Arts & Ideas

Leading artists, writers, thinkers discuss the ideas shaping our lives & links between past & present and new academic research.


  • Proms Plus: Nina Simone's life and legacy

    Aug 22 2019

    Nina Simone - singer, pianist, civil rights activist and black feminist icon -- Kevin Legendre, Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Zena Edwards discuss her achievements and legacy. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Proms Plus: Beethoven's 9th Symphony

    Aug 21 2019

    Presenter Seán Williams discusses Beethoven the man and. Through a series of readings we learn what inspired the composer’s work.

  • Proms Plus: Kipling's Jungle Books

    Aug 21 2019

    Anindya Raychaudhuri discusses Kipling's Jungle Books with children's novelist Frances Hardinge and academic Sue Walsh, recorded in front of an audience at Imperial College Union. How does Kipling use language to create character and discuss identity? And can we separate the adventure and storytelling from the imperialist baggage of the Jungle Books? Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • Proms Plus: Russian Folktales

    Aug 21 2019

    Enter a world where huts walk on chicken legs, fish grant wishes and Baba Yaga sharpens her iron tooth with writers Marina Warner and Sophie Anderson. Presented by Victoria Donovan. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • Revisit Slavery Stories, William Melvyn Kelley & Esi Edugyan

    Aug 18 2019

    New research on slavery with historians Christienna Fryar, Kevin Waite, and Andrea Livesey. A Different Drummer was the debut novel of Kelley - first published when he was 24. Compared to William Faulkner and James Baldwin, it was forgotten until an article about it led to republication. Kelley died aged 79 in 2017. His story imagines the day the black population of a Southern US town decide to get up and all go. Canadian writer Esi Edugyan has imagined a black slave becoming a scientist in her...more

  • What Victorians Did For Fun

    Aug 16 2019

    Historians Lee Jackson and Kathryn Hughes discuss what kept Queen Victoria's subjects amused indoors and outdoors. Presenter: Rana Mitter Kathryn Hughes, historian and author of Victorians Unbound Lee Jackson, the author of Palaces of Pleasure, How the Victorians invented Mass Entertainment.

  • Proms Plus: Literary Hoaxes

    Aug 16 2019

    Berlioz originally presented an early version of The Shepherd's Farewell - part of The Childhood of Christ, at this year's Proms - as the work of ‘Ducré’. It soon emerged that Ducré was not a forgotten 17th century composer, but a hoax created to satirize Parisian high society. Shahidha Bari presents an exploration of the literary hoax - from Thomas Chatterton's invented 15th century monk to faked Shakespeare deeds and a racy "discovered" diary. She is joined Nick Groom, Professor of English at...more

  • Revisit Napoleon in Fact and Fiction

    Aug 15 2019

    From Napoleon impersonators, caricature and ballads, to a play which asks what if he didn't die in exile - presenter Anne McElvoy is joined by actor and director Kathryn Hunter, biographer Michael Broers, historians Oskar Cox Jensen and Laura O'Brien and journalist Nabila Ramdani who looks at how Napoleon is viewed in 21st century France Michael Broers has published the second instalment of his biography which is called Napoleon The Spirit of The Age. Oskar Cox Jensen has published Napoleon and...more

  • Revisit Mike Leigh in Conversation about Peterloo, politics and his Salford upbringing.

    Aug 14 2019

    Recorded as his film Peterloo opened in cinemas and repeated now to mark this week's 200th anniversary of the Manchester massacre

  • Proms Plus: Childhood, innocence and experience

    Aug 13 2019

    The award-winning author of young adult novels, Patrice Lawrence and historian Emma Butcher - who specialises in 19th century child soldiers - discuss the construction of childhood past and present with New Generation Thinker and literary scholar, Lisa Mullen. New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run annually by the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to turn early career academics into broadcasters.

  • Proms Plus: 'Queering' Tchaikovsky

    Aug 12 2019

    Tchaikovsky’s letters to his brothers and to his nephew - to whom his final Symphony, the Pathétique, is dedicated - are fascinating insights into the composer’s turbulent life and work. Though his sexuality has, in particular, long been a topic of speculation, it is only recently that many of these previously suppressed letters have come to light. Shahidha Bari presents a selection of the most intimate, witty and revelatory ones, with readings by actor and writer Tom Stuart. She is also joine...more

  • Proms Plus: Edgar Allan Poe

    Aug 08 2019

    Novelist and Gothic literature specialist Elizabeth Lowry joins the writer, documentarist, film-maker and psycho-geographer Iain Sinclair to discuss the dark glitter of the Gothic and the work of the American poet Edgar Allan Poe, with presenter Matthew Sweet. Elizabeth Lowry’s latest book is entitled 'Dark Water' Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • Proms Plus: Tragedy

    Aug 08 2019

    One way that people deal with grief and suffering is to turn to tragic stories for example and catharsis. Rana Mitter discusses tragedy, ancient and modern with the award-winning poet Clare Pollard, author of ‘Ovid’s Heroines’, and the literary historian, Jennifer Wallace, whose new book is ‘Tragedy Since 9 /11’ Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Proms Plus: Swans

    Aug 05 2019

    In 2017, Sacha Dench, founder of Conservation Without Borders, flew the 4,000 mile migration route of Bewick swans from Arctic Russia to the UK in a paraglider. Drawing on her experience, the ‘Human Swan’ talks about the birds that have become symbolic of love, beauty, and mystery. Dance critic Sarah Crompton talks about the numerous productions of Swan Lake that she has seen and why the ballet has become such a staple of the repertoire.. Presenter Hetta Howes. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • Revisit Spike Lee in Conversation on Free Thinking

    Aug 05 2019

    Since 1983, Spike Lee's production company has produced over 35 films. His 1989 film Do The Right Thing was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in the Academy Awards. Best Picture that year went to Driving Miss Daisy. 30 years on Do the Right Thing has been re-released in cinemas in the UK and BlacKkKlansman is now out on DVD. It won Best Adapted Screenplay in the 2019 Academy Awards where Best Picture went to Green Book.

  • Proms Plus: Nordic Summers Light and Dark

    Aug 04 2019

    Taking their inspiration from the Russian and Finnish composers of 2019 Prom 22, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and an audience at Imperial College London hear from Mythos Podcaster Nicole Schmidt and the musical scholar and New Generation Thinker Leah Broad about the role of legends and landscapes in north European music. They'll be talking trolls and suncream, the political dimension of being folk or not folk enough, and the peculiar potency of midsummer with its emphasis on fertility, creation ...more

  • Proms Plus: 1969 The Sound of a Summer

    Jul 26 2019

    1996 was the summer of Woodstock, the moon landing, the Beatles’ Abbey Road and a gathering of beat poets at the Royal Albert Hall. Author and New Generation Thinker Preti Taneja is joined by poets Rachael Allen and Jacob Polley to take an un-nostalgic look at how the Sixties appear now. We'll also hear them perform some of their own poetry. The discussion is inspired by the programme for the Proms concert for Prom 11 The Sound of a Summer. For 30 days following the concert you can hear the...more

  • Proms Plus: Music and Health

    Jul 24 2019

    Naomi Paxton discusses the latest science and clinical practice with psychologist Dr Daisy Fancourt, a psychologist and epidemiologist who studies the relationship between music and health, and Dr Simon Opher, a GP in Gloucestershire who prescribes music and other cultural practices for his patients. Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • Proms Plus: Moon Landing

    Jul 22 2019

    As the Proms marks the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landings, Professor Richard Wiseman, author of ‘Shoot For The Moon’ and Melanie Vandenbrouck the lead curator of the Moon exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich join Rana Mitter to discuss the legacy of the Apollo 11 mission. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Book Parts and Difficulty

    Jul 19 2019

    Matthew Sweet looks at book frontispieces, dust jackets, footnotes, indexes and marginalia with Dennis Duncan, and explores a research project investigating difficulty in culture, with Professor Sarah Knight and Dr Hannah Crawforth. Plus, New Generation Thinker Jeffrey Howard discusses hate speech. Jeffrey Howard lectures in political theory at University College London and is a 2019 New Generation Thinker on the scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to put a...more

  • New angles on post-war Germany and Austria

    Jul 17 2019

    Anne McElvoy and new ways of understanding post-war Germany and Austria through history, film and literature with Florian Huber, Sophie Hardach, Adam Scovell and Tom Smith. Florian Huber Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself explores a little understood wave of suicides across Germany towards the end of the Third Reich Sophie Hardach's latest novel called Confession with Blue Horses follows a family living in East Berlin who try to escape to the West. Adam Scovell is a film critic and author whose...more

  • New Thinking: Neolithic Revelations

    Jul 17 2019

    Hetta Howes learns that the absence of dental floss in the Neolithic era has left archaeologists with invaluable information about how our ancestors lived and where they travelled to. While piles of pig bones near Stonehenge reveal a communal society that used feasting as a form of negotiation. Penny Bickle and Jim Leary, who both lecture in the University of York's Department of Archaeology, uncover their findings from research projects in the Vale of Pewsey, Alsace and Stonehenge. Penny's curr...more

  • New Thinking: Shakespeare's Language

    Jul 17 2019

    Encyclopedia of Shakespeare's Language uses corpus linguistics, a statistical method that collates data on how frequently words are used and how often particular words appear alongside each other, to investigate Shakespeare's work. And the results are startling. John Gallagher talks to Professor Jonathan Culpeper and Professor Alison Findlay, both from Lancaster University, about how the project works, and the light it's shedding both on how Shakespeare worked as a writer, and on the development...more

  • New Thinking: Pregnancy Puzzles

    Jul 17 2019

    What is the metaphysical status of an unborn fetus in relation to its mother? Is it possible to know what pregnancy will mean for you before you become pregnant? How can the distinction between having a duty to do something and acting for a reason help us make sense of debates surrounding breast feeding? And why have philosophers of the past had so little to say on these matters? Hetta Howes gets to grips with the conceptual puzzles surrounding pregnancy and early motherhood with the philosopher...more

  • New Thinking: City Talk

    Jul 17 2019

    Greater Manchester was created in the 1970s, bringing together areas that had previously been parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, as well as the City of Manchester itself. These areas all had (and have) quite different accents, so Erin Carrie and Rob Drummond, of Manchester Metropolitan University, have set out to document the accents of Greater Manchester, as a way of investigating whether there's a Greater Manchester identity, and what it is if there is one. John Gallagher talks to ...more

  • Camille Paglia

    Jul 16 2019

    Writer, feminist and author of such books as Sexual Personae and Provocations, Camille Paglia joins Philip Dodd to talk about feminism and free speech in the 21st century, and how her Italian heritage has contributed to her character. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith

  • An insider's view of war

    Jul 11 2019

    Ex marine and journalist Elliot Ackerman talks with Iraq war political advisor Emma Sky. A novel by Shiromi Pinto tracing the life of Sri Lankan architect Minnette de Silva. New Generation Thinker Christina Faraday researches the history of pop-up anatomy books. Rana Mitter presents. Elliot Ackerman has written Places and Names. Emma Sky has written In a Time of Monsters. Shiromi Pinto has written Plastic Emotions You can hear a Free Thinking discussion about Why We Fight with Former army off...more

  • Caine Prize. Ivo van Hove. Female Desire.

    Jul 10 2019

    The Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove on staging Ayn Rand's ideas in The Fountainhead. 'The theme of my novel', said Ayn Rand, 'is the struggle between individualism and collectivism, not in the political arena but in the human soul. Plus Shahidha Bari meets Lesley Nneka Arimah, the winner of the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing and looks at sex lives on screen and in print. How much do women share and how quickly do ideas about shame and acceptance come into play? Zoe Strimpel researche...more

  • Landmark: Iris Murdoch's The Sovereignty of Good

    Jul 10 2019

    Matthew Sweet and guests look at the thought and writing of Iris Murdoch 100 years on from her birth, re-reading her work of moral philosophy she published in 1970, drawing on lectures she had given at universities in England and America. With Lucy Bolton, who has written about Iris Murdoch, philosophy and cinema, novelist and critic Bidisha, and friend of Iris Murdoch Peter J Conradi, who is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Kingston. The Iris Murdoch Research Centre is at th...more

  • Reinventing the 'Mistake on the Lake'.

    Jul 04 2019

    Philip Dodd hosts a special programme recorded in Cleveland, Ohio. Once a booming manufacturing metropolis located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, this 'rust belt' city has for many years been synonymous with industrial decay and high unemployment. For many the city's fortunes changed in 1969 when industrial pollution on the Cuyahoga river caught fire causing an environmental catastrophe, earning the city the moniker 'the mistake on the lake', a pejorative term it still struggles to shake of...more

  • Russia and Fear.

    Jul 04 2019

    Rana Mitter considers fearing Russia past and present with Mark B Smith, and the way Russia controlled fears over Chernobyl. Plus Tamar Koplatadze from the University of Oxford on her research into contemporary post-Soviet/colonial women writers’ responses to the fall of the Soviet Union, Victoria Donovan from the University of St Andrews outlines her project in the Donbass region of Ukraine that attempts to reconcile an industrial, Soviet past with an uncertain future and Yu Jie, Research Fello...more

  • Free Thinking: Language and Belonging

    Jul 03 2019

    Preti Taneja talks to the winner of the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize, Guy Gunaratne, Egyptian graphic novelist Deena Mohamed, poet and broadcaster, Michael Rosen, Iranian-American author Dina Nayeri and Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri. Guy Gunaratne's first novel In Our Mad and Furious City imagines events over 48 hours on a London council estate evoking the voices of different residents. It was the winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Jhalak Prize as well as the Authors Club Best ...more

  • Amitav Ghosh. Layla and Majnun. Islam Issa.

    Jun 28 2019

    Amitav Ghosh on linking refugees, climate change, Venice & Bengali forests in his fiction. New Generation Thinker Islam Issa on Epstein's Lucifer sculpture. Rana Mitter presents. Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh weaves the ancient legend about the goddess of snakes, Manasa Devi into a journey between America, the Sundarbans and Venice. You can also find Amitav Ghosh talking to Free Thinking about the need for fiction to reflect climate change here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07z7bnd The emoti...more

  • Cindy Sherman, Laura Cumming

    Jun 26 2019

    The art of Cindy Sherman; art critic Laura Cumming on finding out the history behind the days her mother disappeared as a child on a Lincolnshire beach, New Generation Thinker Susan Greaney on local history museums. Naomi Paxton presents and joining her to talk about Cindy Sherman are Laura Cumming, the actor Adjoa Andoh, photographer Juno Calypso and New Generation Thinker Joe Moshenska from the University of Oxford. Laura Cumming's memoir is called On Chapel Sands and it is being read as the...more

  • Jane Goodall, Elif Shafak

    Jun 26 2019

    Jane Goodall is giving a talk at the British Academy on the work of the Jane Goodall Foundation with chimpanzees, protecting the environment with local communities and improving health and education for girls in rural Africa. Elif Shafak's latest novel is called 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in this Strange World and looks at the death of a sex worker and the last moments of her life. Elif Shafak has been vocal in her concerns about freedom of speech in modern day Turkey. Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • The Hard Man in the Call-Centre

    Jun 21 2019

    New Generation Thinker Alistair Fraser on the fates and fortunes of Glaswegian tough guys. Recorded with an audience at the York Festival of Ideas. To hear audience questions download the Essay as an episode of the BBC Arts&Ideas podcast. The image of the hard man runs like an electric current through Glasgow's history. Unafraid, unabashed, with outlaw swagger, he stalks the pages of countless crime novels and TV dramas. The unpredictable tough guy, schooled in both fist and knife, a symbol of...more

  • James Ellroy

    Jun 20 2019

    Philip Dodd is in conversation with the American author James Ellroy, whose books include LA Confidential and his latest, This Storm, part of his ongoing project to write a novelistic history of the USA from 1941 to 1972. As he tells Philip Dodd, in a conversation that ranges from Calvinism to Chandler, Count Basie to late Beethoven: "As my literary sensibility becomes more patriotic, more conservatism, more religious, more sentimental, more fraternal, I find an era to write about where I can...more

  • 'Bedford, do you call this thing a coat?' The history of the three-piece suit

    Jun 20 2019

    New Generation Thinker Sarah Goldsmith's Essay introduces an audience at York Festival of Ideasto Beau Brummel and others who have understood the mixed messages of suits through time. England football coach Gareth Southgate's pitch-side waistcoats and 007's exquisite collection of Tom Ford suits all make one thing clear: sweatpants are out and the formal man's suit, along with its tailor, has triumphantly returned. From the colourful flamboyances of the eighteenth century to the dandy dictates...more

  • Catch 22, Recycling fashion, Fred D'Aguiar, Wu Mali

    Jun 20 2019

    Anne McElvoy, former Colonel Lincoln Jopp MC & novelist Benjamin Markovits on the new TV Catch-22. Jade Halbert on recycling fashion. Poet Fred D'Aguiar on winning the Cholmondeley Prize and Wu Mali on socially engaged art. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Comrades in Arms

    Jun 19 2019

    New Generation Thinker Tom Smith's Essay argues that the East German army had a reputation for unbending masculinity so it's surprising how central queerness was to the enterprise. Recorded with an audience at the York Festival of Ideas. Brutality along the Berlin Wall, monumental Soviet-style parades, rows of saluting soldiers: these are the familiar images of the East German military. Army training promoted toughness, endurance and self-control and forced its soldiers into itchy, shapeless u...more

  • Landmark: Finnegans Wake

    Jun 19 2019

    Eimear McBride is the author of A Girl is a Half-formed Thing and The Lesser Bohemians Professor Finn Fordham from Royal Holloway, University of London is the author of Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake: I do I undo I redo: and he edited Finnegans Wake for Oxford World Classics Eleanor Lybeck is a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker teaches at the University of Oxford and is the author of All on Show: The Circus in Irish Literature and Culture. Derek Pyle is the director of Waywords & Meansigns, an expe...more

  • Sword to Pen. Redcoat and the rise of the military memoir

    Jun 18 2019

    New Generation Thinker Emma Butcher on the first soldier memoirs to talk about pain, terror and trauma. The Napoleonic Wars, like all wars, had their celebrities. Chief among them, Wellington and Napoleon, whose petty rivalry and military bravado ensured their status as household names long after Waterloo. But these wars also saw the rise of a new genre of personal and emotional war literature which took the public by storm. The writers were foot soldiers rather than officers, infantrymen like G...more

  • The well-groomed Georgian

    Jun 17 2019

    New Generation Thinker Alun Withey on what made 18th-century men shave off centuries of manly growth. Recorded before an audience at the York Festival of Ideas. You can hear audience questions from the event as an episode of the BBC Arts&Ideas podcast. To be clean-shaven was the mark of a C18 gentleman, beard-wearing marked out the rough rustic. For the first time, men were beginning to shave themselves instead of visiting the barber, and a whole new market emerged to cater for rising demand in...more

  • Afropean Identities. Filming the Arab Spring.

    Jun 14 2019

    Johny Pitts, Caryl Phillips and Nat Illumine discuss the idea of Afropean identity with Matthew Sweet. Plus New Generation Thinker Dina Rezk on Jehane Noujaim's Oscar nominated documentary The Square and Egyptian politics. Georgia Parris discusses her first film Mari - a family drama of birth, death and contemporary dance. Johny Pitts is one of the team behind https://afropean.com/ an online multimedia, multidisciplinary journal exploring the social, cultural and aesthetic interplay of black a...more

  • Michael Rakowitz, Archaeology Now, Epic Journeys and Facial Disfigurement

    Jun 12 2019

    The American sculptor Michael Rakowitz on how his own Iraqi heritage drove him to make art about the disappearance of artefacts and people. From shame to sympathy - New Generation Thinker Emily Cock looks at the way the British State used facial disfigurement to mark criminals for life. Nicholas Jubber has travelled Europe from Iceland to Turkey exploring the popularity of ancient epic tales - and ahead of the British Academy's summer showcase, we hear from Turkey about new ways of involving loc...more

  • Breaking Down the Barriers

    Jun 11 2019

    Rana Mitter hears about a project that assesses the experiences of Muslim women in the UK cultural industries and talks to political artist John Keane. Author Katherine Rundell explains why adults should be reading children's books. Plus New Generation Thinker Majed Akhter on the sailor and activist Dada Amir Haider Khan and why his global approach to workers' rights has lessons for us now. Beyond Faith: Muslim Women Artists Today which includes work by Usarae Gul is at the Whitworth, Mancheste...more

  • Orwell's 1984. A Landmark of Culture.

    Jun 06 2019

    Peter Pomerantsev, Joanna Kavenna, New Generation Thinker Lisa Mullen and Dorian Lynskey join Matthew Sweet to debate George Orwell's vision of a world of surveillance, war and propaganda published in June 1949. How far does his vision of the future chime with our times and what predictions might we make of our own future ? Dorian Lynskey has written The Ministry of Truth Joanna Kavenna's new novel Zed - a dystopian absurdist thriller is published in early July. Peter Pomerantsev's new book T...more

  • Is the Law keeping up with our changing world?

    Jun 05 2019

    A panel of researchers share insights into the law and warfare, gender and AI & Anne McElvoy talks to David Brooks and Hilary Cottam about compassion and creating communities. Part of a week long focus Free Thinking the Future. You can find more interviews and discussions to download and catch up with on the playlist on our website https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03zwn4d Best selling US author and columnist David Brooks has just published The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. You...more

  • AI and creativity: what makes us human?

    Jun 04 2019

    Joy Buolamwini founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and MIT media lab researcher, Anders Sandberg of the Future of the Human Institute at Oxford, artist Anna Ridler & Sheffield Robotics' Michael Szollosy join Matthew Sweet and an audience at the Barbican to debate whether creativity is something uniquely human. AI: More Than Human runs at the Barbican Gallery until August 26th 2019. Part of a week long focus Free Thinking the Future. You can find more interviews and discussions to downl...more

  • Simon Schama, Siri Hustvedt, Catherine Fletcher at Hay.

    May 30 2019

    How does writing about art help us embrace a new way of seeing the work ? Rana Mitter is joined at the Hay Festival by the novelist and art essayist Siri Hustvedt , the writer and broadcaster Simon Schama and, marking the 500th anniversary of the Italian Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci, the Radio 3/AHRC New Generation Thinker and historian of Renaissance and early modern Europe Catherine Fletcher. Siri Hustvedt’s books include her novels What I Loved, The Summer without Men and The Blazi...more

  • Landmark: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

    May 29 2019

    Rachel Carson’s passionate book, Silent Spring, first published in 1962 is said to be the work which launched the environmental movement. But how does it speak to us now? For a recording of Free Thinking’s Cultural Landmark series at the Hay Festival, presenter Rana Mitter is joined by guests Tony Juniper, Emily Shuckburgh, Dieter Helm and Kapka Kassabova. Tony Juniper is a campaigner, sustainability adviser and writer of work including Saving Planet Earth and How many lightbulbs does it take...more

  • Stanley Spencer, Domestic Servants, Surrogacy

    May 22 2019

    Author Nicola Upson has imagined the life of Stanley Spencer from the viewpoint of his maidservant. Ella Parry-Davies researches the lives of women from the Philippines who work as domestic and care workers. The novel The Farm by Joanne Ramos imagines a surrogacy service provided by Filippina women for wealthy American clients. Gulzaar Barn researches the ethics of surrogacy. Naomi Paxton presents. Nicola Upson has turned from novels featuring Josephine Tey as a detective to write a potrait of...more

  • Censorship and sex

    May 22 2019

    Matthew Sweet hears from Naomi Wolf about ways in which the state interfered in the private lives of its citizens in the 19th century, resulting in a penal codification of homosexuality with long-reaching consequences. They're joined by literary scholar Sarah Parker who tells the story of Michael Field, the pseudonym of two female poets and dramatists who sought literary fame in the late 19th century, and by philosopher Luis de Miranda who explains why neon is good to think with as a metaphor fo...more

  • Sebald. Anti-semitism. Carolyn Forché

    May 16 2019

    The walking & photographs of WG Sebald on show in Norwich, American poet Carolyn Forché on the stranger who gave her an insider's view of politics in El Salvador whilst she was in her '20s. Plus an exhibition of money and Jewish history. Laurence Scott presents. Adam Scovell, Philippa Comber and Sean Williams discuss the influence of the German writer WG Sebald who settled in Norfolk. His novel The Rings of Saturn follows a narrator walking in Suffolk, and in part explores links between the cou...more

  • Rivers, different cultures, different values

    May 15 2019

    Should we widen the net of who has a say over river management and would this be better for our rivers and ultimately ourselves. What are rivers themselves trying to tell us. Shahidha Bari meets four people with artistic, scholarly and personal relationships with fresh running water. Veronica Strang has studied the way peoples and rivers interact around the world and contributed the UN's work on bringing culture into water management; poet John Clarke is working on a poetic soundscape of one po...more

  • Free Thinking:Homi Bhabha: On Memory and Migration

    May 15 2019

    With an audience at the British Library, Professor Bhabha gives a short talk and discusses ideas about nations and a postcolonial approach to politics, literature and history. Shahidha Bari hosts in a Free Thinking event organised with the Royal Society of Literature. ‘Nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realise their horizons in the mind’s eye. Such an image of the nation – or narration – might seem impossibly romantic and excessively metaphorical,...more

  • Rivers and geopolitics

    May 14 2019

    The worlds large water infrastructure projects often result in geo-political flashpoints - Rana Mitter hears from Majed Akhter about problems from the US to Pakistan while Dustin Garrick outlines a water crisis that is also a crisis in governance and why new management of the Murray-Darling basin in Australia may provide hints about a way forward. And aside from Romulus and Remus, what prompted the founding of Ancient Rome. Archaeologist Andrea Brock outlines her new research that shows the eme...more

  • Sergio Leone, Kubrick, Magic & the Mind.

    May 10 2019

    Matthew Sweet talks Spaghetti Westerns and Sergio Leone with Christopher Frayling and Samira Ahmed. They also look at the film worlds of Stanley Kubrick as an exhibition runs at London's Design Museum. Plus magic, mind games and the role of the magician's assistant. New Generation Thinker Naomi Paxton and Gustav Kuhn from Goldsmiths, University of London bring their conjuring tricks into the studio. You can hear Christopher Frayling with Brian Cox and the actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood di...more

  • Chaucer. Bernardine Evaristo.

    May 08 2019

    Anne McElvoy reads a new biography of Chaucer by Marion Turner called Chaucer: A European Life and talks to writer Bernardine Evaristo about her depiction of 12 characters aged 12 to 93 in her novel Girl, Woman, Other and to Candice Carty-Williams about her best-selling first novel and podcast Queenie. Plus Matt Wolf looks at representations of money, capitalism and the American dream on stage. You can hear Queenie being read on BBC Radio 4 here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p075drzy All M...more

  • Wolfson History Prize Discussion.

    May 08 2019

    Rana Mitter and an audience at the British Academy hear from the six historians on this year's shortlist. The books are: Building Anglo-Saxon England by John Blair Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice by Mary Fulbrook Trading in War: London’s Maritime World in the Age of Cook and Nelson by Margarette Lincoln Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words by Jeremy Mynott Oscar: A Life by Matthew Sturgis Empress: Queen Victoria and India by Miles Taylor The winner of th...more

  • Free Thinking: 1819-The American Model

    May 07 2019

    Elaine Showalter, Michael Schmidt, Peter Riley and Katie McGettigan with Laurence Scott on the 19th century writers who shaped the idea of America. 1819 was the year that Herman Melville, Walt Whitman and Julia Ward Howe were born. Whitman's Leaves of Grass, , Melville's novels Moby Dick and The Confidence Man and Julia Ward Howe's passionate opposition to slavery and her advocacy of women's suffrage gave birth to the idea of America. But these authors also have a connection with England - a r...more

  • Learning about love from Kierkegaard & Socrates. The Wellcome Book Prize

    May 02 2019

    Kierkegaard humiliated the woman he was due to marry by publicly breaking the engagement - yet one of his most important books is a detailed analysis of the meaning of love. Socrates loved asking the question 'What is love?' but his conversations on the topic are often inconclusive. Matthew Sweet discusses new biographies of each thinker, with their authors Clare Carlisle and Armand D'Angour. Plus Matthew talks to the winner of this year's Wellcome Book Prize for writing which illuminates the...more

  • Landmark: Audre Lorde

    Apr 30 2019

    Poet Jackie Kay & performer Selina Thompson plus Jonathan Rollins and Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins the children of Audre Lorde discuss the influence of the US writer & civil rights activist whose work considers feminism, lesbianism, civil rights and black female identity. Shahidha Bari presents. In her famous essay The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House (1980), Lorde wrote: "Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition of acceptable women; those of us w...more

  • Introducing the 2019 New Generation Thinkers

    Apr 25 2019

    From Berlin techno music to the Glasgow ‘rag trade’, divisive dams to fake news - hear the research topics of 10 early career academics introduced by New Generation Thinker Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough at the Free Thinking Festival New Generation Thinkers is an annual scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to select 10 researchers to work on ideas for radio Dr Jeff Howard - University College London - is investigating how to respond to ‘dangerous speech’, lies ...more

  • 20 Words for Joy ... Feelings Around the World.

    Apr 24 2019

    We talk about “human emotion” as if all people, everywhere, feel the same. But three thinkers with an international perspective discuss how the expression and interpretation of emotions differs around the world. China specialist and Radio 3 presenter Rana Mitter hosts this Free Thinking Festival discussion. Aatish Taseer is a writer and journalist who was born in London, grew up in New Delhi and now lives in Manhattan. His first novel, The Temple-Goers was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel...more

  • Does My Pet Love Me?

    Apr 23 2019

    Two animal psychologists and a historian of animal studies join Eleanor Rosamund Barraclought to discuss whether it's possible to recognise similar traits in humans, chimps, crows, hawks, dogs and cats in terms of affinity and attachment, despite different evolutionary paths. How do we know when a chimp wants to play? How does one crow decide what to feed its mate? The Free Thinking Festival explores the emotional similarities and differences between humans & animals. Nicky Clayton is a sci...more

  • The New Age of Sentimentality

    Apr 18 2019

    Charles Dickens. Walt Disney. The Romantic poets..These renowned artists and entertainers were all accused of being “over-sentimental”. But is our own age topping them all – with its culture of grief memoirs, gushing obituaries and feel-good fiction? Three Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature join Rana Mitter at the Free Thinking Festival to take a hard look at whether contemporary culture has “gone soft”. Lisa Appignanesi is the author of books including Everyday Madness: On Grief, Ange...more

  • Why We Need Weepies

    Apr 17 2019

    Poet and critic Bridget Minamore, TV drama expert John Yorke and film expert Melanie Williams join Matthew Sweet for a Brief Encounter at the Free Thinking Festival to look at the devices – music, close ups and the cliffhangers that cinema and TV employ to make us cry. From Bambi to Titanic, how have directors managed to trigger our tear ducts? And has the big screen actually shaped our understanding of emotion in modern life. John Yorke is the author of How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them. ...more

  • The Spirit of a Place: A Free Thinking Royal Society of Literature Discussion

    Apr 17 2019

    Pascale Petit’s collection of poetry, Mama Amazonica, which explores motherhood, illness and pain through the foliage and creatures of the Amazon rainforest, won the 2018 Prize. Peter Pomerantsev’s winning book in 2016, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, is a journey into the political and ethical landscape of modern Russia. In 2013, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson won the Prize with This Boy, a visceral memoir of growing up poor in 1950s and 60s London. Hisham Matar’s debut novel...more

  • Should Doctors Cry?

    Apr 16 2019

    Anne McElvoy debates at the Free Thinking Festival with intensive care doctor Aoife Abbey, GP & Prof Louise Robinson, Naeem Soomro expert in using robotic surgery and Michael Brown medical historian. Does emotion have any place in relationships with patients in a more open age? Medical professionals are trained to adopt “clinical distance” when dealing with patients. Tradition says that getting emotional weakens their judgement of medical evidence and can cause safeguarding issues. But how can t...more

  • Where Do Human Rights Come From?

    Apr 12 2019

    You don't have to be religious to believe that, as the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "all human beings have the right to be free and treated equally." However, drawing on a wide range of examples including Shakespeare's Richard III to Disney's Jiminy Cricket, New Generation Thinker Dafydd Mills Daniel argues that the UN's emphasis on "reason and conscience" as the drivers of liberty and equality make the modern conception of human rights more religious, and less l...more

  • The Essay: The Ottoman Empire, Power and the Sea

    Apr 11 2019

    Michael Talbot asks how can power be exerted over water? What do borders mean in the featureless desert of the ocean? These were questions faced by the Ottoman Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries when an imaginary line was used to create a legally enforced border at sea for the Sultans in Istanbul who called themselves “rulers of the two seas”, the Black and the Mediterranean. Michael Talbot lectures about the history of the Ottoman Empire and the Modern Middle East at the University of Greenw...more

  • The Unsaid

    Apr 11 2019

    Sarah Moss is a novelist and Professor at the University of Warwick. Her most recent book Ghost Wall articulates the tangled space of love, abuse and resistance. Her previous novels include Cold Earth, Night Waking, Signs for Lost Children and The Tidal Zone. She has written for The Guardian, New Statesman, The Independent and BBC Radio. Michael Richardson is a Lecturer in Human Geography at Newcastle University. He has longstanding research interests in masculinities and intergenerational rela...more

  • Should Salman Rushdie Live and Let Die ?

    Apr 10 2019

    You are a liberal who opposes art being banned. But would a movie that calls for you to be killed change your view of censorship? This was the quandary facing Salman Rushdie when filmmakers in Pakistan produced a James Bond-style action thriller in which a trio of Islamist guerrillas are inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa to track down and kill the author of The Satanic Verses. In the year of the 30th anniversary of the fatwa against the novelist from Iranian clerics, film historian Dr Iain ...more

  • The Way We Used To Feel

    Apr 10 2019

    Can we ever really know the feelings of byegone generations? Author and TV historian Tracy Borman shares the clues we have to the emotional lives of Tudor royalty and archaeologist Penny Spikins explains what million year old human remains tell us about how prehistoric people felt. Paul Pickering explores what we know about the emotions of the Manchester Chartists and the way songs have carried political feelings. New Generation Thinker Elsa Richardson teaches a course on the history of emotions...more

  • Who Wrote Animal Farm?

    Apr 09 2019

    Was George Orwell’s wife his forgotten collaborator on one of the most famous books in the world? Lisa Mullen takes a new look at Animal Farm from the perspective of the smart and resourceful Eileen Blair – and uncovers a hidden story about sex, fertility, and the politics of women’s work. Why are some contributions less equal than others? Lisa Mullen is Steven Isenberg Junior Research Fellow at Worcester College, University of Oxford and the author of Mid-century gothic: uncanny objects in Br...more

  • How They Manipulate Our Emotions

    Apr 09 2019

    According to Madmen’s ad executive Don Draper, “what you call love was invented by guys like me… to sell nylons.” So how does advertising and gaming grab us by our emotions? Can we know when we’re being manipulated? And is there anything we can do about it? Presenter Shahidha Bari hosts a Free Thinking Festival debate at Sage Gateshead. Ad man Robert Heath worked on campaigns including the Marlboro Cowboy, Castrol GTX Liquid Engineering, and Heineken “Refreshes the Parts”. He is the author of T...more

  • Start the Week gets emotional at the Free Thinking Festival

    Apr 09 2019

    Harriet Shawcross is a film-maker whose first book Unspeakable reflects on how, as a teenager, she stopped speaking at school for almost a year, communicating only when absolutely necessary. It mixes personal experience with travel diaries and interviews. Ambassador William J. Burns is known as America’s ‘secret diplomatic weapon’. Having served five presidents and ten secretaries of state, he has been central to the past four decades’ most consequential foreign policy episodes. Now retired fr...more

  • The Emotion of Now

    Apr 08 2019

    Matthew Sweet and a panel of experts stand-up for their emotion of choice in a debate about the most pertinent emotion for understanding Britain today. Is it Joy? Anger? Anxiety? Schadenfruede or shame? The panel express their feelings and an audience vote at the 2019 Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead has the final say. Kehinde Andrews is Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University. His books include Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century and Resisti...more

  • Marble, Muscle and Manly Bodies in the 18th Century

    Apr 08 2019

    What was more important in the construction of an eighteenth-century man’s body: the dumbbell or the dumbwaiter? Who had the most enviable body shape: the svelte Apollo Belvedere or the rotund John Bull? Dr Sarah Goldsmith, from the University of Leicester, explores the early origins of modern gym culture in the tantalisingly elusive and occasionally surprisingly sweaty world of eighteenth-century male physicality. Sarah Goldsmith is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Centure for Urban His...more

  • Healthy Eating Edwardian Style

    Apr 05 2019

    Elsa Richardson uncovers the early history of the wellbeing industry and introduces Eustace Hamilton Miles, a diet guru who made his name selling health to Edwardian Britons. Reformers promoted the ‘simple life’, one that emphasised fresh air, exercise and the consumption of ‘sun-fired’ foods such as wholegrains, fruits and vegetables but this ‘simple life’ was also a highly profitable enterprise. Elsa Richardson teaches on the history of the emotions and is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the Univer...more

  • 'Calm Down Dear' - How Angry Should Politics Get?

    Apr 05 2019

    What does it mean to feel that your political position is righteous? At a time of rising tempers among electorates, should we all “calm down - or harness our rage? Kehinde Andrews is Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University. His books include Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century and Resisting Racism: Race, Inequality and the Black Supplementary School Movement. He writes for The Guardian, Independent and Ebony Magazine. Dr Fern Riddell is a historian and...more

  • Shopping Around the Baby Market

    Apr 04 2019

    Commercial surrogacy – the practice of paying another woman to carry a pregnancy to term – has been criticised for being exploitative, particularly when poorer women are recruited. Even if these women were paid more, and the exploitation element were reduced, would unease remain about “renting out” your body in this way? This essay from New Generation Thinker Gulzaar Barn will explore what, if anything, is different about the buying and selling of bodily services from other forms of trade. Shoul...more

  • Why Trespassing Is the Right Way To Go

    Apr 03 2019

    Have you ever been somewhere you shouldn't? In this essay, New Generation Thinker Ben Anderson creeps around, and explains how trespassers in the early-twentieth century helped create new attitudes to nature by stepping off the path. Descriptions of late-nineteenth century trespass and rock-climbing show how different experiences of nature led to fights with landowners and gamekeepers for the rights of urban people. People going off-piste also led to efforts to expose environmental inequalities...more

  • Being Diplomatic

    Apr 03 2019

    How much emotion should you show if you are a diplomat, a news reporter or a conciliation expert? Anne McElvoy chairs a Free Thinking Festival debate at Sage Gateshead with Gabriel Gatehouse, Gabrielle Rifkind and William J Burns. In the world of international affairs, the overriding philosophy for global professionals has been one of restraint and rationality – whether you are negotiating, mediating or observing. So how is this traditional idea of “being diplomatic” and even-handed faring in ...more

  • The Essay: Cooking and Eating God in Medieval Drama

    Apr 02 2019

    Daisy Black looks at religious imagery, food, anti-semitism and product placement in medieval mystery plays. Eaten by characters, dotted around the stage as saliva-prompting props, or nibbled by audiences - a medieval religious drama is glutted with food but Christianity’s vision of God as spiritual nutrition could provoke horror and fear as well as hunger. We'll hear about some of the gristly, crunchy medieval episodes of culinary performance as the Essay investigates the relationship between f...more

  • Anxiety and the Teenage Brain

    Apr 02 2019

    Worrying is a natural part of growing-up. And yet the incidence of serious anxiety and depression is rapidly increasing. Psychologist Stephen Briers from TV's Teen Angels, student Ceyda Uzun and Durham University's head of counselling Caroline Dower join Anne McElvoy at the Free Thinking Festival to explore the possible causes and the influence of digital technology and social pressures. The discussion was recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead. Caroline Dower is a psychotherapist and cur...more

  • A city is not a park but should it be?

    Apr 02 2019

    From the story of Jonas Salk, who left the city of Pittsburgh for a medieval Italian town to create the space to think which led to the invention of the polio vaccine to the novelist JG Ballard depicting urban high rise living and the work of biologist EO Wilson who has explored the human biophilic urge to be in contact with natural living things - this talk looks at the links between our health and our environment. Des Fitzgerald is a sociologist of science and medicine at Cardiff University ...more

  • Crimes of Passion: Sophie Hannah, Michael Hughes and David Wilson

    Apr 01 2019

    Many legal systems have allowed the accused the defence of a “crime of passion”: attributing their act to a sudden explosion of feeling, rather than pre-meditated violence. Prosecutors, though, have argued that “passion” is simply another word for “insanity” or “malice”. David Wilson was the youngest prison governor in England aged 29. He is Emeritus Professor of Criminology and founding Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University. He presented the CBS series ...more

  • Feelings, and Feelings, and Feelings. The Free Thinking Festival Lecture

    Apr 01 2019

    The idea of ‘emotions’ did not exist until the nineteenth century but now they are the subject of study and Professor Thomas Dixon was the first director of Queen Mary University of London's Centre for the History of the Emotions. He is currently researching anger and has explored the histories of friendship, tears, and the British stiff upper lip in books Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears and The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain. Ranging from r...more

  • Whatever happened to Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais?

    Mar 27 2019

    The writers of TV sitcoms The Likely Lads, Porridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet talk to Matthew Sweet. As a restoration of the film version of The Likely Lads is released, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais discuss depicting working lives in the 1960s, the pretensions and social changes of the '70s and how their characters might have voted over Brexit. The Likely Lads film has been restored and made available on Blu-ray and 2 previously lost episodes of the TV series have been found. Producer: Cra...more

  • Betrayal

    Mar 26 2019

    From politics to religion, gangster films to espionage, Philip Dodd considers acts of betrayal, with theologian, Elaine Storkey, columnist Peter Hitchens, author Jenny McCartney and historian Owen Matthews. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith

  • Childhood faces and fears

    Mar 21 2019

    A history of orphans in Britain, fears about post war brainwashing, childrens' letters to C19 newspapers and portraits on show at Compton Verney. Anne McElvoy presents. New Generation Thinker and historian Emma Butcher is researching writing from children about the trauma of war. She visits Compton Verney. Jeremy Seabrook is researching the treatment of orphans from the 17th century onwards. Historian Sian Pooley reveals what children were writing to local papers about in the late 19th century...more

  • Empathy

    Mar 20 2019

    Authors Max Porter, Samantha Harvey and Alisdair Benjamin discuss empathy and the role it plays in writing and reading. How does it work? Is it the same in fiction and non-fiction? And how is it faring in a world where data sometimes seems to have replaced feeling. Chris Harding talks to all three about their latest books, Lanny, Let Me Not be Mad and the Western Wind in his search for answers. Let Me Not Be Mad by the neuropsychologist AK Benjamin is out now. Max Porter's second novel is call...more

  • George Szirtes, Valeria Luiselli, Jhumpa Lahiri

    Mar 19 2019

    Valeria Luiselli talks to Laurence Scott about the desert border between Mexico and USA & capturing the sound, history and contemporary politics in her novel Lost Children Archive. The poet George Szirtes' first prose work brings his Hungarian mother superbly to life and works backwards through the years to explore the truth of being alive in the world. And Pulitzer-prize-winning short story writer Jhumpa Lahiri on her new anthology of stories from Italy, and why the Italian language releases a ...more

  • Partition, colonial power and the voices of C16th women

    Mar 14 2019

    Artist Hew Locke and historians Suzannah Lipscomb, Aanchal Malhotra & Anindya Raychaudhuri talk to Rana Mitter about using objects and archives to create new images of the past, from Guyana to India and Pakistan to women in C16th France. Suzannah Lipscomb's book The Voices of Nîmes: Women, Sex, and Marriage in Reformation Languedoc uses the evidence of 1,200 cases brought before the consistories – or moral courts – of the Huguenot church of Languedoc between 1561 and 1615 to summon up the lives...more

  • The Council Estate in Culture

    Mar 13 2019

    Painter George Shaw, crime writer Dreda Say Mitchell and drama expert Katie Beswick join Matthew Sweet to look at depictions of estate living - from the writing of Andrea Dunbar to SLICK on Sheffield's Park Hill estate to the images of the Tile Hill estate in Coventry where George Shaw grew up, which he creates using Humbrol enamel - the kind of paint used for Airfix kits. Plus a view of the French banlieue from artist Kader Attia. George Shaw: A Corner of a Foreign Field is at the Holburne Mus...more

  • Is British Culture Getting Wierder?

    Mar 12 2019

    Gazelle Twin (Elizabeth Bernholz), Julia Bardsley, Hannah Catherine Jones, Luke Turner & William Fowler join Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and an audience at Café OTO at the Late Junction Festival for a debate about trends within British culture. Gazelle Twin (Elizabeth Bernholz) is a British composer, producer and musician Julia Bardsley,is a performer and lecturer Hannah Catherine Jones is a multi-instrumentalist and founder of Peckham Chamber Orchestra Luke Turner is co-founder and editor ...more

  • Women, relationships and the law past and present

    Mar 07 2019

    Lying about a sexual attack, resisting parental pressures to marry, using the law to fight for inheritance and divorce. Shahidha Bari talks to the fiction writers Ayelet Gundar-Goshen and Layla AlAmmar about their new books which depict girls who feel they need to conceal truths about sexual encounters. Historian Jennifer Aston looks at examples of nineteenth century British women fighting for divorce. Jessica Malay researches the Countess of Pembroke, Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) The Pact We...more

  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

    Mar 06 2019

    How self-revealing and frank should a writer be? Lara Feigel, David Aaronovitch, Melissa Benn and Xiaolu Guo join Matthew Sweet to look at the life of Doris Lessing and her 1962 novel in which she explores difficult love, life, war, politics and dreams. Inspired by her re-reading of Doris Lessing, Lara Feigel has written a revealing book which is part memoir part biography called "Free Woman: Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing". It is out in paperback. Melissa Benn's books include Mother and C...more

  • David Bailey, Don McCullin

    Mar 05 2019

    The photographers, David Bailey and Don McCullin, came to prominence in the 1960s but their pictures did more than define a decade. Don McCullin's work in Vietnam, Biafra, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and the Middle East have come to epitomise what we mean by war photography and David Bailey's portraits of Jean Shrimpton, Mick Jagger and Catherine Deneuve established a new idiom for glamour. Yet fame has tended to obscure the full range of both men's work. Bailey, for example, has produced a huge vo...more

  • The joy of sewing, poet Fatimah Asghar, Painting in miniature.

    Mar 04 2019

    Shahidha Bari talks to Fatimah Asghar about poetry and the Emmy nominated web series Brown Girls. We have a look at the miniatures of Nicholas Hilliard and Isaac Oliver – court painters to Queen Elizabeth and James the first who both feature in an exhibition which invites visitors to pick up a magnifying glass to inspect every detail of their jewel-like images. Plus the popular history of sewing with Clare Hunter. She is also joined by historians Christina Faraday, who studies art in Tudor and J...more

  • Skeuomorphs, Design and Modern Craft

    Feb 28 2019

    Laurence Scott, Will Self and New Generation Thinkers Lisa Mullen and Danielle Thom look at redundant features in design plus a visit to Collect: International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design, presented at the Crafts Council, at the Saatchi Gallery in London. And, we discuss the 19th century French novelist Karl-Joris Huysmans as art critic, with Huysmans scholar and translator Brendan King. Collect, The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects is on at the Saatchi Gallery in Londo...more

  • Jack the Ripper and women as victims

    Feb 26 2019

    Historian Hallie Rubenhold reveals the previously untold stories of the five women killed by the Ripper and challenges the myths that have grown up around the Whitechapel Murders of 1888.

  • Images of Japan

    Feb 21 2019

    Fumio Obata and Jocelyne Allen discuss graphic art and manga.

  • Authority in the Era of Populism

    Feb 21 2019

    What is required of a good leader in an age of disruption? Jamie Bartlett, Professor Mary Kaldor, Dame Louise Casey, Dame Heather Rabbatts, Rupert Reid debate at the London School of Economics. Anne McElvoy chairs. Jamie Bartlett is writer and technology industry analyst at the think tank Demos. Mary Kaldor is Professor of Global Governance at LSE. Louise Casey is former head of the Respect Task Force, the UK’s first Victims’ Commissioner, director general of Troubled Families. Heather Rabba...more

  • The joy of sewing, poet Fatimah Asghar, Painting in miniature

    Feb 20 2019

    Shahidha Bari talks poetry and the web series Brown Girls, plus the history of sewing.

  • Patti LuPone

    Feb 19 2019

    How loud should you be? Italian American performer Patti LuPone talks to Philip Dodd about why she doesn’t consider herself an American, her politics, unsuccessful auditions, backbiting, corporate entertainment, #Me Too. Her career has taken her from a Broadway debut in a Chekhov play in 1973 to performances in the original productions of plays by David Mamet and musicals including Evita on Broadway and Les Misérables and Sunset Boulevard in London’s West End. She won a Tony award for her role a...more

  • Scented gloves and gossip: civility and news in the Renaissance

    Feb 15 2019

    Shahidha Bari discusses new research on the the ins and outs of Renaissance culture: John Gallagher on civility, Emily Butterworth on news and gossip, Lauren Working on material culture, Sarah Knight and Hannah Crawforth on 'difficultness'. This podcast is made with the assistance of the AHRC - the Arts and Humanities Research Council which funds research at universities and museums, galleries and archives across the UK into the arts and humanities and works in partnership with BBC Radio 3 on t...more

  • Love

    Feb 14 2019

    Poet Andrew McMillan, philosopher and psychologist Laura Mucha, poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw & writer Elanor Dymott explores who and why we love. Presented by Anne McElvoy. Laura Mucha has written Love Factually: the science of who, how and why we love Andrew McMillan's new book of poetry is called Playtime Lavinia Greenlaw's novel In the City of Love's Sleep is out in paperback and her new book of poetry is called The Built Moment Elanor Dymott's latest novel Slacktide is out now. It f...more

  • Africa Babel China

    Feb 13 2019

    West Africa has a fundamental place in the shaping of the modern world and its story is told in a new history by Toby Green. He joins Rana Mitter in the Free Thinking studio alongside Xue Xinran who explores China's recent history through the lives and relationships of one family and Dennis Duncan of the Bodleian Library muses on why the English needed English dictionaries and the desirability of a universal language. A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave trrade to the Ag...more

  • Spike Lee

    Feb 12 2019

    The film-maker Spike Lee talks to Matthew Sweet about black power and prejudice, the politics of blackface, and the Oscars as his film BlacKkKlansman is nominated for six Academy Awards. Since 1983, his production company has produced over 35 films. His first film in 1986 was a comedy drama She's Gotta Have It filmed in black and white which he turned into a Netflix drama in 2017. In 1989 Do The Right Thing was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in the Academy Awards. Best Picture that yea...more

  • Self Knowledge, Global Catastrophe and Simulated Worlds

    Feb 07 2019

    Self-knowledge, intellectual vices & conspiracy theories are debated by Professor Quassim Cassam and presenter Matthew Sweet. Plus New Generation Thinker Simon Beard discusses an exhibition of artwork commissioned by the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. And a re-release of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1973 sci-fi TV series Wire World on a Wire takes us into cybernetics and artificial life. Quassim Cassam's new book is called Vices of the Mind. Ground Zero Earth curated by Yas...more

  • Encylopedias and Knowledge: from Diderot to Wikipedia.

    Feb 06 2019

    Jimmy Wales talks Diderot & collecting knowledge + Tariq Goddard on Mark Fisher aka k-punk. The French writer Diderot was thrown into prison in 1749 for his atheism, worked on ideas of democracy at the Russian court of Catherine the Great and collaborated on the creation of the first Encyclopédie. Biographer Andrew S. Curran and Jenny Mander look at Diderot's approach to editing the first encyclopedia. Plus writer and publisher Tariq Goddard on the work and legacy of his collaborator and friend,...more

  • Street Culture, Protests, Food.

    Feb 05 2019

    Gilet jaune and novelist Edouard Louis, food expert Fabio Parasecoli, journalist, Gavin Mortimer and the historians Jerry White & Joanna Marchant with Philip Dodd. Whether it’s Berlin, Moscow or the Paris of the gilet jaunes - streets play a vital role in our history and culture. They're focal points of celebration and of protest ; they're gathering places for the young and old; places for a promenade or for fânerie; they're where the homeless build makeshift shelters and where musicians busk:...more

  • Sea Goings

    Jan 31 2019

    Conceptual artist Katie Paterson on art which produces candles scented with planetary odours – one of Saturn's moons has a hint of cherry…and how she and co-exhibitor the Romantic painter JMW Turner share an interest in the precise nature of moon light. Writers Julia Blackburn and Charlotte Runcie on the gaze of the beachcomber and searching for lost worlds along the tideline and Cutty Sark curator Hannah Stockton explains why the story of the famous tea cutter is one of survival. A place that...more

  • Slavoj Zizek, Camille Paglia, Flemming Rose

    Jan 30 2019

    Can causing offence be a good thing? Philip Dodd explores this question with the Slovenian philosopher, the American author and the Danish journalist. On the 15th February 1989 the Ayatollah Komeni issued a fatwah following the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. Flemming Rose is the man who published the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed and ignited international controversy. Slavoj Zizek has been called the most dangerous philosopher in the West; and Camille Pagli...more

  • Art & Refugees from Nazi Germany.

    Jan 29 2019

    Following this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, Anne McElvoy looks at new writing which reflects on this history and at a festival marking the impact on British culture of refugees and artists who fled from the Nazis. Ed Williams from leading marketing firm Edelman sifts through the fall-out from Davos. Martin Goodman's novel J SS Bach is published in March 2019. Daniel Snowman's books include The Hitler Emigrés: The Cultural Impact on Britain of Refugees from Nazism. Monica Bohm-Duchen has ...more

  • Consent

    Jan 24 2019

    Kate Maltby, Lucy Powell, Zoe Strimpel join Shahidha Bari. Virtue Rewarded is the subtitle of Samuel Richardson's 1740 novel Pamela, which began as a conduct book before he turned it into the new literary form of the novel. Playwright Martin Crimp has taken this book as the inspiration for his latest work When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other. Shahidha Bari & guests debate consent then and now + news of the £40,000 Artes Mundi 8 Prize which is awarded tonight in Cardiff. The Artes Mundi...more

  • Slow Looking at Art

    Jan 23 2019

    As new shows featuring the Post-impressionist, Pierre Bonnard and the video artist, Bill Viola, open in London, Laurence Scott and his guests discuss the way we experience art from the current vogue for slow looking to the 30 second appraisal scientists say is the norm for most gallery goers. How do small details reshape our understanding of paintings? What about looking more than once? Does digital art require more or less concentration ? Kelly Grovier's book A New Way of Seeing: The History ...more

  • Oscars 2019

    Jan 22 2019

    Matthew Sweet and critics Catherine Bray and Ryan Gilbey look at films making waves as the Academy announces this year's nominations. Writer Jan Asante and cultural theorist Bill Schwarz assess James Baldwin's legacy in the light of the film adaptation of his novel If Only Beale Street Could Talk. Language historian John Gallagher gets to grips with the dialogue in period dramas including The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • Icons.

    Jan 17 2019

    Do our heroes and heroines have to be perfect? How do religious ikons link to iconoclasm and the labelling of film idols & politicians "icons of our time". Matthew Sweet is joined by film historian Pamela Hutchinson, bioethicist Tom Shakespeare, historian Julia Lovell and psychotherapist Mark Vernon. Julia Lovell’s book Maoism a Global History is out soon Mark Vernon’s book A Secret History of Christianity is out soon. For more information about the BBC TV series of programmes profiling moder...more

  • Tourism past and present

    Jan 16 2019

    The must see sights on the Grand Tour, in Cold War Moscow & tourist hot spots now. Rana Mitter is joined by Roey Sweet, Sarah Goldsmith, Nick Barnett, Cindy Yu and Simon Calder. Producer: Torquil MacLeod.

  • Walls

    Jan 15 2019

    Novelist John Lanchester, journalist Tim Marshall and historians David Frye and Kylie Murray join Anne McElvoy to discuss why we build walls rather than bridges and what it says about civilisations past, present and future from Persia to Berlin, the USA to a dystopian vision. John Lanchester's latest novel is called The Wall. David Frye has written Walls: A History of Civilisation in Blood and Brick is out now Tim Marshall's book Divided: Why We're living in an Age of Walls is out now Produ...more

  • Boredom

    Jan 10 2019

    Shahidha Bari, Josh Cohen, Madeleine Bunting, Lisa Baraitser, Rachel Long, and Sam Goodman explore the value of doing nothing and our wider experience of time. Josh Cohen is the author of Not Working: Why We Have to Stop. Lisa Baraitser is Professor of Psychosocial Theory at Birkbeck, University of London and co-creator of Waiting Times, a research project on waiting in healthcare http://waitingtimes.exeter.ac.uk/ Madeleine Bunting is a novelist and writer Rachel Long is a poet New Generation...more

  • Free Thinking: Born in 1819: Ruskin, Clough and Bazalgette

    Jan 09 2019

    The social campaigning, engineering and writing of three Victorians - art critic and philanthropist John Ruskin, poet and assistant to Florence Nightingale Arthur Hugh Clough and the builder of London's sewer system Joseph Bazalgette. Greg Tate, Suzanne Fagence Cooper , Stephen Halliday and Kevin Jackson join Laurence Scott to debate the way these 3 Victorians changed the way we look at the world and shaped our understanding of the Victorians. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Landmark: Laurel and Hardy's The Music Box

    Jan 08 2019

    Lucy Porter, Neil Brand and David Quantick join Matthew Sweet to talk about Cric e Croc or Flip i Flap or even Dick und Doof though, if you're not Italian, Polish or German, it's far more likely that Hollywood's most famous comedy duo will be known to you simply as Stan and Ollie. Laurel and Hardy to give them their more formal title won the hearts of cinema goers all over the world in the '30s and '40s with films such as Way out West, Sons of the Desert and The Music Box, the sublime short wh...more

  • The Digital Humanities

    Dec 21 2018

    What’s the connection between Jane Austen’s particular choice of words in an afternoon in 1812, the oldest manuscript of Beowulf, fake news in 17th century England, and high definition digital photography? Laurence Scott talks to Kathryn Sutherland of St Anne’s College, Oxford, Noah Millstone of the University of Birmingham, and Andrew Prescott of the University of Glasgow about new possibilities for research opened up by digital technology. Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • Landmark: Watership Down

    Dec 20 2018

    An ecological fable about a perfect society which terrified children when it was first animated. Matthew Sweet reads Richard Adams' classic as a new version arrives on UK TV screens. He's joined by Dr Diana Bell, conservation biologist at UEA; Victoria Dickenson, author of Rabbit, a cultural history of rabbits; Brian Sibley, adaptor of the novel for a radio version and New Generation Thinker Lisa Mullen to debate rabbits both real and fictional. First published in 1972, Adams' novel follows ra...more

  • What does game playing teach us?

    Dec 19 2018

    University Challenge star Bobby Seagull, writer and critic Jordan Erica Webber, games consultant and researcher Dr Laura Mitchell, and British Museum curator Irving Finkel join Shahidha Bari and others in the Free Thinking studio to get out the playing cards and the board games and consider the value of play, competitiveness and game theory. Bobby Seagull has published The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers. Irving Finkel has written Ancient Board Games, the Lewis Chessmen, Cuneiform, The Writing...more

  • Trees of Knowledge

    Dec 18 2018

    Why Are We Here? What is a sentient being? These are questions we don't normally explore using plants but perhaps we should. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough hears how identifying more closely with living beings who produce our oxygen and store the Sun's energy is a good way of navigating existential angst and have much to teach us about co-operation and mutual support and the unifying principles of life. Peter Wohlleben The Hidden Life of Trees: The Illustrated Edition is out now Emanuele Coccia ...more

  • Ice

    Dec 13 2018

    Anne McElvoy wraps up warm for an account of life in Antarctica through prose and poetry, how the idea of the North Pole has fired the human imagination for centuries and an artist's interpretation of the Arctic through sound. Also how the spectacular stage effects that thrill panto audiences have their roots in the 17th century and the court of James I and VI - New Generation Thinker Thomas Charlton looks at theatre history. North Pole by Michael Bravo is published on 14th December. Ice Diari...more

  • Linton Kwesi Johnson

    Dec 12 2018

    "My generation, which was the rebel generation of black youth, has changed England and in changing England we've changed ourselves" - the words of Linton Kwesi Johnson - the man who invented dub poetry and used it to chronicle some of the key events of black British history, from the celebrated case of George Lindo, wrongly accused of robbery in Bradford in 1978, to the New Cross Fire and Brixton riots a few years later. Philip Dodd talks to him about the roots of his poetry, his love of music a...more

  • Writing and Frankness

    Dec 11 2018

    Deborah Levy, Adam Phillips and Amia Srinivasan join Matthew Sweet at the British Library for a Royal Society of Literature debate. Why do we read? Why do we write? What do we reveal when we do? A writer, a psychotherapist and a philosopher discuss what we reveal about ourselves through literature and the difference, if any, between non-fiction, novels and the psychotherapist’s couch. Deborah Levy is a playwright, novelist and poet. In her ‘living autobiography’ The Cost of Living, she consid...more

  • Are we being manipulated?

    Dec 06 2018

    Who's pulling your strings - from advertisers and peer pressure to political campaigns and self-deception - hidden persuaders are everywhere. Journalist Poppy Noor, historian Sarah Marks, psychologist and magician, Gustav Kuhn, the philosopher, Quassim Cassam and Robert Colvile from the Centre for Policy Studies join Matthew Sweet to track them down. We're all confident that we know our own minds -- but do we? And if we don't, why not? Producer: Zahid Warley Quassim Cassam is professor of ph...more

  • Is there a great divide between the arts and science?

    Dec 05 2018

    Geneticist Sir Paul Nurse, current director of the Francis Crick Institute, and Tristram Hunt, historian and now director of the V&A, debate the impact of robots, the winners and losers in funding, whether our education system has the balance right between STEM and Arts subjects and they reveal their own arts and science hits and misses. Recorded before an audience at Queen Mary University London, the presenter is Shahidha Bari. Nearly 60 years on from C.P. Snow's 'Two Cultures' lecture in whic...more

  • Natasha Gordon. Bessie Head. Rwanda Representation and Reality

    Dec 05 2018

    As her award-winning debut play, Nine Night, comes to London's West End, Natasha Gordon tells Anne about the grieving ritual that binds in the Jamaican diaspora. Nine Night at Trafalgar Studios, London, until February 23rd On the 50th anniversary of the publication of Bessie Head's first novel, two of her titles, When Rain Clouds Gather (1969) and Maru (1971), have just been republished. Head's influence and creativity are discussed by journalist Audrey Brown and literary scholar Louisa Uchum ...more

  • Mike Hodges; Dark Sweden.

    Nov 29 2018

    The director of the 1971 film Get Carter, which starred Michael Caine, has now written his own crime novellas. Mike Hodges talks to Matthew Sweet. If Nordic Noir has reshaped an image of Sweden away from Abba into a society showing cracks - journalist Kajsa Norman has been tracking stories such as the cover-up of assaults on teenage girls at music festivals in 2015. She's called her book Sweden's Dark Soul: The Unravelling of a Utopia. Mike Hodges' trio of novellas is called Bait, Grist and Secu...more

  • Slavery Stories

    Nov 28 2018

    A long lost classic by William Melvin Kelley, who coined the term "woke" back in 1962 in a New York Times article, Esi Edugyan's Booker shortlisted novel, and new research on slavery with historians Christienna Fryar, Kevin Waite, and Andrea Livesey. Laurence Scott presents. A Different Drummer was the debut novel of Kelley - first published when he was 24. Compared to William Faulkner and James Baldwin, it was forgotten until an article about it earlier this year. Kelley died aged 79 in 2017....more

  • Plagues, Urban Inequality and Restricted Books

    Nov 27 2018

    Should we worry about the world getting healthier? Thomas Bollyky thinks we should. Jane Stevens Crawshaw looks at cleanliness and disease in Renaissance cities & Penny Woolcock films Oxford and LA. Rana Mitter presents. For the first time in recorded history, parasites, viruses, bacteria, and other infectious diseases are not the leading cause of death and disability in any region of the world but that doesn't mean our cities are healthier and more prosperous. Jane Steven Crawshaw from Oxford...more

  • Leadership: lessons from US Presidents and campaigners.

    Nov 23 2018

    Doris Kearns Goodwin on POTUS, crisis management and ambition - from Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt through FDR and LBJ to Donald Trump. Novelist Georgina Harding and Philip Woods compare notes on the impact of the war in Burma and depictions in fiction, war reporting and memoirs. New Generation Thinker Louisa Egbunike looks at the campaigning of Obi Egbuna the Nigerian-born novelist (1938- 2014), playwright and political activist who led the United Coloured People's Association. Anne McElvoy pr...more

  • The Left Behind

    Nov 21 2018

    Eric Kaufmann talks to Philip Dodd about white identity, immigration and populism. Plus Hungarian politics with cultural historian, Krisztina Robert, journalist, Matyas Sarkozi and Zsuzsa Szelenyi of the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna. Eric Kaufmann's book is called Whiteshift: populism, immigration and the future of White majorities. Krisztina Robert teaches at the University of Roehampton Producer: Zahid Warley

  • What kind of history should we write?

    Nov 21 2018

    Peter Frankopan brings his history of ties across Asia into the present while Maya Jasanoff, winner of the world's richest history prize, uses the novels of Joseph Conrad to show that the novelist was wrestling with the same problems and opportunities of globalisation we face today. Historian Peter Mandler also joins Rana Mitter to discuss new proposals for publishing historican research. As the centenary of the birth of Orkney film maker and poet Margaret Tait is celebrated nationally, New Gen...more

  • Buses, beer and VR - a taste of university research.

    Nov 15 2018

    A 3,000 year old Iranian ritual, archaeology on a council estate, and London's Greek Cypriot community: Matthew Sweet hops on the 29 bus route, puts on some VR glasses, and visits the hospital which was home to "the Elephant Man" as he talks to researchers showcasing their projects at the 2018 Being Human Festival. Petros Karatsareas and Athena Mandis guide Matthew through the moves made by the Greek Cypriot diaspora in London along the 29 bus route. Carenza Lewis and Ian Waites of the Univers...more

  • Death rituals

    Nov 14 2018

    From death cafes to bronze age burials, C19th mourning rings to the way healthcare professionals cope when patients die. Eleanor Barraclough looks at research showcased in the Being Human Festival at UK universities. Laura O'Brien at Northumbria University is running a death cafe and looking at the way celebrities can "live on" after their death. New Generation Thinker Danielle Thom works at the Museum of London and has been researching the history behind some of the jewelry in their collectio...more

  • Lost Words and Language

    Nov 14 2018

    New Scots words to add to the The Dictionar o the Scots Leid and a quiz about words from medieval Ireland are 2 of the Being Human Festival projects explored by Shahidha Bari. Plus how researchers are using film to explore social history and a major new exhibition about the sculptor and painter Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993). The Being Human Festival showcases research into the Humanities at universities around the UK. It runs from Nov 15th - 24th 2018 https://beinghumanfestival.org/ Watch the w...more

  • Why are we silent when conflict is loud?

    Nov 08 2018

    Journalist Peter Hitchens; the Rector of St James’s Church Piccadilly Lucy Winkett; performer and director Neil Bartlett and Professor Steve Brown from the Open University join Anne McElvoy at the Imperial War Museum for their 2018 Remembrance Lecture. In 1919, the first national silence was observed to commemorate the end of the First World War. Organised silences were designed to remember the human impact of conflict, but do twenty-first century collective silences fulfil that purpose? Thi...more

  • Butterflies and Bloodstains: Fragments of the First World War

    Nov 08 2018

    Shahidha Bari is joined by cultural historian Ana Carden-Coyne, literary scholar Santanu Das, and Julia Neville, co-ordinator of the Exeter First World War Hospitals Project, to discuss the 1914-1918 War. Their research turns the War into a mosaic of feeling and experience, a sensory dislocation and cultural melting pot. Dr Ana Carden-Coyne is Director of the Centre for the Cultural History of War (CCHW) in the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, University of Manchester, and author of T...more

  • Landmark: Journey to the End of the Night

    Nov 07 2018

    Better than Proust -- the man who made literature out of colloquial French -- the arch chronicler of human depravity --- some of the things that are said about Louis Ferdinand Céline, author of Journey to the End of the Night - one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature. His semi- autobiographical novel, first published in 1932, is a ferocious assault on the hypocrisy and idiocy of his time. It follows its anti hero Ferdinand Bardamu from the battlefields of the First World War to Afri...more

  • Wilfred Owen: Poetry and Peace.

    Nov 06 2018

    Gillian Clarke, Sabrina Mahfouz and Michael Symmons Roberts respond to the war poet Wilfred Owen with their own new commissions from the Royal Society of Literature. Shahidha Bari hosts a discussion recorded with an audience at the British Library on the 100th anniversary of Owen's death during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal on 4 November 1918, exactly 7 days (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice which ended World War I. Born in Cardiff, Gillian Clarke’s work has be...more

  • Re-thinking the Human Condition

    Nov 01 2018

    Henry Hardy has written In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure Diving For Seahorses: A Journey Through the Science of Memory by Hilde Østby and Ylva Østby explores the study of memory from the Renaissance to the present day. Dafydd Daniel is a New Generation Thinker and the McDonald Lecturer in Theology and Ethics, University of Oxford.

  • Religious divisions, puppet shows and politics.

    Oct 31 2018

    The exile of English Catholics 450 years ago, suffragette Punch and Judy plus Shahidha Bari interviews Kapka Kassabova, the winner of a prize for fostering global understanding. The British Academy’s Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding was announced this week. The winner Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova is out in paperback. Dr Lucy Underwood teaches at the University of Warwick and is the author of Childhood, youth and religious dissent in post-Ref...more

  • The Memes that Make Us Laugh

    Oct 30 2018

    The memes that make us laugh - have we become meaner or can schadenfreude be a positive thing? Philosophical traditions around the world - can you outline the ideas of Nishida as well as Nietzsche? Is Japan facing a key moment of change in what it means to be Japanese? Julian Baggini, and New Generation Thinkers Tiffany Watt Smith and Christopher Harding join Rana Mitter. Plus "starchitects" - inspirational big names or a symptom of what has gone wrong with architecture? Professor James Stevens ...more

  • From the Gallows to the Holy Land: Medieval Pilgrimage

    Oct 26 2018

    From a hanged man who came back to life to walk from Swansea to Hereford, to a woman who travelled from London to Evesham in a wheelbarrow, studying pilgrimage opens up a unique window on the world of the middle ages. Catherine Clarke, Anthony Bale, and Sophie Ambler explain to Shahidha Bari how research into pilgrimage helps us understand how medieval people thought about themselves and their lives, the kinds of things they worried about, how they spent their disposable income, and interacted w...more

  • The Dark and Political Messages of Kids Fiction.

    Oct 25 2018

    Michael Rosen and Kimberley Reynolds talk to Anne McElvoy about socialist fairy tales and radicalism in books for children. Nikita Gill and Katherine Webber on giving traditional tales a modern twist. Reading & Revolution: An Anthology of Radical Writing for Children 1900-1960 is out now Workers' Tales: Socialist Fairy Tales, Fables and Allegories from Great Britain is published on 13th November Fierce Fairytales & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill is out now Katherine Wheeler ...more

  • Mike Leigh

    Oct 24 2018

    The film director talks to Matthew Sweet about his career and his approach to dramatising history. His new film Peterloo depicts the 1819 massacre at a rally in Manchester where a crowd of 60,000–80,000 were demanding the reform of parliamentary representation. It follows his film about the painter Mr Turner and the 2004 film Vera Drake which depicted the 1950s - a period when abortions were illegal in England. Peterloo is in UK cinemas from 2 November Jacqueline Riding's Peterloo - The Story...more

  • Playing God

    Oct 23 2018

    How do you put the Bible on stage or make a modern medieval mystery play? Shahidha Bari talks to the National Theatre of Brent's Patrick Barlow as his play The Messiah starts at UK tour. New Generation Thinker Daisy Black watches a new medieval mystery play in Stoke. Plus the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library sees a giant Northumbrian Bible returned to Britain for the first time in 1300 years. And historian Iona Hine discusses her research into how we understand biblical sto...more

  • Enchantment, Witches and Woodlands

    Oct 18 2018

    Matthew Sweet takes to the woods with thoroughly modern witch, William Hunter, and writer and folklorist, Zoe Gilbert, to look for green men and suitable spots for a ritual. If modern magic is all about re-enchanting the world then old magic was more about fear and keeping witches out but as a new exhibition opens in Oxford, Dafydd Daniel and Lisa Mullen discuss whether magical thinking is an inevitable part of being human while in Marie Darrieussecq's new novel set in a not very far away and dy...more

  • Francis Fukuyama, Olga Tokarczuk, Alev Scott, Michael Talbot.

    Oct 18 2018

    What's it like to be banned from your own country or to have your writing spark a row? Rana Mitter's guests talk identity, borders, forest landscapes and the long impact of the Ottoman empire. The American political scientist Francis Fukuyama is associated with the phrase "the end of history". His latest book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment looks at what he sees as the threats to Liberalism. Alev Scott has travelled through 12 countries, talking to figures incl...more

  • Re-writing C20th British Philosophy

    Oct 16 2018

    Putting women back into the C20th history of British philosophy. Shahidha Bari talks to Alex Clark about the 2018 Man Booker Prize, considers the thinking of Mary Midgley whose death at the age of 99 was announced last week and puts her alongside Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Iris Murdoch who were undergraduates at Oxford University during WWII. The In Parenthesis project of Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman asks whether you can call them a philosophical school. Plus, Mark Robinso...more

  • Sinking Your Teeth Into Vampires

    Oct 16 2018

    Is soap opera the heir to the gothic novel? Is America seeing a resurgence of gothic TV and fiction? Shahidha Bari looks at new Gothic research with Nick Groom and Xavier Aldana Reyes. Vampires weren’t invented by horror writers, but were first encountered by doctors, priests and bureaucrats working in central Europe in the mid 17th century - that's the argument of The Vampire: A New History written by "the Goth Prof" Nick Groom from Exeter University. Xavier Aldana Reyes researches at the Got...more

  • Discrimination

    Oct 11 2018

    Helena Kennedy on #MeToo and the message it sends that the British legal system needs to get its house in order. Plus power in Pinter's plays and rape in Chaucer. Shahida Bari talks to theatre directors Jamie Lloyd and Lia Williams about language and the roles for women on stage in the Pinter at the Pinter Season, an event featuring all of Harold Pinter's short plays, performed together for the first time. And Professor Elizabeth Robertson has been researching references to rape in Chaucer's wri...more

  • Greed and Landownership Past, Present, Future

    Oct 11 2018

    The Scottish Clearances by Tom Devine, Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh. The Farm, a new novel by Hector Abad is translated by Anne McLean The Future of Capitalism by Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and a Professorial Fellow of St Antony's College. Anne McElvoy presents a short film Is Capitalism Here to Stay for BBC Ideas https://www.bbc.com/ideas/ Browse their A-Z of Isms

  • Drugs and Consciousness

    Oct 10 2018

    Does LSD open the doors of perception or just mess with your head? Leo Butler tells Matthew Sweet about writing a play inspired by taking part in the world's first LSD medical trials since the 1960s. Philosophers Peg O'Connor and Barry Smith lock horns with neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt over whether drug-induced hallucinations allow access to a deeper reality. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • A Feminist Take on Medieval History

    Oct 06 2018

    How does Chaucer write about rape and consent ? What links Kim Kardashian West & Margery Kempe - an English Christian mystic and mother of 14 children who wrote about her religious visions in the 1420s in what has been called the first autobiography in English. Alicia Spencer-Hall, Elizabeth Robertson and New Generation Thinker Hetta Howes join Shahidha Bari for a conversation about new research and what a feminist take brings to our understanding of the medieval period. Made with the assistan...more

  • The Frieze Debate: Museums in the 21st Century

    Oct 04 2018

    . Museum directors from USA, Austria and Britain look at the challenges of displaying their collections for new audiences. Anne McElvoy's guests include Michael Govan, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art LACMA, Sabine Haag, Director, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum. Recorded with an audience at the Royal Institution in London as one of the events for the 2018 Frieze London Art Fair. Find our playlist of discussions about the...more

  • Sarah Perry’s Melmoth, Spookiness and Fear.

    Oct 03 2018

    Matthew Sweet talks to the author of The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry, about her re-imagining of the Melmoth story, first published in 1920 by the Irish playwright, novelist and clergyman Charles Maturin. His Melmoth the Wanderer was a critique of Catholicism following a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for living 150 years longer. Sarah Perry's version begins in Prague with a female scholar who feels she's being watched. Plus, experts on the Gothic Roger Luckhurst and Helen Whe...more

  • Gandhi's power, portable citizenship & Indian writing - China's missing film star

    Oct 02 2018

    Gandhi's power, portable citizenship and Indian writing. Rana Mitter talks to Ramachandra Guha about his new biography of Gandhi, hears about "portable citizenship from Indrajit Roy and discusses Indian writing and literary tradition with Amit Chaudhuri and Sandeep Parmar. Rana also breaks off from the subcontinent briefly to explore the mysterious disappearance of China's biggest film star, Fan Bingbing with the historian, Julia Lovell. Ramachandra Guha has written Gandhi: The Years that Chan...more

  • Loss, Grief and Anger

    Sep 27 2018

    Lisa Appignanesi, prize-winning writer and Freudian scholar, with a personal memoir that explores public and private loss and anger. Presenter Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough also looks at a Festival of Canadian and North American writing meeting authors Heather O'Neill and Cherie Dimaline whose novels explore the meaning of family in dystopian visions of Canada, urban and rural. And, as the Oceania exhibition opens at the Royal Academy in London and a new Pacific Gallery opens at the National Mari...more

  • Slavoj Žižek, Camille Paglia, Flemming Rose

    Sep 26 2018

    Can causing offence be a good thing? Philip Dodd explores this question with the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, the American author, Camille Paglia and the Danish journalist, Flemming Rose. Camille Paglia is a Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia whose Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson was rejected by seven publishers before it became a best-seller. Flemming Rose was Culture Editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten when in Septe...more

  • The Goodies

    Sep 25 2018

    Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie talk to Matthew Sweet about how humour changes and the targets of their TV comedy show which ran during the '70s and early '80s. A box set of the 67 half hour episodes is being released. Producer: Harry Parker.

  • What Nietzsche teaches us

    Sep 20 2018

    How Nietzsche might have responded to current debates, including Trump, 'post-truth', identity and Europe. Kwame Anthony Appiah talks about his new work on identity and biographer Sue Prideaux and philosophers Hugo Drochon and Katrina Mitcheson join Matthew Sweet to think about Nietzsche. I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux is published on October 30th. Her books include Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, which was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and Strindberg: A Lif...more

  • What Camus and Claude Lévi-Strauss teach us

    Sep 19 2018

    Rana Mitter talks to poet and writer Ben Okri and writer and journalist Agnes Poirier about the contemporary resonance of The Outsider by Albert Camus (1913-1960), and as a new biography of the anthropological giant, Claude Levi-Strauss by Emmanuelle Loyer comes out in English, he talks to anthropologist, Adam Kuper about travel, anthropology and how we classify. Rana is also joined by Peter Moore who has written a history of the ship Endeavour which carried James Cook on his first explorations ...more

  • What St Augustine teaches us

    Sep 18 2018

    Ideas of tryanny, martyrdom, sin and grace in a new play set against Indian politics today and an exhibition which might be called pornographic. April De Angelis has relocated a Lope De Vega play to contemporary India, and a backdrop of political unrest. The original Fuenteovejuna was inspired by an incident in 1476 when inhabitants of a village banded together to seek retribution on a commander who mistreated them. The Spanish Baroque artist and printmaker, Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652) is known...more

  • Proms Plus: Retelling Troy

    Sep 18 2018

    Bettany Hughes and Alex Clark discuss feminist retellings of The Iliad. Rachel Stirling reads extracts.

  • Sebastian Faulks

    Sep 13 2018

    The author of Birdsong talks to Anne McElvoy in one of the first conversations about his new novel. Sebastian Faulks discusses depicting France past and present from World War I to Algeria and immigration now as he publishes his latest novel called Paris Echo. Recorded with an audience at the BBC Proms. Producer: Fiona McLean

  • Women Finding a Voice

    Sep 12 2018

    Deborah Frances-White host of podcast The Guilty Feminist joins Catherine Fletcher. Novelist Michèle Roberts reviews a portrait of artist Louise Bourgeois woven from conversations, and comedian and classicist Natalie Haynes discusses co-writing a modern political comedy based on The Assembly Women by Aristophanes, whilst Jeanie O'Hare talks about filling in the gaps in Shakespeare's depiction of Queen Margaret in her new play. Now, Now Louison written by Jean Frémon, translated by Cole Swens...more

  • Design

    Sep 11 2018

    A silent room and a design to encourage disobedience are amongst the exhibits that Matthew Sweet and Laurence Scott visit at the London Design Biennale as they consider the role of Design in the week the V&A opens a new museum in Dundee. New Generation Thinker Kylie Murray talks about her discoveries of scribblings in the margins of books and what they tell us about Dundee's connections with France in late medieval times. Plus film critic Peter Biskind explores the effect of superhero and zombie...more

  • Proms Plus: Sex and Death in Literature

    Sep 03 2018

    The Booker long-listed crime writer, Belinda Bauer and the novelist, Patricia Duncker, join Matthew Sweet to discuss sex and death in literature. Embracing everything from Emily Bronte to Margaret Atwood they consider the challenges and the pitfalls posed by both subjects and whether they’re easier to approach now than they were in the past. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Proms Plus: Northern Lights

    Aug 29 2018

    The appearance of the aurora borealis has entranced and intrigued people from cultures across the world, inspiring art, music and stories, including tonight's Proms world premiere of Iain Bell's Aurora. But what creates it? Why is it green? Physicists Melanie Windridge, author of Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights, and Nathan Case of Aurorawatch UK discuss the science that lies behind the Northern Lights. BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is the author of Beyo...more

  • Proms Plus: W. H. Auden's The Age of Anxiety

    Aug 29 2018

    W H Auden called his longest poem, The Age of Anxiety a baroque eclogue - a description which hints at its rich complexity. Its account of a meeting between four strangers in a New York bar inspired Leonard Bernstein’s second symphony and was much admired by T S Eliot. The writers Glyn Maxwell and Polly Clark explore some of the intricacies of the poem with Matthew Sweet and explain how Auden has influenced their poetry and prose. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Prom Plus: Gypsy, Roma & Traveller Culture

    Aug 23 2018

    Novelist Louise Doughty, author of Apple Tree Yard and Stone Cradle, talks to writer Damian Le Bas, author of The Stopping Places, about their shared Romany heritage and the culture of the wider Romany diaspora. Presenter: Sophie Coulombeau

  • Proms Plus: FAIRY TALES

    Aug 21 2018

    Fairy tales are not just familiar stories told to children but are also a means of conveying dark truths about morality and behaviour to adults. There are similarities between stories shared in different cultures . Composer Kerry Andrew has published her first novel Swansong and she performs many traditional songs. She talks to writer Katherine Langrish, author of Seven Miles of Steel Thistles and a “Troll Trilogy” about the cultural legacy of fairy tales and the lessons we can learn from them ...more

  • Landmark Jaws: Sharks and Whales

    Aug 20 2018

    Novelist Will Self, shark expert Gareth Fraser and film expert Ian Hunter join Matthew Sweet for a discussion about sharks, whales and the impact of the book and film Jaws. Jaws started out as a novel which reads as a sociological study of a small American coastal resort full of rather unlikeable characters. It ended up as an iconic film whose heroes engage in a fight to the death with a Great White Man-Eating Machine. Matthew Sweet discusses how the shark came to fill the space once hel...more

  • Proms Plus: Ecstatic States

    Aug 14 2018

    Christopher Harding talked to the philosopher Mark Vernon and New Generation Thinker Hetta Howes about figures from the past and present who have searched for a sense of transcendence and experienced ecstatic states.

  • Proms Plus: Sinking of the Lusitania

    Aug 12 2018

    Historians Laura Rowe and Saul David discuss the controversy surrounding the 1915 German torpedo attack that sank the RMS Lusitania, killing 1198 passengers and crew. Presented by Anindya Raychaudhuri.

  • Proms Plus:The Weeping Prophet and Visions of Chaos

    Aug 10 2018

    The Bible has provided much fruitful inspiration to poets, novelists and composers over the past two thousand years. BBC New Generation Thinker Dr Joe Moshenska teaches Milton at the University of Cambridge. He discusses ideas of doom, chaos and Biblical themes with the novelist Salley Vickers, whose novel Mr Golightly’s Holiday features God as protagonist. They look at the “weeping prophet” Jeremiah, Job, Cassandra and Tiresias and discuss whether creation is impossible without chaos with Nan...more

  • Proms Plus: Re-working a Classic in Poetry

    Aug 06 2018

    A series of classical tales, from the Iliad to the Inferno have been recast by modern poets. Sean O’Brien has written a version of Dante’s Inferno, and, for the stage, Aristophanes’ The Birds; he is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. Sandeep Parmar’s poetry includes Eidolon, the classical rewrite Helen of Troy in America, and she is a Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool. Catherine Fletcher invites them to reflect on how to find the right word...more

  • Proms Plus: Folklore of Britain and Ireland

    Aug 06 2018

    Poets Gillian Clarke and Peter Mackay discuss the rich seam of folklore that has influenced their work and the danger of losing our connection to these tales. Gillian is a former National Poet of Wales and winner of the Queen’s Medal for Poetry. Peter is a New Generation Thinker, originally from Lewis, and an expert in Scots and Irish poetry.

  • Proms Plus: London in Fact & Fiction

    Jul 31 2018

    Novelists John Lanchester and Diana Evans, both chroniclers of contemporary London, discuss the many and diverse communities and villages that make up the UK capital, exploring the differences between north and south, east and west, the suburbs and the inner city. John Lanchester’s novel Capital, set in London prior to and during the 2008 financial crisis, was dramatised for BBC Television in 2015, while Diana Evans’ most recent novel Ordinary People offers a portrait of contemporary London and ...more

  • Proms Plus: Mountains

    Jul 30 2018

    The Alps have loomed large in the artistic imagination since the Romantic poets explored them in search of ‘the sublime’. Historian Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough talks to writer Abbie Garrington and climber Dan Richards. His book Climbing Days tells the life of his Great-Great Aunt, Dorothy Pilley, a pioneering woman climber, and reflects on the appeal of the mountains and how the landscape can be a force for creativity, in music and literature. Abbie Garrington, from Durham University, has a Lev...more

  • Proms Plus: Funny Fiction

    Jul 28 2018

    Inspired by Beethoven's penchant for musical jokes, Sahidha Bari is joined by writer Meg Rosoff for a selection of readings of comic fiction from Kingsley Amis to Paul Beatty. The reader is Carl Prekopp.

  • Proms Plus: British Countryside real & imagined

    Jul 27 2018

    Ever since the ancient Greeks, writers have waxed lyrical about rural life, associating it with beauty, innocence and goodness. Will Abberley, BBC New Generation Thinker and senior lecturer in English at the University of Sussex is joined by writer Melissa Harrison & archaeologist and sheep farmer Francis Pryor to discuss the British countryside real and imagined. Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • Proms Plus: Birds and Humans

    Jul 27 2018

    Helen Macdonald, author of H Is For Hawk and Tim Birkhead, Professor of Behaviour and Evolution at the University of Sheffield and author of Bird Sense, share their experiences of observing birds closely and their pick of writing inspired by real and fictional birds. Professor Birkhead’s recent research has been into the adaptive significance of egg shape in birds and Helen Macdonald won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize and Costa Book Award for her writing about the year she spent training a goshaw...more

  • Proms Plus: The Wanderer

    Jul 25 2018

    Lauren Elkin, author of 'Flaneuse' and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker Seán Williams talk to Rana Mitter about the joys of a wandering life and the inspiration that walking brought to writers from the 18th century to the present day. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Proms Plus – exploring the narrative voice in literature

    Jul 21 2018

    Sarah Dillon and novelist Richard Beard on narrative voices in literature

  • Proms Plus: Daphnis & Chloe

    Jul 17 2018

    Longus’s charming pastoral novel Daphnis and Chloe about teenage love and pirates was written in the second century AD. Tim Whitmarsh, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge, discusses his work, alongside that of other early Greek writers and Judith Mackrell, dance critic for The Guardian talks about how the text was used by Diaghilev to create the iconic ballet for the Ballet Russes. Presenter: Shahidha Bari. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • Howard Jacobson

    Jul 12 2018

    Why We Need the Novel Now. Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson delivers a keynote lecture and talks to presenter Shahidha Bari and an audience at the Southbank Centre in London as part of the Man Booker 50 Festival. In the age of Twitter and no-platforming, Jacobson argues that the novel has never been more necessary. Howard Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize in 2010 for The Finkler Question and was shortlisted for J in 2014 Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Helaine Blumenfeld, Dale Harding; Stella Tillyard

    Jul 12 2018

    Helaine Blumenfeld is a sculptor who divides her time between her family in England and her work-family in Italy. As an exhibition featuring much new work opens in Ely Cathedral, she talks to Anne McElvoy about expressing her thoughts in marble, the importance of risk to the artist and why total immersion without distraction produces her best work. As the Liverpool Biennial gets under way Dale Harding, an Australian artist and descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal peoples of Central ...more

  • Philosophical tennis, hidden beaches and Eleanor Marx.

    Jul 10 2018

    At the height of summer, Matthew Sweet and guests turn their minds to tennis, beaches and walking. As Wimbledon continues, Benjamin Markovits and William Skidelsky consider the philosophy of tennis; New Generation Thinker Des Fitzgerald explores the geography of a little known beach in Cardiff city centre; Rachel Holmes goes on a walking tour of Eleanor Marx's Sydenham in south London. A Weekend in New York is by Benjamin Markovits Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession is by William Skid...more

  • From C18 automata to Superheroes and Digital Living

    Jul 06 2018

    Playwright Charlotte Jones, author Laurence Scott, New Generation Thinkers Lisa Mullen and Iain Smith join Matthew Sweet. Charlotte Jones discusses her new play set in a Quaker community during the Napoleonic Wars. Matthew Sweet visits Compton Verney Art Gallery with Lisa Mullen to see the exhibition, 'Marvellous Mechanical Museum' which re-imagines the spectacular automata exhibitions of the 18th century. Laurence Scott talks about the ideas in his book, 'Picnic Comma Lightning' which explor...more

  • Renzo Piano

    Jul 04 2018

    The Italian architect and engineer, Renzo Piano, talks to Philip Dodd about his career from the Pompidou in Paris (with Richard Rogers) to the Shard in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. 50 years of his work are being marked in an exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts from the 15th of September to the 20th of January 2019. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith.

  • What do you call a stranger? The Caine Prize. NHS ideals.

    Jul 04 2018

    Nandini Das and John Gallagher look at words for strangers in Tudor and Stuart England and ideas about civility. Plus Shahidha Bari talks to Makena Onjerika the winner of the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing. And, as the NHS approaches its 70th anniversary, we discuss the relationship between care, institutions, and the concept of medicine with novelist and former nurse Christie Watson, and historian of the NHS Roberta Bivins. Nandini Das is working on the Tide Project http://www.tidep...more

  • Fun Home, Olivia Laing, Oscar Wilde, The Deer Hunter

    Jun 28 2018

    Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir 'Fun Home' on stage at the Young Vic in London reviewed by Jen Harvie from Queens Mary University of London, a novel inspired by Kathy Acker from Olivia Laing, Film historian and broadcaster Ian Christie on the 40th anniversary of Michael Cimino's film, 'The Deerhunter' and a new biography by Michèle Mendelssohn on Oscar Wilde's time in America. Mathew Sweet presents. Fun Home - which explores family, memory and sexuality, runs at the Young Vic in London from ...more

  • The body, past and present

    Jun 28 2018

    Can beauty be an ethical ideal? What did being handsome mean in C18 England? How do we look at images by Egon Schiele and Francesca Woodman or a Renaissance nude and is that affected by changing attitudes towards the body now? Anne McElvoy talks to the painter, Chantal Joffe, the philosopher, Heather Widdows, the writer, performer and activist Penny Pepper and the New Generation Thinkers Catherine Fletcher and Sarah Goldsmith. Chantal Joffe's solo show - Personal Feeling is the Main thing - ...more

  • The Working Lunch and Food in History

    Jun 27 2018

    Rana Mitter discusses food in history. James C Scott on the role of grain and coercion in the development of the first settled societies, and how the Victorians changed lunch, with New Generation Thinkers Elsa Richardson and Chris Kissane. Plus, following the death of American philosopher Stanley Cavell last week, Rana discusses his work and legacy with Stephen Mulhall and Alice Crary. New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to select ten...more

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Woman’s Rights

    Jun 22 2018

    170 years ago one woman launched the beginning of the modern women’s rights movement in America. New Generation Thinker Joanna Cohen of Queen Mary University of London looks back at her story and what lessons it has for politics now. In the small town of Seneca Falls in upstate New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote The Declaration of Sentiments, a manifesto that took one of the nation’s most revered founding documents, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, and turned its condemnation of Br...more

  • John Gower, the Forgotten Medieval Poet

    Jun 22 2018

    The lawyer turned poet whose response to political upheaval has lessons for our time - explored by New Generation Thinker Seb Falk with an audience at the York Festival of Ideas The 14th century’s most eloquent pessimist, John Gower has forever been overshadowed by his funnier friend Chaucer. Yet his trilingual poetry is truly encyclopedic, mixing social commentary, romance and even science. Writing ‘somewhat of lust, somewhat of lore’, Gower's response to political upheaval was to ‘shoot my a...more

  • Sarah Scott and the Dream of a Female Utopia

    Jun 22 2018

    A radical community of women set up in 1760s rural England is explored in an essay from New Generation Thinker Lucy Powell, recorded with an audience at the 2018 York Festival of Ideas. Sarah Scott’s first novel, published in 1750, was a conventional French-style romance, the fitting literary expression of a younger daughter of the lesser gentry. One year later, she had scandalously fled her husband’s house, and pooled finances and set up home with her life-long partner, Lady Barbara Montagu....more

  • The Forgotten German Princess

    Jun 22 2018

    The most famous imposter of the seventeenth century - Mary Carleton. John Gallagher, of the University of Leeds, argues that the story of the "German Princess" raises questions about what evidence we believe and the currency of shame. Her real name was thought to be Mary Moders and she became a media sensation in Restoration London, after her husband’s family, greedy for the riches they believed her to be concealing, accused her of bigamy and put her on trial for her life. Her life, and what r...more

  • Rehabilitating the Rev John Trusler

    Jun 22 2018

    Sophie Coulombeau tells the story of John Trusler, an eccentric Anglican minister who was the quintessential 18th-century entrepreneur. He was a prolific author, an innovative publisher, a would-be inventor, and a ‘medical gentleman’ of dubious qualifications. Dismissed by many as a conman and scoundrel, today, few have heard of the man but his madcap schemes often succeeded, in different forms, a century or two later. In his efforts we can trace the ancestors of the thesaurus, the self-help boo...more

  • Oliver Rackham and Wildwood Ideas

    Jun 21 2018

    Our romantic attachment to the idea of wildwood, the impossibility of ever getting back to some primeval grove, and the possibilities opening up about the health and wellbeing of future forests, are debated by Rana Mitter with ecologist and conservationist, Keith Kirby, who knew and worked with Rackham, botanist Fraser Mitchell whose work with pollen is helping to uncover the deep history of trees and environmental archaeologist, Suzi Richer, who is assembling oral histories of woodcraftship and...more

  • Windrush. Forests in Art. South African Jazz

    Jun 21 2018

    Colin Grant, Hannah Lowe and Jay Bernard discuss writing about Windrush 70 years on with Shahidha Bari. Plus Alexandra Harris looks at trees in art as part of Radio 3's Into the Forest season of programmes and Jonathan Eato and Nduduzo Makhintini discuss their research into South African jazz -- one of the subjects in the British Academy Summer Showcase. Colin Grant has written books including Bageye at the Wheel, A Smell of Burning, I & I Natural Mystics and Negro with a Hat. Hannah Lowe'...more

  • The Word For World Is Forest

    Jun 19 2018

    Ursula Le Guin's idea of the forest is explored by philosopher and Green party politician Rupert Read and novelist Zen Cho. Plus Matthew Sweet talks to Ian Hislop about this year's winner of the Paul Foot Award for Investigative Journalism, and for Radio 3's 'Into the Forest' we ask whether, if a tree falls in the wood and nobody is around, it makes a sound. Usula Le Guin (1929 - 2018) published her science fiction novella The Word for World Is Forest in 1972. In midsummer week, Radio 3 en...more

  • The Piano and Love

    Jun 14 2018

    Historian Fern Riddell and composer Debbie Wiseman on why the piano is essentially erotic while psychologist Frank Tallis and Tiffany Watt Smith explore obsessive love with presenter Matthew Sweet. Plus Grainne Sweeney curator of an exhibition which looks at the way inventors from the North East of England have shaped the world we live in today. Dr Frank Tallis is a writer and clinical psychologist and author of The Incurable Romantic: and Other Unsettling Revelations as well as a series of ...more

  • Inside the 'Intellectual Dark Web'

    Jun 13 2018

    Commentator Douglas Murray, journalist Bari Weiss and writer Ed Husain join Philip Dodd to explore the 'Intellectual Dark Web'. Their YouTube videos and podcasts receive millions of views and downloads. They sell out theatres across the US. But these aren't rock stars or the latest pop sensation. They are a collection of public intellectuals, scientists, political columnists, and stand up-comedians who are at the front line of the raging 'culture wars'. As two of its leading figures, neurosc...more

  • Mark Lilla. Owen Hatherley. Gulzaar Barn.

    Jun 12 2018

    Mark Lilla could be called the conscience of liberal America. He talks to Anne McElvoy about life after identity politics. 2018 New Generation Thinker Gulzaar Barn discusses whether paying people for taking part in medical trials is different from other forms of "labour". Plus Owen Hatherley's latest book is called Trans-Europe Express: Tours of a Lost Continent. He discusses what makes a European city and who should take responsibility for shaping our urban environment whether its Hull or Thess...more

  • The Man Who Convinced Jimmy Carter to Run for President

    Jun 07 2018

    Matthew Sweet meets with physician, anthropologist, author and Jimmy Carter's former 'drugs czar', Peter Bourne. Comparing his life to the title character in the film Forrest Gump, the trained psychiatrist and Vietnam veteran looks back on an eclectic career spanning six decades. He talks about his involvement in the civil rights movement, his close relationship with Jimmy Carter (and how he convinced him to run for president), serving as an Assistant Secretary-General at the UN, and his awk...more

  • Bernard-Henri Lévy, Edith Hall and Simon Critchley

    Jun 07 2018

    From people-watching with Aristotle in a London park, to meeting in a luxury hotel at midnight to discuss the fate of a continent, to using a lunchtime five-a-side game as the starting point for a meditation on the human condition, this programme treats 'philosophy' as a verb rather than a noun. Bernard-Henri Lévy is in London to perform a one-man play on Brexit. Simon Critchley's new book is What We Think About When We Think About Football, and Edith Hall's is Aristotle's Way: How Ancient Wisdo...more

  • The rise of translation and the death of foreign language learning

    Jun 06 2018

    Arundhati Roy, Meena Kandasamy and Preti Taneja share thoughts about translation. Plus Anne McElvoy will be joined by Professor Nichola McLelland and Vicky Gough of the British Councl to examine why, in UK schools and universities, the number of students learning a second language is collapsing - whilst the number of languages spoken in Britain is rising and translated fiction is becoming more available and popular. The Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy is giving the W G Sebald lecture at th...more

  • American slavery, the occult and modern politics, jobs for psychopaths.

    Jun 01 2018

    Iraq vet and novelist Kevin Powers, the careers picked by psychopaths, and American writer Gary Lachman join Matthew Sweet. Kevin Powers' prize winning novel The Yellow Birds explored the experience of soldiers and their lack of control. His new novel A Shout in the Ruins looks at the long shadows cast by the American Civil War and slavery. Gary Lachman discusses non-rational or pre-Enlightenment thinking in contemporary politics and culture as he publishes his latest book called Dark Star...more

  • Rowan Williams and Simon Armitage

    May 30 2018

    Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has written about Auden, Dostoevsky and tragedy. At Hay Festival he talks to poet Simon Armitage about the imprint of landscapes in Yorkshire, West Wales, and the Middle East, the use of dialect words and reinterpreting myths. Chaired by Rana Mitter. Books by Rowan Williams include Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction and The Tragic Imagination. He is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Books by Simon Armitage include The Unaccompanied, ...more

  • Elif Shafak, Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Javier Cercas

    May 29 2018

    The lure of conspiracy theories, the power of fiction to translate history and the public role of writer are debated as Shahidha Bari chairs a discussion recorded with the Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez, the Spanish writer Javier Cercas and the Turkish author Elif Shafak - recorded with an audience at the Hay Festival. Javier Cercas' latest novel is The Impostor and his essay about fiction is called The Blind Spot. Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s new novel is called The Shape of the Ruins. ...more

  • Tacita Dean; Mountains, John Tyndall

    May 24 2018

    Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough meets the British artist Tacita Dean. ‘Tacita Dean: Landscape’ has just opened at the Royal Academy in London and features vast chalk mountains and cloudscapes and a film made in Cornwall, Yellowstone and Wyoming. And what does an artist do when she travels hundreds of miles to film a total eclipse of the sun… and finds there’s no film in the camera. Then focus on mountains and those who climb them. New Generation Thinker Ben Anderson reflects on an interplay be...more

  • The 2018 Wolfson History Prize Debate

    May 23 2018

    This year's authors are: Robert Bickers for Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Western Domination Lindsey Fitzharris for The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine Tim Grady for A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War Miranda Kaufmann for Black Tudors: The Untold Story Peter Marshall for Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation Jan Rüger for Heligoland: Britain, Germany and the Struggle for the...more

  • In Conversation: Philip Roth (1933 - 2018)

    May 23 2018

    From BBC Radio 3's archive, another opportunity to hear an interview with Philip Roth (1933 - 2018), author of books including Portnoy's Complaint & American Pastoral. Recorded in New York in 2008, Philip Roth talked to Philip Dodd about his life and work and about his 29th book Indignation. The Pulitzer Prize winning Roth has been called provocative, playful and angry and many of his themes remained consistent since he began writing in the late 1950’s. He and his fictional alter ego, Na...more

  • Motherhood in fiction, memoir and on the analyst's couch

    May 22 2018

    Writers Sheila Heti, Jessie Greengrass and Jacqueline Rose compare notes on motherhood & presenter Anne McElvoy looks at depictions of Mrs Noah with New Generation Thinker Daisy Black. Jacqueline Rose has written Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty. Her previous books include Women in Dark Times Sheila Heti's latest book is called Motherhood. Her previous books include How Should a Person Be? and Women in Clothes. Jessie Greengrass' novel, Sight, has been shortlisted for the Women's...more

  • Jordan B Peterson

    May 17 2018

    Self help, identity politics and the influence of postmodernists are on the agenda as Philip Dodd meets the YouTube star and Canadian clinical psychologist, Jordan B. Peterson. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson is out now. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith

  • Designing the future

    May 17 2018

    Shahidha Bari looks at British design pioneers Enid Marx, Edward Bawden and Charles Rennie Mackintosh with curators Alan Powers and James Russell and design historian Eleanor Herring. 2018 New Generation Thinker Lisa Mullen visits The Future Starts Here at the V&A. Alan Powers is the author of a new book Enid Marx:The Pleasures of Pattern and is curating an exhibition at the House of Illustration in London Print, Pattern and Popular Art which runs from May 25th to September 23rd 2018 James...more

  • John Gray, Atheism and Post-structuralism

    May 16 2018

    The relationship between intellectuals, nations and spies debated by Agnes Poirier, Maria Dimitrova, and Jefferson Morley. Plus philosopher John Gray explores atheism and doubt with Matthew Sweet. Seven Types of Atheism by John Gray is out now. Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • What is Speech?

    May 10 2018

    Matthew Sweet discusses talking, speech and having a voice, with Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford; Rebecca Roache, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London; actress and impressionist Jessica Martin; and Maurice McLeod, social commentator, director of Media Diversified, and Labour councillor for Queenstown Battersea. Trevor Cox has written Now You're Talking: The Story of Human Conversation from Neanderthals to Artificial ...more

  • Charms: Madeline Miller; Zoe Gilbert; Kirsty Logan

    May 09 2018

    Each generation creates its own myths and in Free Thinking, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough talks to three writers whose novels and stories spring bright and fresh from a compost of classical legend and British folk stories. Madeline Miller, the American writer who re-created Achilles for the 21st century, now turns her attention to Circe, nymph, lowest-of-the-low goddess or witch, who possesses a unique sympathy for humanity. Zoe Gilbert's obsession with folk stories where strange things happen an...more

  • Out of Control?

    May 08 2018

    Former army officer Dr Mike Martin on Why We Fight. Historian Priya Satia argues that guns were the drivers behind the industrial revolution. The mob as a political entity and the Massacre of St George's Fields of 10 May 1768 is considered in an opinion piece from 2018 New Generation Thinker Dafydd Mills Daniel. We also look at night time - curator Anna Sparham selects some nocturnal views of the capital from a photography exhibition at the Museum of London, while Dr Gavin Francis explains how b...more

  • Disrupted Childhood. Turkish Star Wars

    May 04 2018

    Pauline Dakin spent her childhood on the run. Sally Bayley grew up in a house where men were forbidden and a charismatic leader ruled. They compare notes with presenter Matthew Sweet. New Generation Thinker Iain Smith discusses his research into the history of a film known as the Turkish Star Wars. Plus Canadian poet Gary Geddes on his poem sequence The Terracotta Army. And the pioneering Hungarian photographer László Moholy-Nagy and the birds eye view images which he created. Sarah Allen, co-cu...more

  • Marxism

    May 02 2018

    Anne Applebaum, Gregory Claeys, Jane Humprhies and Richard Seymour join Rana Mitter to assess the legacy of Marx 200 years after his birth. Do his ideas have currency and if so where is he an influence in the world? Academic Emile Chabal reports on researching Marxism in India and Brazil. Gregory Claeys is the author of Marx and Marxism Richard Seymour has written Corbyn - The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics Anne Applebaum's latest book is called Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukrain...more

  • America: Inequality & Race

    May 01 2018

    Jesmyn Ward - author of Sing, Unburied Sing talks to Christopher Harding about editing a collection of essays called The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race and about the depictions of family life and poverty and the influence of Greek drama on her prize winning novels. Sarah Churchwell traces the history of the use and meaning of the phrases 'the American Dream' and 'America First'. John Edgar Wideman explains what he was seeking to do by blurring fact and fiction in his new shor...more

  • Tokyo Idols and Urban life.

    Apr 26 2018

    Tokyo used to be presented as the ultimate hyper-modern city. But after years of economic recession the Tokyo of today has another side. A site of alienation and loneliness, anxiety about conformity and identity, it is a place where self-professed 'geeks' (or 'otaku'), mostly single middle-aged men, congregate in districts like Akibahara to pursue fanatical interests outside mainstream society, including cult-like followings of teenage girl singers known as Tokyo Idols. Novelist Tomouki Hosh...more

  • Landmark: Rashōmon

    Apr 25 2018

    David Peace, Natasha Pulley, Yuna Tasaka and Jasper Sharp join Rana Mitter. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's short story 'In a Grove', published in 1922, became the basis for the 1950 film from Akira Kurosawa 'Rashōmon', one of the first Japanese films to gain worldwide critical acclaim. 'The Rashōmon Effect' has become a byword for the literary technique where the same event is presented via the different and incompatible testimonies from the characters involved. David Peace's new book 'Patient X' is ...more

  • Japan and Nature

    Apr 25 2018

    Photographer Mika Ninagawa talks to Christopher Harding about the artificiality of her images of cherry blossoms. A plane crash in the mountains is explored in the new novel Seventeen from Hideo Yokoyama, translated by Louise Heal Kawai. And presenter Anne McElvoy is also joined by Eiko Honda from the University of Oxford and Professor Stephen Dodd from SOAS, the University of London for an exploration of the way nature has been depicted across the decades in Japanese writing and political thoug...more

  • Learning from Sweden

    Apr 19 2018

    What do meatballs, The Square and Henning Mankell have in common? The answer is Sweden as you’ve no doubt guessed. As ABBA’s Cold War musical, Chess, is poised to return to the British stage Matthew Sweet considers what Sweden’s taught us – whether in films such as I am Curious Yellow or in the aisles at IKEA - and what the Swedes might have gained from their brushes with Britain. His guests include Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute in Oxford, the Swedish cultural attache, Pi...more

  • Shakespeare, Creativity and the Role of the Writer

    Apr 18 2018

    The real Cleopatra examined by New Generation Thinker Islam Issa plus Ros Barber on Warwickshire words in Shakespeare's verse, two leading neurologists, Suzanne O'Sullivan and Jules Montague explore the intricacies of the brain and the infinite capacity for experience and imagination, the playwright Ella Hickson on her new production in which she explores the personal cost of creative gain and Philip Horne on the notebooks left behind when the novelist Henry James died. Anne McElvoy presents. ...more

  • The Politics of Fashion and Drag

    Apr 18 2018

    Scrumbly Koldewyn remembers the '60s San Francisco theatre scene; Jenny Gilbert & Shahdiha Bari debate environmentalism and fashion at the V&A and Clare Lilley Director of Programmes at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park looks at the use of thread and textiles in art. Plus drag at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London with performers Lavinia Co-op and Rhys Hollis, plus Ben Walters who is researching this history. The environmental impact of fashion over more than 400 years is examined in the first UK...more

  • Marilynne Robinson

    Apr 12 2018

    When President Obama met the American essayist and fiction writer Marilynne Robinson they discussed shared values, citiizenship and Christianity. She talks to Rana Mitter about her definition of Puritanism, the radical history of the mid west states, the use of religion in current American political rhetoric and the biblical cadences of her fiction. Marilynne Robinson is the author of novels including Gilead, Lila, Home and her new collection of Essays is called What Are We Doing Here ? ...more

  • Macbeth and Things Fall Apart

    Apr 11 2018

    Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø on his novel based on Macbeth; playwright Mark Ravenhill on why the play rarely works on stage, James Shapiro on the contemporary events which shaped it and Emma Whipday on the elements that Shakespeare borrowed from 16th century domestic dramas. Plus Ellah Wakatama Allfrey on rereading Chinua Achebe's 1958 novel and the echoes of Macbeth she found there. Presented by Shahidha Bari A 60th anniversary reading of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe and abridged b...more

  • British New Wave Films of the '60s

    Apr 10 2018

    Matthew Sweet talks to the painter, Maggi Hambling about Cedric Morris one of British art's lost masters and with Joely Richardson and Melanie Williams, evaluates the impact and legacy of Woodfall Flims - the company that gave Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Rita Tushingham their first breaks and introduced us to films such as Look Back in Anger, A Taste of Honey and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. To round things off he'll also be talking to Daniel Kalder about his fascination with...more

  • Death Comes to Us All

    Apr 05 2018

    Former Bishop Richard Holloway, author of My Father’s Wake Kevin Toolis and palliative care consultant Kathryn Mannix join Philip Dodd to consider mortality. “In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes” Benjamin Franklin once wrote, but as we face the final curtain what can death teach us about ourselves and the ones we love? Richard Holloway is a writer, broadcaster and cleric, formerly Bishop of Edinburgh. His books include A Little History of Religion and Leavin...more

  • What Do We Mean by "Working Class Writing"?

    Apr 04 2018

    Kit de Waal, Darren McGarvey, Adelle Stripe and Michael Chaplin join Shahidha Bari to examine what we mean by ‘working class writing’. Crowd funding has helped bring a new generation of authors into print but is this because mainstream publishing has neglected diverse voices? What experiences do we want to see on the page and stage? Recorded at Sage Gateshead. Kit de Waal’s short stories include “Crushing Big”, “I am the Painter's Daughter” and “The Beautiful Thing” - which was broadcast on B...more

  • Introducing the New Generation Thinkers 2018

    Apr 03 2018

    The New Generation Thinkers is an annual competition run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. In this event, recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead, the 2018 selection make their first public appearance together. Hosted by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough of the University of Durham and a New Generation Thinker class of 2013. This year’s specialisms include explorations into 18th-century masculinity and the medical history of George Orwell, early 20th-century vegetari...more

  • Building Bridges and Other Megastructures

    Mar 29 2018

    In a space of less than a mile, seven bridges link Newcastle with Gateshead including the distinctive shape of the Tyne Bridge. But what kind of human endeavour goes into imagining and realising such man-made wonders? Newcastle University’s Sean Wilkinson, Erica Wagner author of Chief Engineer, and architect Simon Roberts look at the bond between the visionaries and the grafters with Rana Mitter and an audience at Sage Gateshead. Erica Wagner is the author of Chief Engineer: The Man Who Buil...more

  • #Speaking Up

    Mar 28 2018

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Afua Hirsch and Tarjinder Gill debate activism, social change and identity with Philip Dodd. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a journalist and broadcaster who regularly comments on immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism. She’s a founding member of British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the author of books including, Exotic England: The Making of A Curious Nation and Refusing The Veil. Afua Hirsch is a writer and broadcaster. She has worked as a barrister, as the West...more

  • Mass Hysterics

    Mar 27 2018

    Comedians Alexei Sayle, Jen Brister and Sanjeev Kohli join Matthew Sweet to offer a masterclass in making the many laugh. Recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead. Jen Brister is a stand-up comedian, writer and actor. She is a regular performer on the UK and international comedy circuits. She has written for BBC Scotland, presented for BBC 6 Music and Juice FM, and has been a regular contributor to magazines and online sites including Diva and The Huffington Post. Sanjeev Kohli is a co...more

  • Can There Be Multiple Versions of Me?

    Mar 26 2018

    Anne McElvoy enlists the help of Diversify author June Sarpong, doctor and medical historian Gavin Francis, performer and transgender activist Emma Frankland and philosopher Julian Baggini to tackle contemporary ideas about the ever changing notions of the self. Recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead. June Sarpong is the author of Diversify, a celebration of those who are often marginalised in our society including women, those living with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. A succes...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: What Do You Do If You Are a Manically Depressed Robot?

    Mar 23 2018

    New Generation Thinker Simon Beard, from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, looks at AI and what the writing of Douglas Adams tells us about questions of morality and who should be in control. This year is the 40th anniversary of BBC Radio 4’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead as part of BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival. New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to select ...more

  • Rethinking Civilisations

    Mar 22 2018

    As the BBC screens its new arts series, Civilisations, one of the presenters, David Olusoga, joins presenter Philip Dodd, anthropologist Kit Davis and the historian Kenan Malik to consider our different notions of world history from the dawn of human civilisation to the present day. David Olusoga is a historian, writer and broadcaster who has presented several TV documentaries including A House Through Time; The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire and the BAFTA award-winning Britain’s ...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: Kids With Guns

    Mar 22 2018

    New Generation Thinker Emma Butcher looks at what we learn about war from the writing of child soldiers in The Battle of Trafalgar and the childhood writings of the Bronte family who were avid readers of newspaper accounts of battles and memoirs of soldiers. Does their fantasy fiction show an understanding of PTSD and the impact of battle on fighters before such conditions were diagnosed? Dr Emma Butcher, literature historian at the University of Leicester, uncovers the history of Robert San...more

  • Gangs, the Usual Suspects

    Mar 21 2018

    From Brighton Rock and Goodfellas to the streets of Glasgow, London’s East End and Chicago, what’s it really like to be part of a gang and do gangs lead to organised crime? Matthew Sweet calls a meeting with Criminologist Alistair Fraser, journalist Symeon Brown and James Docherty of Scotland's Violent Reduction Unit Symeon Brown describes himself as an ’activist/writer on youth, justice and urbanism’ and is a journalist for Channel 4 News. He was senior researcher for The Guardian’s investi...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: Speaking Truth to Power in the Past and Present

    Mar 21 2018

    From Monarchs to Presidents. Joanne Paul on satire, flattery and document leaks in the C16 and C17 centuries and the relevance of strategies for telling truth to those who hold power over us now. Five hundred years ago a miscalculation on this front could leave you without a head. Today, the personal stakes may not be as high, but globally, we’ve never had so much to lose. Renaissance historian and New Generation Thinker Dr Joanne Paul, from the University of Sussex, takes us back to the 16th a...more

  • Power to the People?

    Mar 21 2018

    Anne McElvoy hosts Rod Liddle, associate editor of The Spectator; David Runciman, author of How Democracy Ends; Caroline MacFarland, the head of a think tank promoting the interests of ‘millennials’ and geographer Danny Dorling in an assessment of the influence of people power. Democracy was the most successful political idea of the last century but can it survive the digital age? Recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead. David Runciman is Professor of Politics at Cambridge University cur...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: When Shakespeare Travelled With Me

    Mar 20 2018

    April 1916. By the Nile, the foremost poets of the Middle East are arguing about Shakespeare. In 2004, Egyptian singer Essam Karika released his urban song Oh Romeo. Reflecting on his travels and encounters around the Arab world, Islam Issa, from Birmingham City University, discusses how canonical English writers (Shakespeare and Milton) creep into the popular culture of the region today. Recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead as part of BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival. Islam’s...more

  • Are We Afraid of Being Alone?

    Mar 20 2018

    Author of A Book of Silence Sara Maitland, medievalist John-Henry Clay, and writer Lionel Shriver face the crowd to contemplate the many sides to solitude. Chaired by Rana Mitter with an audience at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead. “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company”. Was Jean Paul Sartre right or are we just hot-wired to prefer the company of others? Is it even possible - as the famous hermit St Cuthbert once did - to experience true seclusion in our age...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: A War of Words

    Mar 19 2018

    A fashion show in Buenos Aires was put on for propaganda but football fixtures were deemed too risky. New Generation Thinker Dr Christopher Bannister, from the University of Manchester, looks at attempts to influence opinion about World War II in Latin America. Although relatively untouched by violence, support in such a strategically important region was vital to the British war effort. Bombs and bullets were no use here, so fashion shows, book launches, soap operas and films became the Briti...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: Doing Nothing

    Mar 16 2018

    Alastair Fraser talks about teenagers, street life and filling time. Doing nothing has become the mantra of twenty-first century life. In an accelerated world, we yearn for a space where minds are emptied, iPhones left at the door. But doing nothing is not always a choice. For young people, bored on the streets, it’s all there is. And for them doing nothing is always doing something. New Generation Thinker Alastair Fraser, from the University of Glasgow, has written books including Gangs and Cri...more

  • Has Social Media Cracked the Code to the Crowd?

    Mar 15 2018

    Author of Fully Connected Julia Hobsbawm, Social Media director at DEMOS Jamie Bartlett, writer Laurence Scott and tech blogger Abeba Birhane switch off their phones to focus on the impact of tech on the way we behave. Social media has allowed us to express our individuality and at the same time to interact like never before. But as the forces behind our digital lives become more sophisticated and powerful, are we in danger of succumbing to mass manipulation? Presented by Anne McElvoy with an au...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: Educating Ida

    Mar 15 2018

    Gilbert and Sullivan gave university-educated women the English comic operetta treatment in their eighth collaboration, Princess Ida (1884) but why did the most famous musical duo of their day choose to make fun of them? To find out, New Generation Thinker Dr Eleanor Lybeck, from the University of Oxford, looks at protests, popular culture and a group of pioneering Victorian women who saw education as the first step towards emancipation. Recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead as part of Rad...more

  • Podcast: There Is No I in Team

    Mar 15 2018

    Army captain turned MP Johnny Mercer, Theatre Director Elizabeth Newman and former footballer Paul Fletcher compare notes on leadership and teamwork - presented by Rana Mitter with an audience at Sage Gateshead. There is no I in Team .. but there's a ME if you look hard enough”, joked David Brent in the BBC sitcom, The Office. But for individuals with a proven track record in leadership, how do you get the best from your group while handling the demands of the individual? Johnny Mercer serve...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: Does Trusting People Need a Leap of Faith?

    Mar 15 2018

    Tom Simpson looks at a study of suspicion in a 1950s Italian village and the lessons it has for community relations and social tribes now. Edward Banfield's book, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, depicts a village where everyone is out for themselves. New Generation Thinker Tom Simpson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. He argues that we are losing the habits of trust that have made our prosperity possible. Un...more

  • Free Thinking Essay:Art for Health's Sake

    Mar 14 2018

    An apple a day is said to keep the doctor away but could a poem, painting or play have the same effect? Daisy Fancourt is a Wellcome Research Fellow at University College London. In her Essay, recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead for the Free Thinking Festival, she looks at experiments with results which which prove that going to a museum is known to enhance neuronal structure in the brain and improve its functioning and people who play a musical instrument have a lower risk of developing...more

  • The Dance of Nature

    Mar 14 2018

    From schools of fish to starlings to atomic particles. what does group behaviour look like in nature? Rana Mitter is joined by BBC Radio 4’s presenter of The Life Scientific Jim Al-Khalili, Melissa Bateson, Andrew McBain and Richard Bevan. Recorded with an audience at Sage Gateshead for the 2018 Free Thinking Festival. Jim Al-Khalili is Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific and TV documentaries including Gravity and Me: The Force ...more

  • Free Thinking Essay: Welling Up: Women & Water in the Middle Ages

    Mar 13 2018

    Hetta Howes looks at male fears and why Margery Kempe was criticised for crying and bleeding Medieval mystic Margery Kempe's excessive, noisy crying made her travelling companions so irritated that they wanted to throw her overboard, while others accused her of being possessed by the devil. But Kempe believed she was using her tears as a way to connect with God, turning the medieval connection between women and water into a form of bodily empowerment and a holy sign. New Generation Thinker He...more

  • The Population Bomb

    Mar 12 2018

    The geographer Danny Dorling; Lionel Shriver, the author and patron of Population Matters; and Stephen Emmott, author of 10 Billion, join Matthew Sweet and an audience at Sage Gateshead to debate whether we should have fewer children. In 1968 a Stanford university professor, Dr Paul E. Ehrlich, published The Population Bomb. This call to arms became a global bestseller, influenced public policy and made its author a celebrity. It predicted mass starvation in the US and an England underwater ...more

  • The Free Thinking Lecture: Linda Yueh on Globalisation

    Mar 09 2018

    Leading economic expert, Linda Yueh, delivers her vision for restoring faith in the free market to an audience at Sage Gateshead. Chaired by Philip Dodd. We live in a world where experts of all stripes are struggling to win over the confidence of the general population. Last year, the Bank of England said it was stepping up its efforts to minimise a ‘twin deficit’ of public understanding and trust in an area that has come under particular fire recently: economics. In a timely defence of her ...more

  • New Research into the UK Women's Suffrage Movement.

    Mar 08 2018

    How did interior design help gain women the vote? Were arson attacks justified? Who took part in a six-week march? What role did an Indian princess play? Helen Pankhurst, Jane Robinson, Fern Ridell, Shahida Rahman and Miranda Garrett discuss the history of women's suffrage with Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough in this centenary year of the Bill which gave some women the right to vote. Fern Riddell is the author of Death in 10 Minutes - Kitty Marion: Activist, Arsonist, Suffragette Helen Pankhu...more

  • The Golden Notebook

    Mar 07 2018

    How self-revealing and frank should a writer be? Lara Feigel, David Aaronovitch, Melissa Benn and Xiaolu Guo join Matthew Sweet to look at the life of Doris Lessing and her 1962 novel in which she explores difficult love, life, war, politics and dreams. Inspired by her re-reading of Doris Lessing, Lara Feigel has written a revealing book which is part memoir part biography called "Free Woman: Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing". Melissa Benn's books include Mother and Child, One of Us an...more

  • A Sentimental Journey

    Mar 01 2018

    Laurence Sterne's subjective travel book was published in 1768. Mary Newbould and Duncan Large discuss its influence. Plus novelist Philip Hensher on his new book The Friendly Ones and writing fiction about neighbourliness, families and the Bangladesh Liberation War. Walker Nick Hunt discusses his journeys following the pathways taken by European winds such as the Mistral and the Foehn and the conversations he had about nationalism, immigration and myths. Presented by New Generation Thinker Seán...more

  • What Lies Beneath; Neanderthal Cave Art to Fatbergs

    Feb 28 2018

    The archaeologist Francis Pryor tells Shahidha Bari about a lifetime of building vistas of our history and prehistory through the evidence of pottery shards, holes in the mud and broken bones and palaeo-archaeologist Paul Pettitt who co-discovered Britain's first cave art explains why darkness informed a critical component in the development of the human brain and archaeologist Ruth Whitehouse reflects on the use of caves for ritual. They are joined by Sharon Robinson-Calver who has been tasked ...more

  • The Joy of Bureaucracy

    Feb 22 2018

    Red tape or accountability? Matthew Sweet is joined by Lord Robin Butler, former head of the home Civil Service, writer and lecturer Eliane Glaser and Professor André Spicer whose recent book looks at meaningless management speak. Deborah McAndrew talks about her stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' Hard Times which examines the results of purely utilitarian education. And journalist Richard Lloyd Parry's new book is an account of the tsunami of 2011 - Japan's biggest loss of life since the bomb...more

  • Steven Pinker on Progress

    Feb 22 2018

    We should ignore newspaper headlines, believe that things are getting better and defend Enlightenment values. That's the message from Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He debates his defence of progress and his optimistic outlook with Philip Dodd. Plus culture wars in Britain. Are the divisions we are seeing today different to previous culture wars? Eliza Filby, Alex Massie & Tarjinder Gill debate. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Pro...more

  • Napoleon in Fact & Fiction

    Feb 21 2018

    From Napoleon impersonators, his image in caricature and ballads, to a play which asks what if he didn't die in exile - presenter Anne McElvoy is joined by actor and director Kathryn Hunter, biographer Michael Broers, historians Oskar Cox Jensen and Laura O'Brien and journalist Nabila Ramdani who looks at how Napoleon is viewed in 21st century France. Napoleon Disrobed - a play performed by Told By an Idiot which is based on the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys - is on tour visiting ...more

  • Reflecting Rural Life

    Feb 15 2018

    Film maker Clio Barnard and novelist Amanda Craig on rural life. Matthew Sweet presents.

  • Free Thinking: Mark Dion; Colour, Insects, Virginia Woolf

    Feb 14 2018

    American artist, Mark Dion has a new exhibition on in London: Theatre of the Natural World . Dion is exhilarated by the natural world but tells Anne McElvoy why his art is about how we classify it and what that says about us. Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by her Writings opens at Tate St Ives so Anne McElvoy finds out how questions about colour perception and insect behaviour in turn inspired the writer. Literary scholars Claudia Tobin and Rachel Murray discuss. Evolutionary biologis...more

  • How Big Should the State Be?

    Feb 14 2018

    David Willetts, Polly Toynbee, Baroness Simone Finn, Julia Black and Adrian Wooldridge join Anne McElvoy for a debate recorded with an audience at the LSE Festival Beveridge 2.0

  • Michael Ignatieff and Central Europe

    Feb 13 2018

    Philip Dodd talks to Michael Ignatieff about the political landscape of central Europe.

  • Tariq Ali

    Feb 08 2018

    1968 was one of the most seismic years in recent history -- Vietnam, the Prague spring, Black Power at the Olympics and protests on the streets of Paris and London so this evening's programme -- Rana Mitter's extended interview with Tariq Ali -- is part commemoration, part reassessment. What remains of that turbulent time and where can we discern its features in our political landscape today? Rana takes Tariq back to his life as a boy in Lahore - a city where his radical parents regularly hosted...more

  • Celebrating Buchi Emecheta

    Feb 08 2018

    Buchi Emecheta explored child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education in over 20 books. Born in 1944 in an Ibusa village, she lost her father aged eight, travelled to London and made a career as a writer whilst bringing up five children on her own, working by day and studying at night for a degree. Shahidha Bari talks to her son Sylvester Onwordi, to New Generation Thinker Louisa Egbunike, to publisher Margaret Busby and magazine editor Kadija George. We also hear ...more

  • Trade, Davos, Ocean travel and Mermaids

    Feb 02 2018

    Anne McElvoy looks at trade past and present as she discusses a book questioning economists' reliance on GDP with its author, David Pilling, and reports on debates from the world economic forum annual meeting at Davos with American reporter Rob Cox. She also looks at a new novel depicting a "mermaid" displayed as a visitor attraction by an 18th century London-based merchant, and is shown around an exhibition exploring the design and impact of ocean liners with one of its curators, Ghislaine Wood...more

  • The Working Class in Culture

    Feb 01 2018

    Writer Bea Campbell, artist Scottee, historian Emma Griffin, journalist Simon Jenkins & economist Guy Standing join Philip Dodd to consider the working class in culture. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class by Guy Standing is available now Scottee's Working Class Dinner Party is at Camden People's Theatre on 28 April as part of the Common People Festival from 17 to 28 April and his show Bravado continues to tour in April End of Equality by Beatrix Campbell is available now Emma Griffin'...more

  • Landmark: Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries

    Jan 30 2018

    Matthew Sweet discusses Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries with the writer Colm Toibin, the film critic Larushka Ivan-Zadeh and the Swedish Cultural Attaché Ellen Wettmark. Released in 1957 and inspired by Bergman's own memories of childhood holidays in a summerhouse in the north of Sweden, Wild Strawberries tells the story of elderly professor Isak Borg, who travels from his home in Stockholm to receive an honorary doctorate. On the way, he's visited by childhood memories. The film stars ve...more

  • Burns the Radical; Exploration

    Jan 25 2018

    From Ecuador to the Scottish borders: Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough meets Maren Meinhardt and Graham Robb who explore the land on their doorsteps and also follow in the footsteps of others from Humboldt the naturalist and explorer to the forgotten territory of the Debatable Land. They'll be joined by novelist Natasha Pulley whose fascination with Victorian exploration and empire building is reflected in her latest novel The Bedlam Stacks which took her to Peru. Another Burns night and Eleanor ...more

  • Royalty, art and patronage.

    Jan 24 2018

    Craig Brown, Afua Hirsch, Robert Jobson, A. N. Wilson and New Generation Thinker Joe Moshenska discuss the monarchy as the Royal Academy and the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace stage exhibitions exploring the painting collections of Charles I and II. How has patronage changed and, in this year of another Royal Wedding, what impact are depictions in TV dramas such as The Crown and biographies including Craig Brown's Ma'am Darling having on our view of royalty? Philip Dodd presents. Charles...more

  • Oscar Contenders, Movie Moguls and Silent Film Stars

    Jan 23 2018

    Matthew Sweet is joined by critics Ryan Gilbey and Ellen E Jones to look at the films nominated for this year's Academy Awards and the tradition of films with a campaigning message. Film historian Vanda Krefft charts the complicated life of William Fox, the man who founded the Fox Film Corporation. Comedian Lucy Porter and author Steve Massa celebrate the women of the silent era who starred alongside the likes of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Ri...more

  • Frankenstein and AI now.

    Jan 18 2018

    Fiona Sampson, Daisy Hay, Christopher Frayling and David H. Guston join Matthew Sweet to discuss Mary Shelley's story in film, fiction and the view of AI scientists now. In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by the poet and writer Fiona Sampson is out now. Christopher Frayling has published Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years Dr Daisy Hay is Senior Lecturer, English Literature and Archival Studies at the University of Exeter and a BBC Radio 3 and AHRC New Gene...more

  • French writing and politics

    Jan 17 2018

    Leïla Slimani, President Macron's champion of French culture and language, is interviewed by presenter Shahidha Bari about her new role and her novel Lullaby which won the 2016 Prix Goncourt Plus Emile Chabal from the University of Edinburgh discusses Savages: The Wedding by Sabri Louatah - a novel imagining the first Arab candidate for President is shot. The TV rights for the quartet of books have been sold and the first book is winning prizes and comparisons with the Neopolitan novels of Elen...more

  • Australian novelist Peter Carey.

    Jan 16 2018

    A car race around Australia is fictionalised in Peter Carey's latest novel. He talks to Rana Mitter about depicting race and racing. Josephine Quinn questions whether the Phoenicians existed as she looks at the way ancient texts and artworks helped construct an identity for the ancient civilization on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, stretching through what is now Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel. Classicist and novelist Natalie Haynes discusses Ovid's tales and Rana Mitter speaks to this y...more

  • Counterculture and Protest

    Jan 11 2018

    Matthew Sweet discusses protests like the 1968 uprising at Columbia University, 1985's Battle of the Beanfield and the acid house movement with guests Paul Hartnoll of Orbital, novelist Tony White, editor Paul Cronin and writer Tessa DeCarlo. The Fountain in the Forest by Tony White is available now A Time To Stir: Columbia '68 edited by Paul Cronin is out now Producer: Debbie Kilbride

  • The In Between

    Jan 10 2018

    Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough explores the uncanny possibilities of the In Between with the neuroscientist Dean Burnett, award-winning poet Vahni Capildeo, artist Alexandra Carr, writer and walker of London and other wastelands, Iain Sinclair, and the philosopher, Emily Thomas. How do our brains and bodies react in the In Between spaces of the airport lounge or the station platform where we're waiting to move on but temporarily in stasis and why have so many artists, writers and poets used thes...more

  • Landmark: The Odyssey

    Jan 09 2018

    Amit Chaudhuri, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Daniel Mendelsohn and Emily Wilson join Philip Dodd to explore translating, rewriting and using Homer's epic work to frame a memoir. Emily Wilson has published a new translation of The Odyssey Daniel Mendelsohn has written An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic Karen McCarthy Woolf wrote Nightshift as part of a BBC Radio 4's Odyssey Project which commissioned ten writers to create a contemporary response. Her most recent collection is called Seasona...more

  • Diving Deep

    Jan 04 2018

    Diving from Tudor times through the Brooklyn Naval Yard in the Second World War to present day deep water sculpture parks and swimming with whales. Rana Mitter talks to prize-winning writer Jennifer Egan about the Sea as metaphor and how the research for her latest novel, Manhattan Beach, was the inspiration for its time-shifting, punky, award-laden predecessor, The Goon Squad. He hears from historian Miranda Kaufmann about the existence of a black population of skilled workers in Tudor Englan...more

  • The Invention of the Circus Ring

    Jan 03 2018

    When Philip Astley and his trick riders performed in 1768 in a circle not a straight line in a field behind where Waterloo station is now, the idea of the circus ring was born. Matthew Sweet looks at the career of the impresario, his 42 foot diameter ring which is still the big top template and 250 years of circus with historian Vanessa Toulmin, performer Andrew Van Buren whose family have worked for 35 years to bring Astley's name to greater public attention, writer Naomi Frisby whose research...more

  • Rethinking Tradition

    Jan 02 2018

    Philip Dodd is joined by Roger Scruton, Haroon Mirza, Kevin Davey and Kirsty Gunn to explore writing, modernism and experiment from T. S. Eliot onwards. Roger Scruton's books include 'How to be a Conservative' and 'England: An Elegy'. His most recent is 'Where We Are'. Kevin Davey's novel 'Playing Possum' was shortlisted for the 2017 Goldsmiths Prize - a prize for writing which embodies the spirit of invention Kirsty Gunn is the author of novels including 'The Big Music' and 'The Boy...more

  • A Literary Salon.

    Dec 14 2017

    No need to RSVP just turn up and tune in to Free Thinking's end of year salon. Matthew Sweet is our host and he's promising wit and wisdom as well as a host of guests: Jake Arnott, Malika Booker, Neil Brand, David Aaronovitch and Katherine Cooper. Malika Booker co-founded Malika’s Poetry Kitchen in 2001 to create a nourishing and encouraging community of writers dedicated to the development of their writing. She is currently the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University of Leeds. Her ...more