George Fenton (b. 1949) began composing professionally in the mid-1970s for theatre productions by (amongst others) the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. His early work with playwright Alan Bennett on Forty Years On (1968) and with Peter Gill at London's Riverside Studios led to numerous commissions for BBC TV where, in addition to other Bennett productions, he wrote signature tunes for all the regular BBC news bulletins (including the One O'Clock News, Six O'Clock News, Nine O'Clock News, Newsnight and BBC Breakfast) and several popular drama series (Bergerac, Shoestring, The Monocled Mutineer). Fenton's later scores for the BBC Natural History Unit achieved a new high standard for the genre, utilizing full orchestra and choir rather than the low-budget synthesized music which had been in vogue in the 1980s. His groundbreaking music for The Blue Planet (2001) won Ivor Novello, BAFTA and Emmy awards for Best Television Score, while Planet Earth (2006) was awarded an Emmy and a Classical Brit. The phenomenal popularity of these wildlife scores resulted in recordings and live touring performances with major orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and Philharmonia, featuring large-screen HD projections of the BBC footage and presented at diverse venues ranging from regional concert halls to the Hollywood Bowl.
Fenton's early work with Gill at Riverside Studios came to the attention of Michael Attenborough, who introduced him to his father, the distinguished actor and film director Richard Attenborough. For the latter, Fenton composed his first feature-film score – for Gandhi (1982) – the success of which auspiciously launched a career in the movies characterized by an unusual stylistic versatility, and which was to include Academy Award nominations for Gandhi, Cry Freedom (1987), Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and The Fisher King (1991). Alongside his steady output of scores for mainstream productions in both the United States and United Kingdom, many of which are discussed below, Fenton has continued to work extensively with the independent British director Ken Loach, their collaborations including Ladybird, Ladybird (1994), Land and Freedom (1995), My Name is Joe (1998), The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006), Route Irish (2010) and Jimmy's Hall (2014).