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Front Row


Radio 4's daily live magazine programme reporting on the world of arts, literature, film, media and music.

Radio 4's daily live magazine programme reporting on the world of arts, literature, film, media and music.
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London, United Kingdom




Radio 4's daily live magazine programme reporting on the world of arts, literature, film, media and music.






Mike Leigh on Peterloo, CJ Sansom, The rise of adult gaming

Mike Leigh discusses his latest film Peterloo, an historical epic that depicts the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter's Field in Manchester turned into one of the most notorious episodes in British history. The massacre saw British government forces charge into a crowd of over 60,000 that had gathered to demand political reform. Novelist CJ Sansom discusses Tombland, his latest in his Tudor mystery series. The Lady Elizabeth sends lawyer Matthew...


Author Luke Jennings on his Killing Eve trilogy, Disgusting artworks, Maggie Gyllenhaal on The Deuce

Author Luke Jennings on his Killing Eve novels, which inspired the recent television series. Jennings reveals what motivated him to create the ruthless assassin, Villanelle, and Eve, the agent hunting her, and the somewhat bizarre relationship the two of them seem to have. Revulsion is one of the strongest human reactions and if art is designed to instil an emotional response in the viewer, what is the role of disgust in art? As Halloween approaches we explore what makes us disgusted and how...


The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Billboard art and US politics, Emma Rice and Wise Children

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: the author Heather Morris talks about her novel, based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, who tattooed numbers on prisoners’ wrists at Auschwitz/Birkenau and tattooed and fell in love with a young Jewish woman who survived and became his wife. Billboard art and politics: in the US more than 100 artists have designed billboards to encourage political participation, to be erected in each of the 50 states ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November....


Eric Idle, Halloween, Cicely Berry remembered, The House of Commons library

Eric Idle is of course a member of the comedy phenomenon Monty Python. His autobiography, or as he fashions it sortabiography, is called Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, after the song he wrote for the end of the troupe’s controversial 1979 film, Life of Brian. He’ll be talking about his role in Python, his career, his friendships with the likes of George Harrison and David Bowie, and the creation of Spamalot. The latest Halloween film is the 11th in the long-running Halloween...


Gerard Butler, Male body in movies, Novelist Olga Tokarczuk

Gerard Butler talks to John Wilson about starring alongside Gary Oldman in his latest action film, Hunter Killer. Set deep under the Arctic Ocean, Butler plays an American submarine captain on the hunt for another US vessel in distress when he discovers a secret Russian coup that could lead to another world war. Bigger budgets, bigger explosions and bigger torsos seem to be dominating our movie screens, with actors such as Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg known for their intense workout...


Playing Linda Loman, Informer, Geology-inspired art, Ciarán Hodgers

Willy Loman is very much the heart and soul of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer-prizewinning play, Death of a Salesman. However as a new production opens at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, two actors Maureen Beattie and Marion Bailey - who have played the role of Linda Loman- join Stig to discuss what they found when they played the salesman’s wife. Crime novelist AA Dhand reviews ‘Informer’ a new criminal intelligence thriller set in East London about a police informant programme targeting...


#MeToo one year on - what's changed in the arts?

#MeToo one year on – what impact has the hashtag popularised by Hollywood actresses had on the arts and on women around the world? We speak to Jude Kelly, Founder & Director of the Women Of the World Foundation, film critic Larushka Ivan Zadeh, Helen Lewis, Associate Editor Of The New Statesman, and to Naomi Pohl, Assistant General Secretary Of The Musicians Union. Forgotten is a new play about the Chinese Labour Corps, the 140,000 Chinese men who at the height of the First World War...


Paul Greengrass on 22 July, Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence, How can arts organisations thrive?

The 2011 Norwegian terrorist attack at Utøya island summer camp has been made into a film by Paul Greengrass. The director, whose previous work includes the Jason Bourne thrillers, Bloody Sunday and Captain Phillips, explains his approach to making such an emotional and politically charged picture, which shows both the attack itself and the perpetrator Anders Breivik’s justifying his actions in court. Best mates and actors Lisa Hammond (formerly of EastEnders) and Rachael Spence wanted to...


Desiree Akhavan, Bad Times at the El Royale, 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize, Mother Courage

Desiree Akhavan has not only co-written Channel 4's new comedy drama The Bisexual, but directs and stars in it as well. The series centres on Leila, who after splitting from her long-term girlfriend, attempts to navigate the dating scene as she becomes involved with both men and women. Film critic Rhianna Dhillon reviews ensemble thriller Bad Times at the El Royal starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Johnson, where seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at a rundown...


Reading and Mental Health

When Stig Abell was in his mid-twenties he went through a period where he would wake up in the middle of the night uncontrollably anxious and found reading, especially the novels of PG Wodehouse, provided respite. In this special programme on World Mental Health Day, Stig goes on a journey to try and understand what it is about reading which can improve mental well-being, and talks to writers Marian Keyes and Laura Freeman, and comedian Russell Kane about the role reading has played in...


The swimming pool in art, Kwame Kwei-Armah's Twelfth Night, Poet Jean Sprackland

An entire disused swimming pool has been built on the ground floor of the Whitechapel Gallery in London for the new exhibition from the Scandinavian duo Elmgreen & Dragset. The artists discuss how they have been inspired by the work of David Hockney and Ed Ruscha. Then film critic Mark Eccleston art critic Jacky Klein and artist and former Canadian national competitive swimmer Leanne Shapton reflect on the swimming pool in the arts. Kwame Kwei-Armah opens his first season as the Artistic...


Bernard Cribbins, Claire Foy and Ryan Gosling on First Man, Butterfly

The actor and entertainer Bernard Cribbins, who will be 90 in December, discusses his new memoir Bernard Who?: 75 Years of Doing Just About Everything, in which he tells his own story, very much in his own way, about a busy career which includes Jackanory , Right Said Fred, Doctor Who, The Wombles, Shakespeare, Hitchcock’s Frenzy, The Railway Children, Crooks in Cloisters, three Carry On films and lots of radio. La La Land duo Ryan Gosling and director Damien Chazelle reunite for First Man,...


Jodie Whittaker on Doctor Who, Quentin Blake, Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendatore

“It’s about time” is the tagline for the new Doctor Who series, referencing the programme’s time-travelling exploits, but also the arrival of the first female Doctor in the show's history. Jodie Whittaker will be the 13th Doctor and tells us how she's tackling a role with so much history, attention and anticipation around it. Haruki Murakami's novels are awaited by eager audiences not just in his native Japan but the world over. Killing Commendatore is his latest and it delivers all the...


Alice Walker, Yayoi Kusama and a poem for National Poetry Day from Sean Street

Alice Walker is famous for prose books such as The Color Purple and In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. But her first book was a collection of poems and she has published eight more. Alice talks about her latest, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart, which ranges from poems of rage about injustice, poems of praise to great figures - BB King for instance - and celebration of the ordinary like making frittatas. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known for her pumpkin installations and her obsession...


The art of physical comedy, Damien Hirst, Andre Aciman, The impact of the arts on mental health

In the week Rowan Atkinson returns to the big screen as the hapless spy in Johnny English Strikes Again, which sees him batter innocent bystanders and himself in a series of pratfalls, we look at the art of physical comedy. Jonathan Sayer of Mischief Theatre, classicist and stand-up Natalie Haynes and Dr Oliver Double of the University of Kent attempt to answer an eternal question: why is the unfortunate mishap hilarious - so long as someone else is falling off the ladder? Damien Hirst has...


BBC National Short Story Award Winner

We announce the winner of the 2018 BBC National Short Story Award and the Young Writers' Award live from West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge and celebrate the power and possibilities of the short story. Judges Sarah Howe and Stig Abell discuss the merits of the entries from the shortlisted authors. In contention for the £15,000 prize are Kerry Andrew, Sarah Hall, Kiare Ladner, Ingrid Persaud and Nell Stevens. Radio 1 presenter Katie Thistleton will also announce the winner of the BBC Young...


Sarah Perry, The Cry, Cultural First Aid

Sarah Perry discusses Melmoth, her eagerly awaited novel after her award-winning The Essex Serpent. Her new novel is about an English translator who, hiding from her past in Prague, uncovers the legend of Melmoth – a woman in black who wanders the world bearing witness to humanity’s worst crimes. BBC1’s new Sunday night drama is a television adaptation of Helen Fitzgerald’s novel The Cry, in which the abduction of a baby leads to the psychological disintegration of a young woman. Emma...


Contains Strong Language festival, Sean Scully, A Northern Soul

After being appointed director of last year’s opening event for Hull’s year as City of Culture, award-winning and Hull-born filmmaker Sean McAllister decided to make a documentary looking at the impact of the City of Culture on Hullensians by following the work of one man to set up a hip-hop project for disadvantaged kids. He discusses the result, A Northern Soul, and explains his current efforts to challenge the film’s certification. Jamaican-born Poet Tanya Shirley is one of the Hull 18, a...


Lord of the Flies, Silence in art, Javier Marias

In Theatr Clywd’s new production of William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies, the group of schoolboys stranded on a remote island have all been reimagined as girls. Critic Gary Raymond reviews. Forty playwrights and actors have accused National Theatre Wales of favouring English artists and companies over Welsh ones. In an open letter on the Wales Arts Review website, the Welsh artists also claim that the company is staging too few productions and say that non-Welsh artists and...


The Goodies, Holst's The Planets at 100, Debris Stevenson

Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie - The Goodies - join Samira to look back at their 1970s cult comedy series. As a complete box set of every episode is released, they reflect on their comedy writing that tackled police brutality, redefined comedy music and introduced television audiences to the little-known Lancastrian martial-art Ecky Thump. This week marks the centenary of the first performance of Gustav Holst's hugely popular orchestral suite The Planets. Composer and...