BBC’s 2018 Arts and Culture Programming includes Season of Dance

22 Jan 2018

Michael Clark Company in Michael Clark’s ‘to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll…song.’ Image: Hugo Glendinning

The BBC’s Director of Arts, Jonty Claypole, today outlines some of the BBC’s ambitions for arts programming in 2018. 

Claypole says:

“This is an exceptional year of programming on the BBC, from the biggest arts commission in decades, Civilisations, to world-class creative documentaries across TV and radio, ground-breaking performance, review and criticism and arts participation projects right the way across the UK to inspire everyone. As the nation’s stage, the BBC wants the UK to be the most creative and culturally engaged Country in the world, because the arts bring us together like nothing else. There really will be something for everyone who loves the arts on the BBC in 2018.”

New programming just announced includes:


  • A Season of Dance on BBC Four shines a light on a broad range of dance styles from ballet and contemporary, to tap and hip-hop including a ground breaking partnership with Sadler’s Wells to create four special 30 minute films with leading dance talents:  Zenaida Yanowsky, Carlos Pons Guerra, Shobana Jeyasingh, and Dickson Mbi
  • The BBC, in partnership with The Space, is taking the acclaimed all-female Shakespeare Trilogy from the Donmar Warehouse on BBC Four
  • Performance Live returns this year with more live dance and theatre adaptations across BBC television
  • Robert Icke’s vivid, ground-breaking production of Hamlet with Andrew Scott as the prince comes to BBC Two


  • Imagine, the BBC’s award-winning documentary series presented by Alan Yentob returns to BBC One and BBC Two with subjects including Philip Pullman, Rupert Everett on Oscar Wilde,  and Tracey Emin
  • Mark Kermode presents a new series for BBC Four about the secrets of movie making. Plus Film 2018 returns to our screens
  • Kirsty Wark presents a programme about the Scottish writer Muriel Spark for BBC Scotland and BBC Four.  BBC Radio 3 is also exploring of one of the writer’s best known works, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and five female Scottish writers present their takes on her life and work
  • A film about author, poet, journalist and short story writer, Angela Carter explores one of the most original and iconoclastic voices of the 20th century
  • Picasso’s Last Stand, for BBC Two, reveals the untold story of the last decade of the great artist’s life, through the testimony of family and close friends
  • Artist, director and Scottish Venice Biennale entrant, Rachel Maclean, reflects on a century of female enfranchisement with her first feature length broadcast film, Make Me Up


  • Get Creative Festival returns from 17 March to 25 March which will see the BBC working with hundreds of organisations across the country to encourage everyone to try something new and creative – from pottery to painting to printmaking and much more besides.
  • Contains Strong Language  poetry festival returns in the Autumn in Hull, with  an evening of new plays inspired by Spike Milligan, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 amongst other content
  • Civilisations Festival – over 100 museums, galleries are taking part – hosting events that will spark debate, broaden understanding and share ideas about what the term ‘civilisation’ means for their communities.
  • Hay Festival – The BBC returns once more to the Hay Festival with screenings, talks and live broadcasts of some of its well-loved content.


BBC Arts lifts the curtain on today’s thriving dance scene with a special season of programming for BBC Four this spring, featuring some of today’s most exciting dance makers and the enduring legacy of others whilst shining a light on a broad range of dance styles from ballet and contemporary, to tap and hip-hop.

Ballet’s Dark Knight – Sir Kenneth MacMillan explores the life and work of the celebrated yet controversial choreographer, whose pioneering creativity unleashed over sixty new ballets that changed the dance landscape forever. Weaving together stunning specially shot performance footage, never before seen family home movies and MacMillan’s own voice from the archives alongside those who were closest to him, the documentary reveals MacMillan to have been a complex figure who lit up the ballet world with his bold choreographic genius while struggling privately with alcoholism, anxiety, and depression.

Packed full of extraordinary ballet excerpts showcasing a wide range of MacMillan’s work including Romeo and Juliet, Manon and Mayerling, the programme offers a surprisingly moving and intimate portrait of a true giant of twentieth century culture. Featuring contributions from MacMillan’s family, Darcey Bussell, Dame Monica Mason and Sir Anthony Dowell. Producer and Director is Luke McMahon for the BBC Studios. Executive Producer is Tanya Hudson for the BBC Studios. Commissioning Editor and Executive Producer is Emma Cahusac for BBC Arts.

Award-winning choreographer and Barbican Artistic Associate Michael Clark presents his acclaimed ‘to a simple, rock ’n’ roll . . . song.’, recorded at the Barbican last autumn. The work is set to music by Erik Satie, Patti Smith and David Bowie and is known for its technical rigour, experimentation, intense and fine-tuned choreography. Producer is Adrienne Liron for 3 minutes West . Director is Jeff Tudor for 3 minutes West. Commissioning Editor and Executive Producer is Emma Cahusac for BBC Arts.

Clarke Peters, actor (The Wire, The Corner, Treme) and creator of the hit musical Five Guys Named Moe, undertakes a personal journey of discovery across America to explore the history and origins of Tap Dancing in Clarke Peters’ Tap America – an art form that has remained close to his heart since he was a child. His journey takes audiences from the 19th century conflict between Irish and African-American dancers through the troubled, white-washed Hollywood heyday of tap in the 30s and 40s through to the 21st century and tap’s contemporary significance. Producer and Director is David Upshal for BBC Studios. Executive Producer is Mark Cooper for BBC Studios and Commissioning  and Executive Producer is Emma Cahusac for BBC Arts.

Four specially commissioned  30-minute films in partnership with Sadler’s Wells, place some of today’s most exciting dance artists centre stage;  Zenaida Yanowsky, Carlos Pons Guerra, Shobana Jeyasingh, and Dickson Mbi. The films provide unique insight into their creative processes as they rehearse new works and interpretations for the stage. Producer is Bia Oliveira for Sadler’s Wells and Director is Glen Milner for ClearStory. Executive Producer is Molly Milton and Russell Barnes for ClearStory. Executive Producer is Alistair Spalding for Sadler’s Wells. Commissioning Editor and Executive Producer is Emma Cahusac for BBC Arts.