Festival 2022 Saturday 26 February - Sunday 06 March | Tickets now on sale

Arena at JBW Series

Arena at Jewish Book Week Series

October 2021 – March 2022

Six events discussing landmark Arena films, featuring individuals involved in their making and exploring the lives of subjects from Mel Brooks to Amy Winehouse. Details and dates for each event will be      listed here as they are announced.

Martin Scorsese has described Arena as ‘home to some of the greatest non-fiction film making of the past 40 years’. Under the editorship of Alan Yentob (1978-85), Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall developed a new kind of film, a free form examination of subjects that hadn’t previously been thought appropriate to the realms of the arts documentary – a song, My Way; a car, The Private Life of the Ford Cortina; a radio classic, Desert Island Discs. The success of these films laid the foundation of Arena’s reputation for wit, style and surprise.

Finch and Wall were core to a group of directors who pioneered an approach which applied the highest filmic values to art and culture both low and high, from Visconti to Superman, Louise Bourgeois to Amy Winehouse, Bob Dylan to Flamenco.

Wall and Finch became Editors in 1985 and continued to direct. Wall carried on as sole Editor after Finch’s death in 1995. During his forty year tenure, Arena won over a hundred domestic and international awards including nine BAFTAs and twenty-five nominations; six Royal Television Society awards; the Prix Italia; Primetime and International Emmys and, most prestigious of all, the Special Medallion at the Telluride Film Festival for a ‘commitment to cutting edge film making’. It was there that Werner Herzog declared Arena to be ‘the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television’.

Series Credits:
Film Editor: Emma Matthews
Series Film Curator and Executive Producer: Anthony Wall
Executive Producer: Anne Webber
Producer: Laura Granditer

Click here to read a full biography of Series Film Curator and Executive Producer Anthony Wall

Arena at Jewish Book Week

Featuring I Thought I Was Taller: A Short History of Mel Brooks

3 October 2021, Live at Kings Place and via at-home streaming


To launch an exclusive Jewish Book Week-BBC TV Arena series, Arena producer Sally Angel and editors Anthony Wall and Alan Yentob discuss the many Jewish subjects featured in the multi-award-winning arts documentary series – who have ranged from Arthur Miller and Linda McCartney to Jonathan Miller and Amy Winehouse – with a specially shot message for Jewish Book Week from Mel Brooks, star of one of the most iconic Arena films. The discussion is chaired by Mark Lawson.

Included in the ticket price is access to the Arena film, I Thought I Was Taller: A short history of Mel Brooks. This film will be available to view online for seven days from 3 October.

Image credit: BBC Arena, Mel Brooks I Thought I Was Taller, 1981

Click here to read an Introduction to the Opening Event and the Mel Brooks film I Thought I Was Taller: A Short History of Mel Brooks by Series Film Curator and Executive Producer Anthony Wall

Sally Angel

Sally Angel is Creative Director of Angelica Films, an All3Media company. She has produced Emmy, BAFTA, RTS and Peabody award-winning programmes for UK and US broadcasters. As a producer/director at the BBC, she worked on all the leading arts strands including Arena. Her recent credits include Arena’s Nothing Like a Dame and Uncle Vanya for the BBC which won a Southbank Sky Arts Award. She is also a psychotherapist.

Mark Lawson

Mark Lawson is an English journalist, broadcaster and author. Specialising in culture and the arts, he is best known for presenting the flagship BBC Radio 4 arts programme Front Row between 1998 and 2014. He is also a Guardian columnist, and presents Mark Lawson Talks To… on BBC Four.

Anthony Wall

Anthony Wall was one of the core directors on Arena from 1979-1985 under the editorship of Alan Yentob. He and Nigel Finch took over as Series Editors in 1985. After Finch’s death in 1995, Wall remained sole editor until 2018. During those years, Arena won nine BAFTA awards and over a hundred awards from all over the world. Voted by leading television executives as one of the fifty most influential programmes of all time, Arena was described by Werner Herzog at the Telluride Film Festival as “the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television”.

Alan Yentob

Alan Yentob has held almost all of the most prestigious posts in BBC television. He was Editor of Arena from 1978 to 1985 and is one of the country’s major figures in arts television, both as a creator and champion. He currently edits and presents the award-winning BBC1 arts series Imagine. His Arena director credits include I Thought I Was Taller: A short history of Mel Brooks.

Arena at Jewish Book Week

Amy Winehouse: Songs, Style and St James’ Church

16 November 2021, via at-home streaming


Featuring access to the Arena film Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle

 “The film really shows Amy as musician, song-writer and performer. Far too much is told about her failings and not about her talents – she was an extraordinary musician.  If you think about the relationship between Jewish creatives and other marginalised communities – she was Jewish, and female, and working class – and as such drawn to Black American soul, Motown, and jazz…there must be something in that”.

Image credit: BBC Arena, Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle, 2007

Click here to read an Introduction to Amy Winhouse: The Day She Came to Dingle by Series Film Curator and Executive Producer Anthony Wall

Dale Davis

One of the UK’s most in-demand musicians for over 30 years, Dale first joined Amy Winehouse as her bass player before becoming her musical director from 2004 until her death in 2011. He has performed on numerous sessions and toured around the world with artists including Tina Turner, Emeli Sande, Paul Young and Norman Cook. Other projects have included archiving and restoring Amy Winehouse’s musical back catalogue and collaborating on the Oscar, Grammy and Bafta winning documentary film, Amy.

Image cr. Luca Pellizzaro

Philip King

Philip King is a musician, broadcaster, curator and founder of Other Voices. He is a commentator and contributor to national and international forums on the role and contribution of culture and arts in a world where we are more connected and more isolated than ever before. Philip lives in West Kerry.

Naomi Parry

Naomi Parry is a creative director and curator based in London. While studying at the London College of Fashion in 2005 she began her career as Amy Winehouse’s stylist. Over the next six years she worked, travelled and even lived with Amy. She has worked with a variety of music artists and been involved in a wide range of projects in fashion, TV and film. More recently, she founded the company Future Archive to help brands and individuals connect with more people through creative applications of their archive of work.

Robert Elms

Robert Elms is a broadcaster, writer and former editor of The Face. He is best known for his long-running radio show on BBC London. His latest book The Way We Wore is a bestselling memoir on the history of youth culture fashion.

Arena at Jewish Book Week

Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Long, Long Way

7 December 2021, via at-home streaming

Featuring access to the Arena film Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs Pupko’s Beard

Part of Arena at Jewish Book Week 

“I wouldn’t say that Yiddish is dead, neither would I say that Yiddish is blooming. I would say that Yiddish is sick. But in our history, between being sick and dying is a long, long way…” Isaac Bashevis Singer, Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs Pupko’s Beard

As the centenary of the birth of one of the most respected Jewish writers of all time approaches, we celebrate the life and work of Isaac Bashevis Singer with an online discussion featuring colleagues and admirers, as well as a rare chance to watch a 1980 BBC Arena film of which he is both subject and author.

Click here to read an Introduction to Isaac Bashevis Singer and Mr’s Pupko’s Beard by Series Film Curator and Executive Producer Anthony Wall

Shalom Auslander

Shalom Auslander is the internationally-acclaimed novelist and memoirist of such books as Foreskin’s Lament, Mother For Dinner and Hope: A Tragedy, which critics on both sides of the Atlantic have named the funniest book of the decade. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire and many others. He lives, sadly, in Los Angeles.

Evelyn T Beck

Evelyn Torton Beck, Ph.D. is Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, USA. She holds doctorates in Comparative Literature, Clinical Psychology and an honorary doctorate from the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna. She is the author of Kafka and the Yiddish Theater: Its Impact on his Work and the translator of several stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, with whom she was personally acquainted. She is interviewed in the film, The Muses of I. B. Singer, which features Singer’s many translators, almost all of whom were women.

David Stromberg

David Stromberg is a writer, translator, and literary scholar. His fiction has appeared in The Woven Tale Press, The Account, and Call me Brackets, and his nonfiction in The American Scholar, Entropy, and Literary Matters. He is editor to the Isaac Bashevis Singer Literary Trust and his translations of Singer’s work have appeared in The New Yorker, Conjunctions, and The Jewish Chronicle. His most recent book is A Short Inquiry into the End of the World.

Rebecca Abrams

Rebecca Abrams is an author, journalist and literary critic for the Financial Times.  She teaches creative writing at the University of Oxford and was writer-in-residence at Brasenose College, Oxford from 2017-20.  Her recent publications include The Jewish Journey: 4000 years in 22 objects (Ashmolean Museum).