BBC unveils new factual, artistic and musical commissions

The BBC has announced a slew of new commissions for Factual, Arts and Classical Music’s new ‘command center’ headed by Patrick Holland.

The new series of sets includes an exploration of the personal and political life of Frida Kahlo and her relationship with Diego Rivera; a celebration of African-American creativity, produced by Afua Hirsch; David Olusoga on the long history of the Union; a historical science series presented by Chris Packham on planet Earth and a three-part series on the controversial Brazilian political dynasty, the Bolsonaros

The return of Lights Up is also announced, with a new series of plays in partnership with theaters across the UK; a new selection of monologues for BBC Four (following the success of the acclaimed series CripTales, Soon Gone and Snatches) this time tackling the theme of poverty; and a feature film about British composer Michael Tippett, by famous filmmaker John Bridcut.

Patrick Holland says: “The BBC’s commitment to high-end factual, artistic and classical music programming is unique in the UK and central to our mission of public service to all audiences. The Union Historical Series will explore the history of our islands, examining the forces that brought them together and, on several occasions, threatened to pull them apart. By focusing on the lives of ordinary men and women, he promises to uncover new perspectives on our shared history.

“Earth relies on remarkable planets and the universe to come, telling the story of the creation and evolution of our planet, to present a complex science to a wide audience. And the art series on how black American culture changed the world [working title: Black Art Matters] will bring the boldest storytelling and greatest voices to reveal the influence of key creators over the past 100 years.

“These commissions build on the unmatched scale series now found on BBC iPlayer, helping to create a video-on-demand platform with true specialization that caters to the UK audience.”

the bbc lights up

Playwright Tash Marshall at the Soho Theater. Image credit: Helen Maybanks

BBC Arts is once again shining the spotlight on the drama with a second season of Light Up.

Lights Up began as a virtual theater festival, held on lockdown as part of the BBC Culture In Quarantine season, and next year continues to partner with theaters across the UK to produce a new season of plays for the audience at home.

Famous names join revolutionary new talents and push the boundaries of what theater can be as a collaboration between stage and screen. The BBC is in talks with businesses large and small in Britain and Northern Ireland to come up with the most urgent, brilliant and inspiring productions, signaling a major and continuing new commitment to BBC performances and performers.

  • Lights Up is a commission from Patrick Holland and Lamia Dabboussy, principal responsible for the factual commission, Arts and classical music

Frida & Diego

(w / t) 3 × 60, BBC Two

Frida Kahlo with her husband Diego Rivera in 1939
Frida Kahlo with her husband Diego Rivera in 1939 (Copyright Getty Images / Bettmann / Corbis)

Directed by multi-award-winning filmmaker Louise Lockwood, Frida & Diego explores the life of one of the 20th century’s most famous female artists, her incredibly provocative and radical art, and her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera. Through the three episodes, the series examines the personal and political lives of these extraordinary Mexican artists and their impact on the global art scene.

  • A Rogan Films production. The director is Louise Lockwood. Executive producers are James Rogan, Nancy Bornat and Mark Hedgecoe. The commissioner of the BBC is Emma Cahusac.

Dark art matters

(w / t) 4 × 60, BBC Two

Afua hirsch
Afua hirsch

This four-part series will examine how African-American creativity has transformed popular culture and how we express ourselves through language, style and music.

Black Art Matters (w / t) is the first serial commission for BBC Small Indie Fund, Milk And Honey Productions, whose previous work for the BBC includes The Trouble With Naipaul, Stacey Dooley Investigates Spycams and Sex Criminals. The executive producer is Lucy Pilkington and the series will be produced in association with Afua Hirsch and her production company, Born In Me.

  • Black Art Matters (w / t) is a milk and honey production in association with Born in Me (4 × 60 BBC Two). Executive producers are Lucy Pilkington for Milk And Honey and Afua Hirsch for Born In Me. BBC commissioner is Emma Cahusac.

Michael Tippett: a child of his time

(w / t) 1 × 90, BBC Two

Michael tippett
Michael tippett

Famous filmmaker John Bridcut turns to British composer Michael Tippett. As with Bridcut’s award-winning films about Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Delius and Britten, it will be a psychological and musical portrait of a political and musical activist whose life spanned most of the 20th century. It will capture themes from Tippett’s life through specially filmed performances of his music by leading artists, and will blend his own story (as described in broadcast interviews) with the insight of those who have worked. with and for him.

Contributors include conductors Sian Edwards, Edward Gardner and Simon Rattle; composers Thomas Adès, Alexander Goehr and Mark-Anthony Turnage; and soloists Josephine Barstow, David Owen Norris and Craig Ogden. He will also explore how Tippett’s music speaks to today’s young performers.

  • Michael Tippett: A Child of His Time (w / t, 1 × 90, BBC Two) is a Crux Productions Limited film by John Bridcut. It was commissioned for the BBC by Patrick Holland and Jan Younghusband, responsible for music commissions for the BBC.


(w / t) 8 × 15, BBC four

Following the success of the acclaimed CripTales monologue series, Soon Gone and Snatches, BBC Arts will present in 2022 a selection of monologues that address the theme of poverty. Eight characters will demonstrate imagination, courage, humor and courage in the face of the darkest circumstances. The common thread of these monologues is the little crackle of light in the dark, the strength we find in community and the power of hope.

Skint (w / t) is a Hopscotch Films (8 × 15) series for BBC Four. Creative directors are Lisa McGee (writer and creator of Derry Girls) and Peter Mullan. The executive producer is John Archer. The curator of BBC Arts is Lamia Dabboussy. It is also supported by the Coventry City of Culture Trust as part of the UK City of Culture.


(w / t) 5 × 60 BBC Two

Chris Packham
Chris Packham

This groundbreaking and historic series tells the astonishing four billion year history of the place we call home. In five episodes, Chris Packham will provide a biography of our planet, revealing the most epic moments in Earth’s history, from the first seconds of its existence to the arrival of its most incredible inhabitants: us.

Cutting-edge CGI will allow viewers to witness the dramatic moments when the future of our planet and the life it has nurtured were at stake. Massive bombardments from space, extreme climate change, collision of entire continents. Each of these key moments in the history of our planet is inscribed in its scars.

The series will discover the meaning of its mountains and seabed, craters, valleys and plains. He will show how these characteristics tell us about the perilous times when life itself was almost extinct, or was bouncing around to take a new course. Chris Packham will draw on his in-depth knowledge of contemporary biology to shed light on points of crisis and change in our planet’s past.

Earth’s history is not over. Using the latest scientific research, Chris will reveal how Earth’s most remarkable creation – intelligent life – is poised to have a lasting impact on the planet – an impact as deep as any asteroid or volcano.

  • Earth (5 × 60 BBC Two) was commissioned by Patrick Holland and Jack Bootle, responsible for commissioning, science and natural history. It is produced by the science unit of BBC Studios Productions and the executive producer is Rob Liddell and Andrew Cohen.

The Bolsonaro

(w / t) 3 × 60, BBC Two

Bolsonaro makes a heart sign with his fingers

Since his landslide victory in 2018, Bolsonaro has rarely made headlines, with his controversial views on gender, indigenous rights and the Amazon, while his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has been condemned by his opponents. . Yet despite increasingly vocal demands for his impeachment, Bolsonaro continues to have millions of supporters, drawn to his outspoken leadership style and his vision of a new Brazil, based on securing national sovereignty. and reaching its full economic potential.

Told through intimate interviews with some of his relatives, as well as his adversaries, it is the story of a remarkable rise from obscurity, of a brilliant but ruthless journey to the ultimate seat of South American power, full of high stakes drama, guns and god.

With forensic tales and characters worthy of Shakespeare, this is a series about power, politics and the family – a story that is still unfolding and the consequences of which will be felt not only in Brazil but in the whole world.

  • The Bolsonaros (w / t) is a 3 × 60 series for BBC Two, commissioned by Patrick Holland and Jack Bootle. This is a documentary series from BBC Studios Productions whose executive producer is Ricardo Pollack, series producer is Raquel Toniolo and series director is Matt Hill.

Union with David Olusoga

(w / t) 5 × 60, BBC Two

The future of the Union is more threatened today than at any time in living memory. In this ambitious five-part historical series, David Olusoga unveils the long history of union and disunity, tracing their origins back centuries.

The fault lines of our current division run along the borders between the “original nations”, but we are also divided by social class and inequality, by the north-south divide of England and the historic domination of London. Our disunity can be told through the historic rise and fall of what are today called “cities left behind” and the long history of our rural-urban divide.

David’s personal experience links him to several parts of the UK, each with their own strong identity. He grew up in a working-class community in the North East of England, a politically independent region with an antipathy to London. And as a mixed-race child who arrived in Britain in the 1970s, he saw for himself how complex and nuanced the relationship between the individual and the nations of the UK can be.

“In examining this history,” says David, “I seek to provide a timely understanding of the history that lies behind the fault lines of contemporary Britain.”

  • Union (BBC Two 5 × 60) was commissioned by Patrick Holland and Clare Sillery, order manager, documentaries. This is an Uplands television production where executive producer Mike Smith.

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