Sky Arts, the UK’s only channel dedicated to arts and culture, is to be made free for everyone this September, supercharging its mission to increase access to and drive participation in the arts, at a vital time for the cultural sector.
With a renewed focus on bringing more of the arts to more people, Sky Arts will embark on an ambitious programme of activity to support and champion the arts – putting artists, creatives, and public participation centre stage on a channel that everyone across the UK can watch on Freeview.
The move to become free-to-air will include a bold new slate of original programmes and 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.
While the Sky Arts linear channel will be made free for everyone, the extensive Sky Arts On Demand library of arts content, with more than 2000 thousand hours of shows, will remain exclusive to Sky and NOW TV Entertainment Pass customers.
Some highlights of the brand-new original programming coming to Sky Arts includes:
- Landmark, a bold and ambitious series for 2021 where artists and local communities across the UK will join forces in a quest to create the next great British landmark, in response to the current debate about the meaning of public monuments, and who or what is commemorated.
- Portrait Artist of the Week, the live-streamed paint-along version of the channel’s flagship series ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’, has been confirmed to return this Autumn both on @SkyTV Facebook and Sky Arts, following its huge success during lockdown. Complementing this, Portrait Artist of the Year will return at the same time, with new celebrity sitters including Normal People’s Paul Mescal, First Dates front-of-house Fred Sirieux, singer Ray BLK and Sir Trevor McDonald.
- Goldie: The Art That Made Me: Renowned visual artist and musician Goldie goes on a personal and passionate journey into the world of graffiti and street art.
- Danny Dyer on Pinter, sees Dyer explore the life and works of Harold Pinter and tell the story of their unlikely friendship.
- Sky Arts Late, a new monthly arts and culture show creating a feature-length space for original perspectives, debate, critical discussion, and performance from across the arts.
- English National Opera’s Drive & Live, a world-first exclusive broadcast of the ENO’s drive-in opera performance of La Bohème.
- No Masks, A brand new drama from Theatre Royal Stratford East based on the real-life testimonies of key workers in East London during the pandemic.
- Life & Rhymes, A celebration of spoken word hosted by Benjamin Zephaniah, featuring some of the country’s leading spoken word performers.
- Inside Art, presented by Kate Bryan, will explore leading exhibitions across the UK, starting with the Walker Gallery’s major exhibition of Linda McCartney’s photography.
- Brian Johnson meets Dave Grohl, the AC/DC frontman hangs out and chats at the Foo Fighters’ studio in Los Angeles.
Becoming a free channel means the existing slate of Sky Arts programming will be available for everyone to watch for the first time including popular series such as Portrait Artist of The Year, Landscape Artist of The Year, Tate Britain’s Great Art Walks, Treasures of the British Library, The South Bank Show, Urban Myths and countless documentaries and performances, from Kylie, Ed Sheeran and U2, to Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Wagner’s Ring Cycle and Cats.
Philip Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, said: “There’s never been a stronger need or demand for the arts, nor a more important time to champion and celebrate creativity. That’s why we’re throwing open the doors to make Sky Arts a free channel. During lockdown we’ve seen audiences to the channel increase by 50% and our weekly live paint-along show, Portrait Artist of The Week, reached 4.6 million people with over 20,000 portraits painted.
“As a free to air channel I hope that Sky Arts can help arts organisations and cultural institutions of all shapes and sizes across the UK, providing them with a platform to create and showcase their work to a broad audience. With our renewed focus and mission to increase accessibility and participation across the arts, we want to hear from everyone with ideas for how we might be able to work together – we can only succeed with artists and creatives at the heart of what we do.”