First glimpse at BBC Arts and Arts Council England Commissions

July 8, 2020

From the beginning of July, viewers and listeners will be able to see and hear the work that was commissioned by BBC Arts and Arts Council England as part of the Culture in Quarantine initiative as the films and audio projects begin to appear across BBC platforms.

At the beginning of lockdown Arts Council England and BBC established a package of funding and support to encourage creative responses to the pandemic, inviting artists and organisations to create cultural work around the idea of social distancing.

Arts Council England and BBC Arts Commissions

25 projects were selected and have been supported by Battersea Arts Centre, Sadler’s Wells, Opera North, Unlimited and The Space to create their projects which will appear on a range of BBC platforms as part of the organisation’s Culture in Quarantine programming across the summer.

Launched by Jonty Claypole, director of BBC Arts at the beginning of lockdown, Culture In Quarantine is designed to bring the arts to UK homes despite arts venue closures, social distancing, and UK-wide lockdowns.

During July viewers will be able to see Mimbre’s Sofa Dance, Far From the Norm’s Can’t Kill Us All and a a 15 minute drama, Treasure, featuring Samantha Bond on BBC iPlayer and episodes of Vamos Theatre’s How Hard is Waving? will be released daily across BBC social platforms. More of the projects will be programmed across BBC TV and radio as well as the BBC Sounds app and BBC Arts website throughout the summer.

The commissions cover a range of artforms, including Home Carnival, an exploration of African and Caribbean dance led by carnival queen Precious, Sign Night, a British Sign Language multi-disciplinary art piece from Cathy Mager, an interactive “rave-theatre” show connecting isolated people across the world, and a performance of Swan Lake with dancers performing from their bathtubs. The commissions represent a vibrant mix of culture made by artists based in England.

Cathy Mager, Sign Night, Culture in Quarantine. Cathy appears in 4 images demonstrating sign languageCathy Mager, Sign Night, Culture in Quarantine

Jonty Claypole, Director of BBC Arts said: “BBC Arts has been working with artists and arts organisations throughout lockdown to ensure their work reaches a UK wide audience during this challenging time. These new commissions display a wealth of creative vision, expressing many of the emotions provoked by lockdown: anxiety and loneliness as well as love and joy. I am overwhelmed by the brilliance of what the artists have achieved, many of whom are more used to making work in theatres and live spaces, adapting their craft to tell their stories in a new way.”

Fiona Morris, Creative Director and CEO, The Space said: “At a time of great social change it is important that work is created that helps us understand and make sense of the world around us. These works speak to – and are reflective of – the times that we are all living through and the voices heard throughout speak for a nation. The artists and organisations have not shied away from tackling important issues and we are all incredibly proud of what has been achieved.”

Tarek Iskander, Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre said: “It has been truly wonderful to collaborate with the artists involved, as well as the Space and the BBC on these projects. There can be no exaggerating how difficult it is to produce work in the current environment, but these incredible artists have more than risen to the challenge. The range of work produced and diversity of voices and viewpoints is something that has inspired us and that really grapples with this unique moment in history. It was a privilege to be involved, and to find ways to amplify and share these unique perspectives.”

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer, Unlimited said: “Unlimited is exceptionally proud to be part of this unique opportunity, ensuring disabled artists have the support they need to be an integral part. Culture in Quarantine vitally marks an intense moment in time, proving that artists support us all to make sense of the world, a role especially required in these unprecedented times. I’m also proud of the speed, the lack of complexity in application processes, the centring of artists with the process and then also the resulting diversity of both artists and works in this programme.  Surely these are a sign of the way we must move forward in the future.”

Alastair Spalding, Chief Executive, Sadler’s Wells said: “Sadler’s Wells is really proud to have been part of this unique project, working in partnership with The Space and the BBC, to support to some of our most exciting dance artists during this time of crisis. This programme has given them an incredible opportunity to keep creating work in new ways and to give voice to our collective experience during this pandemic. At a time when live performances cannot take place and other commissions are halted, this is a creative lifeline for artists. Their responses make for fascinating viewing, which I hope will inspire and entertain audiences at home’.

Find out more about the Culture in Quarantine commissions here.