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With the RCA’s Vice Chancellor Dr. Paul Thompson and Chair of the Governing Body Sir Peter Bazalgette This week we’re talking about the RCA’s brand new £135 million Battersea campus.  In a fascinating conversation with Dr. Paul Thompson and Sir Peter Bazalgette, they tell us how the new facilities can give future creative leaders the tools to learn to solve some of the most pressing global issues, from climate crisis and ageing populations to mobility, urbanism, inclusivity and ensuring AI remains a force for good. As Paul Thompson says, ‘We’re trying to introduce some core fundamentals of science into the RCA art petri dish.’ The new development comprises a large scale hangar, robotics centre and an intelligent mobility design centre as well as sculpture and contemporary art practice studios. RCA alumni include some of the world’s most innovative designers from Jony Ive to James Dyson and Thomas Heatherwick, alongside artists including David Hockney, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley and Tracey Emin.  Listen in to hear how the RCA is in a better position than ever on the global stage to produce the creative leaders our world needs.
This week we talk to John Morton, the writer famous for classic TV hits like WIA, Twenty Twelve and People Like Us.  He’s been brave enough to take on our favourite show, the much-loved French series Call My Agent and create and direct the British version, Ten Per Cent. He talks to us about why agents are so fascinating and the complicated business of writing tightly scripted comedy. With eight episodes available to view on Amazon Prime, John tells us about the lead cast members, how and why he made the main characters so different to suit a British audience.  We explore the gaping differences between British and French culture:  Are we simply much less glamorous? Or, unlike the French, are we just unable to say what we really mean? The critics were uncertain and divided to start with but became lured in and are looking forward to Series Two – if it happens. We very much hope so, and John talks openly about the challenges of taking on such a project.  Stars playing cameos of themselves include Dominic West, Helena Bonham Carter, Kelly Macdonald and David Harewood.
This week we’re talking about the Chalke Valley History Festival, the biggest festival in the world devoted entirely to history, which runs from 20th to the 26th of June at its beautiful Wiltshire home near Salisbury.   On the podcast with us is the festival director, Jane Pleydell-Bouverie and two historians who’ll be talking there, Christopher de Bellaigue and Tracy Borman. Christopher tells us about his book The Lion House, The Coming of a King, which has received rave reviews and depicts the great Ottoman ruler, Suleyman the Magnificent, and his rise to becoming the most feared and powerful man of the 16th Century.  Tracy talks about her book, Crown and Sceptre:  A New History of the British Monarchy from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II, which explores the institution as far back as 1066 and gives us her views on the future of the monarchy. Jane gives us the rundown on all the exciting events happening at the festival this year from The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room, where Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir are rediscovering women in history to Bill Browder on his book Freezing Order: A True Story of Russian Money-Laundering, State-Sponsored Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath.
This week we recorded our panel discussion at Hay Festival with three outstanding writers for this podcast. Unfortunately, the Hay Festival Technical Team had a problem with our recording and could not retrieve it for us to broadcast. On the panel were Karen Armstrong, former Catholic nun and now prolific writer andcommentator on religion, Jessie Greengrass, the award-winning short story writer and novelist, and Ellen Miles, guerrilla gardener, activist and founder of the campaign Nature is a Human Right. As this was Hay, the world’s best known book festival, they were of course all on the panel to talk about their books, which deal with protecting nature and our planet and fighting climate change in very different way but equally compelling ways. You can hear a very brief description of them by clicking onto the podcast. The books are Sacred Nature by Karen Armstrong, The High House by Jessie Greengrass Nature is a Human Right, Why We’re Fighting for Green in a Grey World, edited by Ellen Miles, and we hope listeners will read the books, which we highly recommend. We’ll be back on track next week talking to the founder and historians at the Chalke Valley History Festival. Meanwhile, on behalf of Hay Festival, we apologise again.
Today we’re talking about the 27th prestigious 2022 Prize for Women in Fiction, which honours outstanding ambitious original fiction written in English by women from all over the world. The entries are judged by a panel comprising Lorraine Candy, Anita Sethi, Dorothy Koomson and Pandora Sykes. The Chair of the Judges is Mary Ann Sieghart, prolific journalist, broadcaster and author of the bestseller The Authority Gap, Why We Still Take Women Less Seriously than Men and What We Can Do About It. She’s with us alongside her fellow judge Dorothy, herself a globally best-selling author known as ‘Queen of the Reveal’. The shortlist incorporates a broad range of themes from ghosts, sisterhood and identity to mental illness, gender violence and the power of nature in global settings from Antarctica to Trinidad. Mary Ann and Dorothy discuss the six shortlisted entries by Lisa Allen-Agostini, Louise Erdich, Meg Mason, Ruth Ozeki, Elif Shafak and Maggie Shipstead. We also talk about the role of a judge, the extraordinary stories on the shortlist, why men don’t read books by women and why this prize, founded by novelist Kate Mosse, is so important.
Just a month away from the summer solstice, we explore the mysteries that still surround Stonehenge. Our guest is Dr. Neil Wilkin, the extraordinarily knowledgeable curator of the British Museum’s exhibition ‘The World of Stonehenge’, which you still have time to catch as it runs till mid-July.  It’s not to be missed as it’s the first major exhibition on Stonehenge to be staged in London and there’s been no exhibition about it in Britain for 35 years. Over 430 objects have been gathered from all over Europe, almost two thirds are loans, and most have never been seen in the UK before. Dr. Neil Wilkin guides us through the major exhibits: Seahenge, the circle of 54 oak posts discovered on remote north Norfolk beach in 1988, the Nebra Sky Disc, at 3,600 years old the world’s oldest map of stars on a portable disc, the Sun Pendant, the most significant piece of Bronze Age gold ever found in 2018 in Shropshire by a retired engineer with a metal detector, the gold lozenge buried with the Bush Barrow chieftan and the Amesbury Archer Treasures. Dr. Neil Wilkin brings the site to life with his vivid evocation of what life must have been like on Salisbury Plain 5,000 years ago.
This week we’re going back to the eighties, a time of momentous change, as chronicled by John Walsh in his new book Circus of Dreams. John, renowned literary editor, journalist, author and popular panellist on Radio Four’s The Write Stuff, persuades us that the eighties were probably the most exciting time to work in the literary world.  The decade was hit by a tsunami of talent as new authors like Martin Amis, Rose Tremain, Jeanette Winterston, Hanif Kureshi, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Sebastian Faulks, Douglas Adams and Salman Rushdie and many more exploded onto the scene and changed the literary landscape forever. Together with Sally Emerson, who was then Editor of Books and Bookmen and is now an award-winning and highly acclaimed anthologist, novelist, short story and travel writer, John takes us on a highly entertaining journey back to the days before computers when business was done in pubs or parties, office life was ramshackle and fun and writers were the great glittering stars of their day.   John brushed shoulders with everyone from Andrew Neil and Rupert Murdoch to every author you’ve ever heard of. It was an exciting time and John and Sally transport us back to it with their insider knowledge, much laughter and hilarious anecdotes.
On this week’s episode we hear from Guy Salter about London Craft Week, the capital-wide festival celebrating talented makers from all over Britain and around the globe, opening on Monday 9th May.  We also chat to Rosalind McKever about the extraordinary craft down the ages that’s gone into menswear.  Fashioning Masculinities,  in partnership with Gucci,  is on at the V & A until November and culminates in a celebratory ‘Finale Room’ showcasing three fabulous outfits – the tuxedo gown by Christian Siriano that Billy Porter wore to the Oscars, the Alessandro Michele for Gucci gown and tailored jacket worn by Harry Styles on the cover of Vogue and the Ella Lynch wedding dress worn by Bimini Bon Boulash in Ru Paul’s Drag Race. No-one is more knowledgeable or passionate about the glories of craft than Guy and he provides the perfect guide to all that’s on offer this week, from learning about silk weaving with the Queen of Malaysia to knitting beanies out of upcycled materials.  Along the way, Pimlico Road will be open to all, Design Centre Chelsea Harbour hosts Artefact, an opportunity to meet the makers and much, much more. There will be over 300 events celebrating the capital as the global fulcrum of craft, putting craft firmly in the cultural mainstream and encouraging visitors to have the confidence e to assert their individuality and commission bespoke pieces.
This week we’re celebrating Shakespeare’s 458th birthday with Robert McCrum, author of Shakespearean, and Editor-in-Chief at Faber and Faber for nearly 20 years, as well as literary and associate editor of The Observer.   Robert’s enthusiasm is infectious as he guides us through the best of this summer’s stage productions from Gregory Doran’s production of  Richard III at RSC Stratford from 23rd June, to Kathryn Hunter playing King Lear from 10th June and Julius Caesar from 3rd May, both at The Globe. We also chat about Henry V with Kit Harrington, filmed at the Donmar Warehouse and screening in cinemas via National Theatre Live and The Tragedy of Macbeth with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. And happy birthday to Ralph Vaughan Williams too, who would be 150 this year. We’re booking: A Sea Symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams with Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder at Bridgewater Hall on 30th April To Glorious John conducted by Sir Mark Elder at Bridgewater Hall on 12th May – tune into BBC Radio Three at 7.30 pm to hear the concert live Phantasy Quintet by Ralph Vaughan Williams with Hallé St. Peter’s Chamber Series at Bridgewater Hall on 15th May We’re reading: My Year Off:  Rediscovering Life after a Stroke by Robert McCrum
This week the author Clover Stroud, known for writing ‘about the way life feels’,  talks to us about her new book The Red of my Blood. In it she recounts the year she spent mourning her sister Nell Gifford’s death, who died tragically of cancer aged just 46. The book is described as a Story of Death and Life, and on the podcast Clover describes her idyllic childhood in Wiltshire, which inspired Nell to start the magical Giffords Circus with her husband Toti in 2000. The phenomenally popular Giffords Circus re-opens for its summer tour on 14th April at its home at Fennells Farm near Stroud in Gloucestershire. It will tour England till 22nd September when it will be open at Fennells Farm again until 2nd October. Clover talks about Nell’s vision, her legacy and how the circus is changing and gives us an extraordinarily moving and searingly honest account of her struggle to come to terms with her beloved sister’s death.  Listen in as the podcast is also a valuable lesson in how to react to and behave around people who are grieving. We’re taking a short break till Sunday 24th April. Happy Easter!
This week we’re going on a whirlwind tour of the movies with BAFTA committee member Anna Higgs. She tells us about the BAFTA winning movies, starting with Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast and moving on to Jeymes Samuel’s contemporary Western The Harder they Fall. We discuss some of the winning actors from Will Smith for King Richard, the film about the father of Venus and Serena Williams, Joanna Scanlon for Ali Khan’s After Love and Tony Kotsur, the first deaf male actor to win, for Coda (which means Child of Deaf Adult). We also chat about the inspiring acceptance speech given by Lashana Lynch, for her Rising Star award voted for by the audience, who shot to fame for her role as the next 007 in No Time to Die. We’re airing just before the Oscars so Anna gives us her rundown and predictions on these too – why Andrew Garfield in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tick Tick… BOOM! and Olive Coleman in The Lost Daughter are in the running for an Oscar but weren’t nominated for a BAFTA.  We also discuss the smaller films making big waves like animated Danish film Flee and one of Anna’s favourites, Ali & Ava. Listen in, and then head straight out to the cinema or get streaming – we give you enough good movie tips to keep you busy for weeks.
This week we celebrate the start of spring by giving you the lowdown on the best of Britain’s wonderful sculpture parks from Chatsworth, Farleys House and the Barbara Hepworth Garden to Forestry England’s woodland sculpture trails and On Form, Europe’s biggest exhibition of stone sculpture opening in Asthall, Oxfordshire in June. No round-up of sculpture parks would be complete without talking about Henry Moore and the magnificent Yorkshire Sculpture Park, celebrating its 45th birthday this year. We chat to Godfrey Worsdale, Director of the Henry Moore Foundation and Dr. Helen Pheby, Head of Curatorial Programming at Yorkshire.  Helen tells us about working on a sculpture exhibition  in Kyiv, Ukraine and the role of sculpture in unifying communities.  We chat about Moore’s extraordinary legacy and what’s in store for visitors at both YSP and  The Henry Moore Studios and Garden in Perry Green, Hertfordshire this summer – definitely both worth a visit.
This week we chat to one of Britain’s best-known artists, the indomitable Tracey Emin. Having wrestled with a particularly brutal and aggressive cancer, she is now setting up a foundation to help artists. In an extraordinarily generous philanthropic gesture, she has bought an Edwardian bath house in Margate and is transforming it into artists’ studios.  ‘I want to give artists everything I never had,’ says Tracey. It’s no secret she had a tough start in life, and she explains to us why that made her so determined to provide artists with clean, warm, safe studios. She’s also going to be drawing on her friends in the art world to visit the studios to teach, inspire and encourage the artists working there. Artists can apply from all over the world, but this is no school for dilettantes – you will have to prove you are truly motivated to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Tracey also tells us about a new exhibition at the Carl Freedman Gallery in April.  ‘A Journey to Death’ will comprise giant mono screen prints and self-portraits executed while she was just out of hospital. Plus, she chats away about the joy her two cats bring her – and much much more. Absolutely not to be missed – she is an example of extraordinary courage, resilience and a salutary lesson in how to grab life with both hands and make the most of it.
This week we focus on jazz for the first time and talk to the singer, songwriter, bandleader and sax player who’s been taking his fun, upbeat, distinctive style of swing, jazz and R&B to concerts, clubs and festivals all over the world since 1988. Ray Gelato and his band The Giants have had a long-established residency at London’s famous Ronnie Scotts in Soho, have twice entertained Her Majesty the Queen, opened for Robbie Williams at the Albert Hall and played at Paul McCartney’s wedding. Ray tells us about his extraordinary life in music, beginning by busking on London’s streets with The Chevalier Brothers and ending up doing the rounds of huge venues like the Lincoln Centre and numerous jazz festivals – like Montreal, Blue Note and Umbria – where he’s played 12 times.  Listen in to hear some of his most famous songs – including Just a Gigolo and the song he wrote for Bar Italia, one of his favourite Soho haunts. Ray’s latest album Locked Down and Not Out is available here Ray and his band will be playing live at the Green Room, Leo Green’s speakeasy and residency at  QT Presents in the Middle Eight Hotel in Covent Garden. For two nights only: at 8 pm and 10 pm on Wednesday 9th March and at 8 pm and 10 pm on Wednesday 23rd March. Tickets available here.
If anyone’s seen it all in theatre it’s Nick Allott, who spent 40 years with Cameron Mackintosh, running it for 20. This week we chat to Nick about theatre’s glory days, from Cats and Phantom to  Les Misérables and Hamilton.  But he also sheds sobering light on how devastating the pandemic has been for the industry as theatres went dark for the longest time in their histories.  As the sector slowly starts to recover, Nick looks to the future while regaling us with a host of hilarious, entertaining anecdotes ranging from Princess Diana doing the splits in his office to Andrew Lloyd Webber drenching Barbra Streisand’s canapés in champagne.    He also offers us a backstage pass to the real stories behind the headlines – why did Elaine Paige take over from Judi Dench in Cats? Why was Martin McCutcheon so panned in My Fair Lady?  Why did losing out to Jodie Prenger in the 2008 BBC Series I’d do Anything ultimately catapult Jessie Buckley to stardom? What’s Hugh Jackman really like? How did Nick end up with a gun in his fridge?  Listen in to hear what it’s really like to live your life behind the scenes of London’s leading West End theatres. Produced by Audio Coast
Did you know Jewish Book Week is London’s longest running literary festival? Claudia Rubenstein, Director of Jewish Book Week, tells us about its extraordinary history and what to look forward to amongst the host of fun events that begin on Saturday 26th February.   Those taking part include Elif Shafak, Michael Ignatieff, Julia Neuberger, Claudia Roden with Jay Rayner, Simon Schama, Howard Jacobson in conversation with Melvyn Bragg, Mike Leigh, Amy Bloom and Edmund de Waal delivering the 70th anniversary keynote speech. Plus Simon Kuper on football and celebrations of Sondheim and Lehrer, Dylan and Cohen.  Closing the festival with a celebratory flourish on 6th March will be Don Black, talking to Michael Grade about his long, distinguished career and his book ‘The Sanest Guy in the Room’.  Don puts his sanity down to having a loving family and never having had an unhappy day in his life. To round off Marti Webb, Don’s long-time collaborator, will perform some of his best-known songs. Don also regales with us some hilarious anecdotes about working with a host of legends from Barbara Streisand to a young Michael Jackson.  ‘She was so ordinary,’ he says of Barbara Streisand, ‘but when you hear her sing you run out of goosebumps.’  Tune in to hear more. Jewish Book runs at Kings Place from 26th February till 6th March Produced by Audio Coast
Ed and Charlotte take a whirlwind tour through British culture with the man who’s been there, done that and seen it all – Dylan Jones. The irrepressible and legendary Dylan, who was at the helm of GQ for over two decades, is busier than ever with a new book and TV series on the '90s, another on Paul Weller, an exhibition of Dave Benett’s photographs, ‘Great Shot, Kid’, at J.D. Malat Gallery, and the jukebox musical he’s writing based on the music and lyrics of American songwriter Jimmy Webb. Listen in to hear his stories about David Bowie and his opinions on everything from the future of media to music. ‘Great Shot, Kid’ runs at JD Malat Gallery from 17th February till 8th March Produced by Audio Coast
This week we chat to James Birch, gallery owner and author of Bacon in Moscow, about his life-long friendship with Francis Bacon, one of Britain’s most popular and controversial artists.  Having known him since childhood and been a regular Soho drinking companion, James gives us a fascinating often funny and moving insight Bacon’s life.  He tells us all about his new book, the extraordinary story of taking a Bacon exhibition to Moscow in the late eighties during Perestroika.  James also sheds light on the influences behind many of Bacon’s paintings showing in the brilliant new exhibition Francis Bacon: Man and Beast at the Royal Academy in London. We also give you a run down on what to see in the art world this month. In London, there are  Van Gogh's Self-Portraits at the Courtauld Gallery, Louise Bourgeois at the Hayward Gallery, Helen Frankenthaler at Dulwich Picutre Gallery and Lubaina Himid at Tate Modern. Meanwhile, outside London,  there’s an exhibition of prints From Hockney to Hamid at Pallant House in Chichester,  Audubon's Birds of America opens at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and Ai Weiwei’s exhibition The Liberty of Doubt opens at the wonderful Kettle's Yard in Cambridge.  We also suggest a visit to the glorious Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see Full Circle, an exhibition of drawings by David Nash. And our top tip of the week? Beg, steal, cheat, lie, borrow to get to see Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley in Cabaret at the Playhouse Theatre, brilliantly converted into the KitKat Club in 1930’s Berlin. Cast changes on 21st March so move fast! Produced by Audio Coast
On this week’s podcast, we’re talking to Royal Ballet’s principal dancer Marcelino Sambé about the challenges and joys of following in Rudolf Nureyev’s footsteps – and many more - playing Romeo in Kevin MacMillan’s much-loved ballet. Juliet will be played by Anna Rose O'Sullivan. Since Romeo and Juliet was first performed to Prokofiev’s score in 1965, it’s become a firm favourite and this version, with designs by the late Nicholas Georgiadis, has been filmed and will be streamed to 900 cinemas worldwide on Valentine’s Day. Find out where you can book it and catch it here here. We also talk to Osman Yousefzada, the multi-disciplinary artist behind his eponymous fashion label, who dresses everyone from Beyoncé and Gwynneth Paltrow to Lady Gaga and Claire Foy.  He’s now written a brilliant book The Go-Between, about growing up in Birmingham. As the son of illiterate Pashtun immigrants from the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Osman grew up in a closed, hidden community and tells us movingly about what it was like and what happened to his sisters.  It’s a brilliant read and we highly recommend it. Produced by Audio Coast
On this week’s podcast, we were honoured to talk to Bernardine Evaristo about the project she’s spearheading with Penguin to bring back forgotten black writers into circulation and help reconfigure black British literary history.  She tells us about five reprinted works of non-fiction, which she’s chosen and written the introductions for, and why it’s so important that their stories are retold today. The books are A Black Boy at Eton by Dillibe Onyeama, Growing Out: Black Hair and Black Pride in the Swinging 60s by Barbara Blake Hannah, Britons Through Negro Spectacles by A.B.C Merriman- Labor, My Fathers’ Daughter by Hannah-Azieb Pool (highly recommended as a riveting page-turner about a young adopted woman going to Eritrea to meet her real father and huge extended family) and Sequins for a Ragged Hem by Amryl Johnson. We go on to have an inspiring conversation with Bernardine about how she’s used her platform as the 2019 Booker Prize Winner for Girl, Woman, Other to champion black writing.  She tells us that she’s now going to be a little less visible as she gets to work on her next novel.  Watch this space! We also talk to Alice Insley, co-curator of Hogarth in Europe at Tate Britain.  We discuss the controversy that the commentary that accompanying the exhibition has pprovoked, many critics claiming it was gratuitously ‘woke’. Listen in to hear what Alice has to say about it – and whatever anyone thinks about the commentary, we all agree that the paintings are superb and the exhibition is well worth a visit to see close up the details of Hogarth’s much loved, brilliant works. The exhibition runs till 20th March. Produced by Audio Coast
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