The Reith Lectures

The Reith Lectures

United Kingdom

Significant international thinkers deliver the BBC's flagship annual lecture series


The Idea of Wellbeing  

The surgeon and writer Atul Gawande calls for a new focus on medical systems to ensure doctors work more effectively, alongside far greater transparency about their performance. Speaking to an audience at the India International Centre in Delhi, he describes the story of medicine over the last century through the prism of his own family. From a grandmother who died in rural India from malaria - a preventable disease - to the high-tech medicine of today. He argues that despite its scientific advances, medicine has failed to exploit its knowledge successfully. In both the developed and developing world doctors do not carry out basic procedures effectively and often do not act in the best interests of their patients. He calls for wide-ranging research into the systems by which medical care is delivered, alongside far greater transparency about performance. The Reith Lectures are introduced and chaired by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.

The Problem of Hubris  

Surgeon and writer Atul Gawande calls for a new approach to the two great unfixable problems in life and healthcare - ageing and death. He tells the story of how his daughter's piano teacher faced up to terminal cancer and the crucial choices she made about how to spend her final days. He says the teacher was only able to do this because of an essential honesty from her physicians and the people around her. Dr. Gawande argues that the common reluctance of society and medical institutions to recognise the limits of what professionals can do can end up increasing the suffering of patients towards the end of life. He proposes that both doctors and individuals ask a series of simple but penetrating questions to decide what kind of treatment is appropriate - or whether treatment is appropriate at all. And he praises the values of the hospice movement, in putting quality of life before prolonging life. The programme was recorded at The Royal Society in Edinburgh in front of an audience. The Reith Lectures are introduced and chaired by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.

The Century of the System  

The surgeon and writer Atul Gawande argues that better systems can transform global healthcare by radically reducing the chance of mistakes and increasing the chance of successful outcomes. He tells the story of how a little-known hospital in Austria managed to develop a complex yet highly effective system for dealing with victims of drowning. He says that the lesson from this dramatic narrative is that effective systems can provide major improvements in success rates for surgery and other medical procedures. Even a simple checklist - of the kind routinely used in the aviation industry - can be remarkably effective. And he argues that these systems have the power to transform care from the richest parts of the world to the poorest. The programme was recorded at The Wellcome Collection in London before an audience. The Reith Lectures are chaired and introduced by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.

Why Do Doctors Fail?  

Surgeon and writer Atul Gawande explores the nature of fallibility and suggests that preventing avoidable mistakes is a key challenge for the future of medicine. Through the story of a life-threatening condition which affected his own baby son, Dr. Gawande suggests that the medical profession needs to understand how best to deploy the enormous arsenal of knowledge which it has acquired. And his challenge for global health is to address the inequalities in access to resources and expertise both within and between countries. This first of four lectures was recorded before an audience at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dr. Gawande's home town of Boston in Massachusetts. The other lectures are recorded in London, Edinburgh and Delhi. The series is introduced and chaired by Sue Lawley. The producer is Jim Frank.

I Found Myself in the Art World  

In the last of his four Reith Lectures, recorded in front of an audience at Central St Martins School of Art in London, the artist Grayson Perry discusses his life in the art world; the journey from the unconscious child playing with paint, to the award-winning successful artist of today. He talks about being an outsider and how he struggles with keeping his integrity as an artist. Perry looks back and asks why men and women throughout history, despite all the various privations they suffered, have always made art. And he discusses the central purpose of creating art - to heal psychic wounds and to make meaning. Perry was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003 and is well known for his ceramic works, printmaking, drawing, sculpture and tapestry. He is also known as one of Britain's most famous cross-dressers as alter ego Claire. The Reith Lectures are presented by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.

Nice Rebellion, Welcome In!  

In the third of four lectures, recorded in front of an audience at The Guildhall in Londonderry, the artist Grayson Perry asks if revolution is a defining idea in art, or has it met its end? Perry says the world of art seems to be strongly associated with novelty. He argues that the mainstream media seems particularly drawn to the idea of there being an avant-garde: work is always described as being "cutting edge," artists are "radical," shows are "mould-breaking," ideas are "ground-breaking," "game-changing" or "revolutionary," We are forever being told that a new paradigm is being set. Perry says we have reached the final state of art. Not an end game, as there will always be great new art, but that art has lost one of its central tenets: its ability to shock. We have seen it all before. Grayson Perry was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003 and is the first contemporary artist to deliver the Reith Lectures. He is best known for his ceramic works, print making, drawing, sculpture and tapestries as well as being a flamboyant cross-dresser. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Sue Lawley and produced by Jim Frank.

Beating the Bounds  

The award-winning artist Grayson Perry asks whether it is really true that anything can be art. We live in an age when many contemporary artists follow the example of Marcel Duchamp, who famously declared that a urinal was a work of art. It sometimes seems that anything qualifies, from a pile of sweets on a gallery floor to an Oscar-winning actress asleep in a box. How does the ordinary art lover decide?In a lecture delivered amidst the Victorian splendour of St. George's Hall in Liverpool, Perry analyses with characteristic wit the common tests - from commercial worth to public popularity to aesthetic value. He admits the inadequacies of such yardsticks, especially when applied to much conceptual and performance art. And he concludes that in his opinion, the quality most valued in the art world is seriousness.Producer: Jim Frank.

Democracy Has Bad Taste  

In the first of four lectures, recorded in front of an audience at Tate Modern in London, the artist Grayson Perry reflects on the idea of quality and examines who and what defines what we see and value as art. He argues that there is no empirical way to judge quality in art. Instead the validation of quality rests in the hands of a tightknit group of people at the heart of the art world including curators, dealers, collectors and critics who decide in the end what ends up in galleries and museums. Often the last to have a say are the public.Perry examines the words and language that have developed around art critique, including what he sees as the growing tendency to over-intellectualise the response to art. He analyses the art market and quotes - with some irony - an insider who says that certain colours sell better than others. He queries whether familiarity makes us like certain artworks more, and encourages the public to learn to appreciate different forms of art through exploration and open-mindedness. Perry was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003, and is known for his ceramic works, printmaking, drawing, sculpture and tapestry as well as for his cross-dressing and alter-ego, Claire. The Reith lectures are presented and chaired by Sue Lawley. Producer: Jim Frank.

Civil and Uncivil Societies  

The historian Niall Ferguson examines institutions outside the political, economic and legal realms, whose primary purpose is to preserve and transmit particular knowledge and values. In a lecture delivered at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, he asks if the modern state is quietly killing civil society in the Western world? And what can non-Western societies do to build a vibrant civil society? Producer: Jane Beresford.

The Landscape of the Law  

The historian Niall Ferguson delivers a lecture at Gresham College in the heart of legal London, addressing the relationship between the nature of law and economic success. He examines the rule of law in comparative terms, asking how far the common law's claims to superiority over other systems are credible. Are we living through a time of creeping legal degeneration in the English-speaking world? Producer: Jane Beresford.

The Darwinian Economy  

The eminent economic historian Niall Ferguson travels to the world's financial centre to deliver a lecture at the New-York Historical Society. He reflects on the causes of the global financial crisis, and argues that many people have drawn erroneous conclusions from it about the role of regulation. Is regulation, he asks, in fact "the disease of which it purports to be the cure"? Producer: Jane Beresford.

The Human Hive  

The eminent economic historian Professor Niall Ferguson argues that institutions determine the success or failure of nations. In a lecture delivered at the London School of Economics and Political Science, he says that a society governed by abstract, impersonal rules will become richer than one ruled by personal relationships. The rule of law is crucial to the creation of a modern economy and its early adoption is the reason why Western nations grew so powerful in the modern age. But are the institutions of the West now degenerating? Professor Ferguson asks whether the democratic system has a fatal flaw at its heart. In the West young people are confronting the fact that they must live with the huge financial debt generated by their parents, something they had no control over despite the fact that they were born into a democracy. Is there a way of restoring the compact between different generations? Producer: Jane Beresford.

Eliza Manningham-Buller: Freedom  

In this third and final Reith lecture the former Director General of the security service (MI5), Eliza Manningham-Buller, discusses policy priorities since 9.11. She reflects on the Arab Spring, and argues that the West's support of authoritarian regimes did, to some extent, fuel the growth of Al-Qaeda. The lecture also considers when we should talk to "terrorists".

Eliza Manningham-Buller: Security  

The former Director-General of the Security Service (MI5), Eliza Manningham-Buller gives the second of her BBC Reith Lectures 2011. In this lecture called " Security" she argues that the security and intelligence services in a democracy have a good record of protecting and preserving freedom.

Eliza Manningham-Buller: Terror  

The former Director-General of the Security Service (MI5), Eliza Manningham-Buller gives the first of her BBC Reith Lectures 2011 called " Terror." On the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the United States on September 11th she reflects on the lasting significance of that day. Was it a "terrorist" crime, an act of war or something different?

Aung San Suu Kyi: Dissent  

The pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, examines what drives people to dissent in the second of the 2011 Reith Lecture series. 'Securing Freedom'. Reflecting on the history of her own party, the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, examines the meaning of opposition and dissident. She also explains her reasons for following the path of non-violence.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Liberty  

The Burmese pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, explores what freedom means in the first of the 2011 Reith Lecture series, 'Securing Freedom'. Reflecting on her own experience under house arrest in Burma, she explores the universal human aspiration to be free and the spirit which drives people to dissent. She also comments on the Arab Spring, comparing the event that triggered last December's revolution in Tunisia with the death of a student during a protest in Burma in 1988.

The Runaway World  

THE REITH LECTURES 2010 4. The Runaway World In the last Reith Lecture of 2010, Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, explores how fast our world is moving in the 21st century. Speaking at the Open University in Milton Keynes, the home of online learning, he acknowledges how the internet and other technologies have transformed our lives. Now he calls on politicians and other authorities to provide the funding that will keep the UK among the world's front runners in scientific research and discovery. Without money and without education to attract young people into science, the UK is in danger of falling behind China and other countries in the Far East that are investing heavily in their science and technology sectors. Professor Rees ends his series of lectures evoking memories of the 'glorious' Ely Cathedral, near Cambridge, a monument built to last a thousand years. If we, like the cathedral builders, redirect our energies and focus on the long-term, he believes together we can solve the problems that face our planet, and secure its future for billions of people worldwide and for generations to come. Producer: Kirsten Lass Editor: Sue Ellis.

What We'll Never Know  

3. What We'll Never Know In the third of this year's Reith Lectures, recorded at the Royal Society during its 350th anniversary year, its President Martin Rees continues to explore the challenges facing science in the 21st century. He stresses there are things that will always lie beyond our sphere of comprehension and we should accept these limits to our knowledge. On the other hand, there are things we've never even dreamt of that will one day be ours to explore and understand. The outcome of the quest for alien life will revolutionise our sense of self in the next two decades. But some things -- like travelling back in time -- will never happen.

Surviving the Century  

Lecture 2: 'Surviving the Century' In the second of this year's Reith Lectures, recorded for the first time in Wales in the National Museum Cardiff, Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, continues to explore the challenges facing science in the 21st century. Our planet is coming under increasing strain from climate change, population explosion and food shortages. How can we use science to help us solve the crisis that we are moving rapidly towards, as we use up our natural resources ever more quickly? Professor Rees explores the urgent need to substantially reduce our global CO2 emissions, or the atmospheric concentration will reach truly threatening levels. To do this, we need international cooperation, and global funding for clean and green technologies. He calls for the UK to keep one step ahead of other countries by developing technologies to reduce emissions, and says we should take the lead in wave and tidal energy, among other solutions. Science brings innovation but also risk, and random elements including fanatics can abuse new technologies to threaten our planet in ways we never dreamt of. The challenge, for our scientists, governments and people, is to confront the threats to our planet and find the solutions in science.

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