Judi Dench and Maggie Smith to reflect on lives in new BBC arts output
Two actors will spend a weekend retreat together with fellow dames Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright for new programme
Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright will reflect on their lives and careers in a new programme for BBC2.
Sunday 10 September 2017 17.42 BST
The old friends will spend a weekend together reminiscing at a retreat once shared by Plowright and Laurence Olivier for a one-off programme directed by the Notting Hill filmmaker Roger Mitchell.
The film, which has the working title Nothing Like A Dame, is one of the new arts programmes the BBC has announced.
The broadcaster will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter book with Harry Potter: A History of Magic, which will follow the run-up to the opening of an exhibition about the books at the British Library.
Also a one-off for BBC2, the programme will unveil rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the exhibition, which includes original drafts and drawings lent by JK Rowling and the Harry Potter illustrator Jim Kay from their personal archives, on display for the first time.
It will explore the world of Hogwarts, and will include an interview with Rowling in which she talks about some of the personal items she has donated to the exhibition. Readings from famous fans will recreate some of the best loved spells, potions and magical moments from the series.
Joe Orton Laid Bare, which uses the playwright’s own words from his personal memoirs, stage and TV plays to examine his life and work, is also planned for BBC2. The programme will celebrate his unique and ambitious voice 50 years on from his death.
It will feature contributions from Kenneth Cranham, Sir Michael Codron, Christopher Hampton, Dame Patricia Routledge and Joe Orton’s sister Leonie.
BBC4 will tell the story of the mountaineer, explorer and linguist Gertrude Bell in Letters From Baghdad. The programme has been given unique access to more than 1,600 letters, and will follow her journey into the uncharted Arabian desert and the inner sanctum of British male colonial power at the turn of the 20th century. It will also explore the complex history of Iraq, with recorded reminiscences from those who knew her and Bell’s own words voiced by Tilda Swinton.
BBC1 has confirmed that the Strictly Come Dancing star the Rev Richard Coles and Mariella Frostrup will return to host The Big Painting Challenge when it comes back in 2018. Ten new amateur artists will compete in six weeks of challenges.
The channel will also bring back Fake Or Fortune? for a seventh series, presented by the art dealer Philip Mould and journalist Fiona Bruce, who search for lost masterpieces.
Mark Bell, the head of commissioning for BBC Arts, said: “We hope our arts programming will cast a spell over audiences with an in-depth look at the real-life inspirations for JK Rowling’s magical world.
“We can also offer BBC2 viewers the privilege of spending time with four great dames as they reflect on their incredible lives and careers on stage and screen, and alongside a fantastic season of programmes exploring Mexican art and life we will also examine the lives of British icons including Gertrude Bell and Joe Orton using their own writings.
“And The Big Painting Challenge will hopefully again inspire people to pick up a paintbrush and have a go.”