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  • THE FIRST South Bank Show featured feminist author and English literature professor Germaine Greer, satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, and singer/songwriter Paul McCartney, setting the tone of the programme as bringing both high art and popular culture to a mass audience. It was broadcast on a Saturday night, 14th January 1978, at 10.30pm and attracted 6.7 million viewers.

  • MELVYN BRAGG is the longest-serving presenter on a single programme on ITV: this is his 40th year in broadcasting.

  • IT'S THE longest continuously running arts programme on television. It remains firmly rooted to Sunday night on ITV, broadcast on the best performing channel on one of its strongest nights of the week.

  • IT HAS a bigger remit than any other arts programme. It sets its own agenda and tackles an extremely wide range of topics from specialist to populist.

  • THE show is ITV's fourth longest-running programme - after Coronation Street (1960), News At Ten (1967), and Emmerdale (1972). There have been more than 550 editions.

  • IN ADDITION to Melvyn Bragg, several other presenters and interviewers were used in the early shows including writer Richard Hoggart, Germaine Greer, magazine editor Tina Brown and DJ Paul Gambaccini.

  • THE show's illustrated interviews, one of its strongest strands, was perhaps characterised most memorably in the alcohol-enhanced encounter with Francis Bacon on 9th June 1985.

  • IT HAS has never been afraid of tackling the most controversial subjects eg DV8 on 11th March 1990 (a ballet about a serial murderer which made the front pages of the national press), Javier de Frutos on 31st October 1999 (a performing artist whose work features men having anal sex), and Body Art on 5th April 1998 (artists who use piercing, blood-letting and extreme pain in their work).

  • THE show has won more than 110 awards, including 12 BAFTA's, six Emmys, five Prix Italia, four RTS awards and many more. Most recently, the two-part programme on Gilbert and George was winner of the BAFTA Best Arts Programme and the RTS Arts Award, and the programme on Dolly Parton was a winner at the New York Festival.

  • THE UNFORGETTABLE theme music is an Andrew Lloyd Webber arrangement of a Paganini composition. The original title sequences, created by Pat Gavin, were the only title sequences ever to win 2 BAFTAs. Gavin has created new visuals to mark the 25th series.

  • THE PROGRAMME with the highest viewing figures so far is the profile of Michael Flatley on 26 October 1997 with an audience of 9 million.

  • THE MOST frequently profiled subject on The South Bank Show is David Hockney. He or his work have appeared as subjects of the show six times.

  • THE show carried an exclusive interview with John Lennon as part of its film The Dream Is Over.

  • IT'S seen in over 60 countries - including New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, the US, and the Netherlands.

  • SINCE its conception, The South Bank Show has spawned a series of further programmes aimed at younger viewers - Opening Shot, Cool Britannia and then Fresh, all made by LWT Arts.

  • THE TEAM has visited over 50 countries and filmed in some extraordinary places including a Zen temple in Kyoto, Japan (Yoko Ono), the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (Dolly Parton), the Appalachian Trail (Bill Bryson) and Podor in Senegal (Baaba Maal).

  • FILMAKERS Ken Loach (My Name Is Joe) and Ken Russell (Women In Love, Altered States) have been both the subject and makers of South Bank Show films.

  • SIR DAVID Lean said, "The best directors in Britain are working on The South Bank Show." Many began their careers on The South Bank Show including:

    • James Ivory and Ismail Merchant directed and produced two films for The South Bank Show in its first season.
    • Nicholas Evans, a former South Bank Show producer, is the best-selling author of The Horse Whisperer.
    • Mary Harron, a former South Bank Show researcher, is now a Hollywood director - her credits include I Shot Andy Warhol and American Psycho.
    • Kim Evans, former South Bank Show director and producer, became BBC's Head of Arts and Classical Music before becoming Executive Director of Arts, the Arts Council of England.
    • Andy Harries, former South Bank Show director, is now Controller of Drama and Comedy at Granada Television.
    • Dick Pope, former South Bank Show cameraman, now shoots acclaimed British director Mike Leigh's feature films.

  • LAST YEAR, LWT's Deputy Controller of Arts, Gillian Greenwood, helped Judith Keppel become the first TV millionaire when, as Judith's 'Phone a Friend' she correctly completed a Shakespeare quotation to raise the stakes to 250,000.

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