In commemoration of the miracle of Dunkirk and the decisive victory of the Battle of Britain, Our Finest Hour will see stars of stage and screen Peter Bowles and Kevin Whately host a series of triumphant and rousing concerts across the United Kingdom.

Featuring vocalist Annie Gill and the BBC Big Band, with music director Barry Forgie, Our Finest Hour looks back in the words and music of World War Two, bringing together the famous speeches of Winston Churchill and the best tunes of the time from the dance halls and wireless.

“The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin…

The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.
Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war.

If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free
and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.”

Winston Churchill, 18 June 1940

As Britain stood alone, facing the most fearful odds, Winston Churchill rallied the nation with his historic speeches, laying bare the enormous task that had to be undertaken on the road to final victory. Across the Channel, after the miracle of Dunkirk, the Germans readied their invasion plans but the Battle of Britain denied the Luftwaffe control of the skies and the Nazis turned instead towards attacking the Soviet Union. The music and songs of the era evoke so tellingly the national feelings of pride and determination mixed with typical British humour and a touch of self-deprecation. It really was Our Finest Hour.

From Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields to the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller, the music of the 1940s is as well-loved today as ever. Our Finest Hour will feature iconic songs such as We’ll Meet Again, (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover and A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square as well as some of the classic music the war inspired, including the Dam Busters March and the music from Ron Goodwin’s classic scores to Battle of Britain and 633 Squadron. Dunkirk Spirit and audience participation will be encouraged through rousing performances of Rule, Britannia!, I Vow to Thee My Country, and Land of Hope and Glory.

Our Finest Hour’s spring dates include Birmingham Symphony Hall (13 April), Cardiff St David’s Hall (15 April), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (17 April), Edinburgh Usher Hall (18 April), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (20 April), Southend Cliffs Pavilion (a special St George’s Day performance on 23 April), Gateshead Sage (3 May), Manchester Bridgewater Hall (4 May) and London’s Barbican Hall (5 May).

Autumn dates are The Anvil, Basingstoke (22 September), Leicester De Montfort Hall (23 September), Leeds Town Hall (27 September), Newcastle City Hall (28 September), Ipswich Regent Theatre (30 September), Poole Lighthouse (4 October) and Cambridge Corn Exchange (5 October).


The BBC Big Band

Conductor & Musical Director: Barry Forgie

Join the internationally acclaimed BBC Big Band and conductor Barry Forgie for a celebration the very best of big band, jazz and swing.

Widely regarded as the world’s leading and most versatile Orchestras, The BBC Big Band continues to delight audiences around the world through their broadcasts on BBC Radio and their live performances.

The Band’s musical collaborations read like a ‘who’s who’ of the international music scene, and have included artists as diverse as: Tony Bennett, Martin Taylor, Robert Palmer, Louis Stewart, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Mel Torme, Clark Terry, Michael Buble, Dr John, George Benson, Van Morrison, Georgie Fame and Ray Charles … to name just a few!

In addition to its regular studio and concert recordings, the BBC Big Band regularly gives live performances at major venues around the UK, as well as touring with major music artists abroad. Within the UK, the BBC Big Band is probably best known for its show Big Band Special on BBC Radio 2, as well its appearances on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line Up and BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night. Its performances also reach huge global audiences through its regular broadcasts for the BBC World Service, satellite radio and via the internet.

Live performances have included numerous appearances London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms and also at the ‘Proms in the Park’ series in Hyde Park; at major festivals such as Aberdeen, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Great North and Brecon; as well as performances at the UK’s premier concert venues, such as Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Snape Maltings, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and The Sage Gateshead.

Peter Bowles, presenter

Peter Bowles started his career with the Old Vic Company in 1956 playing small parts in Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida and Richard II. His early career in television consisted mostly of playing villains in such shows as The Avengers, Danger Man, The Saint, The Persuaders!, The Prisoner and Space: 1999.

After playing his first comedy role on TV in an episode of Rising Damp, he swiftly went on to establish himself as a regular in many classic comedy series such as Only When I Laugh, The Bounder and Executive Stress before taking on the part for which he is perhaps still most fondly recognised, Richard De Vere in To the Manor Born. Recent TV includes Murder, Citizen Khan, The Sarah Jane Adventures and the recurring role of the Duke of Wellington in the award-winning ITV series Victoria.

As a writer he devised, and starred in, the drama series Lytton’s Diary, and his idea for a dramatic film became the highly regarded ‘Running Late’ episode of Screen One, written and adapted by Simon Gray, in which Bowles gave his first performance on BBC TV since To the Manor Born fifteen years earlier. The film went on to win The Golden Gate Award in 1993 at the San Francisco International Film Festival and in 2013 was shown to great acclaim at the British Film Institute in London.

Theatre roles have included Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends, also starring Richard Briers, at the Garrick Theatre, Tom Stoppard’s Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land at the Arts Theatre, Archie Rice in John Osborne's The Entertainer at the Shaftesbury Theatre - the first actor to play the part in London. He was cast by Sir Peter Hall in a succession of leading roles in West End theatre. These included Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables opposite Patricia Hodge, George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara with Jemma Redgrave, George S. Kaufman's The Royal Family and Noël Coward's Hay Fever, both opposite Judi Dench at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Bowles played Arnolphe in Molière's The School for Wives at the Piccadilly Theatre and at the Theatre Royal, Bath Rattigan’s The Browning Version. His most recent play for Hall was in Sheridan’s The Rivals, opposite Dame Penelope Keith, again at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

Other West End credits include Coward’s Present Laughter, Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth, Peter Nichols' Born in the Gardens, Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark and in 2004, Simon Gray’s The Old Masters directed by Harold Pinter at the Comedy Theatre. Peter can currently be seen in The Exorcist at The Phoenix Theatre, London.

Film roles have included Live Now, Pay Later (1962), The Informers (1963), Three Hats for Lisa (1965), Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), Laughter in the Dark (1969), Eyewitness (1970), Taste of Excitement (1970), A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972), The Offence (1972), Endless Night (1972), The Legend of Hell House (1973), For the Love of Benji (1977), The Disappearance (1977), Try This One for Size (1989), The Steal (1995), Colour Me Kubrick (2005), The Bank Job (2008), and Alan in Hong Khaou's Lilting (2014) with Ben Whishaw and Cheng Pei-pei.

Annie Gill, vocalist

Annie Gill trained as a classical singer at the Royal Northern College of Music and at the Opera Studio of the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg. She has worked for major opera houses in Europe and the UK performing varied repertoire including works by Bizet, Mozart, Rossini, Britten and Monteverdi. Annie has performed the role of Carmen many times notably for Scottish Opera. Annie is a keen exponent of contemporary opera and has performed new works by composers such as David Sawer, Edward Rushton, Martin Butler and Jonathan Dove.

Highlights of her concert work includes repeat tours of Australia with the Choir of London and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and several European tours with John Eliot Gardiner where she was soloist in performances of the Duruflé Requiem. She has recorded Handel's Messiah and Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Dunedin Consort. Annie recently sang in the premiere of Thea Musgrave’s The Voices of Our Ancestors.

Annie forms part of a jazz and classical duo with pianist Harry Sever. They collaborate on new interpretations of traditional repertoire and on their own compositions. Annie’s grandfather was a saxophonist in dance bands during World War 2 and she is delighted to visit these songs with the BBC Big Band.

Kevin Whately, presenter

Kevin Whately’s theatre credits include Herbie in Gypsy (Chichester), Uncle Peck in How I Learned to Drive (Donmar), Ray Lucas in Snake in the Grass (Old Vic), Juror 8 in Twelve Angry Men (Bristol Old Vic and Comedy Theatre), Daines in Our Own Kind (Bush), John Proctor in The Crucible and Blackmore in The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (Haymarket, Leicester), Tony Lumpkin in She Stoops to Conquer (Oxford Playhouse), Prince Hal in Henry IV (Newcastle), Phil in Bad Language (Hampstead Theatre), Elvis in Operation Elvis (Tricycle), Andy in Accounts (Edinburgh and Riverside Studios) and seasons at Perth, Stoke, Worcester and Newcastle.

Kevin has also made several television appearances including Lewis (9 series), Inspector George Gently, Joe Maddison’s War, Who Do You Think You Are?, The Children, Who Gets the Dog, Footprints in the Snow, Dad, Auf Wiedersehen Pet (4 Series), Belonging, Tamworth Two, Promoted to Glory, Plain Jane, Inspector Morse (7 Series & 4 single films), What Katy Did, Pure Wickedness, The Broker’s Man (2 Series), Gobble, Trip Trap, Peak Practice (3 Series), Skallagrigg, B&B, Night Voice, A Murder is Announced, Shackleton, The Dig and Fair Stood the Wind for France.

His film appearances include Silent Cry, Purely Belter, Return of the Soldier and The English Patient.


Fiery Angel present
with the BBC Big Band

Presented by Kevin Whately

Symphony Hall
Friday 13 April
0121 780 3333

St David's Hall
Sunday 15 April
029 2087 8444

Philharmonic Hall
Tuesday 17 April
0151 709 3789

Usher Hall
Wednesday 18 April
0131 228 1155

Royal Concert Hall
Friday 20 April
0141 353 8000

Cliffs Pavilion
Monday 23 April
01702 351135

Presented by Peter Bowles

Thursday 3 May
0191 443 4661

Bridgewater Hall
Friday 4 May
0161 907 9000

Barbican Hall
Saturday 5 May
020 7638 8891

Presented by Kevin Whately

The Anvil
Saturday 22 September
01256 844 244

De Montfort Hall
Sunday 23 September
0116 233 3111

Town Hall
Thursday 27 September
0113 376 0318

City Hall
Friday 28 September
08448 11 21 21

Regent Theatre
Sunday 30 September
01473 433 100

Thursday 4 October
01202 280000

Corn Exchange
Friday 5 October
01223 357851