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After 50 fantastic episodes, James O’Brien’s time at the helm of Unfiltered is sadly coming to an end. In this special episode with BBC Radio 4 presenter Fi Glover, James signs off from the interviewees chair with a touching conversation about his life. James shares his experiences from growing up adopted and getting expelled from school to breaking into journalism through gossip columns and showbiz, before ultimately finding his ideal platforms at LBC and JOE. He talks about the curse of being right when all is going wrong, his personal politics, views on free speech, the dangers of amplifying extremists, that infamous Nigel Farage interview, and offers his thoughts on private education, capitalism and economics, feminism, sexual abuse, #MeToo, the future awaiting Britain, and of course, Brexit. Unfiltered will return with a new presenter after a very brief hiatus.
You probably know Gina Miller as the woman who took the government to court for attempting to implement Brexit without a vote in Parliament, but there’s much more to Gina Miller than the headlines. In this fascinating interview with James O’Brien, Gina shares her story, moving from Guyana to the UK, becoming a successful businesswoman, her campaigns and crusades for transparency and fairness, culminating in the Brexit legal challenge and the fallout that followed.
Former editor-in-chief of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger joins James O’Brien for a fascinating interview about the extraordinary stories and technological revolutions that defined his tenure, from the News of the World phone hacking scandal to the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden revelations, through to the future of journalism in the information age.
Legendary film director Spike Lee joins guest host David Lammy for a fascinating interview about his extraordinary career, his latest effort BlacKkKlansman, reflecting on the presidency of Barack Obama, and a little North London rivalry between Spike’s Arsenal and David’s beloved Tottenham Hotspur. Normal service will resume next week when James O’Brien returns from holiday.
David Lammy steps into the interviewer’s chair while James is on holiday for a very special interview with Idris Elba. The pair chart Idris’ journey to stardom, from his childhood spent mostly alone, getting the buzz for acting, moving to America and getting his big break on The Wire, right up to his first film as a director, Yardie. There’s no talk of James Bond in this conversation, but we think you’ll agree, there are much more interesting things to talk about with Idris Elba. Yardie is out 31st August. Book your tickets at
Poet and two-time Mercury Prize-nominated rapper Kate Tempest joins James O’Brien for a deep and fascinating interview about art, poetry, transcendence, the human condition, and the dark and beautiful worlds that art and performance can take you to, and we think you’ll agree that this conversation goes to some extraordinary places too.
Happy Mondays and Black Grape frontman Shaun Ryder joins a starstruck James O’Brien for a rock ’n’ roll rollercoaster of an interview. We journey from Shaun’s early days in ‘monochrome’ Manchester, to the formation of the Mondays, the technicolour highs and explosive lows of band life, break ups and reformations, coming off drugs and embarking on new journeys with Black Grape.
He’s a DJ, a record label boss, a producer and an entrepreneur, but Steve Aoki is really only interested in one thing: building a community. This insightful interview with James O’Brien takes us through Steve’s journey to superstardom, from his childhood struggles with otherness and racism, finding solace in music and the constructive rage of hardcore punk, sowing the seeds of what would become his empire, and finding his way back to the stage as one of the biggest EDM performers in the world.
It’s a laugh-packed interview this week! James O’Brien chats to comedian Mark Steel about growing up in a town that was boring by design, the hilarious misadventures that come with living in a squat, Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing politics, and his varying degrees of success in trying to trace his biological parents. Oh, and Mark has possibly the deepest voice ever recorded on a podcast. Enjoy!
James is away finishing his new book, so we’re doing things a little differently this week. Yes, it’s a ‘Best Of’, but it’s the best of the guests that might have slipped under your radar. They may not be household names, but they have rich and interesting stories that we think you’d like to check out. Normal service will resume with a brand new interview next week, but in the meantime you can go back and check out the episodes mentioned in the show here. Scroobius Pip: Paris Lees: June Sarpong: Michelle Lyons: Dave Haslam: Jack Monroe: John Amaechi: Nimco Ali:
What happens when you just say ‘yes’ to everything? What happens when you ask random people to join you, when you’ve no idea what you’re asking them to join? Danny Wallace asks these kind of questions, and boy, does he get answers. Danny joins James O’Brien for a witty and revealing interview about his his early days working with Ross Noble and The Mighty Boosh, having Jim Carrey play a version of him in a movie, and his undying belief that people, on the whole, are good.
In the world of Christian music, Vicky Beeching was one of its biggest stars, but she had a secret, something she’d hidden away for over 20 years: she was gay. In this inspiring interview, Vicky takes James O’Brien through her journey, discovering a talent for music at a young age, her struggles reconciling her feelings with her faith, and a life-threatening illness that changed everything.
Caitlin Moran has a lot to say. Some of it is rib-crackingly funny. Some of it is eye-opening and jaw-dropping. Not all of it is related to the human anatomy, but every word is worth your time. James O’Brien is certainly kept on his toes in this whipcrack of an interview, covering everything from masturbation to politics, Love Island to feminism, and a lot of chat about vaginas. Strap in, folks. We’re going full force on this one.
Novelist, journalist and top-notch conversationalist Howard Jacobson joins James O’Brien for a gloriously sprawling interview, exploring everything from Howard’s birth during a WWII bombing raid, his disdain for “the will of the people”, everyday antisemitism, and his late success as an author, proving beyond proof that it’s never too late for anyone to become what they were meant to be.
In the late 1980s, something was happening in Manchester. A melting pot of music, art and culture was bubbling away, ready to explode, and Dave Haslam was right there in the middle of it. In this fascinating interview, the DJ and writer talks to James O’Brien about his passion for Manchester’s alternative music and culture, DJing at the Haçienda, the introduction of ecstasy to rave culture, and the soaring highs and destructive lows that followed.
You may know Simon Thomas from his work on Sky Sports and Blue Peter, but the devastating loss of Simon’s wife Gemma brought him to a prominence that no one could ever wish for. In this emotional and inspiring interview with James O’Brien, Simon shares his story, from getting his big break on Blue Peter and forging a career in the media, to meeting his wife Gemma and the devastating circumstances that took her from him and their young son. Simon bravely decided to share his grief publicly, and so started a conversation about the way we deal with loss, a conversation that continues here.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow normally asks the questions, but this time he’s in the hot seat. In this sharp and incisive interview with James O’Brien, Ronan takes us through his prodigious childhood, working in the Obama administration at 21, then going on to forge a career in journalism, most famously as one of the reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and now training his eye on the decline of American global influence, both under Trump and before.
Rapper, poet and scholar Akala joins James O’Brien for a scintillating interview, in which they discuss two issues that run to the heart of modern Britain: race and class. In a breakneck hour of conversation, Akala picks apart many of the modern myths around gangs, street violence and black youth, looking at the ways these are perpetuated in the media and who benefits from perpetuating them, as well as looking back to the Windrush generation and the institutionalised injustices that led to the recent crisis. It’s an education.
In her time working with and for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Michelle Lyons was witness to nearly 300 executions, and though she watched hundreds of inmates be put to death, she’s one of the most cheerful people you could ever meet. In this extraordinary interview with James O’Brien, Michelle takes us into the execution chamber, into the lives of the inmates that she came to know, and the personal, professional and moral conflict she was forced to grapple with. Last chance to vote for Unfiltered at the British Podcast Awards! Simply go to and search for ‘Unfiltered with James O’Brien’. Voting closes on May 17. Thank you.
More than almost any other Unfiltered guest so far, you know exactly who Jamie Oliver is. Except, you don’t. In a revealing and impassioned interview with James O’Brien, Jamie takes us back to being a young boy in Essex working in his parents’ pub, not only discovering his passion for food, but his passion for what food can do. The Naked Chef saw Jamie become a household name overnight, and while he may have sold a few cookery books off the back of it, his fame enabled him to pursue the thing that he’s best known for: trying to make a difference. Vote for Unfiltered! We're up for the Listener's Choice Award at the British Podcast Awards. Head to and search for 'Unfiltered with James O'Brien'. Thank you!
Comments (26)

Jill Daniel

sound quality on romesh one awful. couldn't listen

Oct 14th

Paul Billington

I very much appreciate the honesty of these interviews. I find it very uplifting. Thank you!

Apr 25th

Charles Walczak

James, been fascinated by the interviews so far, at number 34 now.

Mar 27th

Ben Plunkett

I just found these and I'm at number 29 now and genuinely not looking forward to no more Mr O'Brien. wish I'd started at the beginning. ignorance is bliss.

Mar 7th

Bryan Davey

I have to admit to knowing little or nothing about John Amaechi but what a fascinating life he's led and what great insights

Feb 20th

Barebackcoyote X

James. We need more please . thanks 🙂👌

Feb 6th

Mark Bird

thank you Jane I've really enjoyed these and am sad to see you go,whoever replaces you has a massive hole to fill. you are amazing!

Sep 24th

Michael Ryder

Worthwhile things are often difficult. The beginning of this interview as James acknowledges was very difficult, but boy was it worth it. A fascinating listen.

Aug 21st

Lee danson esq

pathetic pod cast James o Brian is a poisonous liberal with zero credibility

Jul 12th
Reply (4)

Aaron Davey

Thank you James for an incredibly insightful and skillfully conducted set of interviews. Of those I have listened to so far: Nigel Owens: This shocked me when he quoted his mother after the major life incident he described (to avoid spoiling it for those who haven't listened yet). It also saddened me tremendously when I understood that he wasn't talking about a period in the 1970's or early 1980's, but much more recent than that. When I reflected on how far the fields of pop music and entertainment had come in accepting gay men, it surprised and disappointed me that sport had not followed along. Simon Thomas: He brought a real lump to my throat and is an amazing man to have coped in the way he has with what he has been through. He should be really proud of what he is doing in bringing his son up. Plan B: A fantastic voice and a real force for change and good. Russell Kane: Brilliantly funny, with an amazing life story. Krishnan Guru-Murthy: You sparked off of him really well, probably the warmest of the interviews I've listened to. Lily Allen: You allowed her to be her true self without judging or criticising her for the stance she has taken on various issues and showed she is far more than the caricature the popular press would have us believe. Caitlin Moran: My God, the lady can talk, utterly brilliant, very funny. Alistair Campbell suffered a similar fate when he interviewed her for GQ recently. She gave him about 2 hours worth of material in the hour they spent together. Vicky Beeching: I knew nothing of her or her story and in a similar way to Nigel Owens felt sad that one of the institutions that holds itself out as open and tolerant in fact holds prejudices in exactly the same way as many other sections of society do. If I could make one small suggestion, don't be afraid to exceed an hour in length please. I have listened to other interviewers spending up to 2 and a half hours talking to people with whom they share an affinity or wish to really engage with. The lives of some of the people you have spoken to deserve to be explored in greater detail. I don't think you would lose the listeners you now have or intimidate new ones if you continue to treat guests with empathy, warmth and the respect you have so far. You have mentioned wanting to be interviewed on the podcast yourself. If Joe want to set that up, can I suggest Evan Davies as the interviewer? You and Unfiltered work best when there is a connection between you and the subject, be that shared background or life experiences. I think your common link of Newsnight would probably work well. If he's not available, I would be interested myself. No previous experience, but everyone's got to start somewhere....😀 Finally, could I please suggest Eric Clapton, Kevin Keegan, Rio Ferdinand, Damon Hill, Fred Dinenage and Karren Brady as future guests. Thank you for the hours of thought-provoking and entertaining interviews you have conducted so brilliantly. Aaron Davey

Jul 10th
Reply (2)

Mary Lewens

Also would love to hear you interview Diane Abbott and Jess Phillips.

Jun 16th

Mary Lewens

Would you consider doing one with Alistair Campbell? All manner of topics to delve into here from political to personal and I expect he'd be really open to it.

Jun 13th
Reply (1)

Matthew Tupholme

Great interviews, fantastic podcast it's nice to hear genuine interviews instead of people just selling stuff.

May 17th


What fantastic interview and conversation. Bring Nick back!!

Apr 25th

Russ Collins

an open, honest and frankly shocking pod. brilliant and powerful. highly recommended.

Apr 16th

Alison Fitch

blown away by Paris Lees' brilliance, resilience and downright bloody minded pursuit of her path. What a role model for all of us. Looking forward to part 2 and her book

Feb 6th

Ian Omahoney

these are brilliant. I have alcohol problems and listening to 2 of them has helped immensely.tgank you James and Joe

Feb 2nd

Alison Fitch

My two favourite broadcasters in one place it!

Jan 12th

Mark Bird

very good first pod James and great first guest.R.B neaver fails to excite and educate in equal measure. You are the only credible host that could match brand in Witt and linguistic charm and I really enjoyed this talk. I'd love to hear you talk with Graham Hancock or professor David Nut and have the courage to discuss the failing war on drug addicts.

Oct 30th
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