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: 'Play' in urban design, Gillian Allnutt  

Philip Dodd considers the importance of 'play' in the way our city centres are designed, built, look and feel in the 21st century with architect Stephen Witherford, social anthropologist Clare Melhuish, urban planner Ben van Bruggen, and Jonathan Glancey author of 'What's So Great About the Eiffel Tower?'. Plus, Durham poet Gillian Allnutt discusses a life in words and receiving the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. What's So Great About the Eiffel Tower? by Jonathan Glancey is published on the 28th of February. Gillian Allnutt's latest collection poetry, Indwelling, is published by Bloodaxe Books.

Soil Stories Old and New  

Matthew Sweet talks to poet and writer Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, environmental scientist, Jules Pretty and geologist, Andrew Scott, and historians Matthew Kelly and Philip Coupland about Soil and Culture and Survival Stories For some Soil is where they come from, for others it is an object of aesthetic beauty, for most of us it is the means by which we get what we need to live. Poet and writer Elizabeth-Jane Burnett's forthcoming A Dictionary of Soil explores the lives lived within and through the soil of three fields which constitute the origins of her family's ancestral village. Agroecology expert, Jules Pretty says Soil We Can Rebuild It and in an environmentally friendly way and it will continue to feed us. Geologist Andrew Scott examines soils from deep time to discover what they can tell us about how the planet and life on Earth evolved. Historian Matthew Kelly is interested in the cultural history of landscape and focuses on environmental policy in Britain after World War II and Philip Coupland is the biographer of Jorian Jenks, a man who might have been regarded as the father of the British Green Movement if he hadn't joined Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. They join Matthew Sweet to think through our developing relationship with the life-giving dirt beneath our feet and discuss whether a happy ending just might be possible. Presenter: Matthew Sweet Guests: Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment and Society, University of Essex author 'The Earth Only Endures' (2007) and 'Agri-Culture' (2002) Andrew C. Scott, Emeritus Professor of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London author of ‘Fire on Earth: An Introduction’ (2014) Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Newman University. Author of Swims (Pennned in the Margins, 2017) Philip Coupland 'Farming, Fascism and Ecology: A Life of Jorian Jenks' 2016 Matthew Kelly, Professor of Modern History, Northumbria University 'Quartz and Feldspar: Dartmoor A British Landscape in Modern Times' 2015 Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Free Thinking - Shakespeare in cartoons; Jess Phillips; Sidney Nolan's Australian legends.  

MP Jess Phillips on life in the public eye. Plus Ned Kelly, Lady Macbeth, one once flesh and blood, the other imagined into being, yet both have done sterling work as ciphers to the human condition. Anne McElvoy talks to Rebecca Daniels, curator of an exhibition marking the centenary of Australia’s great myth-maker, the artist Sidney Nolan and to David Taylor, curator of an exhibition at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre about the way memorable images work and legends are made—they are joined by Lorna Miller and Kevin 'Kal' Kallaugher, who draw on their experience as political cartoonists. Transferences: Sidney Nolan in Britain runs at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester from 18th February 2017 – 4th June 2017 and part of centenary programming across 2017. You can find out more from Draw New Mischief: 250 years of Shakespeare and Political Cartoons is in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s PACCAR room: 25 February – 15 September 2017 Everywoman: One Woman's Truth About Speaking the Truth by Jess Phillips is out now. Producer: Karl Bos Editor: Robyn Read

Free Thinking: Hull: A trip down memory lane.  

Matthew Sweet visits Hull - the city where he grew up - and seeks out Basil Kirchin's sound world, Richard Bean's version of Hull during the Civil War and the re-opened Ferens Art Gallery where he used to spend Saturday mornings. You can hear more of Basil Kirchin's music for films in tonight's Late Junction which follows at 11pm and Radio3 is recording Mind on the Run featuring Goldfrapp's Will Gregory with members of the BBC Concert Orchestra - the event takes place 17th - 19th Feb at Hull City Hall and will be broadcast on Hear and Now on March 4th. The Ferens Art Gallery is displaying Francis Bacon's Screaming Popes until May 1st; Pietro Lorenzetti's panel painting Christ Between Saints Paul and Peter until April. Exhibitions by Ron Mueck, Spencer Tunick's Sea of Hull commission and the Turner prize follow later in 2017. Richard Bean's play The Hypocrite - dramatising what happened in the Civil War when parliament charged Sir John Hotham with denying King Charles entry to Hull - runs from Friday 24th of February – Saturday 25th of March at Hull Truck Theatre, and Friday 31th of March – Saturday 29th of April at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon Producer: Craig Templeton Smith.

Free Thinking: Martin Luther- fundamentalist reactionary or enlightened creator of our modern world  

Its 500 years since the German friar, Martin Luther, challenged the authority of the Pope and sparked the Reformation. The violent upheavals that followed have tended to obscure his character, his beliefs and his legacy. Nowadays when we think of him we usually conjure up the image of a jowly zealot. To uncover a truer likeness Anne McElvoy was joined at the London School of Economics by Luther's latest biographer, Peter Stanford and the historians, Diarmaid MacCulloch and Ulinka Rublack -- was he a fundamentalist reactionary or the enlightened creator of our modern world. Producer: Zahid Warley

Free Thinking: Paolozzi; Daniel Dennett  

Dubbed the "godfather of British pop art", Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) is the subject of an exhibition at London's Whitechapel Gallery. Philip Dodd and his guests art historians Richard Cork and Judith Collins, philosopher Barry Smith and writer Iain Sinclair discuss Paolozzi's legacy. Plus an interview with American philosopher Professor Daniel Dennett Co-Director Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. Eduardo Paolozzi runs at the Whitechapel Gallery in London from 16 February – 14 May 2017 Daniel Dennett's latest book is called From Bacteria to Bach and Back. Producer Torquil MacLeod

Rude Valentines. Neil Gaiman, Translating China's Arts  

Neil Gaiman on his enduring attraction to the world of giants, gods and rainbow bridges of Norse myths and why he's produced his own version; plus research into the ugly side of Valentines from classical times to the 19th century with Annebella Pollen and Edmund Richardson, and, as the RSC prepares to bring Snow in Midsummer to the stage, the first of a planned series of Chinese classics, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig explains her play's 13th century origins and along with Craig Clunas, author of Chinese Painting and Its Audiences, talks to Rana Mitter about bringing Chinese culture to new global audiences. Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig play Snow in Midsummer based on a Chinese classic is on at The Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre Feb 23rd-March 25th 2017 Craig Clunas' new book is Chinese Painting and Its Audiences Neil Gaiman's new book is called Norse Mythology. Annebella Pollen is Principal Lecturer in the History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton and has published her research on Valentines in Early Popular Visual Culture, 2014. Edmund Richardson Director of the Durham Centre for Classical Reception, University of Durham Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Free Thinking: Professor Paul Gilroy  

30 years ago There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation was published. Philip Dodd talks to the author Professor Paul Gilroy about its impact and whether discussions about race and culture in Britain have moved on or not. Producer Eliane Glaser.

Free Thinking:  Robots  

Matthew Sweet meets Eric the UK's first robot, built in 1928 now at the Science Museum as part of a big display exploring robotics. He's joined by Kathleen Richardson who is Senior Research Fellow in the Ethics of Robotics at De Monfort University, Murray Shanahan - Professor of Cognitive Robotics from Imperial College - and Ryan Abbott from the University of Surrey School of Law to discuss the legal and ethical implications of our increasing reliance on robotics and automation. And Kevin Jackson looks at the first English translation of Makt Myrkranna or Powers of Darkness - Valdimar Asmundsson's 1901 Icelandic reworking of Bram Stoker's vampire classic Dracula. Producer: Torquil MacLeod

Free Thinking: Russian Art and Revolution  

As the Royal Academy unveils its huge new show of work produced in Russia between 1917 and 1932, Anne McElvoy and her guests - the film maker and actor, Dolya Gavanski, novelist Charlotte Hobson and the historians Stephen Smith and Victor Sebestyen - assess the role played by artists in the revolution and the relevance of their paintings, sculptures, films, books and music today. Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 runs from February 11th to April 17th at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Charlotte Hobson's novel is called The Vanishing Futurist. Dolya Gavanski is currently working on her second feature film, Soviet Woman: Work, Build and Don't Whine. Professor Stephen Smith from All Souls College, Oxford is the author of books including The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism and Russia in Revolution. Victor Sebestyen's Lenin the Dictator is published later this month. Producer: Zahid Warley

Borders: On the ground, on the map, in the mind  

Garrett Carr travelled by foot and canoe along Ireland's border. Kapka Kassabova journeyed to what she calls "the edge of Europe". Frank Ledwidge's army career took him to the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, Nikolas Ventourakis is fascinated by how to capture the abstract notion of borders in photographs. They talk to Anne McElvoy about the essence of edges, notions of the other and the challenges of invisible borders which come and go like the smile of the Cheshire Cat. The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland's Border by Garrett Carr looks at a landscape which has hosted smugglers, kings, runaways, soldiers, peacemakers, protesters and terrorists Border: A journey to the Edge of Europe, Kapka Kassabova explores the rich human history in the wild borderlands of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. Nikolas Ventourakis Project: Defining Lines Frank Ledwidge barrister, writer, Losing Small Wars and Investment in Blood Producer: Jacqueline Smith

Free Thinking: Anger and friendships with Pankaj Mishra and Elif Shafak.  

The Indian writer and essayist, Pankaj Mishra believes we are living in an age of unprecedented anger - one that liberal rationalists struggle to comprehend. He joins Philip Dodd to consider the long term impact of these fervent times. Elif Shafak talks about her latest novel, Three Daughters of Eve, which looks at love, friendship and religion set in Oxford and Istanbul. They are joined in the Free Thinking studio by Douglas Murray, founder of the centre for social cohesion and on a line from USA, Julius Krein, editor of American Affairs, a new magazine backing Trumpism. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak is published on the 2nd of February. Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra is published on the 7th of February.

Free Thinking - Caribbean Culture.  

Join Matthew Sweet in the Caribbean -- well, not literally but certainly intellectually. He'll be discussing the region's history with the cultural commentator, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, whose new book, Island People, is already being compared to V S Naipaul. Does it make sense to think of the Caribbean as a cohesive region rather than a collection of very individual islands? To help settle this question Matthew and Joshua will be joined by the Jamaican poet and novelist Kei Miller who'll be reading from his acclaimed new novel, Augustown, and his Forward Prize Winning poetry collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. And to round things off the actor and writer, Lavern Archer and the director, Anton Phillips will be in the studio to let you in on one of the stage's best kept secrets -- the wildly popular vernacular theatre from Jamaica that's been packing out the likes of the Manchester Opera House since the late Eighties. Kei Miller's novel is called Augustown. Joshua Jelly-Schapiro's non fiction exploration is called Island People The Caribbean and The World. Producer: Zahid Warley

Free Thinking: Yaa Gyasi. Daniel Levitin. Peter Bazalgette, James Bartholomew on Clarity, Civility and Strong States.  

Peter Bazalgette, former Arts Council England chair and TV executive, discusses why we need to become more empathetic. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has given the Proms Lecture exploring the mind and music. He talks about lies and statistics and how we can make better decisions. James Bartholomew believes the Welfare State may be holding us back. Together they explore with Philip Dodd, how to build a better stronger Civil State. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a novel ranging across 250 years and two branches and seven generations of a Ghanaian family shadowed by the experiences of slavery and slaving. Gyasi follows two different branches of one Fante family obsessed by notions of home whilst swept along by different but equally challenging histories on either side of the Atlantic. She talks to Philip Dodd about the importance of home for Africans and African-Americans and the still low representation of writers from modern Africa and the need for more. Peter Bazalgette has written The Empathy Instinct: A Blueprint for a Civil Society Daniel Levitin has written The Organized Mind and his new book is called a Field Guide to Lies and Statistics - a Neuroscientist on How to Make Sense of a Complex World. James Bartholomew, follows up his The Welfare State We're In, with The Welfare of Nations Yaa Gyasi's novel is called Homegoing. Producer: Jacqueline Smith.

Davos Discussions. Shobana Jeyasingh. New Generation Thinker Seán Williams  

Anne McElvoy explores topics discussed at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Davos - she's joined by former Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, economist Liam Halligan and MIT scientist Andrew McAfee. Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th, New Generation Thinker Seán Williams discusses his research into barbers in the camps. Choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh discusses the way the history of indentured labour has influenced her latest dance piece. Shobana Jeyasingh's Material Men Redux, informed by the personal stories of dancers Sooraj Subramaniam and Shailesh Bahoran, tours to Nottingham, Ipswich, Eastleigh, Birmingham, Glasgow and London from February. Producer:Torquil MacLeod.

Free Thinking: Oscar Nominations; T2 Trainspotting; Denial  

On the day of the Oscar nominations, Matthew Sweet is joined by critics Dana Stevens and Ryan Gilbey and writer Christopher Frayling to survey the last year in film. Also, does T2 make any sense if you haven't see the original Trainspotting? Young journalist Stevie Mackenzie-Smith reports back. And Deborah Lipstadt, the American historian who took on the Holocaust denier David Irving in a landmark court case, discusses its retelling in Denial, a new film starring Rachel Weisz. Producer: Craig Templeton Smith.

Free Thinking - Victorian Bodies, Citizens of Everywhere  

Rana Mitter talks Victorian bodies with Kathryn Hughes from Darwin's beard to whether George Eliot had milkmaid's hands. Stanley Price explains how James Joyce and Italo Svevo forged a firm friendship when they met in Trieste. Poet and New Generation Thinker Sandeep Parmar and writer Lauren Elkin discuss the Citizens of Everywhere art project which will see commissioned writing, art, workshops in schools and debates exploring the idea of citizenship in a globalised world. James Rivington from the British Academy unveils the 20 Academic Books that Shaped Modern Britain ahead of Academic Book Week. Kathryn Hughes latest book is called Victorians Undone. Stanley Price has written James Joyce and Italo Svevo: The Story of a Friendship Producer: Torquil MacLeod.

Free Thinking - The influence of the British Black Art movement.  

Artists Sonia Boyce, Isaac Julien, Eddie Chambers and Harold Offeh talk to Anne McElvoy about their art and the influence of the British Black Art movement - which began around the time of the First National Black Art Convention in 1982 organised by the Blk Art Group and held at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. Eddie Chambers has written Roots and Culture: Cultural Politics in the Making of Black Britain and Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s. He teaches at the University of Texas, Austin. Sonia Boyce is Professor at Middlesex University, a Royal Academician and will also have a solo show at the ICA later this year. She is one of the recipients of a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award. She is also the Principal-Investigator of the Black Artists & Modernism project. Isaac Julien is showing Other Destinies at the Royal Ontario Museum from January and shows at Victoria Miro Gallery. Harold Offeh is an artist, curator and senior lecturer in Fine Art at Leeds Beckett University. His work Covers will feature in Untitled: art on the conditions of our time. Nottingham Contemporary's The Place Is Here brings together around 100 works by over 30 artists and collectives spanning painting, sculpture, installation, photography, video and archival displays from the 1980s. It runs from 04 Feb - 30 Apr 2017 New Art Exchange’s exhibition, Untitled: art on the conditions of our time, runs from 14 Jan - 19 Mar 2017 and features 12 British artists each with ties to Africa. Producer: Karl Bos Editor: Robyn Read

Free Thinking: The War of the Worlds sequel, Eimear McBride  

Matthew Sweet talks to Stephen Baxter about his sequel to HG Wells's novel War Of The Worlds, which was first serialised in 1897 and imagined an England invaded by Martians. Stephen Baxter's novel, which has been authorised by the HG Wells estate, is called The Massacre of Mankind and it sets the action 14 years after a Martian invasion. Eimear McBride's novels are noted for their 'experimental' approach. She joins Matthew with the academic and writer Mark Blacklock to discuss what 'experimental' can mean when applied to the novel. And, recently posters have appeared all over the UK with the following words: 'Legal Name Fraud, The Truth, It's Illegal To Use A Legal Name'. Matthew is joined by the barrister and legal blogger Carl Gardner to discuss the legal ideas behind the campaign. Producer: Luke Mulhall

Free Thinking - Chibundu Onuzo; Nadeem Aslam. Lockwood Kipling's art.  

Anne McElvoy talks to Nadeem Aslam and Chibundu Onuzo about their novels set in Pakistan and Nigeria which follow characters who have to find safe places to live following violent uprisings; Alex Evans joins them to explore myth-making plus we hear from Julius Bryant, the curator of an exhibition at the V&A about Lockwood Kipling art teacher and father of Rudyard. Nadeem Aslam is the author of books including Maps For Lost Lovers and The Blind Man's Garden which have won a series of awards. His new novel is called The Golden Legend. Chibundu Onuzo's first novel The Spider King's Daughter won a Betty Trask Award and her new novel is called Welcome to Lagos. Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is a free display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London opening Saturday January 14th. The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough by Alex Evans is out now. Producer: Harry Parker

Video player is in betaClose