Arts and Ideas

Arts and Ideas

United Kingdom

The best of BBC Radio 3's flagship arts and ideas programme Free Thinking - featuring in-depth interviews and debates with artists, scientists and public figures.


Proms Extra: Djinn  

Ian McMillan and a pre-Proms audience at Imperial College London have the smoky essence of Djinn conjured for them by literary scholar and New Generation Thinker Shahidha Bari and novelist Elif Shafak whose books are full of djinn. Shafak reads from her novel The Bastard of Istanbul and reflects on her grandmothers' very different versions of personal genie while Shahidha explores the idea that djinn and their abilities to fly and build huge castles in one night are part of the human drive to technological advance.

Proms Extra: Sleep and Insomnia  

Nick Littlehales, sports sleep coach and chair of the British Sleep Council, talks with novelist A. L. Kennedy about sleep and insomnia. The event is hosted by Rana Mitter.

Proms Extra: Cuneiform 07082017  

A pre-Prom audience at Imperial College in London listens in as Shaidha Bari talks to Assyriologist Irving Finkel about cuneiform; how the script survived, what it tells us about life in the cities of Ur, Ninevah and Babylon and the way some of the most memorable stories ever told travelled from culture to culture. On the fare demonic puns, a four thousand year old joke, why the Ark might have been round and just how painful life was for Sumerian school chidren.

Proms Extra: Ella Fitzgerald  

Kevin LeGendre and Claire Martin discuss Ella Fitzgerald

Proms Extra: Sentimentality  

Anne McElvoy is joined by New Generation Thinker Seán Williams and writer Rachel Hewitt to consider Friedrich Schiller’s essay On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry and what it means to be sentimental in that period?

Proms Extra: Happiness  

Will Abberley asks novelist Charlotte Mendelson why writers seem reluctant to engage with happiness and why so much literature is full of unhappy people; they are joined by psychologist and broadcaster Claudia Hammond.

Proms Extra: Sea Journeys and Voyages  

Rana Mitter is joined by Sir Barry Cunliffe and Professor Edith Hall to consider epic sea journeys in history.

Proms Extra: Europe in Writing  

Novelist Lawrence Norfolk makes a selection of European writers who have considered the idea of ‘Europe’, with readings performed by Peter Marinker. Hosted by New Generation Thinker Nandini Das.

Proms Extra: Opium and Creativity in the 19th c.  

From Thomas De Quincy via Coleridge to Berlioz, a second-generation opium addict, Daisy Hay and Richard Davenport-Hines discuss why drugs were thought integral to creativity first in England and later in France. They tell Matthew Sweet and an audience at Imperial College London about opium as pain relief and creator of dreams and constipation, why arsenic was the Viagra of its day, and why it's just possible that Paris was as revolutionary as it was in the 19th century because it was full of drug-taking rebels.

Proms Extra: Moods Themes  

Thomas Dixon, Director of the Centre for the History of Emotions, and musicologist Wiebke Thormählen look at mood: how composers and writers have engaged with themes of sentimentality, happiness and sorrow in their work. Producer: Fiona McLean

Proms Extra - Deep Time  

Rana Mitter talks to geologist Iain Stewart and geographer Nicholas Crane about the concept of "Deep Time".

Free Thinking: Landmark: Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy  

Simon Heffer, novelist and co-director of the Fun Palaces campaign Stella Duffy, New Generation Thinker Will Abberley and the writer and sociologist Tiffany Jenkins join Matthew Sweet and an audience at the University of Sussex to debate the ideas explored by Matthew Arnold and their resonance today. The series of periodical essays were first published in Cornhill Magazine, 1867-68, and subsequently published as a book in 1869. Arnold argued that modern life was producing a society of 'Philistines' who only cared for material possessions and hedonistic pleasure. As a medicine for this moral and spiritual degradation, Arnold prescribed 'culture', which he defined as 'the best which has been thought and said in the world', stored in Europe's great literature, philosophy and history. By engaging with this heritage, he argued, humans could develop towards a higher state of mental and moral 'perfection'. Simon Heffer is the author of books including High minds: the Victorians and the birth of modern Britain; Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle and Nor Shall My Sword: The Reinvention of England. Tiffany Jenkins is Culture Editor for the journal Sociology Compass. Her books include Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections, Keeping Their Marbles and she is editor of a collection of essays from various writers called Political Culture, Soft Interventions and Nation Building. Will Abberley is a Lecturer in English at the University of Sussex and the author of English Fiction and the Evolution of Language, 1850-1914 Stella Duffy is a writer and the co-director of the Fun Palaces campaign for wider participation in all forms of arts and culture.; Producer: Fiona McLean

Free Thinking: Art in the Age of Black Power; History of Racist Ideas in US  

Tate Modern offers a retrospective on the Art of the Black Power Movement in America and explores how 'Black Art' was defined by artists across the United States and its interplay with the civil rights movement. Rana Mitter is joined by Gaylene Gould, writer and artist and Head of Cinema and Events at the BFI, who reviews the 'Soul of A Nation' exhibition. Rana is also joined by the reggae poet and recording artist, Linton Kwesi Johnson "Writing was a political act and poetry was a cultural weapon"', as well as the film director H O Nazareth to talk about the artists and intellectuals who made up the British Black Panther leadership. Also joining in the conversation, Sandeep Parmar, a prize-winning poet and New Generation Thinker who argues that a new generation of critics and reviewers must be found to highlight the work of poets of colour in the UK. Also, Rana Mitter talks to intellectual historian Ibram X Kendi as his award-winning account of racist ideas in the United States comes out in the UK. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at London's Tate Modern 12/07/2017 - 22/10/2017 Pres: Rana Mitter Guests: Linton Kwesi Johnson Gaylene Gould H O Nazareth Sandeep Parmar 'Eidolon', Winner of the inaugural Ledbury Forte Prize for Second Collections, is out now. Ibram X Kendi 'Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America' is out now.

Free Thinking - Queer Icons: Plato's Symposium. Part of Gay Britannia.  

Shahidha Bari discusses LGBTQ in the history of philosophy.As part of the BBC's Queer Icons series Philosopher Sophie-Grace Chappell discusses Plato's Symposium, and novelist Adam Mars-Jones talks about Bruce Bagemihl's book Biological Exuberance which explored homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Plus, we hear from the winner of this year's Caine Prize for African Writing. Queer Icons is a project to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in which 50 leading figures choose an LGBTQ artwork that is special to them. You can find more details on the Front Row website on BBC Radio 4. You can find the BBC's Gay Britannia season of programmes on radio and tv collected on the website. They include documentaries, Drama on 3 from Joe Orton and exploring Victim the 1961 film starring Dirk Bogarde, episodes of Words and Music and more editions of Free Thinking including Philip Hoare on Cecil Beaton, Jake Arnott on Joe Orton and Peggy Reynolds on Sappho. Producer: Luke Mulhall

Free Thinking – Writing Love: Jonathan Dollimore, Heer Ranjha. Queer Icons: Sappho. Part of Gay Britannia  

The Punjabi "Romeo and Juliet" is explored at Bradford Lit Fest plus New Generation Thinker Catherine Fletcher talks to Jonathan Dollimore about his memoir and the influence of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence which he set up at Sussex University. The Greek poet Sappho is championed by Professor Margaret Reynolds as part of Queer Icons - a project to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in which 50 leading figures choose an LGBT artwork that is special to them. And Rohit Dasgupta from Loughborough University talks about his research published in Digital Queer Cultures in India. Jonathan Dollimore's Memoir is called Desire. Waris Shah's Heer Ranja is discussed at Bradford Lit Fest by Mahmood Awan, Avaes Mohammad and Pritpal Singh on Saturday, 8th July 2017 2:45 pm - 4:00 pm at Bradford College - ATC. One of the definitive works of the Sufiana tradition it's an epic love poem set in 18th-century undivided Punjab. You can find more information about Queer Icons on the Front Row website. You can hear Catherine Fletcher chairing a Free Thinking discussion about Women's Voices in the Classical World recorded with Bettany Hughes, Paul Cartledge and Colm Toibin at the Hay Festival on the Free Thinking website. You can find the BBC's Gay Britannia season of programmes on radio and tv collected on the website. They include documentaries, Drama on 3, episodes of Words and Music and more editions of Free Thinking including Philip Hoare on Cecil Beaton, Jake Arnott on Joe Orton and Sophie-Grace Chappell on Plato. Producer Craig Smith

Philip Hoare and Elizabeth Jane Burnett on wild swimming. Jake Arnott on Joe Orton  

Matthew Sweet talks to Philip Hoare about literary history and the ocean. Poet Elizabeth Jane Burnett performs snippets from her collection, Swims. Writer Jake Arnott reassesses the film Prick Up Your Ears as it's re-released in cinemas. Continuing the 'Queer Icon' series, Philip Hoare plumps for Cecil Beaton's image of Stephen Tennant. Philip Hoare's new book is called RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR Queer Icons is a project to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in which 50 leading figures choose an LGBTQ artwork that is special to them. You can find more details on the Front Row website on BBC Radio 4 and in the Gay Britannia collection of programmes from radio and television. The BFI is holding a series of Joe Orton events: Obscentities in Suburbia through August when Prick Up Your Ears is re-released in cinemas along with a Gross Indecency Season focusing on television and film made after the 1968 Act which partially decriminalised homosexuality. Drama on 3 - a Joe Orton double bill: Producer: Craig Templeton Smith

Free Thinking: Food  

Can going out for a meal really be an aesthetic experience, like going to a gallery or a theatre? What kind of statement are we making when we say we don’t like beetroot? And what can the great thinkers of history – the philosopher David Hume, the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss – tell us about table manners? And which thousand islands are we talking about when we talk about a thousand island dressing? Matthew Sweet explores the joys of food with philosopher Barry Smith, restaurant critic cum trainee chef Lisa Markwell, literary critic Alex Clark, and food historian Elsa Richardson Producer: Luke Mulhall

Free Thinking: Canada 150: Sydney Newman and British TV; Vahni Capildeo; Shubbak Festival 2017  

Matthew Sweet looks at the Canadian influence on British TV drama in the early 1960s, with director Alvin Rakoff, Sydney Newman biographer, Ryan Danes, and Graeme Burk, contributor to the publication of Newman's memoirs. Newman was instrumental in setting up Armchair Theatre, The Avengers and Doctor Who and The Wednesday Play at a time when broadcasting was in an excitingly fluid state. The British-Trinidadian poet Vahni Capildeo on her Forward Prize winning collection Measures of Expatriation and a new Poetry Prize for Second Collections, the Ledbury Forte Prize. Artists Larissa Sanour and Jonathan May discuss the Survival of the Artist as this year's Shubbak, London's festival of Contemporary Arab Culture opens. Presenter: Matthew Sweet Guests: Graeme Burk 'Head of Drama: The Memoir of Sydney Newman' by Sydney Newman (Author), Ted Kotcheff (Foreword, Contributor), Graeme Burk (Contributor) out in September Ryan Danes 'The Man Who Thought Outside the Box: The Life and Times of Doctor Who Creator Sydney Newman' out now Vahni Capildeo 'Measure of Expatriation' out now. The Ledbury Poetry Festival 30th June to 9th July 2017 The Survival of the Artist presented by The Mosaic Rooms, at the British Museum July 2nd, part of Shubbak, London's Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture 1–16 July 2017 . Producer: Jaqueline Smith.

Free Thinking: Canada 150: Identity Robbie Richardson, Alison MacLeod, Deborah Pearson + Rupi Kaur and Kevan Funk.  

Shahidha Bari and Laurence Scott look at images of Canada from First Nations art through Anne of Green Gables on TV to poems and art posted on Instagram and Twitter by Rupi Kaur. Their studio guests are author Alison MacLeod, Robbie Richardson and Deborah Pearson. Plus film maker Kevan Funk. Rupi Kaur has published a book called Milk and Honey and you can find images of her art via her website Robbie Richardson from the University of Kent is writing a book about the connections between representations of First Nations people in 18th-century British literature and the rise of modern British identity. Kevan Funk's film Hello Destroyer is on a tour of UK cinemas along with other films from the Canada Now Festival and it is also available from Curzon Home Cinema. Alison MacLeod has published a short story collection all the beloved ghosts. Deborah Pearson's documentary History History History is screening as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from August 5th to 10th. Anne of Green Gables, the 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, has recently been remade for TV in a CBC-Netflix adaptation Part of Canada 150: a week of programmes marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the nation. You can find links to concerts and other broadcasts on the Radio 3 website. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

Free Thinking - Canada 150: Robert Lepage, Katherine Ryan.  

Philip Dodd explores the influence of Canadian history and the difference between stand up and performing a one man show. Katherine Ryan is based in the UK and about to perform at summer festivals and in an autumn tour. The French Canadian playwright, performer and opera director Robert Lepage recently staged his autobiographical "memory play", 887, at the Barbican in London. He has directed a ring cycle for the Metropolitan Opera which was featured in a 2012 documentary Wagner's Dream and productions of Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust and Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress and has also worked on shows for Cirque Du Soleil. Part of Radio 3's Canada 150: a week of programmes marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the nation. You can find links to concerts and other broadcasts on the Radio 3 website. Producer: Robyn Read

Video player is in betaClose