Channel 4 orders up super-sized arts coverage


- James Rhodes documentary forms centrepiece of classical music season

- New commission, Big Ballet, explores dance, self-image and body shape

- Grayson Perry commissions include new series exploring identity

Channel 4 Arts is to air a season of programmes offering a unique perspective on the power of classical music in people’s lives. Tabitha Jackson, Commissioning Editor, Arts, made the announcement at a talk given by artist Grayson Perry to launch the channel’s inaugural 4Culture event– an annual gathering in which a keynote speech is given by a leading figure from the world of art and culture, supported by live performances from emergent talent.

The season, Mad 4 Music, (airs w/c 22 July) includes three documentaries, a series of shorts, and complementary programming on More4 and Film 4. Each documentary explores how music can have a remarkable impact on everyday lives - from pop maverick Bjork’s drive to help us see music in a new way, to pianist James Rhodes’ desire to break out of the concert hall and take music to surprising places, to a promising young Glasgow pianist who, despite being faced with a devastating neurological condition dedicated his energy to relearning a piece of Chopin with his one functioning hand.

The channel also announces the commission of Big Ballet, which follows a troupe of plus-size amateurs as they attempt to realise their ambition of performing scenes from Swan Lake, mentored by choreographer and dancer Wayne Sleep and ballet dancer Monica Loughman. Wayne Sleep was the shortest ballet dancer ever to make his debut on the Royal Ballet stage. He confounded his critics who told him he was too short to make it and went on to become one of the UK’s greatest ever dancers. Now, he wants to unlock the world of ballet for a wider audience and break one of the biggest taboos in the ballet world: weight.

Grayson Perry, who signed a two-year deal with the channel in 2012, has a new art series which will air in 2014. The three-part series will chronicle the creation of a series of works featuring a range of Britons from across the UK, all of whom embody a particularly potent aspect of contemporary British identity. It will be accompanied by a major display at the National Portrait Gallery. Grayson Perry – Who Are You? (w/t) follows Perry’s BAFTA Award-winning All In the Best Possible Taste (Channel 4 2012), which explored British tastes and used Perry’s discoveries as inspiration for a work of art - The Vanity of Small Differences, a narrative series of six tapestries which was recently acquired for the nation. The tapestries are beginning a tour of the UK and will feature in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Production Company: Seneca Productions

In September Channel 4 will air a unique artist’s film that has been seven years in the making, using 2000 days of filming on 13 time-lapse cameras to stunningly document the rebuilding of Manhattan’s World Trade Center after the devastation of 9/11. Rebuilding the World Trade Center is produced by Lion TV.

Commenting on the new commissions Tabitha Jackson said: “I have two ambitions for Channel 4 Arts – to celebrate, enable, showcase, and inspire contemporary creativity, and to use the arts as a prism through which we can understand what it is to be alive today. These films do that and provoke us to see both the arts and ourselves in a different way.”

Mad 4 Music Season includes

James Rhodes Notes From the Inside

Bjork and Attenborough: The Nature of Music

Chopin Saved My Life

and will be accompanied by programming on More4 and Film 4 as well as five newly-commissioned shorts for the Random Acts strand from musician James Rhodes.

James Rhodes Notes from the Inside (1 x 60)

Classical musician James Rhodes - dubbed “the maverick pianist”- is passionate about taking his music out of the confines of the concert hall and into places it rarely reaches. Convinced that music can change lives for the better, James takes a Steinway grand piano inside one of Britain’s largest psychiatric hospitals.

With exclusive and unprecedented access, James meets patients, hears their searing life stories and shares his own. This inspirational, moving and funny film features James performing individual pieces specially chosen for the patients, pieces he hopes will resonate with them.

With no formal training in music and a job in the City, James dreamt of being a classical pianist from an early age, but it seemed beyond his reach. Just five years ago, after battling depression, self-harm and drug abuse, James spent nine months in a psychiatric hospital. It was only after a friend smuggled an iPod into James' locked ward, loaded up with classical music, that he began to feel a glimmer of hope. Today, he has four albums behind him and a busy touring schedule. This film looks at mental illness through the eyes of someone who has experienced it first-hand and follows him as he returns inside to a psychiatric unit for the first time in five years. Prod co: Fresh One Productions

Exec Producer Jeremy Lee Director Ursula Mcfarlane

Bjork and Attenborough: The Nature of Music (w/t)(1x60)

Award-winning musician Björk and legendary broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough have admired each other’s work for years but this is the first time they have collaborated on screen. In this remarkable documentary, they explore our unique relationship with music and discover how technology might transform the way we engage with it in the future.

At the heart of the film is Biophilia – Björk’s cutting edge music project which explores where nature, music and technology meet. David Attenborough explains how music exists in the natural world and speaks about his own passion for music.

Professor of neurology and psychiatry, and author Oliver Sacks also explains the extraordinary and beneficial effects music has on our brains and explains why performing and engaging with music is something all of us should take more seriously.

Prod Co Pulse Films

Exec Prod Lucas Ochoa Director Louise Hooper

Chopin Saved My Life (1x60)

Chopin's Ballade Number One is an extraordinary piece of piano music. This moving film tells the story of how the Ballade has transformed the lives of two young pianists. Fifteen-year-old Momoka’s community in Sendai, Japan, was decimated by the earthquake. For Momoka, the Ballade is a perfect incarnation of the anguish and rebellion she feels but cannot allow to surface. For Paul, recovering from his fifth brain surgery, the piece is life-changing - it was the Ballade’s emotional pull that he credits with the return of his memory. This moving film explores the transformative power of the piece, and the ability of music to profoundly impact our lives. Also commenting on the Ballade, explaining and demonstrating its intensities and challenges are four of the greatest pianists alive today: Russian conductor and concert pianist, Vladimir Ashkenazy; 29-year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang; London-born Imogen Cooper and the number one pianist in the UK, Stephen Hough. Those who know and love Chopin's epic piece say everything is contained in these ten minutes: love, tragedy, life, death, hope, anguish and Stephen Hough brings these together with musical virtuosity to perform the piece in its entirety as the film's finale.

Prod Co Oxford Film and Television

Exec Prod Nicolas Kent

Director James Kent

Big Ballet (w/t) 3 x 60

Can a troupe of plus size dancers realise their ambition to dance scenes from one of the most emotive and powerful ballets, Swan Lake?

Wayne Sleep was the shortest ballet dancer ever to make his debut on the Royal Ballet stage. He confounded his critics who told him he was too short to make it and became one of our greatest ever dancers. Now, he wants to unlock the world of ballet for a wider audience and break one of the biggest stereotypes: weight.

“I broke the taboo that you have to be a certain weight or physique to get into the Royal Ballet… You don’t have to look as thin as a rake to be a classical ballet dancer.” - Wayne Sleep

Wayne has six months to find 16 amateurs who have never been able to realise their dream to become ballet dancers due to their size. He will work alongside Monica Loughman, who trained under the incredibly tough Russian regime and went on to become one of their top ballerinas. They have six months to drill, educate and push their trainees to their absolute limit, culminating in a production of excerpts from the world’s most celebrated and moving ballet, Swan Lake.

The obstacles they will encounter are huge; the production and training will be housed at Northern Ballet, one of the UK’s foremost ballet companies. The Artistic Director, David Nixon OBE, has a formidable reputation both as a creative director and performer. He and his wife, Yoko Ichino, are credited with making Northern Ballet the powerhouse it is now. They will expect Wayne’s troupe to reach incredibly high standards. And David is far from confident: “You can teach anyone to dance, but whether it’s dancing you want to watch, that’s probably the question.’ - David Nixon

Prod Co Rare Day

Exec producers Peter Dale Emma Loach

Director Kirsty Cunningham

Rebuilding the World Trade Center

Marcus Robinson has been at the World Trade Center site since 2006 filming, photographing and painting this vast building site where five of the world’s largest buildings are being built in a complex, crowded and iconic corner of lower Manhattan. As well as his painting and documentary filming, Marcus specialises in time-lapse photography. With thirteen 35mm cameras permanently running his material condenses days, months and even years into a few seconds and shows vast buildings grow from holes in the ground to tower over the city in a single shot. He is on site before dawn most days and is often there long after dark; so far he has completed over 2,000 days filming. This is an immense artistic project that captures the scale and ambition of the reconstruction. It is a story of epic architecture and engineering but it is also a film that is full of humanity, giving a voice to the construction workers. Marcus has won their support and trust at every level ranging from the site managers to men and women who dug the foundations and even the legendary iron workers who assemble the steel frame of the buildings often walking across open girders hundreds of feet in the air. In Marcus’ own words “They are healing a scar in the bedrock of the city, in its skyline and in many ways what they are doing is part of a much greater act of rebuilding and healing”.

Executive Producer Nick Catliff

Directed and photographed Marcus Robinson

A Marcus Robinson/Lion Television Production for Channel 4

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