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.


Free Thinking - What now for environmentalism? With Paul Kingsnorth, James Thornton and Martin Goodman  

Paul Kingsnorth, former deputy-editor of The Ecologist, co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project and author of novels including The Wake and Beast, talks about his changing attitude to the environmental movement. Environmental lawyer James Thornton and writer Martin Goodman recount their travels from Poland to Ghana, Alaska to China, to see how citizens are using public interest law to protect their planet. Plus, critic Maria Delgado and biographer Adam Feinstein consider the lost poems of that Chilean lover of nature, Pablo Neruda. Client Earth by James Thornton and Martin Goodman is published on the 11th of May. Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist by Paul Kingsnorth is out now. The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry selected and introduced by Paul Kingsnorth is out now. Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems, by Pablo Neruda is published on Thursday 27 April 2017. Neruda a film by Pablo Larraín starring Gael García Bernal as a policeman searching for the Chilean politician Pablo Neruda played by Luis Gnecco is out in cinemas across the UK now. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith.

Free Thinking - Smell: Michele Roberts, A history of dentistry  

Michèle Roberts' latest novel evokes Victorian London. Matthew Sweet asks how it smelt and what do museums do to create past smells. Plus a cultural history of dentistry with the medical historian Richard Barnett. The Walworth Beauty by Michèle Roberts is out now. The Smile Stealers: The Fine and Foul Art of Dentistry by Richard Barnett is out now. Producer: Fiona McLean.

Free Thinking - Landmark: Leaves of Grass  

The American poet Mark Doty, Professor Sarah Churchwell and the young British poet Andrew McMillan join Matthew Sweet for a programme dedicated to one of the classics of American poetry, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Readings performed by William Hope. Producer: Fiona McLean. Originally broadcast on Thu 8 Oct 2015.

Free Thinking – John Irving  

Philip Dodd interviews John Irving - author of novels including The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany. His new book is called Avenue of Mysteries and imagines the life of a crippled street-child from Mexico, Juan Diego, and his sister Lupe, who can read minds. The action cuts between Diego's present as a globe trotting, best selling writer visiting the Philippines, and his memories of his childhood in Mexico and working at a circus. The Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving is out now. Producer: Robyn Read. Original broadcast Wed 3 Feb 2016.

Free Thinking - Writers Writing about Love  

Anne McElvoy invites three novelists into the studio to discuss Love - the theme of each of their latest novels. A L Kennedy's Serious Sweet examines love in later life, Tahmima Anam explores different aspects ofyoung love in The Bones of Grace and Alain de Botton says no-one lives happy ever after, we should talk a lot more about what comes next - hence the title of his book The Course of Love. Aside from whether Romanticism is plague or blessing, the writers also discuss whether writers themselves make good lovers and the challenge of making life choices in an increasingly mobile and crowded world. A L Kennedy's Serious Sweet is now out in paperback. Tahmima Anam's The Bones of Grace is out in paperback in June. Alain de Botton's The Course of Love is out in paperback in June. Producer: Jacqueline Smith Originally broadcast Thu 5 May 2016.

Free Thinking - Taking the Long View with the Animal Kingdom  

Tim Birkhead and Phyllis Lee explore long-lived animal species and their survival strategies. If the modern world is obsessed with short term success, could animals offer a better understanding of the long term state of our planet? Want to sample the health of our oceans? Ask a migratory bird. Or the advantage of becoming a mother later in life? Ask an elephant. Free Thinking presenter Rana Mitter hears how their lives have shaped the minds and emotions of the field scientists who study them over decades. Professor Tim Birkhead is 45 years into his study of the guillemots of Skomer Island. He began his academic career at Newcastle University. A Fellow of the Royal Society he is now based at Sheffield University and specialises in researching the behaviour of birds. His books include Bird Sense: What it is like to Be a Bird and The Most Perfect Thing: the Inside (and Outside) of a Bird’s Egg. Professor Phyllis Lee has worked for 35 years on the world’s longest-running elephant study in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. An award-winning evolutionary psychologist, she is now based at the University of Stirling, and continues to work on a number of research projects on forest and Asian elephants as well as primates from around the world. She has published widely on this, on conservation attitudes as well as on human-wildlife interactions. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Free Thinking - My Body Clock is Broken  

Jay Griffiths, Vincent Deary, Louise Robinson and Matthew Smith discuss our mental health. How do depression and dementia 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 dementia and those who treat it – and they attempt to offer some solutions. Jay Griffiths is the author of Tristimania: a Diary of Manic Depression and a book Pip Pip which explores attitudes to time across the world. Doctor Vincent Deary teaches at Northumbria University, works as a clinician in the UK’s first trans-diagnostic Fatigue Clinic and is the author of a trilogy about How To Live – the first of which is called How We Are. Professor Louise Robinson is Director of Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Professor of Primary Care and Ageing. Professor Matthew Smith is a New Generation Thinker from 2012 who teaches at Strathclyde University at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. Producer: Zahid Warley

Free Thinking Festival: Time, Space and Science  

Carlos Frenk, Eugenia Cheng, Jim Al-Khalili and Louisa Preston debate time and space with presenter Rana Mitter and an audience at Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead. We can measure time passing but what actually is it? What do scientists mean when they suggest that time is an illusion. Can time exist in a black hole? Is everyone’s experience of time subjective? What is the connection between time and space? How does maths help us understand the universe? Professor Carlos Frenk is founding Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University and the winner of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2014. Dr Eugenia Cheng is Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an Honorary Fellow of the University of Sheffield. She is trilingual, a concert-level classical pianist and the author of Beyond Infinity: An Expedition To The Outer Limits Of The Mathematical Universe. Jim Al-Khalili is Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific and TV documentaries. His books include Paradox: the Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science, Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines and Quantum: a Guide for the Perplexed. Dr Louisa Preston is a UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow. An astrobiologist, planetary geologist and author, she is based at Birkbeck, University of London. Her first book is Goldilocks and the Water Bears: the Search for Life in the Universe. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

Free Thinking Festival: Writing Life  

Poet Simon Armitage and writer Alexandra Harris explore time and place in modern Britain. Presented by Philip Dodd and recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, has been described as ‘the best poet of his generation’. His latest collection The Unaccompanied explores life against a backdrop of economic recession and social division where globalisation has made alienation a common experience. He was born in West Yorkshire and lives near Saddleworth Moor. His work includes his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and books exploring the South west’s coast path and the Pennine Way. Alexandra Harris is Professor of Literature at the University of Liverpool and a New Generation Thinker. She is the author of Weatherland: Writers and Artists under English Skies and Romantic Moderns. Producer: Fiona McLean

Free Thinking at Uproot Festival  

Island city mentality or gateway to the world? Hull-based crime writer and former journalist David Mark, poet Adelle Stripe and Slung Low artistic director Alan Lane join Matthew Sweet to debate Hull's links with the wider world, while playwright Esther Wilson suggest what residents can learn from another port city which has been City of Culture - Liverpool. Recorded with an audience at Hull Truck Theatre as part of Radio 3's Uproot festival for Hull 2017. Producer: Torquil MacLeod.

Free Thinking: An interview with Haemin Sunim  

‘Is it the world that’s busy, or is it my mind?’ Haemin Sunim, the multi-million selling author of The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, discusses East and West and calm in a fast-paced world with New Generation Thinker Christopher Harding and presenter Rana Mitter. Born to Korean-American parents and educated at Harvard, Haemin Sunim is known for books, podcasts and a popular YouTube series exploring Buddhism in the 21st century. He studied at UC Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton before receiving formal monastic training in Korea and teaching Buddhism at Hampshire College in Amherst Massachusetts. He has more than a million followers on Twitter and Facebook and now lives in Seoul. Christopher Harding, one of Radio 3’s New Generation Thinkers, is a cultural historian of modern Japan, India and the UK with a particular interest in religion and spirituality, philosophy and mental health, based at the University of Edinburgh. He also runs a blog, The Boredom Project. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. Producer: Luke Mulhall

Free Thinking: New Generation Thinkers 2017  

An introduction to the academics whose ideas will be making radio waves across 2017. The New Generation Thinkers is an annual competition run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to select 10 researchers at the start of their careers who can turn their fascinating research into stimulating programmes. In this event, the 2017 selection make their first public appearance together: their topics include music and health and Shakespeare in Arabic. Hosted by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough of Durham University, who has just published Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas. 4 years ago she was one of the New Generation Thinkers. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Free Thinking - Education Slow and Fast  

Tony Sewell and Mike Grenier discuss the challenges of education in the 21st century with Philip Dodd and an audience at Sage Gateshead as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival. Can idle curiosity, slow burning passion and a time for reflection be at the heart of our schools? Or does the increasingly rapid pace of technological change make that sort of teaching a luxury at best - or, at worst, an educational philosophy stuck in a time warp? Mike Grenier is a House Master at Eton College and the co-founder of the Slow Education Movement, educators arguing the need to make time in the classroom for creative teaching and learning. Dr Tony Sewell, CBE is the director of the London based charity, Generating Genius, which aims to help children achieve educational success. He began his career as a school teacher and, in 2012, was appointed to chair the Mayor’s Education Inquiry into London schools. He works in both the UK and the Caribbean and helped to set up the Science, Maths and Information Technology Centre at Jamaica’s University of the West Indies. Producer: Fiona McLean

Free Thinking Essay: Killing Time in Imperial Japan  

Christopher Harding explores the Tokyo of a century ago, the bustling, cosmopolitan capital of a growing empire, where the meaning of ‘time’ was hotly contested. Critics attacked the relentless ‘clock time’ of new factories and businesses and the ‘leisure time’ of youngsters who favoured cafes or poetry rather than exerting themselves in empire-building. Buddhist thinkers and folklorists claimed that Japan must rediscover its natural sense of time as seasonal and cyclical, rather than mechanical. New Generation Thinker Christopher Harding contemplates the way these attempts at escape became useful fodder for Japan’s militarist ideologues – working for the Emperor, his palace tucked away amongst the trees in central Tokyo, whose own sense of time stretched back into myth and from there into divinity. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. 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. Producer: Luke Mulhall

Free Thinking Festival: The Time of Your Life  

The former Health Minister, now broadcaster and writer, Edwina Currie; the journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer; and the English teacher and columnist Lola Okolosie discuss the different times of our lives with Free Thinking presenter Anne McElvoy. Recent scientific research has found that women have the time of their lives at the age of 34. Later though, as they juggle parenthood and work they are at their most stressed. But, by the age of 58 they start to get their life-work balance sorted out. With more time to relax and no babies on the horizon life looks better. And, with an average life expectancy of 82.9 years, perhaps women may have time to enjoy their new lives. Edwina Currie was a Conservative MP for 14 years before retiring in 1988. Since then she has presented TV and radio programmes, appeared on Strictly Come Dancing and as the Wicked Queen in pantomime. She has been described as ‘a brash and energetic life force’. Her books include Diaries 1987-1992 and novels including The Ambassador, Chasing Men, This Honourable House, and A Parliamentary Affair. Miranda Sawyer began her career writing for Smash Hits and now writes for newspapers and magazines including The Observer. She has interviewed arts figures for BBC Two’s Culture Show, and presented programmes on 6 Music, BBC Radio 4 and podcasts. Her new book Out of Time explores her midlife crisis. Lola Okolosie is an English teacher and regular columnist for The Guardian on race, politics, education and feminism. She is editor-at-large for Media Diversified, an online publishing platform. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead. Producer: Craig Smith

The Essay - Creating Modern India  

New Generation Thinker Preti Taneja, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Warwick University, on the creation of modern India. How did a modernist style develop in India between the 1900s and the 1950s? Preti Taneja, who grew up in Letchworth Garden City, traces the way the Garden City Movement inspired the work of Edwin Lutyens in his reshaping of her parents’ New Delhi. The first generation of post-Independence architects built on this legacy, drawing also from Le Corbusier, who designed India’s first post-partition planned city, Chandigarh, with its famous 'open hand' sculpture; and from Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius, to create some of the most iconic public buildings across India today. In art, something similar was happening: painter MF Hussain and a group of fellow radicals wanting to break away from Indian traditions and make an international statement. They formed The Progressive Artists Group in December 1947, just months after Partition. Preti Taneja’s essay explores this cultural re-imagining of the new nation, when architects and artists tried to come to terms with India’s political and aesthetic history, looking forward to a future they could design, build and express themselves: one that was meant to shape human behaviour for the better. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead. 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. Producer: Fiona McLean

Free Thinking Essay: England's First European  

John Gallagher, New Generation Thinker, marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of what might be the greatest, but littlest-known, book of travels of early modern England. Fynes Moryson was a young fellow of a Cambridge college when he left on a journey to Jerusalem and back. His monumental book 'An Itinerary' is a colourful, funny and touching account of one man's curious journey, meeting bandits in northern Germany, disguising himself as a Catholic Italian in order to see Rome and burying his brother's body by the side of the road on his return. John Gallagher’s Essay brings to life one of the great travel accounts of any period which includes detailed instructions to English travellers on how best to disguise themselves when travelling through Catholic Europe. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 with the Arts and Humanities Research Council to find academics who can turn their research into radio. Producer: Fiona McLean

Free Thinking Festival: The Never-Ending Workday  

Sathnam Sanghera, Judy Wajcman, Griselda Togobo and Robert Colvile join Radio 3 presenter Matthew Sweet to look at the history of the workplace from factory floor to hot desk to the gig economy and debate whether the merging of workplace and home creates more stress. Bosses have always monitored and changed our working day, clocking staff in and out the factory, analyzing productivity through time and motion studies, using remote monitoring, introducing flexible working and “logging on later.” Sathnam Sanghera is a journalist and award-winning author of Marriage Material: A Novel and The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton. Before becoming a writer he (among other things) worked at a burger chain, a hospital laundry, a market research firm, a sewing factory and a literacy project in New York. Judy Wajcman is a Professor of Society at LSE and the author of Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism . Griselda Togobo is an entrepreneur, engineer, chartered accountant and the head of Forward Ladies, an organisation which aims to help companies maximise the potential of their female staff. Robert Colvile is a journalist and author of The Great Acceleration - a new book about how technology is speeding up the pace of life. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. Producer: Craig Smith

The Essay - The Magic Years  

Matthew Smith, a New Generation Thinker, goes deep into the American Psychiatric Association archives, where lies an unpublished historical manuscript entitled The Magic Years. Written during the early 1970s, it eulogised the giant strides of post-war American psychiatry made in this period of hope and promise when even the complete eradication of mental illness was thought possible. As a medical historian Matthew argues that, while psychiatrists today might dismiss The Magic Years - and the science behind it - as misguided or naïve, it actually has much to teach us. New Generation Thinker Matthew Smith is from the University of Strathclyde. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. New Generation Thinkers is scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to find academics who can turn their research into radio programmes. Producer: Zahid Warley

Free Thinking - The Speed of Revolution  

Three leading historians, Bettany Hughes, Sir Richard J Evans and John Hall join Free Thinking presenter Philip Dodd to consider tumultuous times and how we make sense of sweeping change from classical times, through empire building and the industrial revolution to the present day. True revolutions are rare game-changers in the slow unravelling of the human story. Others fizzle out like small showy rockets, all light and no heat. But how obvious is it at the time ? Dr Bettany Hughes is well known as a TV and radio broadcaster, an award-winning historian and author specialising in ancient and medieval history and culture. Her books include Helen of Troy, The Hemlock Cup and, most recently, Istanbul: a Tale of Three Cities. Sir Richard J Evans is an academic and historian, best known for his research on the history of Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. President of Wolfson College in Cambridge, his most recent books are The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914, The Third Reich in History and Memory and Altered Pasts: Counterfactual in History. Professor John Hall is IAS Fellow at University College, Durham University (Jan – March 2017). Normally based at McGill University in Montreal, Professor Hall is currently writing about Nations, States and Empires. His books include The Importance of Being Civil, The World of States, Powers and Liberties:The Causes and Consequences of the Rise of the West. Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

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