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Start the Week


Start The Week sets the cultural agenda for the week ahead, with high-profile guests discussing the ideas behind their work in the fields of art, literature, film, science, history, society and politics.

Start The Week sets the cultural agenda for the week ahead, with high-profile guests discussing the ideas behind their work in the fields of art, literature, film, science, history, society and politics.
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London, United Kingdom




Start The Week sets the cultural agenda for the week ahead, with high-profile guests discussing the ideas behind their work in the fields of art, literature, film, science, history, society and politics.




1968: radicals, riots and jazz

Fifty years after radicals took to the streets of Paris and stormed campuses across the Western World, Andrew Marr unpicks the legacy of 1968. Historian Richard Vinen finds waves of protest across the western world in his book The Long '68: Radical Protest and Its Enemies. Some movements were genuinely revolutionary, such as the ten million French workers whose strike nearly toppled the government. But on American university campuses and in British art schools, protests took the forms of...


The Good Samaritan

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes makes a case for cash handouts to the poor. He tells Andrew Marr that having become exceptionally wealthy he is looking for the most efficient way to give something back to society, and a Universal Basic Income is among his ideas. But the Oxford academic Ian Goldin argues that UBI is an intellectual sticking plaster. He suggests targeted benefits, better taxation and philanthropy may be the answers to today's growing inequality and the prospect of mass job...


Faith and Doubt

Amol Rajan discusses faith and doubt. Religion is a recurrent theme in Naomi Alderman's novels. Her first book, Disobedience, explored a Jewish girl's split with orthodox religion, while in Liar's Gospel she told multiple stories of Jesus through the eyes of those around him. Obedience was a virtue for the nuns of sixteenth-century Italy, but the music they wrote and sang was far less virtuous. Music professor and performer Laurie Stras has unearthed sensual and experimental works by nuns...


Love and Loss

Sue Black spends much of her time with dead bodies. As one of the world's leading forensic anthropologists she has encountered death in many forms, leading British expeditions to Kosovo and to Thailand following the Boxing Day Tsunami. She tells Andrew Marr what ancient cadavers and recent corpses can teach us about mortality. Medieval depictions of death and injury don't shy away from the grotesque, says art historian Jack Hartnell. The mutilated bodies of saints and martyrs were often on...


In Praise of Passion

We are drawn to wildness and disorder, argues historian Bettany Hughes. She tells Andrew Marr about the attraction of Bacchus, the god of wine and fertility, and the subject of a new BBC Four documentary. Bacchus (also known as Dionysus) has been a symbol of excess ever since Roman maidens fled to the woods and drank wine in his name. Hughes follows the Bacchic cult through history, and argues that chaos has been as important to civilisation as reason and restraint. The wood - scene of so...


Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead

At the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead Lionel Shriver discusses her new collection of short stories Property with Kirsty Wark. While Lionel Shriver explores our relationship with objects and places, and asks what the increasing accumulation of things may be doing to the soul, the sociologist Bev Skeggs explores how we are being bought and sold in the digital sphere. She also counts the cost of the monetisation of human relations and highlights communities in the North of England...


Art and Civilisations

What is art - and why do we need it? Fifty years ago the landmark BBC Two series Civilisation set out to answer this question. Now historians Mary Beard, Simon Schama and David Olusoga take on this challenge of defining human civilisation through art, in a bold update renamed Civilisations. Mary Beard tells Andrew Marr how humans have chosen to depict themselves, from enormous pre-historic heads in Mexico to lustful paintings meant for male eyes. She unpicks the bloody battle between...


Who Am I? The Brain and Personality

Brain damage can radically change a person's character - but does that mean they are no longer themselves? Consultant neurologist Jules Montague works with people suffering dementia and brain injuries. She tells Tom Sutcliffe what happens when the brain misbehaves. Memories may fade and names disappear - but does that mean a person no longer has the same identity? Behavioural scientist Nick Chater is sceptical about whether we have an inner self at all. His book The Mind is Flat exposes...


Fascism and the Enlightenment with Steven Pinker

Humanity is flourishing and the Enlightenment has worked, declares Steven Pinker. The Harvard psychologist has looked across health, prosperity, safety, peace and happiness, and sees signs that all are improving. He tells Andrew Marr how Enlightenment attitudes to reason and science have made this the best age in which to live. But Enlightenment values are under attack and Pinker calls for their vigorous defence. Dutch philosopher Rob Riemen also sees humanism under threat from fascism,...


Rise and Fall of the City

What would the perfect city look like? Today more people live in cities than ever before and that shapes the way we think, says sociologist Richard Sennett. He lays out a vision for a city of the future based not on ancient Greece but on new 'open' streets. Structural engineer Roma Agrawal charts the growth of cities from simple mud huts to the modern metropolis. She tells Amol Rajan about the engineering magic that holds towering city skylines in place, and recalls the eccentric engineers...


Money Makes the World Go Around

Andrew Marr discusses money, transformation and the obsession with growth with two leading economists: Diane Coyle and Dharshini David. Professor Coyle argues it's time to rethink the way we measure productivity, while the broadcaster Dharshini David follows the journey of a single dollar in her study of globalisation. The theatre director Anna Ledwich is more interested in the people whose lives revolve around the money markets: her latest play Dry Powder highlights their vulnerability,...


Mohsin Hamid on leaving home

With millions of people on the move around the world, the novelist Mohsin Hamid has set his latest novel against the backdrop of the refugee crisis. He tells Kirsty Wark how he imagined those fleeing home passing through mysterious black doors into other parts of the world. The lawyer and sociologist Carol Bohmer examines the culture of suspicion which greets migrants when they arrive. She looks at how officials judge the line between truth and deception, and increasingly label people as...


The Power of Art

Art was power for Britain's kings and queens. In a new BBC TV series, Andrew Graham-Dixon visits the paintings amassed by King Charles I, the first great royal collector in British history. He tells Andrew Marr why after Charles was executed his royal artworks were flogged across Europe. The lost royal collection will finally be reunited this year in an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. Historian Leanda de Lisle brings the Stuart monarch back to life in her biography White King. But...


Peter Carey on legacies of the past

The prize-winning novelist Peter Carey tackles head on for the first time the legacies of colonialism in his native Australia in his latest book, A Long Way From Home. He talks to Tom Sutcliffe about the damage and loss for the Stolen Generations. The writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch believes Britain is also a nation in denial about the past and present, and argues it's time to talk more openly about race and identity. The Dutch journalist Geert Mak once travelled the breadth of Europe...


Votes for Women

British women first got the vote a century ago this year. The social historian Jane Robinson tells Andrew Marr the suffrage movement is known for the actions of its militant wing and their call for 'deeds not words'. But thousands of ordinary women, known as suffragists, campaigned successfully to have their voices heard too. Political theorist Christopher Finlay asks whether violent political protest is ever justified, while the artist Peter Kennard explains how he was inspired by the...


Who governs Britain?

The former President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, questions how senior judges became cast as 'enemies of the people' last year. He tells Andrew Marr how the judiciary has grown more powerful and ready to challenge the government over the last half century - while professor of politics Tim Bale explores whether parliament has at the same time become weaker. Cicero was proscribed as an enemy of the people in the 1st century BC. Robert Harris's Cicero trilogy has now been dramatized...


The power and beauty of objects.

A mysterious doll's house is at the centre of Jessie Burton's novel The Miniaturist, now dramatised for television. Burton tells Tom Sutcliffe about the claustrophobic world she created amidst the wealthy merchant traders of 17th century Holland. The economist Jonathan Haskel points to the quiet revolution that has taken place since then, as developed countries now invest more in intangible assets like design and software, than in tangible goods like machinery and computers. He asks what...


Russia, religion and the Middle East

Totalitarianism has reclaimed Russia. So journalist Masha Gessen tells Andrew Marr. Her book 'The Future is History' follows four figures born as the Soviet Union crumbled and whose new-found freedom is being slowly eradicated. The Soviet Union banned religion but ranked citizens by "nationality" - with Jews near the bottom and ethnic Russians at the top. Dominic Rubin explores the country's relationship with religion in 'Russia's Muslim Heartlands', while Oxford professor Roy Allison...


Finland at 100

It is a hundred years since Finland declared independence following the Russian Revolution. Amol Rajan asks what is unique about Europe's most sparsely populated country. The conductor Sakari Oramo celebrates Finland's greatest composer Sibelius, while the curator Sointu Fritze looks at the work of Tove Jansson, famed for her cartoon creatures the Moomins as well as her daring political cartoons and images of the sea. The writer Horatio Clare travels around the frozen seas of Finland on...


Blood, guts and swearing robots

Victorian hospitals were known as 'houses of death' and their surgeons, who never washed their hands, were praised for their brute strength and speed. Lindsey Fitzharris tells Andrew Marr about the pioneering British surgeon Joseph Lister who transformed his profession. Anaesthesia was discovered in the 1840s but Professor Lesley Colvin says we're still learning about the complex relationship between the brain and the perception of pain, as well as understanding the potential harm of the...


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