The BBC will celebrate Arena’s 40th anniversary this weekend with an online streaming party.
The programme, which began way back in October 1975 with Laurence Olivier in conversation with Kenneth Tynan, has become the World’s longest-running arts TV strand, with an archive of over 600 films built up over the decades.
How do you mark such a milestone with such a vast back catalogue of content? Bing-watch as much of it as possible. The BBC will stream highlights from the archive for 24 hours non-stop on Saturday 21st November.
Arena: Night And Day will be designed to run continuously online on any device, synchronised to real time. The day begins with Dylan Thomas reciting ‘to begin at the beginning’, the sun rising on Mandela’s Robben Island, Van Morrison’s Ulster, Eric Sykes’s London, Sonny Rollins’ New York, Bluefields Nicaragua, the Mali desert and the Iron Curtain – all scenes from Arena films. At lunch time, Burroughs and Warhol enjoy Lapin au Moutarde in the Chelsea Hotel, while Elvis’s relatives catch squirrel in Mississippi. So the day goes on through the afternoon to the strange and beautiful hour of the gloaming – to the attractions of the night to the dreams of Edna Everage, Jean Genet and David Bowie, before returning to the darkest hour and to dawn with Dylan Thomas.
There will be an accompanying app to provide further information about the individual sequences as they unfold.
Anthony Wall, Editor of Arena, says: “The fact of the matter is that the only place that these films could have been made over such a long period is within the BBC and I regard it as a great honour to have had that privilege.”
Jonty Claypole, Director of Arts at the BBC, says: “Over the last 40 years, Arena has produced many of the greatest documentaries in broadcasting history. Endlessly inventive, provocative and insightful, the Arena archive is a priceless cultural artefact in its own right. This 24-hour digital experience brings you face-to-face with many of the icons of modern art and culture, but with the ambition and creative flair we associate with the brand. It is a fitting testament to the collective brilliance of the many producers, directors and teams who have made Arena great.”
A 90-minute version of Arena: Night And Day, directed by Anthony Wall and Alex Jones, will also follow the 24-hour cycle on BBC Four on Sunday 22nd November at 9pm.