Sky Arts unveils raft of new original commissions as channel goes free to air

Sky Arts, the UK’s only channel dedicated to arts and culture, has announced four new Sky original programme commissions today, as it becomes free for everyone to watch.

With a renewed focus on bringing more of the arts to more people, Sky Arts is embarking on an ambitious programme of activity to support and champion the arts at a vital time for the cultural sector – putting artists, creatives, and public participation centre stage on a channel that everyone across the UK can watch.

The new Sky original commissions announced today include:

  • Boys: Ashley Walters makes his directorial debut in a short film written by newcomer Jerome Holder. Set in East London, two best friends fulfil a promise made to one’s older brother, embarking on a journey that will shape them and the men they will become.
  • Offended by Irvine Welsh: Irvine Welsh explores the nature of offence and its impact. Does the fear of offence and cancel culture affect artists’ creative risk taking? He sets out to reclaim the right to offend – but not abuse – as an essential tool for artists.
  • Sky Arts Book Club Live: A glass of wine, a few tasty morsels, and a good read. Sky Arts recreates all the joys of a book club as hosts Andi Oliver and Elizabeth Day invite four members of an existing club to chat about new releases, favourite classics and hear directly from different guest authors each episode. The show will air live on Sky Arts and the @SkyTV Facebook page giving people at home the unique opportunity to be part of the club.
  • Charles Hazlewood: Beethoven and Me: marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Charles Hazlewood explores the life of the great composer, taking a personal and unique perspective on this troubled genius and a detailed look at his famous 5th symphony masterpiece.

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, said

“We are excited to announce four new programmes today which all speak to our mission to broaden access to the arts – whether that’s a thought provoking examination of the boundaries of art, looking at Beethoven from a fresh angle, giving a major talent their directorial debut, or a couple of hours looking at the next great book. There’s something on our newly free channel for everyone to enjoy!”

Sky Arts is now available to watch on Freeview and Freesat on channel numbers 11 and 147. Fans of the popular entertainment channel Pick will now be able to find it at its new home on channel number 34.

In addition to a slate of new programme commissions, the move to become free-to-air includes increased and deepened partnerships with artists and arts organisations, providing them with a platform to create and showcase their work. And to support new talent, the channel will launch a series of bursaries worth £30,000 each, that will see leading figures from the arts support and mentor diverse and emerging new artists

Art and culture lovers will be able to enjoy a diverse range of programmes celebrating music, culture and performance, with the following key programmes due to air in the days and weeks following Sky Arts’ free-to-air debut, Sky Arts Late, Brian Johnson Meets Dave Grohl, Guy Garvey: From the Vaults, Urban Myths, Danny Dyer on Harold Pinter, Life and Rhymes, No Masks, Portrait Artist of the Year & Portrait Artist of the Week, The South Bank Show, Boswell & Johnson’s Scottish Road Trip with Frank Skinner and Denise Mina and many more.

While the Sky Arts linear channel is now free for everyone, the extensive Sky Arts On Demand library of arts content, with more than 2,000 hours of shows, will remain exclusive to Sky and NOW TV entertainment pass customers.

BOYS (1×25) Ashley Walters will make his directorial debut with BOYS, a Sky original short film written by newcomer Jerome Holder and produced by Walters’ SLNda in association with Sky Studios.

Against the grey but beautiful backdrop of East London’s skyscrapers and estates, two best friends, Noah (Hector Abbott) and Lewis (Jude Chenchin), embark on a journey into manhood, set in motion by a promise that must be fulfilled. Noah’s big brother, Nick (played by UK rapper Devlin), is serving a lengthy sentence at her majesty’s pleasure, and bestows upon his teenage brother a list of items he needs in jail. In an act of blind loyalty, Noah and Lewis set out to fulfil Nick’s wishes, but along the way are faced with challenges and hurdles that will shape them and the men they will become. BOYS is due to TX in November 2020 on Sky Arts and NOW TV.

BOYS is produced by SLNda in association with Sky Studios.. Executive producers are Nagajan Modhwadia and Ashley Walters for SLNda and Paul Gilbert for Sky Studios. Director is Ashley Walters. Producer is Saba Kia.

Speaking about the film, Director and Executive Producer Ashley Walters said

“I was immediately drawn to the innocence of this story written by promising new screenwriter Jerome Holder. I’m thrilled to be making my directorial debut with Boys which will be the first short film we’re producing at SLNda, and I’m thankful to Sky Studios for believing in our vision.”

Offended by Irvine Welsh (1×60): Irvine Welsh explores the nature of offence and its impact. Does the fear of offence and cancel culture affect artists creative risk taking? He sets out to reclaim the right to offend – but not abuse – as an essential tool for artists. Why is everyone so easily offended these days? Indignant, outraged, howling for justice over a social media post, a bad joke or a provocative image? He’ll ask whether there is an ‘industry of offence’, willingly mobilised by some artists, filmmakers, and comedians, as well as political activists, media provocateurs and individuals craving attention. And if this distracts us from the things we should really be getting offended about – like systemic inequality and existential threats to humanity’s future. Offended by Irvine Welsh is due to TX in autumn 2020 on Sky Arts and NOW TV.

Offended by Irvine Welsh is produced by Lion with executive producer Siobhan Mulholland. It is produced and directed by Mike Christie. Barbara Lee is commissioning editor for Sky.

Talking about the film, Irvine Welsh said: 

I’m excited to take viewers on an exploration into why we’ve become so easy to offend and to understand the impact that has had on creativity. I think the word ‘offensive’ should be reclaimed. It’s a good thing to be offensive and f*** people who feel offended about everything.

Sky Arts Book Club Live (4×120), A glass of wine, a few tasty morsels, and a good read. Sky Arts recreates all the joys of a book club as hosts Andi Oliver and Elizabeth Day invite four members of an existing club to chat about some new releases and favourite classics. Then each episode, we’ll bring in the author to answer questions from our club – and a worldwide audience – as the show is simulcast on @SkyTV Facebook live. We’ll learn what’s on the bedside table of some celebrity authors, and online influencer Simon Savidge recommends some lesser known gems. The show will air live on Sky Arts and the @SkyTV Facebook page giving people at home the unique opportunity to be part of the club. Feet up, for the perfect Sunday evening on Sky Arts and NOW TV. Sky Arts Book Club Live is due to TX on October 18 2020.

Sky Arts Book Club Live is produced by Storyvault. Samantha Williams and Stuart Prebble are the executive producers and the series editor is Anne Elletson. Benedetta Pinelli is commissioning editor for Sky.

Speaking on the series, author and broadcaster Elizabeth Day said: 

“I’m so delighted to be a part of this brilliant new show, which puts books and readers right back at the heart of arts programming. As an author, I’m giddily excited at the prospect of sharing fantastic new releases and old favourites with the audience; and as a reader I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Sunday evenings than chatting about books with people from all over the country. I’m so grateful to Sky Arts and Philip Edgar-Jones and am thrilled that I get to co-host with the wonderful Andi Oliver. Now, please excuse me as I get back to this really great novel I’m reading…”

Talking about Sky Arts Book Club Live, co-host Andi Oliver said: 

“I could not be more excited to be working alongside the excellent Elizabeth Day for the first time and with gorgeous Simon Savidge for the second time, on the Sky Arts Book Club Live! Bringing together two of my greatest loves: books and cookbooks and getting the chance to share them with other people? yes please! I am a very happy, happy, HAPPY Andi Oliver.”

Charles Hazlewood: Beethoven and Me (1×60), marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Charles Hazlewood explores the life of the great composer, taking a personal and unique perspective on this troubled genius and a detailed look at his famous 5th symphony masterpiece. The documentary will unearth themes about his life that have never been investigated before and deliver a unique portrait of this extraordinary genius. At its heart, Charles will explore aspects of Beethoven’s deafness and potential autism with personal insight and performances from members of the Paraorchestra, some of whom share Beethoven’s conditions. A ground-breaking and highly personal exploration of the greatest composer of them all by Charles Hazlewood, founder of the award winning Paraorchestra. Charles Hazlewood: Beethoven and Me will TX in winter 2020.

Charles Hazlewood: Beethoven and Me is produced by Factory 42 with executive producer James Hunt. Barbara Lee is commissioning editor for Sky.

Speaking on the documentary, Charles Hazlewood, said: 

“This film is a thrilling new departure for me and will be the most intensely personal programme I’ve made on Beethoven, as we have a common thread: we were both abused as children. I have always had an incredibly stormy relationship with his music: it takes me close to hell at times, and yet I always feel ecstatic in the moment of performance! Armed with my beloved Paraorchestra – my favourite group of musicians in the entire world – the ecstatic end-point will be all the richer.”

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