Start the Week

Start the Week

United Kingdom

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday


Love, Loss and Scandal  

On Start the Week Andrew discusses love, loss and scandal. Carrie Cracknell is directing Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea, the story of an overpowering, self-destructive love affair set in post-war Britain. Michel Faber's collection of poetry explores the loss and grief at the death of his beloved wife, Eva. AE Housman wrote a series of poems at the end of the 19th century - A Shropshire Lad - which were hugely popular and came to encapsulate the nostalgia for an unspoilt pastoral idyll, but the writer Peter Parker says they're also shot through with unfulfilled longing for a young man. Homosexuality only became legal in the late 1960s and John Preston retells the story of the MP Jeremy Thorpe - a tale of sex, lies, murder and scandal at the heart of the establishment. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Food: From Bread Riots to Obesity  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr explores food and politics. Churchill charged Lord Woolton with the daunting task of feeding Britain during WW2. The food writer William Sitwell looks at the black markets and shop raids Woolton had to battle as the country teetered on the edge of anarchy. Economist Jane Harrigan argues that it was rising food prices that sowed the seeds for the Arab Spring Uprisings, and food historian Bee Wilson asks what governments can do now to control what we eat. Producer: Hannah Sander.

A Theory of Everything?  

On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe asks if one day we might know everything. The mathematician Marcus du Sautoy and the physicist Roger Penrose explore the far reaches of knowledge, questioning whether certain fields of research will always lie beyond human comprehension. They ask how much fashion and faith shape scientific theories. The experimental physicist Suzie Sheehy attempts to build machines to test the latest theories, while Joanna Kavenna plays with a philosophical Theory of Everything in her latest novel A Field Guide to Reality. Producer: Katy Hickman.

New Artistic Director of the ENO, Daniel Kramer  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr explores the state of the arts. The English National Opera has lost £5 million of funding and its chorus recently went on strike, but the newly appointed Artistic Director Daniel Kramer, hopes to turn it around. He's directing a new production of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and the philosopher Roger Scruton celebrates the mastery of Wagner to express truths about the human condition. The biographer Franny Moyle looks at the life and career of Britain's most famous landscape painter, JMW Turner. Born as the Royal Academy was founded and British art was deemed inferior to its Continental counterpart, his work pushed the boundaries of what was accepted as art at the time. Julia Peyton-Jones looks back at a quarter of a century at the Serpentine Gallery in London, and makes a case for London as the centre of the art world. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Genes: Our medical inheritance  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr traces the quest to decipher the human genome. The idea of a 'unit of heredity' first emerged at the end of the 19th century: cancer physician Siddhartha Mukherjee recounts the history of the gene and the latest research into genetic heredity and mutation. Giles Yeo looks at what genes can tell us about body weight, while Aarathi Prasad explores how India practises medicine - from cutting-edge science to traditional healing. The historian Emily Mayhew traces the medical breakthroughs that have emerged from the battlefield, from World War I to the conflict in Afghanistan. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Hay Festival: Spooks, war and genocide  

Start the Week is at Hay Literary Festival this week discussing war and intelligence. Michael Hayden is a former Air Force four-star general who became director of the US National Security Agency and then the CIA. He talks to Tom Sutcliffe about the decisions made during America's war on terror: from rendition and interrogation to widespread surveillance. Harry Parker was in his twenties when he signed up to join the British Army - he and uses the paraphernalia and weaponry of war to tell the story of conflict; while the journalist Janine di Giovanni reports on ordinary people caught up in the fighting in Syria. The human rights lawyer Philippe Sands looks back at his own family's history to make sense of crimes against humanity. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Lost and Found: Ancient Egypt to Modern Art  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr talks to the artist Cornelia Parker about the secrets revealed in found objects. Parker's latest exhibition at the Foundling Museum is inspired by the 18th Century tokens left with babies by their mothers. Simon Armitage finds a new way of telling the medieval poem Pearl, an allegorical story of grief and lost love. Archaeologist Cyprian Broodbank explains how Must Farm, the first landscape-scale investigation of deep Fenland, is transforming our understanding of Bronze Age life, while British Museum curator Aurelia Masson-Berghoff celebrates the finding of two lost Egyptian cities submerged at the mouth of the Nile for over a thousand years. Producer: Katy Hickman.

World on the Move  

World on the Move: on Start the Week Andrew Marr explores how the mass movement of people has changed societies, in a special edition broadcast in front of an audience as part of a day of programmes on BBC Radio 4. The historian Sir Hew Strachan looks back at the largest single influx of people into Britain when 250,000 Belgians arrived during the Great War, while Frank Dikötter explores the biggest forced internal migration as tens of millions of young Chinese were sent to work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. The poet Patience Agbabi humanises the mass movement of people with her tale of one refugee's story. And what of those who return? The Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam looks at what happens when you try to go back home. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Technology in Education  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr explores the use of technology in education. Professor Sugata Mitra has installed an internet-connected PC in a slum in India and watched how curiosity leads children to learn together. Digital technology is increasingly used in schools but the educationalist Neil Selwyn questions whether this is a positive step. The writer Lynsey Hanley looks at how class is embedded in the education system and the former Headmaster at Eton, Tony Little, on his vision for the future of schooling. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Cross-dressing and masculinity with Grayson Perry  

On Start the Week Grayson Perry discusses the concept of masculinity in modern Britain with Mary Ann Sieghart. The new artistic director at the Globe Theatre, Emma Rice, explains how she is playing with gender in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, and the celebrated mezzo-soprano Alice Coote talks of her career in 'breeches', singing the male role. The former artists' model, Kelley Swain reveals what it's like being the object of a work of art. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Anish Kapoor on Light and Dark  

On Start the Week the sculptor Anish Kapoor talks to Andrew Marr about his fascination with voids and black holes, and his excitement at the latest technological advances in deepest black: vantablack. The astrophysicist Martin Ward explains his research into supermassive black holes and why we're finding more of them, while the solar physicist Lucie Green journeys to the centre of the sun where each photon takes hundreds of thousands of years to reach the surface, but just eight minutes to shine as light on the Earth. Writer Ann Wroe walks on the Downs to experience how light affects Nature, and she turns to the artists to meditate on the nature of light. Producer: Katy Hickman Picture credit: Anish Kapoor.

Reporting War and Conflict  

On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe discusses the writing of war and conflict. The journalist Patrick Cockburn looks back at his years covering crises in the Middle East, especially the rise of the so-called Islamic state. The Turkish writer Ece Temelkuran looks at the difficulty of reporting in a country where press freedoms are severely curtailed and asks whether fiction and poetry are a way of telling a more truthful story. The legendary American investigative reporter Seymour Hersh first gained recognition in the 1960s for exposing the My Lai massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War and has spent his career uncovering wrong-doing at the highest level. But reporting is changing and the academic Charlie Beckett celebrates the rise of citizen journalism. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Loneliness and Inner Voices  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr talks to the psychologist Charles Fernyhough about the inner speech in our heads. But what if it's a lone voice? The writer Olivia Laing explores what it's like to be lonely in a bustling city, while the playwright Alistair McDowall explores what happens when you're abandoned on a distant planet with no sense of time. The biographer Frances Wilson writes a tale of hero-worship, betrayal and revenge through the life of Thomas De Quincey, a man who modelled his opium-habit on Coleridge and his voice and writing on Wordsworth. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Greece and the Eurozone with Yanis Varoufakis  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr discusses the state of the Eurozone and the politics of austerity with the economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, the Director of the Institute of Global Affairs Erik Berglof and the Mayor of London's Chief Economic Advisor, Gerard Lyons. Yanis Varoufakis tracks the problems of the Eurozone to its woeful design and its continued reliance on debt and austerity, rather than reform. The classicist Paul Cartledge explores the history of democracy back to its birthplace in Athens and traces the long slow degradation of the original Greek concept. Since the crisis in 2008 Greece has been in economic and political turmoil but there has also been a cultural renaissance. The academic Karen Van Dyck has brought together the best of contemporary Greek poetry by multi-ethnic poets in a new anthology. Producer: Katy Hickman Presenter: Andrew Marr.

Existentialism and Ways of Seeing  

On Start the Week Kirsty Wark asks how we make choices about freedom and authenticity - questions that preoccupied Paris intellectuals in the 1930s. Sarah Bakewell looks back at one of the twentieth century's major philosophical movements - existentialism - and the revolutionary thinkers who came to shape it. Sartre and de Beauvoir may have spent their days drinking apricot cocktails in café's but Bakewell believes their ideas are more relevant than ever. The historian Sunil Khilnani reveals the Indian thinkers who didn't just talk about philosophy but lived it, and the photographer Stuart Franklin, famous for the pictures of the man in Tiananmen Square who stopped the tanks, discusses the impulse to record and preserve these moments of action. The art historian Frances Borzello looks at the female artists who chose the freedom to present themselves to the world in self-portraits. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Is Faster Better?  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr looks at the pace of life with the writer Robert Colvile who celebrates today's accelerating flow of change and argues that we are hard-wired to crave novelty, speed and convenience. But Carl Honoré challenges this cult of speed in his praise of slowness. The scientist Steve Jones looks back at another period of history where the pace of change was revolutionary impacting scientifically, socially and politically - the French Revolution. And the writer Sarah Dunant focuses on 16th century Italy at a time when ideas in politics, religion and art were gathering pace. Producer: Katy Hickman.

The Easter Rising: 100 Years On  

On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe looks back a hundred years to Easter Rising of 1916. Ruth Dudley Edwards explores the lives of Ireland's founding fathers and questions how they should be remembered, while Heather Jones places this historical moment in the context of the Great War. David Rieff praises forgetting in his study of the uses and abuses of historical memory, and its often pernicious influence on the present. And the Irish commentator Fintan O'Toole examines the present fortunes of a country once famed as the Celtic Tiger. Producer: Katy Hickman.


Start the Week comes from Glasgow this week. As the debate over the EU Referendum continues Kirsty Wark looks back at the Scottish Referendum with the historians Tom Devine and Chris Whatley. How much did the history of the union from 1707 and Scotland's sense of identity play a role in the public vote and imagination? The poet Kathleen Jamie wrote a poem a week to mark the momentous changes taking place in Scotland last year. Jamie is well-known for her celebration of the country's wild landscape, but the artist Angus Farquhar is focused on transforming a very different piece of Scottish heritage - the 60s modernist ruin, St Peter's Seminary. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Nature or Nurture?  

On Start the Week Mary-Ann Sieghart asks why some people succeed while others fail. She talks to the journalist Helen Pearson about the Life Project, a study of the health, wellbeing and life chances of thousands of British children, started in 1946. The television producer Joseph Bullman also charts a series of families back to the Victorian times to look at social mobility through the generations. The psychologist Oliver James wades into the nature/ nurture debate by arguing that we are the result of our environment and upbringing, but the scientist Marcus Munafò says there is increasing evidence of genetic links to who we are and what we do. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Future Economies  

On Start the Week Andrew Marr looks ahead to a future dominated by automation, cyber security, the 'sharing economy' and advanced life sciences with the innovation expert Alec Ross, computer scientist Steve Furber and the journalist Paul Mason who predicts such changes heralding a post-capitalist world. But cutting-edge advances in robotics and computers will have a huge but uneven impact on working lives: while previous industrial revolutions affected blue collar workers, in the future traditionally middle class jobs will be under threat. The journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai focuses on the most marginalised sector of the white working class - the British far right. Producer: Katy Hickman.

Video player is in betaClose