Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams said she's giving 'serious thought' to appointing an artist in residence. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer
Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams is to refocus the network's schedule on arts and culture which she said has been overshadowed by the recent emphasis on global political and economic uncertainties.
Williams said that she wanted to bring the public's attention to the vast amount of arts and drama on her network through a series of new commissions.
"We are in for very much a long haul with this," she said, speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, promising that her network would become more of a "playground for artists and writers".
"There is a new mood abroad and now feels like the right time to put the emphasis on culture on Radio 4," she said, adding that in a time of low economic growth "people turn to culture ... they need nourishment and want pleasure and enjoyment".
Among many plans to facilitate this Williams said she is giving "serious thought" to appointing a Radio 4 artist in residence.
She said that a range of new commissions will include a new series fronted by Melvyn Bragg which will analyse the role of culture in society and is set to air in the first week of 2013.
Journalist Mark Lawson will also present a narrative history of European detectives in the autumn.
To complement this, the network also plans to dramatise ten Martin Beck crime novels by the Swedish husband and wife team, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, seen as one of the most influential crime series ever. Five episodes will air this autumn and five next year, starring Steven Mackintosh, who appeared in BBC1 drama Luther, as Beck.
Williams also plans a Radio 4 series focusing on characters in drama, and is considering a series in which well-known writers update existing works.
Artists supporting the initiative include Antony Gormley, poet Ruth Padel, musician Brian Eno and novelist Marina Warner.
The list of new Radio 4 arts commissions also include a day of programming to mark Bloomsday on 16 June, the anniversary of James Joyce's novel Ulysees, which will feature a five-and-a-half hour dramatisation of the epic novel – the first UK dramatisation of the whole novel.
The production, which will see 24 actors dramatise key parts of the book, will see actors Henry Goodman and Andrew Scott, winner of the 2012 Bafta TV best supporting actor award for his role as Moriarty in Sherlock, play characters Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus respectively.
Williams said she wants to bring Radio 4's dramas, which are regularly attracting one million listeners for its afternoon slot, to greater public attention – about as many people as those paying for tickets to the National Theatre's three venues in an average year, Williams pointed out.
"There is so much wonderful culture on Radio 4 – I just want to highlight it and make it beat louder," said Williams.