JEREMY Paxman has signed up to host his first new BBC show since stepping down as Newsnight anchor - a documentary marking the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s state funeral.
The veteran broadcaster, who is to front Channel 4’s general election coverage next year, bowed out from his BBC Two news programme in June after a quarter of a century, but continues to appear on the BBC with highbrow quiz series University Challenge.
Now Paxman has been lined up to present the hour-long BBC One documentary Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell to be screened next month as part of a range of programmes to mark the occasion.
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He said: “Like most people who saw it - I was a schoolboy at the time - Churchill’s funeral made a huge impression on me. Fifty years on, I thought it was time to find out whether it was all that it seemed at the time. What was it that made Winston Churchill uniquely worthy of this spectacular send-off?”
Paxman, who has written a number of books about British history, will be seen meeting a range of figures who were involved in the events of the day when the statesman was laid to rest on January 30 1965.
They include soldiers who acted as pallbearers, members of Churchill’s family and a London docker who recalls concerns about how cranes were dipped to salute the passing coffin.
Paxman also meets Mayor of London Boris Johnson, with whom he has regularly crossed swords during political interviews.
BBC One controller Charlotte Moore said: “It is BBC One’s unique role to mark important moments in our history and Jeremy Paxman’s special documentary about the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral does just that.”
Martin Davidson, the commissioning editor for history, said: “Sir Winston Churchill is one of our greatest statesmen and this fascinating documentary shines a light on not only that unique day, but on just what his passing meant to the nation he had steered through some of their darkest days.”
Radio 4 will mark the anniversary with updated repeats of Churchill’s Other Lives in which Professor David Cannadine looks at various aspects of the former prime minister’s life.
BBC Parliament will broadcast original footage of the funeral over a four-hour period on the day of the anniversary, while BBC Two will screen a 2002 documentary about his life - presented by the late Mo Mowlam - from the Great Britons series, as well as the 1972 biopic directed by Lord Attenborough, Young Winston.
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