For more than six decades BBC1 has inserted brief images between its programmes. These “idents” have included the so-called bat’s wings, a revolving globe, a hot-air balloon and hippopotamuses swimming in a circle.
From today new idents featuring intimate and quirky aspects of British life will appear.
The BBC has commissioned Martin Parr, one of Britain’s leading documentary photographers, to create 24 images and short films on the theme of “oneness”.
“All they made clear to me was that they wanted groups of people with shared interests, and that some should be timed for events of the coming year,” Parr told The Sunday Times.
The first of the idents shows a group of swimmers who bathe off a beach at Clevedon, Somerset, not far from where Parr lives. Groups, usually wearing brightly coloured swimming costumes, have been taking daily dips at Clevedon since the 1930s.
“They do this every day of the year and we’re kicking off with this one, appropriately on New Year’s Day,” said Parr.
The subjects of other photographs and short films will include mountain rescue volunteers in the Brecon Beacons, a keep-fit class and a wheelchair rugby team.
“I gather the BBC are likely to use the rugby one at the start of the Six Nations tournament,” said Parr.
Others still to be shot include people on an allotment, a dancing class and possibly a tennis club to coincide with the Wimbledon championships.
“I want BBC1 to continue to evolve creatively so it’s important that the channel idents continue to move with the times, too, and feel relevant and in touch with a big and broad mainstream audience,” said Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s director of content.
“What better way to demonstrate this than by commissioning Martin Parr to create idents from a series of portraits which reflect and represent the rich diversity of communities living in the UK today.”
Parr’s images bring down the curtain on the series of “circle” idents that have been in use since 2006.
Created to represent unity, they have featured hippopotamuses, surfers, motorcycle stunt riders, fishermen and children performing various acts in a circular motion.
They were commissioned by Peter Fincham, the then BBC1 controller, who drew criticism for spending more than £1m on them.
The BBC declined to say how much Parr’s idents will cost, but said all the work was being done in-house.
Before the circles, BBC1 used idents themed around “rhythm and movement” for four years. They featured people at various locations dancing in different styles such as the Maori haka and ballet.
However, they proved unpopular with viewers, not least because they replaced the memorable hot air balloon, which ran from 1997 to 2002.
The dancers also represented a departure from a globe theme, which had been in use in various incarnations since 1953. The first bat’s wings ident featured a rotating globe surrounded by two spinning “eyes” with lightning flashes to either side.
Parr, who has won numerous awards, is thrilled that his work will be seen daily by millions. “It’s nice of course doing exhibitions and publishing books but my work on BBC1 will bring me a far, far larger audience,” he said.