TV - Sky Arts at the British Library

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Sky Arts are to partner with the iconic British Library on a new series...

From Beethoven's notebook and King Charles I's private letters, to Jane Austen’s writing desk and hand scribbled Beatles lyrics, the British Library is the custodian of an extraordinary collection of more than 150 million individual items. This archive is one of the largest in the world, and contains items that connect to us all, on a personal, national and international level.

In the new series, six famous faces will take us on their own personal tour of the British Library’s fascinating treasures. Those taking part include professor and television presenter Lord Robert Winston, children's author Julia Donaldson, actor and writer Meera Syal, jazz singer-songwriter Jamie Cullum and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

Each episode follows one presenter as they discover six items, selected from the collections by British Library curators. Each item will give us an insight into the celebrity’s private and public passions, connecting with a key theme; revealing a Childhood Memory, Fascination, Role Model, Inspiration, Path Not Taken or Legacy. With a vast collection of books, manuscripts, sound recordings, newspapers, videos, maps, prints, drawings and much more to choose from, what will they discover on their own curated tour of this world renowned institution? 

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts asked, “Where do you start with the British Library? Even writing a list that starts ‘they've got everything from this-to-that’ is futile given that they have pretty much everything the written word has to offer. Luckily the talented curators throughout the series have much more focused minds when coming to choose those six special materials for our celebrities from their endless archive of much more than just books. It is an enlightening and entertaining journey through its archive and what these collections mean to us.”

In the first partnership of its kind between Sky Arts and the British Library, this series will also reveal some of the lesser-known spaces in the British Library’s fascinating buildings in London and Yorkshire. It goes behind the scenes to uncover how an institution with over 200 miles of shelving tackles the challenge of storage, preservation and digitisation, and meets the curators and other staff whose job it is to open up access to the vast Library collections on a daily basis.

Kristian Jensen, Head of Collections and Curation at the British Library said “Libraries and archives have a unique potential to inspire and connect with people everywhere. This series with Sky Arts is a special opportunity to offer celebrities a personal curated tour of the collections, and set their past and present in a world-wide context. We encourage anyone inspired by the series to come to the British Library Reading Rooms, exhibitions or our digital spaces to begin their own journey through the collections.”

This six part series was commissioned by Celia Taylor and Bill Hobbins for Sky Arts and is produced and directed by James Buchanan and Richard Dale for Nutshell TV.

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