Neil has a rummage through William's treasure chest

Radio 2012

Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects was the best series on the radio in 2010, a magnificently wide-ranging survey of humanity.

For his difficult second album, the Director of the British Museum narrows his focus in the 20-part Shakespeare's Restless World (Radio 4), examining those turbulent times through some of the artifacts left behind. Likely to coincide with the Olympic Games, if it's half as good as Objects it'll still be one of the best things on the radio in 2012.

It forms part of the BBC's Cultural Olympiad programming (see Holly Williams on page 57) , which is going Bard-bonkers: Radio 3 has The Tempest, which, it says here, "will focus on the soundscape of Prospero's island"; also on 3, "Shakespeare Around the Globe" on The Essay, with non-Anglophone writers ruminating on his significance for them; and My Shakespeare – everyone from artists to politicians sharing their Will-related passions.

Organised sport and Shakespeare are probably Britain's two biggest gifts to the world (apart from Simon Cowell, obviously), and starting at the end of January, the estimable Clare Balding fronts a 30-part daily series, Sport and the British, on Radio 4. The BBC's Olympic presence come August will be mighty, and in the build-up Radio 2 weighs in with a Best of British season, with programmes like The Ballad of the Games, which if it's anything like the previous Ballad ... programmes, such as the one in 2010 about the miners' strike, should be fantastic. The BBC will also launch a temporary radio station during the Games, – 5 Live Olympics Extra.

The Proms have been co-opted as part of the Cultural Olympiad (which might feel like an unnecessary add-on to the main event but do in fact hark back to the ancient Games, when poets such as Pindar composed odes to the victors). The programme includes Daniel Barenboim leading the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth, the culmination of his complete Beethoven symphony cycle, on the opening day of the Olympics.

You can imagine the 100 Objects template being applied to any subject that can offer up a few artefacts, and the eight-part Saturday-morning The Art of Monarchy, starting next month on Radio 4, sounds as if it should carry an "inspired by" tag. The BBC arts correspondent, Will Gompertz, explores the history of our kings and queens through their acquisitions – such as the "secret portrait", commissioned by Victoria as a present for Albert, depicting herself with her hair – gasp! – unravelled.

The Dickensfest in progress in the run-up to his February bicentenary continues: The Mumbai Chuzzlewits – his satire on filthy lucre transplanted to the India of today – kicks off with the first of three instalments today on Radio 4, and next month Woman's Hour incorporates Dickens in London, five short plays inspired by his newspaper pieces about walking in the metropolis – Antony Sher and Alex Jennings are among those who play the great man.

There are also a few big numbers on Radio 2: loungecore lovers may care to note Celebrating 60, an 11-parter presented by Ken Bruce starting on 20 January, marking the BBC Concert Orchestra's diamond jubilee, while in February Michael Grade: My Life on the Box begins. Eight parts might seem to be stretching things a bit, but he has been a player for decades, so he'll have much to tell. In April Paul Gambaccini attempts nothing less than A History of Music Radio.

Finally, if things had gone to plan, I'd now be using this space to bid farewell to the Asian Network, which was scheduled for the chop. In March, the BBC relented in favour of cutting its budget in half. A reason to be half-cheerful, at least.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?