25 random things about Illuminations (again)

9th May 2013

Back in 2009 we ran a blog post that was based on an article in the New York Times which claimed that  the ‘latest digital fad [is] a chain-letter-cum-literary exercise called “25 Random Things About Me”.’ For a while it was big on Facebook, and this was the only excuse the Times needed for its pop psychology: ‘…why this particular distraction has suddenly become a phenomenon is anyone’s guess. For most, it seems to be a creative way to indulge in social networking without coming off as needy or shamelessly self-absorbed.’ The world has moved on a bit since then, as there have been some changes too at Illuminations. Nonetheless, absolved from neediness or self-obsession, we are delighted to offer today the 2013 version of 25 Random Things About Illuminations. 

1. Only one employee has been discovered by us in the Illuminations’ offices in flagrante delicto.

2. We named the company after the the volume of Walter Benjamin essays in which ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ was first published in English.

3. Illuminations (Television) Ltd was officially registered in June 1982, and so we have been in business for over thirty years.

4. In what passed for a mission statement in those days we said that we aimed to make ‘distinctive programmes about contemporary culture’ — and that’s what we’ve done ever since.

5. Among our earliest productions for Channel 4 was the 1984 concert film Once in a Lifetime with David Byrne and Talking Heads. In the same year Jonathan Demme released the concert film Stop Making Sense with David Byrne and Talking Heads.

6. We claim to have produced the first British television programme to use the word ‘internet’; this was MeTV: The Future of Television; this was in an interview with Mitch Kapor.

7. We also believe that our production The Net in 1994 was the first series to feature an e-mail address in the closing credits.

8. This first use of this e-mail address was incorrect, since it failed to include the @ symbol.

9. One of our colleagues had his drink spiked in a New York hotel bar on a filming trip; he woke more than twenty-four hours later to find that his camera, traveller’s cheques and much more had been stolen.

10. We have filmed interviews with one former president of the United States (Jimmy Carter) and two former British prime ministers (Edward Heath, Tony Blair).

11. Other interviewees in our programmes have included Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite, Harrison Ford, Jerry Hall, Jacques Derrida, Barry Diller, David Attenborough, Sylvia Kristal, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Richard Dawkins, Larry Hagman, Jean Baudrillard and Bobby Charlton. At least six of these notables have since died (it was four back in 2009).

12. We produced the infamous as-live Channel 4 discussion Is Painting Dead? in which a somewhat worse for wear Tracey Emin tore off her microphone and flounced off the set.

13. Presenters who have fronted our programmes include Michael Palin, Boris Johnson, Harold Evans, Terry Gilliam, Frank Muir and Jarvis Cocker.

14. In one survey of the lowest rated primetime programmes ever, our (wonderful) film with Fiona Shaw performing T S Eliot’s The Waste Land featured in the ‘top’ ten transmissions.

15. We once produced a live Channel 4 broadcast using virtual cameras entirely from within a three-dimension online world.

16. Our series State of the Art so upset a prominent New York art dealer that she screamed down the phone that she would ensure we never f***ing made a film in the art world again; this conversation took place in 1987.

17. For our film Pandaemonium we wanted to record a shoot a sequence with the artist Stelarc which involved him swallowing a sculpture which would open inside his stomach. The BBC did not allow us to proceed with this.

18. Our live broadcast of the Turner Prize 1995 awards ceremony was interrupted by Channel 4 cutting to a commercial in the middle of Damien Hirst’s acceptance speech.

19. Our awards shelf includes a BAFTA for Best Arts Programme, an International Emmy for Best  Performing Arts Programme, a Peabody Award – and the Contemporary Award at the 2008 International Film Festival on Clay and Glass.

20. We have filmed sequences for our programmes on Super-8, 16mm, Super-16mm and 35mm film, on 1″ videotape, VHS, U-matic, BetaSP, Digi-beta, min-DV, DV CAM and HD CAM tapes, and on RED and Alexa digital cameras as well as an iPhone.

21. We were officially censured for producing a Channel 4 live transmission in which Madonna used the f-word just before the watershed when she announced Martin Creed as the winner of the Turner Prize 2001.

22. For Artland USA we drove a 40-foot recreational vehicle right across the States. Twice. Once from San Diego to Portland, Maine, and once from the Florida Keys to Anchorage.

23. Directors who have made films for us include Julien Temple, Deborah Warner, John Maybury, Tilda Swinton and Phyllida Lloyd. Phyllida directed the feature film of Mamma Mia!, the second-most successful British movie ever, but this was for another company.

24. One of our uploads to YouTube — a clip from State of the Art with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol — has been viewed more than 300,000 times since it was posted.

25. With Channel 4’s funding we produced (separate) programmes with the artist Gary Hill and with the filmmaker Patrick Keiller which Channel 4 have never shown.


  1. craig melson says:

    I remember lolsfesting when reading this 1st time round…..

  2. Ian Mac says:

    How ironic … I had been talking about the infamous Tracey appearance to a colleague – less than 10 minutes before checking today’s blog – only to be reminded yet again that it’s probably the most famous bit of television I have ever been involved in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *