is to mark the 50th anniversary of BBC2 with two special screenings.
Set up to offer alternative programming to the two other mainstream channels then on offer (namely, BBC1, which was renamed from BBC tv, and ITV), BBC2 was originally meant to open on Monday 20th April 1964, but a fire at Battersea Power Station caused a major power failure in the area that meant the schedule had to be postponed to the next day. Since then, says the BFI:
The channel has carved out a special place in the cultural TV landscape – from in-depth science and documentary to groundbreaking comedy and drama. Across these two screenings we take a look at the first fascinating week of BBC2 via surviving archive programmes that show an astonishing range of subjects and ambition, and which laid the foundations for the channel we all know and love today.
Both screenings take place on Wednesday 23rd April
, and they start at 6.10pm
with The Opening Week + Sir David Attenborough In Conversation With Alan Yentob
This selection of archive clips aims to capture the flavour of the opening week (including the first night's power cut, and the hilarious newsreader forced to stay on air with nothing to cut to!). Clips include light entertainment shows such as Jazz 625: Duke Ellington in Concert, comedy from The Alberts' Channel Too and Arkady Raikin (the Soviet Union's leading comedian), and drama with Julius Caesar (the National Youth Theatre production with original jazz score).
BBC executive Alan Yentob
will be discussing BBC2 past, present and future with Sir David Attenborough
, who was the channel's controller from 1965 to 1969.
This will be followed at 8.45pm
by the production of Kiss Me Kate
- featuring Howard Keel
, Patricia Morison
, Millicent Martin
and Eric Barker
- that formed part of the opening schedule.
This lavish production of the famous Cole Porter Broadway musical was commissioned to kick the channel off with a bang, and to showcase the better picture offered by BBC2's brand-new 625-line system (until then, all UK television had only been 405 lines). Add to this a superb cast (Howard Keel and Millicent Martin), some spirited dance routines and numbers - including, appropriately enough to open a new national TV channel, "Another Op'nin', Another Show" – and we guarantee you a toe-tapping televisual extravaganza!
A fanfare for the channel based on the Morse code translation of "BBC2" was composed by Freddie Phillips
. He later composed the theme music for the "Trumptonshire trilogy" of children's TV programmes comprising Camberwick Green
, for whose characters he also wrote songs.
And earlier in the month, the BFI will be holding a Missing Believed Wiped
special entitled Maximum Access: The Complete and Utter History of Britain
, with Michael Palin
as a special guest.
This event takes place on Wednesday 2nd April
The BFI's Missing Believed Wiped initiative exists not only to highlight recovered TV material but to provide a showcase for the public. These screenings serve multiple purposes: to allow enthusiasts to see the titles; to inform cataloguers and archivists of the survival status of the material; and - perhaps most importantly - to alert schedulers, programme-makers and commercial distributors to the finds, leading to greater exposure.
To that end, this Missing Believed Wiped special will focus on the zany, pre-Python comedy series The Complete and Utter History of Britain - Michael Palin and Terry Jones' 1960s precursor to the much-loved TV show Horrible Histories. Here, we find sketches such as Richard the Lionheart relating his exploits in the Crusades in the manner of a laddish holidaymaker, and William the Conquerer engaging in post-match analysis.
Fans will be delighted that all the surviving material from this seminal series, along with new complementary material from Palin and Jones, will now be made available on DVD (thanks to Network Releasing).
Palin is to introduce the event.
Tickets to all the above will go on sale in due course.