Arts & Ideas

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


  • Family ties and reshaping history

    Sep 17 2020

    From the influential part played by Sikh queens, through the ties of marriage and religion which helped shape the Western world, back to the links between Neanderthals and early man: Rana Mitter talks to Priya Atwal, Joseph Henrich, and Rebecca Wragg Sykes about family ties, power networks, and history. Priya Atwal has published Royal and Rebels: The Rise and Fall of the Sikh Empire. Dr Atwal is a Teaching Fellow in Modern South Asian History at King's College London. Joseph Henrich is a Profes...more

  • New Thinking: The Mayflower and Native American History

    Sep 16 2020

    From fancy dress parties using native American head-dresses to the continuing significance of Wampum belts made of shells - how do particular objects help us tell the story of the colonisation of America and what is the legacy of the ideas brought by Puritan settlers who left English port cities like Plymouth and Southampton 400 years ago? Eleanor Barraclough talks to 3 academics whose research helps us answer these questions - Sarah Churchwell, Kathryn Gray and Lauren Working - and we hear cont...more

  • Piranesi and disturbing archecture

    Sep 15 2020

    Susanna Clarke, Adam Scovell, Lucy Arnold and Anton Bakker are Matthew Sweet's guests. Susanna Clarke talks about the inspiration behind the follow up to her best-selling first novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Piranesi is the springboard for a discussion about haunted spaces and mind-bending architecture in film, fiction and art from MC Escher to Christopher Nolan's Inception, Shirley Jackson to Mervyn Peake. The print maker Giovanni Battista Piranesi, who was born 300 years ago on Oct 4t...more

  • The Radiophonic Workshop

    Aug 06 2020

    The BBC Radiophonic workshop was founded in 1958 by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram. This group of experimental composers, sound engineers and musical innovators provided music for programmes including The Body in Question, Horizon, Quatermass, Newsround, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicle and Delia Derbyshire's iconic Doctor Who Theme before being shut down by Director General John Birt in 1998. Tying into the 2020 celebration of classic Prom concerts, this episode of Free Thinkin...more

  • Greek classics and the sea plus a pair of novels byTolstoy and Dostoevsky

    Jul 29 2020

    Classicists Edith Hall and Barry Cunliffe explore the importance of the sea in the classical world in a discussion hosted by Rana Mitter. Pat Barker and Giles Fraser look at Tolstoy's War and Peace and Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and the depiction of faith in those novels with presenter Ian McMillan. The Ancient Greeks often preferred to take sea journeys rather than risk encounters with brigands and travelling through mountain passes inland and colonised all round the Black Sea and Me...more

  • Wole Soyinka's writing

    Jul 29 2020

    Novelist Ben Okri, playwright Oladipo Agboluaje and academic Louisa Egbunike join Matthew Sweet to look at the influential writing of Nigerian playwright and author Wole Soyinka - and specifically at his play 1975 Death and the King's Horseman. In 1986 he became the first African author to be given the Nobel Prize in Literature. He has worked teaching at many universities in the USA, and began playwriting after studying at University College Ibadan, and then at Leeds University and working as a ...more

  • Bernard-Henri Lévy, Stella Sandford, Homi K Bhabha

    Jul 28 2020

    The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has written a philosophical take on the current pandemic and what it tells us about society. He talks with Stella Sandford, Director of the Society for European Philosophy in the UK and author of How to Read Beauvoir, whose own research looks at sex, race and feminism, and with Homi Bhabha, the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. The Virus in the Age of Madness by Bernard-Henri Lévy is out now. You can find a philosophy ...more

  • Anne Applebaum, Ingrid Bergman, Herland

    Jul 23 2020

    Anne Applebaum's new book The Twilight of Democracy has the subtitle The failure of democracy and the parting of friends. She talks to Anne McElvoy about what happened when she tried to connect up with past friends whose politics are now different to her own. The American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman is most famous now for her short story The Yellow Wallpaper. Will Abberley tells us about her view of fashion and why women should not seek to stand out because a focus on their appearance was co...more

  • Dada and the power of Nonsense

    Jul 22 2020

    Subversion in art and writing and a project to re-imagine Dada. Curator Jade French, artist Jade Montserrat, writer Lottie Whalen and 2020 New Generation Thinker Noreen Masud are in conversation with Shahidha Bari. You can find more about today's guests and their research at https://jademontserrat.com/ https://www.jadefrench.co.uk/research http://www.takedadaseriously.com/ http://lucywritersplatform.com/author/lottie-whalen/ https://www.dur.ac.uk/english.studies/staff/?id=17758 New Generation ...more

  • Proms Lecture - Daniel Levitin: Music and Our Brains

    Jul 22 2020

    Former musician and record producer Daniel Levitin is now a leading neuroscientist and best selling author. In this year marking the anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, Rana Mitter introduces a Proms Lecture called "Unlocking the Mysteries of Music in Your Brain", which uses Beethoven's compositions to set the Proms audience it was recorded with, in 2015, a series of challenges which reveal the relationship between memory and music. You can also find Daniel Levitin talking to Rana Mitter a...more

  • New Thinking:Nature Writing

    Jul 15 2020

    Gilbert White was born on July 19th 1720 at his grandfather's vicarage in Hampshire. His Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789) influenced a young Charles Darwin and he's been called England's first ecologist. Dafydd Mills Daniel from the University of Oxford tracks his influence on contemporary debates about the impact of man on the planet and the beginnings of precise and scientific observations about birds and animals. Dr Pippa Marland from the University of Leeds runs the Landlin...more

  • Magic

    Jul 14 2020

    Matthew Sweet delves into the deep history of magic, its evolution into religion and science and its continuing relevance in the 21st century. Joining his coven are novelist and historian Kate Laity, Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University Chris Gosden, Jessica Gossling who's one of the leaders of the Decadence Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London and John Tresch, Professor of the History of Science and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute. The History of Magic - F...more

  • How do we build a new masculinity ?

    Jul 13 2020

    Artist and photographer Sunil Gupta, authors CN Lester (Trans Like Me) and Tom Shakespeare (The Sexual Politics of Disability), and Barbican curator Alona Pardo join Matthew Sweet in a discussion inspired by the Barbican exhibition called Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography which has this week re-opened to visitors. They debate whether the old construct of masculinity in our culture is broken? As new ideas and thinking enter the debate, what is essential and what we can do away with as...more

  • Egyptian Satire

    Jul 09 2020

    Dina Rezk from the University of Reading looks at politics and the role of humour as she profiles Bassem Youssef “the Jon Stewart of Egyptian satire”. As protests reverberate around the world she looks back at the Arab Spring and asks what we can learn from the popular culture that took off during that uprising and asks whether those freedoms remain. You can hear her in a Free Thinking discussion about filming the Arab Spring https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0005sjw and in a discussion about Mo...more

  • Pogroms and prejudice

    Jul 09 2020

    New Generation Thinker Brendan McGeever traces the links between anti-semitism now and pogroms in the former Soviet Union and the language used to describe this form of racism. Brendan McGeever lectures at the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck University of London. You can hear him discussing an exhibition at the Jewish Museum exploring racial stereotypes in a Free Thinking episode called Sebald, anti-semitism, Carolyn Forché https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000...more

  • The consolation of philosophy and stories

    Jul 09 2020

    The Roman statesman Boethius wrote The Consolation of Philosophy around the year 524 when he was incarcerated. It advises that fame and wealth are transitory and explores the nature of happiness and belief. Former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway has been wrestling with the way we understand belief. He joins Professor Seth Lerer and New Generation Thinker Kylie Murray in a discussion chaired by Matthew Sweet. Richard Holloway's new book is called Stories We Tell Ourselves: Making Meaning in...more

  • What does a black history curriculum look like?

    Jul 08 2020

    Whose life stories are missing from the British history we write and teach? How do we widen the way we look at episodes which are on the syllabus? Rana Mitter's panel comprises Kimberly McIntosh Senior Policy Editor from the Runnymede Trust, Lavinya Stennett founder of the Black Curriculum & New Generation Thinker Christienna Fryar, who runs the Black British History MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. Plus Hester Grant has just published a history of the Sharp family. Granville Sharp was i...more

  • Prison Break

    Jul 03 2020

    Prison breaks loom large in both literature and pop culture. But how should we evaluate them ethically? New Generation Thinker Jeffrey Howard asks what a world without prison would look like. His essay explores whether those unjustly incarcerated have the moral right to break out, whether the rest of us have an obligation to help -- and what the answers teach us about the ethics of punishment today. Jeffrey Howard is an Associate Professor in the Political Science Dept at University College, Lon...more

  • Facing Facts

    Jul 03 2020

    Earlier periods of history have seen more people with scarring to their faces from duelling injuries and infectious diseases but what stopped this leading to a greater tolerance of facial difference ? Historian Emily Cock considers the case of the Puritan William Prynne and looks at a range of strategies people used to improve their looks from eye patches to buying replacement teeth from the mouths of the poor, whose low-sugar diets kept their dentures better preserved than their aristocratic ne...more

  • Gambling, good leadership and economic history

    Jul 03 2020

    Anne McElvoy looks at leadership lessons from past US presidents, the parallels between the betting industry and fears over gambling in 1945 and now and she asks who are the key economic thinkers. Her guests are Callum Williams, senior economics writer at The Economist, 2020 New Generation Thinker Darragh McGee from the University of Bath and ahead of July 4th and Independence Day in the USA she revisits her interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin about her book called Leadership in Turbulent Times....more

  • Frank Cottrell-Boyce

    Jul 01 2020

    The screenwriter and novelist talks to Matthew Sweet about teaching creative writing to children in lockdown, attending mass on zoom, the changing meaning of community and the importance of family and he looks back to the image of Britain he created with Danny Boyle for the opening of the London 2012 Olympics. Frank Cottrell-Boyce is the author of books including Millions, Framed, Runaway Robot and a sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, He has worked on screenplays including The Two Popes, collab...more

  • Dam Fever and The Diaspora

    Jun 28 2020

    New Generation Thinker Majed Akhter explores how large dam projects continue to form reservoirs of hope for a sustainable future. Despite their known drawbacks, our love affair with dams has not abated – across the world more than 3,500 dams are in various stages of construction. In Pakistan this has become entwined with nationalism, both inside the community and in the diaspora - but what are the dangers of this “dam fever” ? This Essay traces the history of river development in the region, fro...more

  • Not Quite Jean Muir

    Jun 28 2020

    Jade Halbert lectures in fashion but has never done any sewing. She swaps pen and paper for needle and thread to create a dress from a Jean Muir pattern. In a diary charting her progress, she reflects on the skills of textile workers she has interviewed as part of a project charting the fashion trade in Glasgow and upon the banning of pins on a factory floor, the experiences of specialist sleeve setters and cutters, and whether it is ok to lick your chalk. Jade Halbert is a Lecturer, Fashion Bus...more

  • Digging Deep

    Jun 28 2020

    There is fascinating evidence that 5,000 years ago, people living in Britain and Ireland had a deep and meaningful relationship with the underworld seen in the carved chalk, animal bones and human skeletons found at Cranborne Chase in Dorset in a large pit, at the base of which had been sunk a 7-metre-deep shaft. Other examples considered in this Essay include Carrowkeel in County Sligo, the passage tombs in the Boyne Valley in eastern Ireland and the Priddy Circles in the Mendip Hills in Somers...more

  • Tudor Virtual Reality

    Jun 28 2020

    Advances in robotics and virtual reality are giving us ever more 'realistic' ways of representing the world, but the quest for vivid visualisation is thousands of years old. This essay takes the guide to oratory and getting your message across written by the ancient Roman Quintilian and focuses in on a wall painting of The Judgment of Solomon in an Elizabethan house in the village of Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. Often written off as stiff, formal and artificial with arguments that the Reformati...more

  • Coming out Crip and Acts of Care

    Jun 28 2020

    This Essay tells a story of political marches and everyday acts of radical care; of sledgehammers and bags of rice; of the struggles for justice waged by migrant domestic workers but it also charts the realisation of Ella Parry-Davies, that acknowledging publicly for the first time her own condition of epilepsy – or “coming out crip” – is part of the story of our blindness to inequalities in healthcare and living conditions faced by many migrant workers. Ella Parry-Davies is a British Academy P...more

  • Berlin, Detroit, Race and Techno Music

    Jun 28 2020

    When Tom Smith sets out to research allegations of racism in Berlin’s club scene, he finds himself face to face with his own past in techno’s birthplace: Detroit. Visiting the music distributor Submerge, he considers the legacy of the pioneers Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, the influence of Afro-futurism and the work done in Berlin to popularise techno by figures including Kemal Kurum and Claudia Wahjudi. But the vibrant culture which seeks to be inclusive has been accused of whi...more

  • Ian Rankin and Tahmima Anam

    Jun 26 2020

    Crime writer Ian Rankin talks with Tahmima Anam in a conversation organised in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature and the Bradford Literature Festival. Plus New Generation Thinker Xine Yao looks at the depiction of East Asian figures in science fiction films and writing. Shahidha Bari presents. Ian Rankin's latest Inspector Rebus novel A Song For the Dark Times comes out in October. His cat-and-mouse espionage thriller Westwind was republished last September. Tahmima Anam's first ...more

  • Revisit: Arundhati Roy

    Jun 25 2020

    Arundhati Roy, the Man Booker prize winning author and campaigner, is in conversation with Philip Dodd about a life in the public eye and the novel she published 20 years after The God of Small Things. She discusses the politics of Kashmir, the influence of architecture and why she chose a graveyard setting for her novel and how writing a transgender character Anjum, who is a Hijra, helped her tell the story. Her second novel is called The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. The virtual Women of the ...more

  • Rethinking the Curriculum

    Jun 22 2020

    From a greater focus on Black history and poetry to classics in state school classrooms and an understanding of the history of science - Rana Mitter & guests debate the syllabus. Jade Cuttle is Arts Commissioning Editor at The Times, and a poet who both reviews and writes her own work https://www.jadecuttle.com Sandeep Parmar is Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool and a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. She is hosting an online conversation at the 2020 Ledbury Poetry ...more

  • Irenosen Okojie and Nadifa Mohamed. Midsummer archaeology

    Jun 22 2020

    The writing life of two authors who should have been sharing a stage at the Bare Lit Festival. Irenosen Okojie and Nadifa Mohammed talk to Shahidha Bari in a conversation organised with the Royal Society of Literature. And 2020 New Generation Thinker Seren Griffiths describes a project to use music by composer at an archaeological site to mark the summer solstice and the findings of her dig. The Somali-British novelist Nadifa Mohamed featured on Granta magazine's list "Best of Young British Nov...more

  • Queer Bloomsbury and stillness in art and dance

    Jun 17 2020

    Francesca Wade and Paul Mendez talk to Shahidha Bari about Queer Bloomsbury in a conversation run in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature who set up events in mid-June to mark Dalloway Day, inspired by the 1925 novel from Virginia Woolf. Claudia Tobin from the University of Cambridge looks at Woolf's writing on art and the vogue for still lives and compares notes with 2020 New Generation Thinker Lucy Weir from the University of Edinburgh, who has written a postcard exploring dance, s...more

  • Revisit: Antarctica - testing ground for the human species

    Jun 16 2020

    Two hundred years ago, Antarctica was discovered by Russian explorers and throughout this year the the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust is marking that anniversary. As we approach the date in June which is celebrated as midwinter with a special meal on the research stations - here's a chance to hear Rana Mitter and guests discussing the lure of this polar region both in our imaginations and as an aid to understanding what is happening to the planet. Rana Mitter's guests are: writer Meredith Hooper, ...more

  • New Thinking: Refugees

    Jun 16 2020

    What are the best shelters? the right language? how does our view of hosting families change if we look at refugee self help schemes and experiences in camps in Palestine and Syria ? A trio of researchers share their findings with John Gallagher as we mark Refugee Week 2020. Dr Rebecca Tipton, from the University of Manchester, works on Translating Asylum - an ongoing research project looking at language and communication challenges common to individuals displaced by conflict both past and pres...more

  • The future of theatre debate

    Jun 12 2020

    Can our theatrical landscape survive financially, and how might it need to creatively adapt to survive post pandemic? As part of the Lockdown Theatre Festival, Anne McElvoy's panel features: Bertie Carvel - actor and executive producer of Lockdown Theatre Festival, whose roles include Rupert Murdoch in Ink, Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical, and Simon in BBC One drama Doctor Foster. Amit Lahav – founder of Gecko, the internationally-touring physical theatre company based in Ipswich. Eleanor...more

  • Failure and female friendship

    Jun 10 2020

    How do you cope with a sense of failure? Michèle Roberts has been Booker shortlisted and has 12 novels under her belt but her latest book is a clear eyed account of a year spent rewriting after having a novel rejected. What sustained her in part were her female friends and cooking. Lara Feigel is the author of acclaimed non fiction books and her first novel takes the template of Mary McCarthy's 1963 novel about female friendship and examines the lives of women now set against the backdrop of the...more

  • Dickens

    Jun 09 2020

    Mathew Sweet with Linda Grant, Laurence Scott & Lucy Whitehead. Dickens died on June 9th 1870. In 1948, the critic FR Leavis published the Great Tradition and included only one Dickens novel but that same year saw the film of Oliver Twist by David Lean. Our panel have been re-reading novels including Bleak House, Martin Chuzzlewit and Great Expectations, looking at a form of Dickens fan fiction following his death, the changes in literary fashion and the way his work connects with the present da...more

  • New Thinking: Tackling Modern Slavery

    Jun 07 2020

    Naomi Paxton looks at the impact of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, talking to researchers Katarina Schwarz and Alicia Kidd who are trying to measure and improve its effectiveness. Katarina Schwarz from the Rights Lab at Nottingham University works with the Wilberforce Institute at the University of Hull on a project looking into what makes people from particular countries vulnerable to being trafficked and exploited, including in the UK. Over the past five years, over 75% of people identified a...more

  • Robin Askwith

    Jun 03 2020

    Robin Askwith experienced isolation as a child with polio. In a conversation with Matthew Sweet, he reflects on a career running from the Confessions sex comedies to arthouse cinema working with directors including Lindsay Anderson and Pier Paolo Pasolini. His first film role was playing the schoolboy, Keating, in the film if.... and his most recent TV role has seen him appear on Coronation Street. Producer: Robyn Read

  • Revisit: Tokyo Story

    Jun 02 2020

    Actor Richard Wilson, Professor Naoko Shimazu and film critic Larushka Ivan-Zadeh join Rana Mitter to look at this cinematic classic which was one of the 53 films made by Yasujiro Ozu before his death in 1963. Tokyo Story follows an elderly couple who go to visit their busy grown up children and their widowed daughter-in-law. It is being rereleased this month by the BFI as part of their season of Japanese Film – the Ozu collection goes on BFI Player on 5 June (with 25 titles available) and TOKYO...more

  • Revisit: Rowan Williams and Simon Armitage

    May 28 2020

    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, Fli...more

  • Sarah Perry

    May 27 2020

    Matthew Sweet talks to author Sarah Perry about her gothic imagination, writing about religion, rationalism and disease in novels including The Essex Serpent, After Me Comes The Flood and Melmoth. Recorded from her home in Norwich, Sarah discusses her experience of these times as someone who has an auto-immune condition, her interest in comets and the way she used sewing to overcome a temporary inability to write. You can hear more from authors in the Norfolk area on the website of the Norfolk...more

  • Revisit: My Body Clock is Broken

    May 21 2020

    Jay Griffiths, Vincent Deary, Louise Robinson and Matthew Smith discuss our mental health. How does depression affect our sense of time and the rhythms of daily life? Our body clocks have long been seen by scientists as integral to our physical and mental health - but what happens when mental illness disrupts or even stops that clock? Presenter Anne McElvoy is joined by those who have suffered depression and those who treat it - and they attempt to offer some solutions. Jay Griffiths is the au...more

  • Anne Fine and Romesh Gunesekera. Jarman's Garden

    May 21 2020

    Authors Anne Fine and Romesh Gunesekera are Fellows of the Royal Literature Society who signed the Register on the same day. In the first of a series of conversations with writers who would have been sharing a stage at a literary festival, they talk to Shahidha Bari. Plus a postcard from 2020 New Generation Thinker Diarmuid Hester on the saving of Derek Jarman’s house and garden - also the subject of Sunday’s Words and Music which you can find on BBC Sounds and here https://www.bbc.co.uk/progra...more

  • Kindness

    May 20 2020

    Rutger Bregman challenges ideas about the selfish gene, and survival of the fittest with stories of human co-operation and kindness as he publishes a book called Human Kind - A Hopeful History. Plus in Mental Health Awareness Week, Dr Sylvan Baker on rethinking the way we treat kids in care. And New Generation Thinker Christina Faraday on an anniversary of the fairground. You can hear a curated selection of readings and music on the theme of travelling fairs and circuses on Radio 3's Words and ...more

  • The 2020 Wolfson History Prize: David Abulafia, Hallie Rubenhold, Prashant Kidambi

    May 18 2020

    From Indian cricket, a survey of the oceans to the women killed by Jack the Ripper: Rana Mitter with the second set of shortlisted authors for the history writing prize. David Abulafia The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans Hallie Rubenhold The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper Prashant Kidambi Cricket Country: An Indian Odyssey in the Age of Empire You can hear the other shortlisted historians in a progarmme broadcast on May 12th and available as an Arts ...more

  • Revisit: 2019 Wolfson History Prize Discussion

    May 14 2020

    From classical birds to Nazi legacies, Oscar Wilde to Queen Victoria in India, early building to maritime trading: Rana Mitter and an audience at the British Academy debate history writing and hear from the six historians on the 2019 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...more

  • The 2020 Wolfson History Prize: Toby Green, Marion Turner, John Barton

    May 13 2020

    New takes on Chaucer, the Bible and African trading - Rana Mitter presents the first of 2 prograrmmes featuring 3 of the historians shortlisted for this year's history writing prize. Marion Turner has written Chaucer: A European Life Toby Green is the author of A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution John Barton is nominated for A History of the Bible: The Book and Its Faiths A second programme will be broadcast on Tues May 19th hearing from...more

  • WW II radio propaganda & French relations

    May 06 2020

    Matthew Sweet looks at new research from Ludivine Broch, Daniel Lee, Hannah Elias and Cathy Mahoney into religion & propaganda on the radio + French soldiers in Yorkshire & a post WWII gratitude train sent by France and Italy to the USA. Daniel Lee is a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker who teaches at Queen Mary, London. His books include Pétain's Jewish Children: French Jewish Youth and the Vichy Regime, 1940–42 and The SS Officer’s Armchair due to be published in September 2020. Ludivine Broch ...more

  • Revisit: Encylopedias and Knowledge from Diderot to Wikipedia

    May 04 2020

    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

  • Revisit: Mark Haddon

    Apr 29 2020

    The Porpoise, Haddon's latest novel is now out in paperback. Anne McElvoy talks to him about the language of bloke, writing female characters and taking inspiration from Shakespeare and the legend of Pericles. The conversation ranges across his career in theatre, children's writing and stories for adults, the impact of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which he published in 2003 and his recent illness. Recorded in front of an audience as part of the BBC Proms Plus series of disc...more

  • Cary Grant

    Apr 29 2020

    The double life of the Bristol born Hollywood star of films including Suspicion, The Philadelphia Story and Charade. Matthew Sweet and guests imagine an evening in the film star's company. Born Archie Leach in 1904, he starred in films by Alfred Hitchcock, played opposite actors including Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Sophia Loren and Katherine Hepburn, and sat on the board of MGM films, before his death in 1986. Charlotte Crofts runs the bi-annual Cary Grant Festival and is an As...more

  • Revisit: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

    Apr 22 2020

    Presenter Rana Mitter is joined by guests Tony Juniper, Emily Shuckburgh, Dieter Helm and Kapka Kassabova to discuss Rachel Carson’s passionate book, Silent Spring, first published in 1962 and said to be the work which launched the environmental movement. Recorded at the 2019 Hay Festival. Tony Juniper is a campaigner, sustainability adviser and writer of work including Saving Planet Earth and How many lightbulbs does it take to change a planet? Emily Shuckburgh is a climate scientist and ...more

  • Alternative Realities

    Apr 21 2020

    From a Victorian Maths Professor to Aldous Huxley, AJ Ayer and Barbara Ehrenreich - Shahidha Bari explores the impact of life changing experiences & the fourth dimension talking to Mark Blacklock, Jeffrey Kripal and Lisa Mullen. Mark Blacklock has written a novel called Hinton which traces the life and ideas of Charles Howard Hinton (1853 – 1907) who wrote an article in 1880 called What is the Fourth Dimension. Jeffrey Kripal holds the J Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought a...more

  • Revisit: Shakespeare's Bookshelf

    Apr 16 2020

    Rana Mitter is joined by Edith Hall, Nandini Das and Beatrice Groves to explore the books which inspired Shakespeare from the Bible and classical stories to the writing of some of Shakespeare's contemporaries. Edith Hall is Professor in the Classics Department and Centre for Hellenic Studies at King's College London. Her books include Introducing The Ancient Greeks and has co-written A People's History of Classics with Henry Stead. Nandini Das is Professor of English Literature at the Universi...more

  • Deep Time and the Earth

    Apr 09 2020

    Lewis Dartnell, Gaia Vince and David Farrier join Rana Mitter to look at deep ecology. Gaia Vince is the author of Transendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty And Time Lewis Dartnell's book is called Origins: How the earth shaped history David Farrier has written a book called In Search of Future Fossils. You can find a Free Thinking programme exploring rivers and geopolitics https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00051hb Matthew Sweet talks to animal expert Jane Goodall https:/...more

  • Belonging

    Apr 08 2020

    Philip Dodd talks to actor Christopher Eccleston and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards and asks them for their views on the way identity and a sense of belonging are shifting. Producer: Torquil MacLeod You can hear Christopher Eccleston in BBC Radio 3's Drama Schreber, see him in the RSC Macbeth production as part of the BBC Culture in Quarantine season and in the latest series of the TV drama the A Word. Ruth Dudley Edwards' books include The Seven — The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fat...more

  • New Thinking: Religion and ordinary lives

    Apr 07 2020

    From the experiences of Quaker wives in the seventeenth century to the samplers and bibles in the homes of workers in the Industrial Revolution - Dr Naomi Pullin from the University of Warwick, and Professor Hannah Barker of the University of Manchester join historian and New Generation Thinker Tom Charlton to compare notes on the way their research marks a shift in the way religious beliefs of past times are being studied. Naomi Pullin is the author of Female Friends and the Making of Transatl...more

  • Revisit: What does game playing teach us

    Apr 04 2020

    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 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 in Stone. He...more

  • Knees

    Apr 02 2020

    From dance to prayer, servants to scientists, knees ups to being on our knees - Matthew Sweet talks to art critic Louisa Buck, historian and New Generation Thinker Joe Moshenska, author Tracy Chevalier and dancer and choreographer Russell Maliphant. Tracy Chevalier's novels include A Single Thread - a novel depicting the work of "broderers" creating cushions and kneelers for Winchester Cathedral in the 1930s. Russell Maliphant formed Russell Maliphant Company in 1996 and has worked with compan...more

  • New Thinking: Wordsworth

    Mar 31 2020

    April 7th 1770 was the day William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumbria. As we prepare to mark this anniversary, poet and New Generation Thinker Sarah Jackson is joined by Sally Bushell, Professor of Romantic and Victorian Literature, and Simon Bainbridge, Professor of Romantic Studies – Co-Directors of The Wordsworth Centre for the Study of Poetry at the University of Lancaster to discuss new insights into Wordsworth's writing. Sally Bushell has edited The Cambridge Companion to ‘Lyrica...more

  • The Declaration Of Arbroath

    Mar 25 2020

    Anne McElvoy and guests discuss the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and Scottish politics today. She is joined by Kylie Murray, New Generation Thinker and Fellow in Early Scottish Literature at Cambridge University; Robert Crawford, poet and Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at the University of St Andrews; John Lloyd, journalist and author of new book, Should Auld Aquaintance Be Forgot -The Great Mistake of Scottish Independence; and by Richard Finlay, Professor of Scotti...more

  • How do we build a new masculinity ?

    Mar 24 2020

    Artist and photographer Sunil Gupta, authors CN Lester (Trans Like Me) and Tom Shakespeare (The Sexual Politics of Disability), and Barbican curator Alona Pardo join Matthew Sweet in a discussion prompted by the Barbican exhibition called Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography to debate whether the old construct of masculinity in our culture is broken? As new ideas and thinking enter the debate, what is essential and what we can do away with as we look to build a new masculinity? Produce...more

  • What's so great about EM Forster

    Mar 23 2020

    Deborah Levy and Laurence Scott talk to Shahidha Bari about the writer's work from his earliest novel Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) to his Essay Aspects of the Novel (1927). Recorded in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature at the British Library. Producer: Torquil MacLeod Laurence Scott is the author of The Four-Dimensional Human and Picnic, Comma, Lightning. He presented a Radio 3 Sunday Feature about Merchant Ivory which includes interviews about their film adpatations of EM...more

  • Future Thinking

    Mar 20 2020

    Mark Honigsbaum historian of epidemics, literary scholars Lisa Mullen & Sarah Dillon, UNESCO's Riel Miller & philosopher Rupert Read talk with Matthew Sweet. If uncertainty is a feature of our situation at the moment, it's the stock in trade of people who try to think about the future. Riel Miller is an economist at UNESCO, who works on future literacy. Rupert Read is an environmental campaigner with Extinction Rebellion and is speaking here in a personal capacity. Sarah Dillon is New Generatio...more

  • Contagion and Viruses

    Mar 19 2020

    Matthew Sweet investigates viruses and how they could disrupt our understanding of the nature of organisms, and looks at what history can teach us about the current pandemic. With philosopher John Dupré, historian Mark Honigsbaum, New Generation Thinker Lisa Mullen and artist Matt Adams who works with Blast Theory. Mark Honigsbaum is the author of The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris. Lisa Mullen has written Mid-Century Gothic: The Uncanny Objects of Modernity i...more

  • Shoes

    Mar 19 2020

    From Roman sandals to trainers and stilettos. Shahidha Bari looks at the shoe trade, with guests including Thomas Turner, who has written about sneakers in his book The Sports Shoe, A History From Field To Fashion; Tansy Hoskins, who examines global commerce in her book Footwork: What Your Shoes Are Doing To The World; Rebecca Shawcross, Shoe Curator at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery; and Roman shoe expert Owen Humphreys from Museum of London Archaeology. Producer: Emma Wallace

  • New Thinking: Science Fiction

    Mar 18 2020

    It's sometimes defined as 'the literature of cognitive estrangement'. In other words, it's a genre that helps us see things in a new light. Hetta Howes discusses current academic thinking on science fiction, as a way of thinking that extends beyond writing, film and TV to architecture and beyond. With Caroline Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London, and Amy Butt, Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Reading. This conversation wa...more

  • Does Growth Matter?

    Mar 17 2020

    The rate of social and technological change in the 20th century was unarguably frenetic. A key measure used by politicians, economists and journalists in that time has been GDP growth. But is Growth as a pointer still fit for purpose? And should all countries still aspire to achieve growth? Is the world on a longer-term slowdown? Would that be a bad thing? And as the shock of coronavirus echoes through communities and economies around the world, will our conceptions of value and cost be redefine...more

  • Slebs: Warhol, Beaton and celebrity culture

    Mar 12 2020

    Entertainment writer Caroline Frost, New Generation Thinker Lisa Mullen and historian & podcast host Greg Jenner join Matthew Sweet as exhibitions about Cecil Beaton and Andy Warhol open in London. Greg Jenner presents the BBC Sounds podcast You're Dead to Me and has just published a book called Dead Famous: An Unexpected history of celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things runs at the National Portrait Gallery from March 12th to June 7th. Andy Warhol runs ...more

  • Advertising & Artemisia

    Mar 11 2020

    New Generation Thinker Catherine Fletcher and Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones join Rana Mitter to discuss how women's stories have shaped art and advertising from the baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi to the suffragettes promoting boot polish in 20th-century England. And against the backdrop of the Me Too movement, Rana hears how the best-selling novel Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 became a rallying cry for young women in south Korea. Catherine Fletcher's new book about the Italian Renaissance ...more

  • Fighting Women

    Mar 10 2020

    Maaza Mengiste, Christina Lamb, Julie Wheelwright join Eleanor Barraclough to look at women's experience of fighting from Ethiopia's war with Mussolini to modern day Sudan back to Amazonians and British and French colonial troops in Canada. And academic Shawn Sobers discusses his research into the years Haile Selassie spent living in Bath after he escaped from a war-torn Ethiopia. Our Bodies, Their Battlefields by Christina Lamb looks at rape as a weapon in war. Maaza Mengiste's novel The Shado...more

  • Jewish Identity in 2020

    Mar 06 2020

    Howard Jacobson, Bari Weiss, Hadley Freeman, and Jonathan Freedland join Matthew Sweet.

  • Storm Jameson - women writers to put back on the bookshelf

    Mar 05 2020

    What is a writer's duty? Katie Cooper considers Storm Jameson's campaigning for refugees, her 1940 appeal To the Conscience of the World and why her fiction fell out of favour but is now seeing a revival of interest. Born in Yorkshire in 1891, she wrote war novels and speculative fiction, collections of criticism - including an analysis of modern drama in Europe, the introduction to the 1952 British edition of The Diary of Anne Frank and a host of novels set in European countries. During the S...more

  • Frank Ramsey

    Mar 05 2020

    Shahidha Bari looks at the legacy of Frank Ramsey who died in 1930 aged 27, but not before doing work that changed the course of philosophy, logic, mathematics and economics. Shahidha is joined by Cheryl Misak, who has recently published the first biography of Ramsey, and philosopher Steven Methven. Plus, philosopher Emily Thomas on the role travel has played in the development of philosophy. Cheryl Misak's biography Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers is out now. Emily Thomas' The Meaning ...more

  • New Thinking: Women in Virtual Reality

    Mar 05 2020

    Hetta Howes learns how Sylvia Xueni Pan from Goldsmiths, University of London is using VR to do everything from training GPs not to overprescribe antibiotics to creating a groundbreaking Peaky Blinders game. While Sarah Ellis, Director of Digital Development at the RSC, is working with researchers and practitioners like Sylvia to create extraordinary virtual experiences for theatre audiences. They are among the many women playing key roles in the creative industries - the fastest growing sector...more

  • Anne Enright + the value of gossip

    Mar 04 2020

    The Irish novelist Anne Enright talks to Laurence Scott about her new book Actress and being the inaugural Irish laureate, plus a discussion of gossip past and present with Emily Butterworth, Daisy Black and political journalist and writer Marie Le Conte. Anne Enright's novels include The Gathering; The Forgotten Waltz and The Green Road. Emily Butterworth works on early modern literature and thought, with a particular interest in Montaigne and in deviant speech and language. Her book The Unb...more

  • Lady Mary Wroth - women writer to put back on the bookshelf

    Feb 28 2020

    Author of the first prose romance published in England in 1621, her reputation at court was ruined by her thinly veiled autobiographical writing. Visit the family home, Penshurst Place in Kent, and you can see Lady Mary Wroth's portrait, but New Generation Thinker Nandini Das says you can also find her in the pages of her book The Countess of Montgomery's Urania which places centre stage women who "love and are not afraid to love." Scandal led to her withdrawing it from sale and herself from pub...more

  • Charlotte Smith - women writers to put back on the bookshelf

    Feb 28 2020

    New Generation Thinker Sophie Coulombeau argues that we should salute this woman who supported her family through her writing, who perfected sonnets about solitude before Wordsworth began writing his, and who explored the struggles of women and refugees in her fiction. Mother to 12 children, Charlotte Turner Smith wrote ten novels, three poetry collections and four children's books and translated French fiction. In 1788 her first novel, Emmeline, sold 1500 copies within months but by the time of...more

  • Margaret Oliphant - women writers to put back on the bookshelf

    Feb 28 2020

    The novel Miss Marjoribanks (1866) brought to life a large comic heroine who bucked 19th-century conventions. New Generation Thinker Clare Walker Gore's essay outlines the prolific writing career of Margaret Oliphant and laments the way she was used by fellow novelist Virginia Woolf as a symbol of the dangers of needing to write for money to keep yourself and your family afloat.

  • Yolande Mukagasana - women writers to put back on the bookshelf

    Feb 28 2020

    New Generation Thinker Zoe Norridge describes translating the testimony of a nurse who survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. In Rwanda, Yolande Mukagasana is a well-known writer, public figure and campaigner for remembrance of the genocide. She has authored three testimonies, a collection of interviews with survivors and perpetrators and two volumes of Rwandan stories. Her work has received numerous international prizes, including an Honorable Mention for the UNESCO Educati...more

  • How archictecture shapes society

    Feb 27 2020

    Ricky Burdett, Liza Fior, Des Fitzgerald, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg & Edwin Heathcote discuss ideals made concrete in an event chaired by Anne McElvoy with an audience recorded as part of the LSE Shape the World Festival 2020. Ricky Burdett is Professor of Urban Studies at LSE and Director of LSE Cities. Liza Fior is an award-winning architect and designer; founding partner of muf architecture/art. Des Fitzgerald is a sociologist at Cardiff University and AHRC\BBC New Generation Thinker who wor...more

  • New Thinking: Everything to Everybody - Shakespeare for the people

    Feb 27 2020

    Islam Issa hears from actor Adrian Lester and Professor Ewan Fernie about a project that will revive the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library. Founded with the help of George Dawson - a man who had a powerful vision of Birmingham as a progressive social and cultural centre in the mid 19th century - the library houses Britain's most important Shakespeare collection, comprising 43,000 volumes, including a copy of the First Folio 1623. Over three years, the Everything to Everybody project aims t...more

  • Japan Now 2020

    Feb 27 2020

    Hiromi Ito, Tomoko Sawada, and Yukiko Motoya, look at women's roles in Japanese culture today plus the Japanese view of English-language literature with translator Motoyuki Shibata. Philip Dodd presents. Bethan Jones acted as the translator. Japan Now 2020 is a series of events taking place in Sheffield, Norwich and London organised by Modern Culture culminating in a day of events at the British Library on Saturday February 22nd. Hiromi Itō is one of the most prominent women writers in Japan w...more

  • Genes, racism, ageing and evidence

    Feb 25 2020

    Neuroscientist and former record producer Daniel Levitin & geneticist Adam Rutherford join Rana Mitter to discuss the latest scientific discoveries about memory and the human genome. How difficult is it to confront pseudoscience? Jillian Luke reveals how blushing in Renaissance art has been weaponised by white nationalists, while Suda Perera explains why medical aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are treated with distrust. Daniel Levitin has published The Changing Mind: A Neuroscie...more

  • African Empire Stories

    Feb 20 2020

    Petina Gappah on writing David Livingstone's African companions back into history. Sarah LeFanu looks at the Boer War experiences of Rudyard Kipling, Mary Kingsley & Arthur Conan Doyle and their views of Empire. Matthew Sweet presents. Petina Gappah's novel is called Out of Darkness Shining Light - Being a Faithful Account of the Final Years and Earthly Days of Doctor David Livingstone and His Last Journey from the Interior to the Coast of Africa, as Narrated by His African Companions, in Thre...more

  • The Surreal World of Alejandro Jodorowsky

    Feb 19 2020

    Matthew Sweet talks to the Chilean French director and gets a take on his occult, drug filled and violently psychedelic world from critics Larushka Ivan Zadeh and Adam Scovell. Jodorowksy's 1973 surrealist fantasy film The Holy Mountain certificate 18 (the rating specifies that it contains strong bloody violence) has been re-released in cinemas in a 4K restoration and is being screened around the UK including events coming up at Tyneside Cinema, the ICA in London. The Alejandro Jodorowsky Collec...more

  • Queer histories

    Feb 13 2020

    Morgan M Page, Jana Funke & Senthorum Raj look at how we apply modern LGBT+ language and identities to historical figures both real and fictional and what it means to have to "prove" your identity today in today's legal world. Shahidha Bari presents. Morgan M Page is a writer, performance + video artist, and trans historian whose podcast is called One From The Vaults Jana Funke teaches Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter Senthorum Raj teaches at Keele University School of Law. In th...more

  • The History of Sex

    Feb 13 2020

    Kate Lister started tweeting as Whores of Yore in 2015 to kick off a conversation about how we talk about sex. She has just published A Curious History of Sex which looks at everything from slang through the ages to medieval impotence tests, the relevance of oysters, bicycling and the tart card. Robin Mitchell's new book is called Venus Noire: Black Women and Colonial Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century France. In it she traces visual and literary representations of 3 black women: Sarah Baartmann, p...more

  • The shadow of slavery

    Feb 12 2020

    From sugar and spice, to reparations and memorials: slavery and how we acknowledge it is debated by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and her panel of writers and academics: Dr Katie Donington, Dr Christienna Fryar, author Rosanna Amaka, and playwright and journalist Juliet Gilkes Romero. Dr Katie Donington teaches history at London South Bank University. Her research focuses on the cultural, commercial, political, and familial worlds of slave owners in Jamaica and Britain. She was an historical adv...more

  • Early cinema: why are we obsessed with firsts?

    Feb 07 2020

    Alice Guy-Blaché the pioneering film director, a British film pioneer Robert Paul and how the Boer War led to animated film are the topics for discussion as Matthew Sweet talks to Donna Kornhaber, Ian Christie and Pamela B. Green. Ahead of this weekend's Oscars ceremony they reflect on early film innovations. Alice Guy or Alice Guy-Blaché (July 1, 1873 – March 24, 1968) is considered a pioneer of narrative film. A new documentary Be Natural the untold story of Alice Guy-Blaché is on general rel...more

  • Samuel Beckett & the purpose of culture

    Feb 05 2020

    Lisa Dwan tells Philip Dodd what playing Beckett taught her about herself and feminism; playwright Mark Ravenhill, arts editor Jan Dalley & sp!ked author Alexander Adams discuss the proposition that the arts are increasingly expected to be uplifting and inspirational and to confirm identities. Where do the pessimism and shattered identities of Beckett's work fit into this view of culture? Beckett Triple Bill is at Jermyn Street Theatre, London until 8th February starring Lisa Dwan, Niall Buggy,...more

  • Mocking power past and present.

    Feb 05 2020

    The German joker Tyll Ulenspiegel. Anne McElvoy with best selling novelist Daniel Kehlmann plus Prof Karen Leeder who has been looking at changing versions of the Dresden bombing. Daniel Kehlmann's new book is called Tyll, translated by Ross Benjamin. A Netflix TV series has been commissioned. His book Measuring The World about mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and German geographer Alexander von Humboldt became the world's second best-selling novel in 2006. Professor Karen Leeder teaches at t...more

  • New Thinking: It all begins here? Understanding the Industrial Revolution

    Jan 31 2020

    From government intervention and workshop ingenuity, to Britain's 'mind blowing historical carbon debt' and ground that's been polluted for 200 years, via the slave economies of Jamaica and the southern US states. John Gallagher discusses new lines of thinking on the Industrial Revolution with historians Emma Griffin of the University of East Anglia, and William Ashworth of the University of Liverpool. More information about Living With Machines https://livingwithmachines.ac.uk/ Living with Mac...more

  • Fungi: An Alien Encounter

    Jan 30 2020

    Are fungi out to get us or here to help? Neither animal nor vegetable, they are both amongst us and within us, shaping or lives in ways it is difficult to imagine. They can also be very tasty. An exhibition of mushrooms at Somerset House in London prompts Matthew Sweet to look at what we can learn from them, the way they grow and depictions of them in the arts. Francesca Gavin is curator of Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of the Fungi, which runs at Somerset House in London from Jan 31st ...more

  • How we see pregnancy past and present

    Jan 30 2020

    From Hans Holbein sketches to Beyoncé on Instagram – Anne McElvoy looks at the changing image of pregnant women in a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum. We hear about the cultural history of breast feeding with academic Jessica Cox and marvel at the story of a rabbit breeder. In 1726, King George I sent a doctor to examine Mary Toft after it was reported that she had given birth to over a dozen rabbits. Karen Harvey retells this story in a new book called The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder: Ma...more

  • Remembering Auschwitz

    Jan 28 2020

    Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces, talks to Rana Mitter about her 1996 novel. Jewish Chronicle Literary Editor and author Gerald Jacobs, and historian and documentary maker Laurence Rees, join Rana for a discussion on the way fiction and history on TV and in books have represented the Holocaust. Dr Roland Clark from the University of Liverpool shares his research in the fascist past of Romania, and Rana speaks to Professor Anna Prazmowska of the London School of Economics about recent Pol...more

  • What is good listening?

    Jan 24 2020

    Matthew Sweet with NYT journalist Kate Murphy, Anne Karpf & David Toop in a conversation about paying attention and how to hear each other properly. Kate's new book You're Not Listening draws on her interviews with a range of people including priests, focus group co-ordinators and CIA interrogators. Former radio critic Anne Karpf is the author of the Human Voice and professor of Life Writing and Culture at London Metropolitan University. David Toop is a musician, composer and professor of Audio ...more

  • Poetry and Science: A 19th century metre on the (uni)verse

    Jan 22 2020

    Astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, poets Sam Illingworth and Sunayana Bhargava, and C19 expert and New Generation Thinker Greg Tate from the University of St Andrews join Anne McElvoy to discuss the parallels between poetry and Victorian laboratory work. Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, is perhaps most famous for first discovering Pulsars - strange spinning massively dense stars that emit powerful regular pulses of radiation. she has been President of the Royal Astronomical Society and the In...more

  • Goddesses of academia

    Jan 21 2020

    Nikita Gill on goddesses, Sandeep Parmar on Hope Mirlees, Francesca Wade looks at the careers of classicist Jane Harrison and LSE's Eileen Power and Victorian Leonard looks at attempts to write more women back into the story of classics. Shahidha Bari presents. Francesa Wade has written a new book called Square Haunting which traces the experiences of five women who lived in Bloomsbury's Mecklenburgh Square: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy L Sayers, HD, Eileen Power and Jane Harrison- tracing ideas abo...more

  • New Thinking: About Face

    Jan 17 2020

    Would you change your nose if you could? What about an entire face transplant? Des Fitzgerald speaks to two researchers investigating the past and future of facial difference and medical intervention. Emily Cock, from the University of Cardiff looks at our relationship with our noses throughout history – from duels and sexual diseases to racial prejudice. Fay Bound Alberti, from the University of York, talks about a project called AboutFace which she is running to look at the emotional impa...more

  • Psychohistory: Isaac Asimov and guiding the future

    Jan 16 2020

    100 years on from Isaac Asimov's birth, Matthew Sweet looks at one of the bigger ideas contained in some of his 500 books; Psychohistory. The idea, from Asimov's Foundation series, was that rather like the behaviour of a gas could be reduced to statistical probabilities of the behaviour of billions of molecules, so the history of billions of human beings across the fictional galactic empire could be predicted through a few laws he called 'Psychohistory'. The idea inspired many to think that ...more

  • Why we read and the idea of the "woman writer"

    Jan 16 2020

    Do men and women use the same language when talking about novels they have enjoyed? How have attitudes in publishing changed towards both readers and writers if figures show that women buy 80% of all novels ? Lennie Goodings is Chair of the Virago publishing house and has now written a memoir. She joins New Generation Thinkers Emma Butcher and Joanne Paul; and Helen Taylor, author of Why Women Read Fiction. Naomi Paxton hosts the conversation about writing and reading. Why Women Read Fiction: T...more

  • Simplify your life

    Jan 15 2020

    Laurence Scott hears about a pioneer of vegetarianism and advocates for nudism and camping as the academics Elsa Richardson, Annebella Pollen, Ben Anderson and Tiffany Boyle discuss the Life Reform Movement. Ideas included arguments for a basic income, healthy eating, gymnastics, world peace and what a perfect body looked like. The movement emerged in the second half of the 19th century and was a loose collection of groups and individuals who pursued social reform of all kinds and their ideas we...more

  • Philosophy and Film

    Jan 10 2020

    Sally Potter joins Rana Mitter to discuss the relationship between philosophy and film. Also in the studio are philosophers Helen Beebee, Max de Gaynesford, and Lucy Bolton. You can find more discussions on the Free Thinking programme website Philosophy playlist https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07x0twx Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • Could there be a private language?

    Jan 09 2020

    How do I know that anybody else experiences the world in the way I do? Or even if other people experience anything at all? In the 20th century the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein responded to this challenge by thinking about whether we can make sense of the idea of a private language, a language understood only by the speaker. His so-called 'private language argument' has the potential to transform both the way philosophy is done, and the way we understand ourselves and our relationship with oth...more

  • Panpsychism - Is matter conscious?

    Jan 09 2020

    Panpsychism is the view that all matter is conscious. It's a view that's gaining ground in contemporary philosophy, with proponents arguing that it can solve age-old problems about the relationship between mind and body, and also fill in gaps in other areas of our understanding of nature. But is it true? And if it is, how could it change our understanding of ourselves? Matthew Sweet is joined by panpsychists Philip Goff and Hedda Hassel Morch, the neuroscientist Daniel Glaser, who is sceptical ...more

  • The Strange Case of the Huge Country Pile

    Dec 19 2019

    Nosing around Osterley House, currently owned and run by the National Trust, Matthew Sweet and guests discuss our enduring fascination with the grand country estate. Countless stories, films and plays are set in the rarefied and actually very rare setting of the country estate, a world of valets and scullery maids, viscounts and self-mades, Kind Hearts and Coronets. This year has seen the TV series Downtown Abbey become a film. Every weekend hundreds of thousands of us visit the former homes of...more

  • The culture wars and politics now.

    Dec 18 2019

    Philip Dodd is joined by Douglas Murray, author of The Madness of Crowds, the commentator David Goodhart, the writer and campaigner Beatrix Campbell, and the academic Maya Goodfellow, author of Hostile Environment - How Immigrants Became Scapegoats, to reflect on the role of culture and identity in politics in Europe and post election Britain. Have the so-called culture wars consumed traditional politics? Are debates about race, nation, values and belonging injecting a much-needed dimension to ...more

  • Extinction Rebellion and the End of the World

    Dec 18 2019

    Rana Mitter looks at the ideologies surrounding climate disaster with guests including Rupert Read of Extinction Rebellion, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, professor of psychosocial theory Lisa Baraitser, and lawyer Tessa Khan. How do we make sense of the idea of ecological collapse, and what are the assumptions hidden in the way we discuss climate disaster? Producer: Luke Mulhall

  • New Thinking: Telling new sporting stories

    Dec 13 2019

    The annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year competition with its different categories presents a very different picture from the newspaper reports studied by Dr Fiona Skillen, which congratulated sportswomen in past times by linking their success to the achievements of their fathers or brothers. And Professor Matthew Smith from the University of Strathclyde has run a project called "Out on the pitch, sport and mental health in LGBT people" which looks at both the positive side of sport and me...more

  • Speaking the right language.

    Dec 13 2019

    Matthew Sweet asks how did the English language grow & what are the key election phrases? He's joined by historian John Gallagher who's written about language in Shakespeare's time and how refugees and migrants to England learnt English. In 1578, the Anglo-Italian writer, teacher, and translator John Florio said of English that it was ‘a language that will do you good in England, but past Dover, it is worth nothing’. Other guests in the studio include researcher Stephanie Hare who writes on tech...more

  • The wealth gap, #MeToo and Edith Wharton

    Dec 12 2019

    Laurence Scott, Sarah Churchwell, Francesca Segal and Alice Kelly re-read Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence. First published in 1920, it depicts new money in 1870s New York and limited choices for women. Francesca Segal's novel The Innocents, inspired by Edith Wharton's book, won the Costa First Novel Award in 2012. Her latest novel is Mother Ship. Behold America by Sarah Churchwell was published last year. Readings by Florence Roberts. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • Pan-Africanism

    Dec 10 2019

    Nana Oforiatta Ayim is creating an encyclopedia of online images of Africa to challenge the way it is seen, has curated Ghana's first art pavilion at the Venice Biennale, toured a mobile museum round the country to gather a grass roots history and published her first novel. The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim is out now. Cultural Encyclopaedia is an online resource that includes an A-to-Z index and vertices of clickable images for entries about Africa https://www.culturalencyclopaedia.org/ She...more

  • The shadow of empire and colonialism

    Dec 05 2019

    Historian William Dalrymple, Wasafiri editor Susheila Nasta and novelist Romesh Gunesekera join Rana Mitter for a conversation looking at the East India company, the socialist economic policies and language battles in Ceylon in the 1960s before it became Sri Lanka and the way writing from around the world has reflected changes of attitude to post colonial history. Sri Lankan-born British author Romesh Gunesekera has just published his ninth novel, Suncatcher, depicting two boys, Jay and Kairo, ...more

  • Feasting, fasting, hospitality, and food security

    Dec 04 2019

    Author Priya Basil and curator Victoria Avery look at food, fasting and feeding guests. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is their host as the FitzWilliam Museum in Cambridge opens an exhibition and Priya Basil publishes reflections on hospitality which link the free meals offered to all which is part of Sikhism to food clubs in Germany which have welcomed refugees. Maia Elliott of the UK's Global Food Security programme, describes her work to try to make future food supply more reliable for all. She...more

  • When TV & the information superhighway were new

    Dec 03 2019

    Nam June Paik made art with TV sets and imagined an information superhighway before the internet was invented. John Giorno organised multi-media and dial-a-poem events. Poet and New Generation Thinker Sarah Jackson joins Matthew Sweet to look at the visions of the future conjured up by these artists who were both interested in the influence of mass media and Buddhism. She's joined by artist Haroon Mirza and Tate curator Achim Borchardt-Hume. We dial a poet Vahni Capildeo and hear from Vytautus L...more

  • Resting And Rushing

    Nov 28 2019

    Should we take more breaks at during the working day? Claudia Hammond, Matthew Smith, Sarah Cook and Ayesha Nathoo discuss the art of rest and concentration with Anne McElvoy.

  • The future of universities

    Nov 27 2019

    Economist Larry Summers, former President of Harvard lays out his view of a university and Philip Dodd debates with the OU's Josie Fraser, classicist Justin Stover and NESTA's Geoff Mulgan. Has new technology and globalisation signed the death knell for traditional courses in humanities subjects like English literature and philosophy ? You can find Philip talking to academic Camille Paglia here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0006t8t to Niall Fergusson about the importance of networks here ...more

  • Is the Shadow of Mao still hanging over China?

    Nov 26 2019

    Rana Mitter talks to historians of China - Jung Chang and Julia Lovell. Jung Chang's latest book Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister looks at the lives of the first Chinese girls to attend university in the USA. On their return to Shanghai one worked in business, one married a politician and one was involved in high society. Julia Lovell has been awarded one of the most significant history writing prizes - the Cundill - for her latest book Maoism: A Global History. Cindy Yu is a China reporter...more

  • New Thinking: George Eliot

    Nov 22 2019

    Shahidha Bari discusses the state of scholarship on George Eliot at her bicentenary with Ruth Livesey and Helen O'Neill, both at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Gail Marshall at the University of Reading. Ruth Livesey's AHRC funded research project on George Eliot is ‘Provincialism: Literature and the Cultural Politics of Middleness in Nineteenth-Century Britain’ https://georgeeliotprovincialism.home.blog/ Gail Marshall's blog on reading Middlemarch is here https://middlemarchin2019.wo...more

  • The Mill on the Floss

    Nov 22 2019

    Writer Rebecca Mead, actor Fiona Shaw + academics Dafydd Mills Daniel, Philip Davis & Peggy Reynolds read George Eliot's 1860 novel portraying sibling relationships. Shahidha Bari hosts. George Eliot was born on 22 November 1819. Rebecca Mead is the author of The road to Middlemarch: my life with George Eliot. Dafydd Mills Daniel is a New Generation Thinker on the scheme run by the BBC and AHRC to put academic research on the radio. Professor Peggy Reynolds teaches at Queen Mary University Lond...more

  • Are the arts saving Margate?

    Nov 22 2019

    Investigating regeneration and gentrification, the Turner Contemporary, the 2019 Turner Prize exhibition, writer Maggie Gee on her novel Blood, & the town in literature. The seaside town of Margate has both struggled and thrived over the past two centuries – it thronged with holidaymakers from the Victorian era onwards but limped through the latter half of the 20th century and was one of the most deprived parts of the UK before the £17.5m Turner Contemporary opened in 2011. Many hoped that the ...more

  • Why We Need New News

    Nov 22 2019

    New research looking at at reporting secret assassinations, countering propaganda & how we could update TV news bulletins, from the Being Human Festival, an annual event which involves public events put on by universities across the UK, presented by Shahidha Bari. Steve Poole teaches at the University of the West of England and is involved in a project - Romancing the Gibbet - that uses smartphone apps to evoke memories of C18th hangings hidden in the English landscape Dr Clare George is Mille...more

  • The Legacy of the Trojan War

    Nov 21 2019

    Why do the legendary walls of a Bronze Age city in Asia still cast such a long shadow? Novelist and classics expert Natalie Haynes, Alev Scott author of Ottoman Odyssey, archaeologist Naoíse Mac Sweeney and medievalist Hetta Howes join Rana Mitter to share new perspectives on the conflict immortalised in Homer's Iliad as the British Museum opens an exhibition dedicated to Troy. Troy: Myth and Reality runs at the British Museum in London from November 21st to 8th March 2020. Natalie Haynes is th...more

  • New Thinking: AHRC Research in Film Awards 2019

    Nov 16 2019

    Hetta Howes is on the red carpet at this year's AHRC Research in Film Awards at the British Film Institute on London's South Bank, where she talks to the winners: Laura Hammond of SOAS, Benjamin Dix of PositiveNegatives, and director Osbert Parker, who won Best Social Media Short for their film Life On The Move Shreepali Patel of StoryLab, Anglia Ruskin University, who won in theMental Health & Wellbeing category for The Golden Window Ed Owles of the University of Leeds and his producer Kasia Mi...more

  • Being Human: Love Stories

    Nov 14 2019

    Naomi Paxton assembles a squad of researchers to talk about dating, relationships, and what how we fall in love says about us from the National Archives to London's gay bars. Dr Cordelia Beattie from the University of Edinburgh has unearthed two new manuscripts by the 17th-century woman Mrs Alice Thornton, which put her life, loves and relationship with God in a new light. Now they’re becoming a play in collaboration with writer and performer Debbie Cannon. Dr João Florêncio is from the Univer...more

  • The Changing Image of Masculinity.

    Nov 14 2019

    "Man Up". "He's Safe" "No Homo" How do men talk and write about masculinity? Laurence Scott talks to authors Ben Lerner, Derek Owusu and JJ Bola about crying, competitiveness, anger - and the pressure to perform. Ben Lerner is the author of Leaving the Atocha Station, 10:04 and his latest novel is called The Topeka School. He holds a prize commonly called the "genius grant" as a MacArthur Fellow. Derek Owusu's latest novel is called That Reminds Me. He has also presented the podcast Mostly Lit ...more

  • Weimar and the Subversion of Cabaret Culture

    Nov 12 2019

    Matthew Sweet, performers Lucy McCormick and Gateau Chocolat, curator Florence Ostende, New Generation Thinker Lisa Mullen and Gaylene Gould with an audience at London's Barbican Centre From 1919 when the Weimar constitution said all were equal and had the right to freedom of expression, through to the Mbari Writers and Artists club in Nigeria, to the UK today, clubs and cabarets have always been spaces of creativity. The panel consider a series of moments in history to ask when and how club cu...more

  • The 2019 Free Thinking Imperial War Museum Remembrance Debate

    Nov 07 2019

    Who decides what’s worth saving and what is culturally significant to protect in wartimes and war zones? The panel, hosted by Anne McElvoy, are: Sir Peter Bazalgette - Chairman of ITV and former Chairman of Arts Council England Carrie Reichardt - International Artist and grassroots activist Zahed Tajeddin - Syrian-born Artist and Archaeologist Rebecca Newell - IWM’s Head of Art Recorded with an audience at the Imperial War Museum, London on Weds November 6th. What Remains, an exhibition with o...more

  • Quatermass

    Nov 05 2019

    Dr Who collaborators Mark Gatiss & Stephen Moffat, academics Una McCormack & Claire Langhamer and Matthew Kneale join Matthew Sweet to celebrate Nigel Kneale's groundbreaking 1953 BBC TV sci-fi serial The Quatermass Experiment, which spawned two late 1950s sequels and an ITV final run in autumn 1979. Producer Torquil MacLeod.

  • New Thinking: Rubble culture to techno in post-war Germany

    Nov 01 2019

    As the 30th anniversary of the Berlin wall falling is marked on November 9th we rummage for stories amid the rubble. What were school teachers in Berlin pre-occupied with when the checkpoints were overrun? What would happen to the dogs of British forces families if the Cold War kicked off? Why was the poet Stephen Spender tasked with the ‘de-Nazification’ of German universities? And how does any of this relate to a 90s techno club in an air raid shelter? Our host, New Generation Thinker Dr Tom ...more

  • Halloween. Ghost Stories

    Nov 01 2019

    Shahidha Bari's guests include author Kirsty Logan and former League of Gentlemen writer and performer Jeremy Dyson, whose play Ghost Stories is back in the West End. Joining them is the film critic and author of a novella called Mothlight, Adam Scovell, poet Nisha Ramayya whose work States of the Body produced by Love speaks of goddesses who symbolise all the attributes of women and British Museum curator and expert on ancient Mesopotamian medicine and magic Irving Finkel.

  • Cars, Parking and Motorways

    Oct 30 2019

    Where are we? How did we get here, and where are we going? Our relationship with the self-propelled small metal boxes in which we spend so much of our time is not as simple as it feels. Why did we learn to need them? How did they shape our cities, our typewriters and our bacon slicers? Should we now redesign our roads, streets and even our skies for AI driven cars? What do we learn by looking at suburban car parks? A discussion reflecting on speed, automobiles, AI and the 60th anniversary of ...more

  • Writing Real Life from Brexit to Grenfell

    Oct 30 2019

    Ali Smith, Jay Bernard and James Graham join Matthew Sweet at the British Library in a discussion organised with the Royal Society of Literature. Making art from real events is as old to writing as the pen – older. But what happens when the events you are writing about are recent, or happening as you write? What are the writer’s duties to fact? How can writing bear witness to contemporary moments of social upheaval or human disasters? In writing the ‘now’, where does non-fiction stop and fictiv...more

  • Landmark: The Yorkshire Feminist Winifred Holtby

    Oct 24 2019

    Rachel Reeves MP, Hull academic Jane Thomas and New Generation Thinker Katie Cooper discuss the novel South Riding and the writing and politics of Winifred Holtby with Matthew Sweet and an audience in Hull at the Contains Strong Language Festival. With readings by Rachel Dale. Winifred Holtby (23 June 1898 – 29 September 1935) came from a farming family in Yorkshire, met Vera Brittain at Oxford University and shared a house in London as they began their careers as writers. Brittain went on to p...more

  • What to Believe

    Oct 23 2019

    Rana Mitter and guests look at the history of atheism and morality. Alec Ryrie's new book 'Unbelievers: an emotional history of doubt' argues that the rationality arguments for non-belief developed after congregations began to doubt the church. The Barber Institute in Birmingham begins a new exhibition into one of the more enigmatic sacred artists of c15 Antwerp, Jan de Beer. Sarah Wise has contributed a chapter on Morality to a new imprint of Charles' Booth's notorious London Poverty Maps. Jenn...more

  • New Thinking: First Encounters

    Oct 23 2019

    Should we really be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Cortés and European settlers in Mexico? Is this a "first encounter" - and how do you decipher history when there isn't anything written down? Claudia Rogers compares notes with Nandini Das. Nandini has been re-reading the accounts written by John Rolfe of his marriage to Pocahontas and looking at what we gain when we flip the narrative and see from the point of view of indigenous people. Hosted by New Generation Thinker Jo...more

  • Frieze Free Thinking Museums Debate

    Oct 22 2019

    How welcome are selfies in modern art galleries and museums? What kind of labelling should be on display and should more objects be repatriated? Laurence des Cars from the Musée d'Orsay, Kennie Ting from Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore and Philip Tinari from UCCA Beijing join Anne McElvoy and an audience at the Royal Institute of British Architects for this year's Frieze Free Thinking debate about the issues facing museum directors. The Frieze Art Fair ran in London October 3-6 and returns...more

  • Dictators

    Oct 18 2019

    Matthew Sweet on Chaplin's 1941 film and rising populism today with guests including Francesca Santoro L'hoir who acted alongside Chaplin as a child plus Ece Temelkuran, Peter Pomerantsev and Frank Dikotter. Dutch Historian Frank Dikotter, who teaches in China, has published books on The Cultural Revolution, Mao's Famine and most recently How to Be a Dictator: the Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century which looks at Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Ceausescu, “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Kim Il Sung and Men...more

  • The Woolly Episode

    Oct 17 2019

    From Sean the Sheep & Damien Hirst to a knitted bikini. Shahidha Bari with a woolly episode talks to writer and knitter Esther Rutter, shepherd Axel Linden, medievalist John Lee and cultural historian Alexandra Harris. Esther Rutter is the author of This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain's Knitted History. Shepherd Axel Linden farms in Ostergotland county in the south east of Sweden and has written On Sheep - Diary of a Swedish Shepherd. Professor Alexandra Harris considers sheep in art ...more

  • 2019 Booker Prize, The Power of Ancient Artefacts

    Oct 16 2019

    Anne McElvoy talks prehistory with archaeologist Mike Pitts and artist Renee So plus critic Alex Clark gives her take on this year's Booker Prize winners - Bernadine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood, and director Tinuke Craig discusses putting Gorky on stage in a new version written by Mike Bartlett. Ancient and Modern by Renee So is at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill until 12th January Digging up Britain: Ten discoveries, a million years of history by Mike Pitts is available now Vassa by Gorky in...more

  • East Meets West

    Oct 10 2019

    As the British Museum opens an exhibition on orientalism Inspired by the East, Matthew Sweet's guests include Ziauddin Sardar, editor of Critical Muslim, artist Inci Eviner, and historian Tom Holland, whose new book explores the Making of the Western Mind. Plus cultural critic Fatima Bhutto argues that the days of US inspired culture dominating the world are over and art forms from the global south such as Bollywood films, K-Pop and Turkish telenovelas are taking over. Fatima Bhutto's book is c...more

  • Myth making, satire and Caryl Churchill

    Oct 10 2019

    Caryl Churchill's C21st Bluebeard, the fragility of a glass girl and other myths reworked in 4 new short dramas. Jen Harvie discusses the storytelling on stage of one of Britain's leading dramatists. Hetta Howes looks back at American author Rachel Ingalls who died earlier this year aged 78. Her novel Mrs Caliban depicts a lonely housewife who befriends a sea monster.The German born US based artist Kiki Smith has produced sculptures, tapestries and artworks looking at pain and bodily decay and r...more

  • Modern Dutch Writing

    Oct 09 2019

    Laurence Scott looks at the way Dutch writers are addressing history and contemporary life with Rodaan Al Galidi, Eva Meijer, Onno Blom, Herman Koch and Toon Tellegen. Eva Meijer is an author, artist, singer, songwriter and philosopher. Her non-fiction study on animal Communication, Animal Languages has been published this year and her first novel to be translated into English Bird Cottage, has been nominated for the BNG and Libris prizes in the Netherlands and is being translated into several ...more

  • The Frieze Masters Free Thinking Conversation about Art

    Oct 08 2019

    Michael Govan, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art outlines the issues facing museum directors talking with Philip Dodd and an audience at the Frieze London Art Fair. They debate the "authority" of museums, the idea of "great" art and he answers critics of his rebuilding plan. Michael Govan took over running LACMA in 2006 following his work at the DIA Art Foundation in New York City. The Los Angeles museum has partnered with Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur Budi Tek to create a new ...more

  • Rebecca Solnit, Truth, National Poetry Day.

    Oct 03 2019

    Who holds the power? The US activist and author Rebecca Solnit talks to Shahidha Bari about pros and cons of anger, US border patrols, rape cases in courts and shifts in the point of view of Hollywood films. Plus a look at the theme of National Poetry Day 2019 - Truth with the poet David Cain author of Truth Street - A Hillsborough Poem and Fiona Benson - whose collection is called Vertigo & Ghost. Rebecca Solnit's fourth Essay collection is called Whose Story Is This ? Old Conflicts, New Chapt...more

  • New Thinking: Places of Poetry & The Colonial Countryside Project

    Oct 03 2019

    A 15,000-line epic, Poly-Olbion has inspired Professor Andrew McRae from the University of Exeter and the Places of Poetry project which asks you to pin newly written poems to a modern version of William Hole's map of England and Wales. Why did Michael Drayton leave out Scotland? And what do the modern poems tell us about Brexit Britain? Hetta Howes finds out and talks to writers Pete Kalu & Will Harris alongside Dr Corinne Fowler from the University of Leicester about the Colonial Countryside...more

  • From The Spains to LatinX

    Oct 02 2019

    Rana Mitter talks to Jason Webster, Ed Morales, Iain Sinclair and Iwona Blazwick, about the shifting concepts of identity in the Ibero-Latin world, from the days before Spain was a single Spain, through the indigenous and the artistic of South America, to the multiplicity of ethnic and cultural identities represented in the US by the neologism "Latinx".

  • Surveillance, Conspiracy, and Secrets from the Archives

    Sep 29 2019

    "They do not come into our house in jackboots... This is not totalitarianism. This is a new kind of power." Shoshana Zuboff discusses surveillance capitalism, the links between Pokémon Go and BF Skinner, the behavioural psychologist she studied with at Harvard in the 1970s. Plus the mystery of the cuckoo clock in The Third Man. To mark the 70th anniversary of Carol Reed's classic post-War thriller, Matthew Sweet visits the archive of the British Film Institute with Angela Allen, the script super...more

  • Anxiety

    Sep 26 2019

    Comedian Sofie Hagen, Colombian novelist Héctor Abad, political journalist Isabel Hardman, artistic director John O'Shea & psychologist Dr Colette Hirsch, who are behind a new exhibition about anxiety, join Shahidha Bari. On Edge: Living in an Age of Anxiety is a new exhibition at Science Gallery London until 19th January 2020 which combines art, design, psychology and neuroscience drawing on research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London. ...more

  • Back to the '80s

    Sep 20 2019

    Matthew Sweet is joined by guests including comedian Alexei Sayle, TV presenter Janet Ellis and film critics Adam Mars Jones and New Generation Thinker Iain Smith to look at remakes and new interpretations of the '80s from Stephen King's 1986 horror novel IT - now in cinemas as It Chapter Two, Rambo - first seen on screen in 1982 and now the inspiration for Last Blood and My Beautiful Launderette, which Hanif Kureishi has adapted for a UK theatre tour this Autumn - to TV series like Stranger Thi...more

  • Landmark: Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation

    Sep 18 2019

    Lauren Elkin, Lisa Appignanesi and biographer Ben Moser debate Susan Sontag's life and ideas with presenter Laurence Scott, focusing in on her 1966 essay collection, which argued for a new way of approaching art and culture. Ben Moser is the author of Sontag: Her life and work which is out now. Lauren Elkin teaches at the University of Liverpool and is the author of Flâneuse: Women Walk the City. She is researching Sontag's time in Sarajevo in 1993 when she staged Waiting for Godot during the S...more

  • Tolerance, censorship and free speech.

    Sep 17 2019

    Moral philosopher Susan Neiman studies lessons from German & US history. Ursula Owen went from Virago to Index on Censorship. Christopher Hampton has translated an Ödön von Horváth novel about the fallout from an accusation of racism. Anne McElvoy brings them together for a conversation about tolerance, censorship and parallels between the past and the present. Written in exile while in flight from the Nazis, Youth Without God was the last book by Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938), a German-writing...more

  • New Thinking: Fashion, AI and Sustainability

    Sep 16 2019

    Should we be renting our clothes instead of buying new ? Plus how robots are influencing the colour of our fashions. Mark Sumner and Stephen Westland both teach in the School of Design at the University of Leeds and they're involved in the Future Fashion Factory. This is a major government funded project working with industry and university research aiming to boost sustainability in fashion by using technology in new ways, looking at what we can do to change consumer and company attitudes to #...more

  • Proms Plus: Witches & Witchcraft

    Sep 13 2019

    Witchcraft, witch-trials and the image of the witch are explored by historian Professor Suzannah Lipscomb and Dr Thomas Waters. Hosted by New Generation Thinker Fern Riddell. Dr Thomas Waters is the author of Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times. Suzannah Lipscomb has presented a Channel 5 TV programme on witchcraft and written a Ladybird Expert Book on the topic. Produced by Luke Mulhall

  • Revisit Anxiety, Teenagers, University and Leaving Home

    Sep 12 2019

    Caroline Dower is a psychotherapist and currently Head of the Counselling Service at Durham University. She has a special interest in the experience of psychological distress, and the experience of anxiety in young adults. Ceyda Uzun is a student at Kings College London, currently in her final year studying English Literature. She is a former Into Film Reporter and Head Editor of The Strand Magazine who has written on topics including mental health, identity and youth culture. Stephen Briers i...more

  • Proms Plus: Letters

    Sep 11 2019

    The best selling thriller writer, Ruth Ware and the editor of the popular Letters of Note anthologies, Shaun Usher, join Sophie Coulombeau to discuss letter writing in the 21st century. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • Proms Plus: Sacrifice

    Sep 02 2019

    Why the bible story of Jephtha caused more controversy than your average burnt offering. Reverend Richard Coles and Old Testament scholar Dr Deborah Rooke explain it all. Presented by John Gallagher. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

  • Proms Plus: Landscape

    Aug 27 2019

    Writer and broadcaster, Horatio Clare and the rapper and playwright, Testament join Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough to explore the ways in which the British landscape - urban and rural -- inspires writers. Producer: Zahid Warley

  • 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

  • Prom Plus: 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