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Arena (TV series)

Genre Documentary
Created by Humphrey Burton
Written by Various
Directed by Various
Opening theme "Another Green World" by Brian Eno
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes over 600
Editor(s) Anthony Wall (1985-present)
Anthony Wall and Nigel Finch (1985-1995)
Alan Yentob (1979-1985)
Leslie Megahey (1977-1978)
Various (1975-1977)
Production company(s) BBC
Original channel BBC Two (1975-2011)
BBC Four (2003-present)
External links
BBC Four - Arena

Arena is a British television documentary series, made and broadcast by the BBC since 1 October 1975. Voted by TV executives in Broadcast magazine as one of the top 50 most influential programmes of all time, it has produced over six hundred episodes directed by, among others, Jana Boková, Nigel Finch, Mary Harron, Vikram Jayanti, Adam Low, James Marsh, Leslie Megahey, Volker Schlondorff, Martin Scorsese, Julian Temple, Anthony Wall, Leslie Woodward, and Alan Yentob.

The current series editor is Anthony Wall, who has edited Arena since 1985.


  • History 1
  • Branding 2
  • Series editors 3
  • Awards and nominations 4
  • Selected filmography 5
  • Sources 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The arts strand Arena was initially created in 1975[1] by the BBC Head of Music & Arts at that time, Humphrey Burton, when he founded a magazine named Arena exploring art, design, filmmaking, and theatre. In 1977, under producer and director Leslie Megahey, the stand divided into Arena Theatre and Arena Art and Design, and Arena became less of a magazine and more a home for short, distinctive and stylish films about mainly British theatre and visual arts. In 1978 Megahey became editor of Omnibus and Alan Yentob, who had been supervising Arena Theatre, took over and the two themes were merged. The series, relaunched in January 1979 and renamed simply Arena, began to adopt a format of single subject essays. It earned great critical acclaim for its enthusiasm for the popular as well as the high arts. During Yentob's time as editor, Arena had six BAFTA nominations and three BAFTA awards.

A group of radical directors, notably Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall, gathered around Yentob and Arena, including Nigel Williams and Mary Dickinson. Hits from 1977 included Who Is Mel Brooks (1981).

On Yentob’s move to become Head of Music & Arts in 1985, Finch and Wall took over as joint editor of Arena until of Finch’s death in 1995. Following a period of uncertainty concerning the future of the arts strand, series editor Wall protected the series in a reshuffle of the BBC. Since then Arena has been transmitted outside the conventional weekly broadcast strand on BBC Two and BBC Four, and latterly on BBC Four.

Under Wall and Finch, Arena developed the idea of the themed evening, beginning with Blues Night (1985), followed by Caribbean Nights (1986), Animal Night (1989), Food Night (1990), Texas Saturday Night (1991) and Stories My Country Told Me (1995), a three and a half hour presentation on Nations and Nationalism. Since then Arena has won numerous awards with regular screenings at the BFI Southbank and has continued to cover the arts and culture at the highest level, with films on Bob Dylan, Harold Pinter, The National Theatre and Spitting Image, to name but a few.

Most recently Arena has developed a substantial online presence featuring the Arena Hotel, a site that turns the 600-film Arena archive into a resource to build an online hotel for the stars. The Arena Hotel was nominated for a Focal International Award in 2013. The Hotel was commissioned for The Space, and will continue to expand.

Werner Herzog has praised the series as "the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television".


The programme's theme music is taken from the title track of the 1975 album Another Green World by Brian Eno, himself the subject of a 2010 Arena film subtitled Another Green World.[2]

The Arena opening titles were voted among the 'Top 5 Most Influential Opening Titles in the History of Television' by Broadcast magazine in 2004.

Series editors

Anthony Wall has been the Editor of Arena since 1985. He joined the series in 1978 and became one of its leading directors.

Awards and nominations

Arena has won a Primetime and International Emmys,[3] a Grammy,[4] nine BAFTAs,[5] six Royal Television Society Awards, a Peabody and the Prix Italia. Arena also won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Paris is Burning, and the Best Performance Award for Lili Taylor's role in I Shot Andy Warhol at the Sundance Film Festival.

Selected filmography

Year Films Director
2014 The 50 Year Argument: The New York Review of Books Martin Scorsese

David Tedeschi

2014 Whatever Happened to Spitting Image? Anthony Wall
2013 The National Theatre Adam Low
2013 AKA Norman Parkinson Nicola Roberts
2012 Sister Wendy and the Art of the Gospels Randall Wright
2012 Screen Goddesses David Thompson
2012 The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour Revisited Frank Hanly
2012 Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle Maurice Linnane
2012 Jonathan Miller David Thompson
2012 The Dreams of William Golding Adam Low
2012 Sonny Rollins: This is Who I Am Dick Fontaine
2012 Dickens On Film Anthony Wall
2011 George Harrison: Living in the Material World Martin Scorsese
2011 Produced by George Martin Frank Hanly
2010 Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way Bruce Ricker
2010 Harold: A Celebration Anthony Wall
2010 Brian Eno: Another Green World Nicola Roberts
2009 T. S. Eliot Adam Low
2008 Phil Spector Vikram Jayanti
2008 V.S. Naipaul: The Strange Luck Of... Adam Low
2007 Bergman and the Cinema Marie Nyrerod
2007 Encountering Bergman David Thompson
2007 Bob Marley's Exodus '77 Anthony Wall
2007 Underground Zimena Percival
2006 Pete Doherty Ashtar Alkhirsan
2005 The Princess and Panorama Samantha Peters
2005 No Direction Home: Bob Dylan Martin Scorsese
2005 Bacon's Arena Adam Low
2005 Calling Hedy Lamarr Georg Misch
2004 Painting the Clouds: A Portrait of Dennis Potter Martin Rosenbaum

Nigel Williams

2004 Shadowing the Third Man Frederick Baker
2004 Pavarotti: The Last Tenor Frank Hanly
2003 Dylan Thomas: Grave to Cradle Anthony Wall
2003 Imagine Imagine Frederick Baker
2002 Harold Pinter Season at the BBC Anthony Wall

Nigel Williams

Martin Rosenbaum

2002 Kurosawa Adam Low
2001 Salgado: Spectre of Hope P. Carlin
2000 Clint Eastwood Anthony Wall

B. Ricker

2000 Wisconsin Death Trip James Marsh
1999 Looking for the Iron Curtain Anthony Wall
1999 Salman Rushdie M. Dickinson
1999 Cuba Night P. Esterson

J. Shinner

1997 The Football Men F. Hanly
1996 I Shot Andy Warhol M. Harron
1996 The Burger & the King: The Life & Cuisine of Elvis Presley James Marsh
1996 Eqbal Ahmad on the Grand Trunk Road H. O. Hazareth
1996 Desmond Tutu and the Rainbow Nation T. May
1996 Eric Hobsbawn on the Pressburger Bahn F. Baker
1996 Stories My Country Told Me Anthony Wall
1995 Stonewall Nigel Finch
1995 Punk and the Pistols P. Tickell
1994 Marvin Gaye J. Marsh
1994 Kalashnikov P. Lee
1993 The Last Soviet Citizen Leslie Woodhead
1993 Edward Said F Hanly

T. May

1991 Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon Nigel Finch
1991 Miller Meets Mandela B. Marcus

Nigel Finch

1990 Paris is Burning J. Livingston

Nigel Finch

1989 The Other Graham Greene Nigel Finch
1988 Kapuściński Adam Low
1987 Stop Making Sense Jonathan Demme
1987 Evelyn Waugh Trilogy Adam Low
1987 The Confessions of Robert Crumb M. Dickinson
1986 C. L. R. James' First Cricket XI C. Pattinson
1985 Saint Genet Nigel Williams

C. Chabot

1985 Old Kent Road M. Dickinson
1983 Borges and I D. Wheatley
1983 Burroughs H. Brookner
1982 The Orson Welles Story Alan Yentob

L. Megahey

1981 Brixton to Barbados Anthony Wall
1981 Chelsea Hotel Nigel Finch
1980 Making The Shining Vivian Kubrick
1979 My Way Nigel Finch



  1. ^ Tise Vahimagi. (2003-12) "Burton, Humphrey (1931-) ". BFI Screen Online". Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  2. ^ Nigel Smith (22 February 2010). "Brian Eno and the Arena Bottle". BBC Music Blog. BBC. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 
  3. ^ International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. (2013) “International Emmy Awards – Previous Winners 'Arts Programme'”. The International Emmy Awards. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  4. ^ The Recording Academy. (2013) "GRAMMY.COM Past Winners Search – ‘No Direction Home’". GRAMMY.COM. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  5. ^ British Academy of Film and Television Arts. (2013) "BAFTA Awards Search – ‘Arena’". BAFTA. Retrieved 19 June 2013.

External links

  • ArenaBBC Programmes - site at
  • Arena Hotel site at The Space
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