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.


Maths: Alex Bellos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Serafina Cuomo, Vicky Neale  

Anne McElvoy meets David Rooney curator of the Winton Mathematics gallery at the Science Museum which has been redesigned by Zaha Hadid architects and explores the way maths skills are increasingly needed for jobs. She discusses the changing attitudes to mathematics in history and the present day with Alex Bellos, writer on maths puzzles, maths historian Serafina Cuomo and maths lecturer Vicky Neale. They are joined by astro-physicist Neil de Grasse Tyson who is director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Alex Bellos is the author of Alex Through The Looking Glass and his latest book called Can You Solve My Problems. Neil de Grasse Tyson is the author of many books including Welcome to the Universe co-written with J Richard Gott and Michael A Strauss. Vicky Neale is Whitehead Lecturer at the Mathematical Institute and Balliol College at Oxford University. Serafina Cuomo is Reader in Roman History at Birkbeck College, University of London. Producer: Harry Parker.

Free Thinking - Voices in Our Ears: Colin Grant, Josie Rourke, Charles Fernyhough, Clare Walker Gore  

Colin Grant, author of a book exploring his brother's epilepsy, joins presenter Matthew Sweet, New Generation Thinker Clare Walker Gore who writes about Wilkie Collins and Charles Fernyhough - who studies hearing voices. Plus director Josie Rourke on Joan of Arc on stage at the Donmar Warehouse and theatre critic David Benedict. St Joan by George Bernard Shaw starring Gemma Arterton is at the Donmar Warehouse in London from December 9th - January 18th. It will be broadcast live in cinemas in partnership with National Theatre Live on Thursday 16 February 2017 Charles Fernyhough is a Professor of Psychology at Durham University who has published The Voices Within: The history and science of how we talk to ourselves. Colin Grant's book exploring epilepsy is called A Smell of Burning. Clare Walker Gore is a New Generation Thinker researching Victorian literature at the University of Cambridge. New Generation Thinker is a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to find people who can turn research into radio programmes. Producer: Torquil MacLeod.

Free Thinking - Rauschenberg - performance, identity and the writings of Erving Goffman.  

What price the self in the 21st century? We may be living in the age of the "selfie" and of social media narcissism but is there anything fixed about the self? Philip Dodd and his guests, the novelist, Tom McCarthy, the sociologist, Susie Scott, the neuroscientist, Daniel Glaser and the painter, Dexter Dalwood explore the notion of identity today taking in the major Rauschenberg retrospective at Tate Modern, Erving Goffman's seminal work of sociology, The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life and the way we all use words to constantly make and remake our selves. Robert Rauschenberg runs at Tate Modern from December 1st until April 2nd 2017. Dexter Dalwood's art is on show at the Saatchi Gallery in an exhibition called Painters' Painters which runs from 30 Nov 2016 - 28 Feb 2017. Tom McCarthy's novels include C and Satin Island Producer: Zahid Warley.


Matthew Sweet discusses elites and their role in contemporary politics, with Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton;Professor David Runciman, Head of the Department of Politics & International Studies at the University of Cambridge; Eliane Glaser, writer and Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University; and Lynsey Hanley, visiting Fellow in Cultural Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. Eliane Glaser's most recent book is called Get Real: How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life Lynsey Hanley's most recent book is Estates: An Intimate History Producer: Luke Mulhall.

The Weird. Science and Art at FACT. Japanese film Your Name.  

Wierd fiction presents the universe as an irrational place, totally indifferent to human concerns. Is 'the wierd' a more general approach that can bextended beyond fiction to encompass the other arts, or even politics and science? Rana Mitter discusses the idea of the wierd with literary scholar Nick Freeman of the University of Loughborough, cultural theorist Caroline Edwards of Birkbeck, University of London, and astronomer Marek Kukula of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Continuing to explore the faultline between art and science, Rana meets artist Helen Pynor and gallery director Mike Stubs to discuss science and art on show at Liverpool's FACT. And, we discuss the new Japanese animated film Your Name with Japanologist Irena Hayer of the Univeristy of Leeds, and Justin Johnson, curator of animation and films for younger people at the British Film Institute. No Such Thing As Gravity is on show at FACT, Liverpool until February 5th 2017. Your Name is on release at selected cinemas throughout the country now. Producer: Luke Mulhall

Schiller's Mary Stuart; Günter Grass. Preti Taneja on translated fiction, Rachel Reeves.  

Juliet Stephenson and Lia Williams decide which role to play on the toss of a coin in Robert Icke's version of Schiller's Mary Stuart at the Almeida. The director explains why. Just before he died in 2015 the Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass completed his last book. Karen Leeder has been reading the English translation of it. And New Generation Thinker Preti Taneja has been reading a selection of other newly translated fiction. Plus MP Rachel Reeves has written a history of a campaigning MP who played a crucial role in the de-criminalisation of homosexuality, the legalisation of abortion and the abolition of the death penalty and who was also a driving force in the roll-out of comprehensive education. She talks to presenter Anne McElvoy about why the work of Alice Bacon interests her. Of All That Ends by Günter Grass is out now. Alice in Westminster: The Political Life of Alice Bacon by Rachel Reeves is out now. Mary Stuart runs at London's Almeida Theatre from December 2nd to January 21st. Preti Taneja's pick of literature in translation includes: Istanbul, Istanbul - Burhan Sonmez (Saqi Books) Eve Out of her Ruins - Ananda Devi (CB Editions) Trysting - Emanuelle Pagano (And Other Stories) Panty - Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (Tilted Axis Press) Producer: Torquil MacLeod.

Zadie Smith  

Zadie Smith talks dance, depicting teenage friendships and US/UK differences with Philip Dodd as her new novel Swing Time is published in Britain and BBC TV dramatises her book NW starring Nikki Amuka-Bird and Phoebe Fox. Producer: Robyn Read

Free Thinking - Beards. Listening. Masculinity.  

Matthew Sweet tries to separate out the clichés from the reality when it comes to male masculinity in 2016 with the director of the forthcoming Being A Man festival at London’s Southbank and Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum, the husband and wife team behind a new documentary that charts the emotional turmoil of childbirth on a man reluctant to grow up. Plus, Matthew travels to the Florence Nightingale Museum in London to meet New Generation Thinker and historian of beards, Alun Withey, who reveals why the current craze for male facial hair is not a patch on the Victorian age. And do you think you’re a good listener? Do you think you’re being listened to? In a year of political upheaval that’s rapidly reshaping a new world order, the head of the Government’s 'nudge unit’ David Halpern, and communications professor Jim Macnamara, consider the importance of listening when it comes to a functioning democracy. The New Man by Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum is in selected cinemas. Being a Man runs at London's Southbank centre from November 25th - 27th Florence Nightingale Museum: The Age of the Beard: Putting on a Brave Face in Victorian Britain, runs from 18th November 2016 to 30th. Jim Macnamara is the author of Organizational Listening: The Missing Essential in Public Communication. He is conducting a public lecture, The Lost Art of Listening: the missing key to democratic and civil society participation, on Wednesday 23rd November at the London School of Economics. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith

Free Thinking:  Being Human: What the Archives Reveal  

Matthew Sweet visits little known locations in London to meet researchers drawing on archives of the past to cast new light on the present. The Cross Bones Graveyard in Southwark was used in the Middle Ages to bury sex workers and others living on the fringes of respectable society. We visit the site with Sondra Hausner, an anthropologist of religion who's studied modern practices for memorializing the women buried at the site. Vicky Iglikowski and Rowena Hillel are researchers at the National Archives at Kew investigating records that shed light on LGBT history in the Capital. We'll leaf through the records to see what they've uncovered. New Generation Thinker Naomi Paxton and her colleague Ailsa Grant Ferguson have identified a moment when Shakespeare, radical politics, and the roots of the National Theatre all converged, in a building in Bloomsbury used to house Anzac soldiers during the First World War. And we join Peter Guillery, editor of the Survey of London, to investigate the work of this ongoing project to document the streets of London in all their complexity. Part of a week of programmes on BBC Radio 3 focusing on new research. The Being Human Festival which takes place at universities across the UK from November 17th - 25th will feature events linked to these research projects. Both this and the New Generation Thinkers scheme are supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Free Thinking - Being Human: New Generation Thinkers explore Escape, Lying and Fear.  

New Generation Thinkers Shahidha Bari and Laurence Scott present a programme looking at new research into supernatural fiction writer Vernon Lee with Francesco Ventrella. Lee used the phrase "iron curtain" and declared herself a "cosmopolitan from her birth, without any single national tie or sympathy". They also debate what it means to lie, examine the life of communist informer Harvey Matusow with Doug Haynes, and look at new scientific research into the way consistent lying can change behaviour. Plus, Jenny Kitzinger on the gulf between popular ideas of ‘coma’ and the realities of such states. Part of a week of programmes on BBC Radio 3 exploring new academic research. Being Human festival of the humanities runs from 17–25 Nov 2016 at universities across the UK. It is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) which works with Radio 3 on the New Generation Thinkers scheme to find academics who can turn their research into radio. Producer: Craig Smith

Free Thinking - Being Human Debate at FACT, Liverpool: Man and Animals  

French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss famously said that ‘animals are good to think with’. Rana Mitter with Sarah Peverley, Charles Forsdick, Alasdair Cochrane, Eveline de Wolf, Michael Szollosy and an audience at FACT, Liverpool debate robots, humans and animals. The broadcast will preview upcoming events organised by the University of Liverpool as part of their Being Human festival programme and is part of a week of programmes on Radio 3 focusing on new research and the UK wide festival supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. From a best friend to a tasty snack or something we must carefully husband to a threat we must eradicate, we humans think about animals in lots of ways. But how has our thinking about animals changed over time, and what does that tell us about our shifting attitudes toward the natural world and our place in it? Hear the views of a medievalist who studies bestiaries and mermaids, a French scholar who explores the history of the ‘human zoo’, and a political theorist who argues that we should extend human rights to animals, a zookeeper, and an expert on human-robot relations. Producer: Luke Mulhall

Free Thinking - Art Spiegelman. Marina Abramovic. American Pastoral.  

Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer prize-winning Maus - a father-son memoir about the Holocaust drawn with cats and mice - is one of the classics of graphic novels. He's now collaborating with the Jazz composer Phillip Johnston on a show that puts music alongside the images. Naomi Alderman talks to them and to the performance artist Marina Abramovic who's written a memoir. Plus Sarah Churchwell watches a film version of Philip Roth's American Pastoral which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. Ewan McGregor directs and stars as a man whose life starts to fall apart as his daughter commits an act of political terrorism. Wordless! Art Spiegelman + Phillip Johnston is at the Barbican in London on 11 November 2016 / 19:30 It's part of the London Jazz Festival. You can find more events on BBC Radio 3 and on the BBC Music Jazz pop-up station which will run from 10am on Thursday 10th November until 10am on Monday 14th November on digital radio, online and the iPlayer Radio app Marina Abramovic's memoir is called Walk Through Walls. American Pastoral is out in cinemas across the UK Producer: Zahid Warley.

Free Thinking - Black British History.  

Bernardine Evaristo, Keith Piper, Miranda Kaufmann and Kehinde Andrews consider the question what it means to be Black British and how should a wider history be taught and reflected in literature. New Generation Thinker Nandini Das presents. Kehinde Andrews is at Birmingham City University where his research includes looking at black activism. He is series editor of Blackness in Britain with Rowman and Littlefield International Miranda Kaufmann is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Her book Black Tudors will be published by Oneworld in autumn 2017. Bernardine Evaristo is the author of prose and poetic novels including The Emperor's Babe and Mr Loverman. She teaches creative writing at Brunel University. Keith Piper's exhibition Unearthing the Banker’s Bones, in partnership with Iniva, is at Bluecoat in Liverpool and runs until 22 January 2017. Producer: Torquil MacLeod.

Free Thinking: Still Loving Victoriana Jokes and All  

Matthew Sweet talks to 21st-century novelists Sarah Perry and Carol Birch about why the 19th century illuminates their writing. And can the Victorians still make us laugh? Cultural historians Fern Riddell and Bob Nicholson, consider the question raised by a new exhibition. Plus neo-Victorians - historian Mark Llewellyn on the curiously enduring presence of the 19th century in contemporary culture. Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun at the British Library in London runs from Fri 14 October 2016 - Sun 12 March 2017. There is a special Friday Night Late on November 25th. Presenter: Matthew Sweet Guests: Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent Carol Birch, Orphans of the Carnival Mark Llewellyn (with Ann Heilmann), Neo-Victorianism: The Victorians in the Twenty-First Century Fern Riddell, The Victorian Guide to Sex Bob Nicholson from Edge Hill University is the author of many articles about Victorian literature and periodicals and he has been working with Dr Mark Hall (Computing) and the British Library on a digital humanities project that aims to create an online archive of one million Victorian jokes. Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Landmark: Sir Walter Scott's Waverley  

Today perhaps, Brand Britain is showing its age, but once upon a time it was nothing less than one of the most dynamic political projects in the world. In a Free Thinking Landmark on Walter Scott's Waverley, Rana Mitter reflects on the writer and the books which helped the British like the idea of Britain. Joining Rana in discussion: the writer, Jenni Calder who has recently adapted 'Waverley' for a modern audience; the poet and literary historian, Robert Crawford, who is interested in the originality and reception of Scott's writing and its affect on the imagination; and Andrew Lincoln, an English literature scholar, who has explored Scott as a forward-looking thinker, one who evoked patriotism in the Unionist cause. You can find more programmes in the BBC #LoveToRead campaign And hear more over the #LovetoRead weekend 5-6 November. As an acclaimed romantic poet, beloved of Byron, then a best-selling novelist, envied by Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott wrote into existence many of the myths and legends we still re-tell and he used this past to examine and explore the political problems of his own day. Waverley' appeared in 1814 when the Napoleonic Wars had not yet drawn to a close -- and the events the novel describes, the 1745, (when Charles Edward Stuart and his army rocked the stability of a still youthful Anglo-Scottish political Union) were as close in time as the Second World War now is to us. In 'Waverley', 'Rob Roy', 'Red Gauntlet' and 'Ivanhoe', Scott conjured up heroic pasts - not just for Scotland, but for England too - romantic highlanders like Rob Roy on the one hand, the anglo-saxon Robin of the Greenwood on the other. The Waverley novels instilled in their readers a great sense of national pride along with the belief that the two countries, now politically mature, their internal struggles behind them, really could and would be stronger together. In the by-going he conjured up a portrait of the British as an effortlessly multicultural people with deep roots who were now uniquely qualified to take on the world. Presenter: Rana Mitter Guests: Robert Crawford: University of St Andrews, 'Bannockburns: Scottish Independence and the Literary Imagination 1314-2014' Jenni Calder: 'Sir Walter Scott's Waverley': Newly Adapted for the Modern Reader' Andrew Lincoln: Queen Mary, University of London, 'Walter Scott and Modernity' Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Free Thinking - Stephen Poliakoff and Linda Grant; Yuval Noah Harari.  

A TB clinic in the countryside is the location of Linda Grant's new novel which follows a Jewish brother and sister from the East End who are sent to recover in an institution where the class divide persists even as the new National Health Service challenges this. Stephen Poliakoff's new BBC drama series follows an intelligence officer whose final Army role is to ensure that cutting edge technology is made available to the British armed forces. Philip Dodd discusses the period of immediate post-World War II with the two writers. He also talks to historian Yuval Noah Harari who has studied the history of humanity on the planet earth and who argues that the future holds a wider divide between the techno super rich who are looking to cheat death and the useless class who have been superseded by machines. Close To The Enemy - a 7 part series written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff airs on BBC Two this November. The Dark Circle by Linda Grant is out now. Yuval Noah Harari's books are Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Producer: Fiona McLean

Free Thinking - Whose Book Is It Anyway?  

Anne McElvoy explores some historic tussles over who read what, when, how and why. Bodleian scholar Dennis Duncan reveals how disputatious monks took the book out of the monastery; the novelist and New Generation Thinker Sophie Coulombeau uncovers public frothing over political pamphlet reading in pubs in the 18th century; 19th century literature expert Katie McGettigan celebrates a loophole in copyright law which resulted in American literature dominating British bookshelves; Katherine Cooper from Newcastle and another New Generation Thinker reveals the role of women in expanding the horizons of literature in the 20th century and Matthew Rubery, author of The Untold Story of the Talking Book, reflects on the way technology spread reading across society and he gives us a demonstration of the Optophone - an early machine to bring books to the blind. Pres: Anne McElvoy Guests: Katherine Cooper, University of Newcastle Sophie Coulombeau, University of York; author of 'Rites' Dennis Duncan, The Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book Katie McGettigan, Royal Holloway University, London Matthew Rubery, Queen Mary University, London; author of 'The Untold Story of the Talking Book' forthcoming The Optophone appears courtesy of Blind Veterans UK. New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to find academics who can turn their research into radio programmes. You can find more programmes in the BBC #LoveToRead campaign And hear more over the #LovetoRead weekend 5-6 November. Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Free Thinking: Enoch Powell; US Supreme Court; War & Art  

New Generation Thinker Chris Harding presents a discussion with writer Chris Hannan and director Roxana Silbert about a new Birmingham Rep play about Enoch Powell. Also James Zirin describes what he calls the partisan nature of the Supreme Court in America and artists Jananne Al-Ani and John Keane and curator Vivienne Jabri talk about providing an alternative to the visual language of war employed by the media. What Shadows runs at Birmingham Rep Theatre from October 27th to November 12th and stars Ian McDiarmid playing Enoch Powell. James Zirin's book is called Supremely Partisan: How Raw Politics Tips the Scales in the United States Supreme Court Traces of War, curated by Vivienne Jabri, is at King's College, London until 18th December John Keane's exhibition - If You Knew Me, If You Knew Yourself, You Would Not Kill Me - opens at Flowers Gallery, London on 4th November Producer: Torquil MacLeod.

Free Thinking- William Kentridge, Vivienne Koorland and Gavin Jantjes discuss South Africa and art.  

Does art have to reflect politics and history in South Africa? Is it harder to make art now than it was in the past? As major exhibitions of South African art open in London and Edinburgh Philip Dodd discusses the challenges of creating a visual language for a country with the artists William Kentridge, Vivienne Koorland and Gavin Jantjes. Joining them is Professor Stephen Chan from London University's School of Oriental and African Studies, an expert on the country's recent history. South Africa: the art of a nation runs at the British Museum from October 27th - 26th Feb 2017 William Kentridge and Vivienne Koorland: Conversations in letters and lines runs at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery 19 November 2016 – 19 February 2017 Vivienne Koorland's Soft Heart is at the Leyden gallery November 2nd -November 26 William Kentridge: Thick Time is at the Whitechapel Gallery in London 21 September 2016 – 15 January 2017 William Kentridge's production of Lulu is on at English National Opera from November 9th - 19th and is being broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the New Year. Producer: Zahid Warley.

Free Thinking - Richard Hakluyt; Man Booker Prize; Chickens in the Anthropocene; Shirley Jackson.  

Richard Hakluyt who died on 23 November 1616 was an English writer whose writings promoted the British colonisation of North America by the English. Nandini Das talks to Matthew Sweet about Hakluyt's travels and his legacy. Alex Clark reports live from the prize ceremony for this year's Man Booker Prize. We discuss new research into the signficance of chickens in the Anthropocene and ahead of Halloween we look at the haunting writing of Shirley Jackson as a new biography of her life is published. Hakluyt@400 events include two exhibitions: Hakluyt and Geography in Oxford 1550–1650 at Christ Church, Oxford, and The World in a Book: Hakluyt and Renaissance Discovery, at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. A two-day international conference Richard Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World, taking place in Oxford on 24-25 November. In addition, on Sunday 27 November there will be a commemorative service in his parish at All Saints Church, Wetheringsett, Suffolk. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Frank is out now. You can find more haunting fiction over on BBC Radio 4 and 4Extra as part of Fright Night. Producer: Luke Mulhall

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