The Matter of the North

The Matter of the North

United Kingdom

Melvyn Bragg explores the pivotal role of England's north in the shaping of modern Britain.


Northern Power: Speaking from the North  

In this final programme Melvyn Bragg celebrates the power of northern voices in our sporting life, and asks what being and sounding Northern means more generally - in a year which has seen what might be a traumatic and decisive shift in our politics, and in our sense of national identity. In the wake of the EU Referendum, new questions are being raised about the need for devolution in the north of England - the need for the north to have a stronger presence in our public life and politics. Contributors David Hockney Maxine Peake Professor Robert Colls, De Montfort University Geoffrey Boycott Dame Judi Dench Ian McMillan Jimmy McGovern Lee Hall Ed Cox, Director IPPR North Lee Rigg and the Wardle Academy Youth Brass Band Producer: Faith Lawrence.

The 20th-Century North: Radical Culture  

Melvyn Bragg explores the great cultural movements that came from the North of England which rippled out to affect the world - music with the Beatles, social commentary with Coronation Street and the rise of some of Britain's greatest comedians. Melvyn Bragg examines the contribution of the north to British culture throughout the 20th century - and celebrates the way in which it refreshed and transformed the arts of this country. Also included are some of the earliest voices of northerners ever recorded - part of the Berliner Lautarchiv collection recorded by Wilhelm Doegen - held at Humboldt Universitat. The British Library also offers access to these recordings via its website. Contributors Maxine Peake Dame Joan Bakewell Lee Hall Sir Michael Parkinson Professor Dave Russell Jimmy McGovern Dame Judi Dench David Hockney Producer: Faith Lawrence.

The Radical North  

Melvyn explores the radical movements that sprang from the North - Chartism, the campaign for women's votes, anti-slavery protests, the birth of the Labour Party. The programme begins outside Manchester's Midland Hotel where Mr Rolls met Mr Royce. It's also near the site of the Peterloo Massacre - one of the defining moments in British social history. People had gathered here in their thousands from the city and surrounding towns and villages - protesting for parliamentary reform. fifteen were slain and hundreds wounded by charging cavalry troops. Melvyn visits what one contributor Dr Robert Poole describes as Democracy Wall - it runs alongside of the nearby Quaker Meeting House - many people were crushed against it at the time of the Massacre. The wall is the only structure left from the period. The massacre inspired the poet Shelley to write the Masque of Anarchy, part of which is read for us by the actor Maxine Peake. Melvyn goes on to describe the rich history of dissent nurtured in the north - the women's suffrage movement, the campaign to abolish slavery, chartism, and the founding of the Independent Labour Party. Why the north? Was it Methodism, the size of the population, the isolated landscapes, the topography of the cities or even the weather? Contributors Dr Robert Poole, University of Central Lancashire Dr Katrina Navickas, University of Hertfordshire Professor Robert Colls, De Montfort University Dr Jill Liddington, University of Leeds Judith Cummins MP Rommi Smith Jonathan Schofield Producer: Faith Lawrence.

Manchester: First City of the Industrial Revolution  

Melvyn Bragg celebrates the achievements of Manchester, the original northern powerhouse. Its emblem is the bee, a symbol of work, cooperation and industry. It was from here that huge scientific, social and commercial changes would sweep the globe. Melvyn visits Quarry Bank Mill in Styal outside Manchester which is one of the best preserved textile mills in the country. Melvyn visits the house of the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, who chronicled the rapidly changing lives of the people who lived in or near Manchester, or Cottonopolis as it was known. Melvyn hears how a culture of dissent or non-conformity fed into the city's spirit of invention. He discusses the great scientists that came out of the city - James Joule the father of thermodynamics and John Dalton the father of atomic theory. Melvyn also hears about one of the country's biggest and now largely forgotten art exhibitions which was held in Manchester - The Art Treasures exhibition of 1857. Contributors Canon Apiarist Adrian Rhodes, Manchester Cathedral Professor Hannah Barker, University of Manchester Dr James Sumner, University of Manchester Jenny Uglow Dr Katy Layton-Jones, University of Leicester Maria Balshaw, The Whitworth Art Gallery Producer: Faith Lawrence.

Northern Inventions and the Birth of the Industrial Revolution  

Episode Six features George Stephenson, one of the many northern inventors who helped launch the Industrial Revolution. Melvyn Bragg believes the Industrial Revolution is the greatest Revolution the world has ever seen - and its heart lies in the North of England. In this programme he pays tribute to the men who nurtured that great revolution. The inventors and engineers - often from very humble beginnings - whose discoveries would shape the world to this day. One of the greatest was the north east's George Stephenson, whose Rocket locomotive heralded the age of the railways. The programme starts with the writer Frank Cottrell Boyce - who ( in collaboration with Danny Boyle ) put the Industrial Revolution centre stage at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony. Melvyn met him at Rainhill near Liverpool where Rocket took part in a famous trial. Of course, Stephenson wasn't the only great inventor of the period - the great machines of the cotton industry can also be claimed by the north - the genius of Samuel Crompton and his Spinning Mule is celebrated. The façade of Sheffield Town Hall is emblazoned with scenes of industry, but why wonders Melvyn are the achievements of these great men not celebrated more? Why aren't they as much a part of our national mythology as Tudor Monarchs? Contributors Frank Cottrell Boyce Professor Hannah Barker, University of Manchester Professor Robert Colls, De Montfort University Matthew Watson, Bolton Museum Professor Richard Horrocks, University of Bolton Producer: Faith Lawrence.

Lakes and Moors: The Power of Northern Landscapes  

Northern landscapes take centre stage in Episode Five as Melvyn Bragg celebrates the fells, lakes and moors that he loves. He meets mountaineer Chris Bonington in North Cumbria and goes on to see how, over the last 200 years the North has provided inspiration for great writers, some of the greatest in the language - Wordsworth, Coleridge, the Brontës - and painters, Ruskin and Turner. The landscape inspired Coleridge, and he came up with the word mountaineering and he's believed to be the first man to climb every peak in the Lake District. Melvyn visits the home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth at Dove Cottage in the Lake District. The area around Coniston water was home to John Ruskin. The poet Ted Hughes, lived in Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire...and Melvyn says that it's impossible to think northern moorland without bringing to mind the way the Brontës have inscribed themselves on the landscape. Contributors Professor Simon Bainbridge, Lancaster University Professor Sally Bushell, Lancaster University Chris Bonington Howard Hull, Brantwood, Ruskin's House Julian Cooper Simon Armitage Syima Aslam, Bradford Literature Festival Irna Qureshi, Bradford Literature Festival Producer: Faith Lawrence.

The Rebellious Tongues of the North  

Episode Four is the story of rebellion and dissent in the north - and the way northern dialect is beginning to be marginalised and even mocked. Melvyn Bragg begins at Clifford's Tower in York, site of a Norman fortress built to keep the north under control. It was also the site centuries later, where Robert Aske - one of the leaders of The Pilgrimage of Grace (a great Catholic Rebellion) was executed. It's in York that St Margaret Clitherow was tortured to death. Melvyn goes to Riveaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire and finds evidence that the monks were on the brink of producing high quality cast iron and even blast furnaces. If the Reformation hadn't happened could the Industrial Revolution have begun here hundreds of years earlier? Melvyn examines how the south is coming to view the north - and its dialect. There is an idea that northern kinds of English are less prestigious. An idea that persists. Melvyn discusses this with Joan Bakewell. The poet Simon Armitage celebrates the speech patterns of the medieval poetic masterpiece 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and Melvyn meets Dame Judi Dench who remembers her time performing the York Mystery Plays. Contributors Jonnie Robinson, British Library Joan Bakewell Simon Armitage Judi Dench Toby Gordon Natalie McCaul, Yorkshire Museum Dr Sarah Bastow, University of Huddersfield Susan Harrison, English Heritage Prof Andy Wood, Durham University Producer: Faith Lawrence.

Invasion: Vikings and Normans  

In programme 3 Melvyn Bragg tells the stories of two sets of Vikings who left a permanent mark on the North of England - the Scandinavians who came from the East and the Norsemen who had alchemised into Normans, and came from the South. The Vikings shaped the English language and it is suggested that the key to their linguistic imprint on the North is likely to have been down to Viking women, as well as men, settling in this region, passing the language onto their children. Evidence of Viking presence persists today: scree, fell, gable, gill, tarns, rake, horse, house, husband, wife and egg. All Norse words. Melvyn visits the Gosforth Cross, which blends Anglo Saxon Christianity with Pagan Norse mythology. The cross is unique. There's no other like it anywhere in the world. The North then became victim to their distant cousins the Normans, who swept northwards with savage force, laying waste to much of it - the infamous harrying of the north. The increasing power of London and the south began to take real shape and the north looked to the Scottish Kings, in some cases preferring Scots rule to that of the distant southern monarchs. Contributors Professor Judith Jesch, University of Nottingham Dr Matthew Townend, University of York Professor Nick Higham, University of Manchester Professor Keith Stringer, Lancaster University Bill Lloyd Producer: Faith Lawrence.

The Glories of Northumbria  

Episode Two features the glories of the glittering Northumbrian Renaissance. Melvyn begins with the Ruthwell Cross - now in Scotland - it is possible that it is inscribed with the world's oldest surviving text of English poetry - it has been described as one of the greatest art works of the Middle Ages. Melvyn travels to Jarrow to tell the story of Bede, known as the father of English History and author or The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, one of the most important books of the age. As well as writing history Bede was also one of the first people to describe the relationship between the moon and the tides. Melvyn crosses the causeway to Holy Island where the Lindisfarne Gospels were created and visits the British Library where they are preserved. The man who made the Gospels was an artist and a scientist, inventing the pencil 300 years before it was in common use. Melvyn ends in Durham Cathedral alongside the shrines of Bede and St Cuthbert - the latter occupying a special place in the hearts of local people who refer to him simply as Cuddy. Contributors Dr Chris Jones, University of St Andrews Professor Nick Higham, University of Manchester Claire Breay, British Library Professor Michelle Brown, School of Advanced Study, University of London Revd Canon Rosalind Brown, Durham Cathedral Professor Richard Gameson, Durham University Producer: Faith Lawrence.

The Origins of the North  

In this 10 part series Melvyn Bragg brings all his passion and knowledge to a subject that has enthralled and fascinated him throughout his life - the pivotal role of England's North in the shaping of modern Britain. As he traces the ebb and flow of Northern power he examines how this relatively small geographical area has had a profound effect of every part of the globe - its ideas and inventions, sport and music. Melvyn Bragg begins the series atop Hadrian's Wall looking down onto the North of England. Programme One begins as the Roman Empire loses it grip on the area. Melvyn returns to the seaside town of Maryport in Cumbria - which he visited as a boy - and which displays an extensive collection of Roman military altar stones. Melvyn travels to Lindisfarne or Holy Island off the coast of Northumbria which became a crucial centre for the spread of Christianity coming from the west - and was to play no small part in shaping the fortunes of Northumbria and its Anglian royal family. Melvyn goes to Whitby in North Yorkshire - home of the great Abbey and its remarkable Abbess St Hilda and discusses the power well-born women could wield in the early church. He discusses the Northumbrian King Ecgfrith, one of the most powerful men of his day, who laid the basis for what was to be one of the great Renaissance moments in western civilisation. Professor Nick Higham's biography 'Ecgfrith' (Paul Watkins Publishing) recounts how he was killed in a battle against the Picts in Scotland. Melvyn asks what might have happened if Ecgfrith had won - the answer is that Scotland as we know it today may have never existed and the capital of Britain could well have been in the North, possibly in York. Contributors: Judi Dench Michael Parkinson Joan Bakewell Ian McMillan Professor Nick Higham, University of Manchester Professor Ian Haynes, Newcastle University Professor Katy Cubitt, University of York Producer: Faith Lawrence.

Welcome to The Matter of the North  

Welcome to this new BBC podcast. The first episode will be published within seven days.

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