Christmas specials on Radio 4

Presenters from the past and present will make up the Christmas schedule on BBC Radio 4 this year. Drama includes Sir Ian McKellen as the lead in Simon Armitage's Afternoon Play of the anonymous poem Sir Gawain And The Green Knight.

Other drama includes Rhys Ifans reading an extract from Dylan Thomas's classic Christmas tale A Child's Christmas In Wales on Christmas Eve.

King Lear On Boxing Day is a special programme, presented by Francine Stock, to mark the 400th anniversary of the first production of Shakespeare's King Lear whilst Radio Academy Director Trevor Nunn makes his radio debut directing Tom Stoppard's award-winning masterpiece The Real Thing on 30th December.

There is also an adaptation of Simon Gray's play Little Nell which tells the story of Charles Dickens' love affair with the young actress Ellen Ternan.

The lives of favourite children's writers Beatrix Potter and Lewis Carroll are also under the spotlight. The people and places that inspired Beatrix Potter are discussed in The Natural History Of Beatrix Potter whilst her first complete biography is the subject of Beatrix Potter – A Life In Nature.

The Mystery Of Lewis Carroll blows apart some of the myths that surround Charles Dodgson, the man behind the Lewis Carroll pseudonym.

Comedy also gets a good outing this season as Caroline Quentin and James Fleet star in the comedy drama Late, especially written for New Year's Day.

Phill Jupitus gets into the seasonal spirit in Christmas Crackers as he recalls the way TV and radio have celebrated Christmas Day over the last 70 years. And latter-day Shakespeare convert Lenny Henry shows his appreciation for the Bard in Lenny and Will: Act Two.

Favourites are also back this Christmas as the award-winning Clare In The Community starts its third series and fans are treated to The Best Of The Now Show and News Quiz Of The Year.

To welcome in the New Year, Radio 4 has a musical special on New Year's Eve from 8 to 11pm. The night begins with first night jitters discussed in First Night: West Side Story (8.30-9pm) before the art form is explored in greater detail in The Anatomy Of The Musical (9.30-10pm). Then, as the New Year approaches, all things Sound Of Music are enjoyed in The Hills Are Alive (10-11pm).

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