There’s a great (and somewhat worrying) article over at The Guardian about a forthcoming documentary on one of my favourite composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams:
One of television’s most imaginative film-makers has condemned Mark Thompson’s leadership of the BBC as a ‘catastrophe’ and accused the corporation of undermining its worldwide reputation by insulting the intelligence of viewers.
Tony Palmer, who has won more than 40 awards including Baftas, Emmys and, uniquely, the Prix Italia twice, criticised the director-general after the BBC turned down a documentary of his. The film, about English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, has been produced by Five instead.
Palmer said he received an extraordinary rejection letter from a BBC commissioning editor explaining that, ‘having looked at our own activity via the lens of find, play & share’, it had been decided the film did not fit with ‘the new vision for [BBC] Vision’.
Bizarrely, Palmer said, the letter concluded: ‘But good luck with the project, and do let me know if Mr. V. Williams has an important premiere in the future as this findability might allow us to reconsider.’ Vaughan Williams died in 1958.
It’s worth pointing out that Palmer is refusing to show the letter to anyone or name its author, and the BBC claims ignorance (and that it is already making a documentary on Vaughan Williams). If it’s true, though, it’s very sad in so many ways, as it suggests that there are people acting as gatekeepers at the BBC who have no knowledge of British culture, and that what Private Eye refers to as ‘Birtspeak’ is alive and well. ‘Findability’? What the hell’s that?
However, The Guardian has a nerve. A later paragraph in the article says “Vaughan Williams, whose best known symphonies include The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on Greensleeves”… Duh. RVW wrote nine symphonies and not one of them was called The Lark Ascending or Fantasia on Greensleeves. They are works for orchestra (the former for violin and orchestra), but most definitely not symphonies.
The good news is the 2.5 hour documentary did get made and will be shown on Channel 5 (the former soft porn channel, no less) on New Year’s Day. Can’t wait.