundi – the world’s most expensive painting.

The Lost Leonardo is a Sky Original.

Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmaking
TX TBC (1×90)

A new documentary telling the extraordinary story of Oscar Micheaux, regarded as the first major African American feature filmmaker and a prominent producer of race film. He has been described as “the most successful African American filmmaker of the 20th century” writing, directing and producing more than 44 films and 6 novels. Operating in a racist, segregated society, Oscar Micheaux was able to flourish as an entrepreneur and a filmmaker by going against the grain. This new film charting his life has been selected for Raindance Film Festival.

The 21st Century Orchestra
TX 2022 (6×60)

Building on the critical success of his recent film, Beethoven and Me, Sky Arts Ambassador Charles Hazlewood, one of Europe’s most innovative conductors and musical communicators, fronts a new series about how to build an orchestra for the 21st Century. Charles will tear down the barriers surrounding our antiquated perceptions of the orchestra and explore six aspects of what makes an orchestra ensemble fit for purpose in the modern era.

Charles Hazlewood: Building the 21st Century Orchestra was commissioned by Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content for Sky UK and Ireland and Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment. The Commissioning Editor for Sky is Barbara Lee. The Executive Producer for Factory 42 is James Hunt.

TX 2022 (1×90)

A new documentary, produced by Drum Studios, telling the story of the pioneering theatre company Punchdrunk whose productions have changed the rules of theatre with a wave of immersive experiences. Tracing the twenty-year history of the company from sleeping in abandoned buildings and being shut down by the police to becoming the theatrical giant they are today, we’ll also follow them as they embark on their most ambitious project yet – the biggest immersive experience the world has ever seen.

Punchdrunk was commissioned by Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content for Sky UK and Ireland and Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts and Entertainment. The documentary will be directed by Michelle Coomber, produced by Mark Henderson and Executive Produced by Laura Botten, Andy Holland and Andy Spray for Drum Studios.

Jon Creamer

Share this story

Share Televisual stories within your social media posts.
Be inclusive: is open access without the need to register.
Anyone and everyone can access this post with minimum fuss.