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Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday


London, United Kingdom




Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday




Ali Smith

Ali Smith talks to Andrew Marr about Summer, the finale to her ambitious, ground-breaking Seasonal quartet of novels. Since 2016, the prize-winning writer has been working on a cycle of novels that not only explore the changing seasons, but reflect the times we are living in. With the tightest turnaround from manuscript to book, Smith’s ambition was to create real contemporaneous ‘state of the nation’ works. She reflects on a country voting on its future, people and families on the brink of...


Jackie Kay on Bessie Smith

Scotland’s former National Poet Jackie Kay celebrates the tempestuous life of the great blues singer, Bessie Smith. Born in Tennessee in 1894 Bessie was a street singer before she made it big at a time of racial violence and segregation. Jackie Kay remembers growing up as a young black girl in Glasgow and she tells Kirsty Wark how she idolised this iconic singer. In Time’s Witness the historian Rosemary Hill explores the historical shift in focus from the grand sweeping narratives of kings...


London - villain and victim?

Love it or hate it, London dominates the UK politically, economically and culturally. It’s nearly 200 years since one critic famously described the capital as ‘the Great Wen’ a monstrous cyst sucking the life blood from the rest of the country. And for many that belief still stands. In The London Problem: What Britain Gets Wrong About Its Capital City the academic, and Londoner, Jack Brown untangles the complex strands of anti-London rhetoric, separating hyperbole from fact. In 2019 the...


Lionel Shriver on life and death decisions

In a year when Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on families, with loved ones dying sometimes alone in hospital or without the usual funeral rites, Tom Sutcliffe and guests discuss mortality and what it means to have ‘a good death’. In her latest book, Should We Stay Or Should We Go, the writer Lionel Shriver explores a number of alternative endings. The couple at the centre of her novel make a pact to end their lives when they hit 80, to avoid a slow decline either physically or...


DH Lawrence: life and work

DH Lawrence was once a towering figure in literature in the 20th century but his reputation has taken a battering, with accusations of nostalgia, self-indulgence and misogyny. But Frances Wilson tells Andrew Marr that it’s time to look again at this complex and courageous man, and the full spectrum of work he produced – from his novels, poetry, criticism and letters. In Burning Man Wilson focuses on a decade in his life from the suppression of The Rainbow in 1915 through his years of...


On Thin Ice: Glaciers, Geopolitics, and Nature's Goods

Once-indomitable glaciers – from high up in the Himalayas to the polar regions – are today in grave peril, as our climate warms at an accelerating rate. The glaciologist Jemma Wadham says that melting ice sheets not only leads to meltwater overwhelming sensitive marine ecosystems but could also release vast quantities of methane. In her book Ice Rivers she shows that far from being freezing sterile environments, the world’s glaciers are teeming with microbial life, as rich and fascinating as...


Daniel Kahneman on 'noisy' human judgement

The Nobel prize-winning economist and Professor of Psychology Daniel Kahneman focuses his latest research on the high cost of inconsistent decision making. In Noise, co-authored with Oliver Sibony and Cass R Sunstein, he looks at why humans can be so unreliable, and what can be done about it. He tells Andrew Marr that people working in the same job often make wildly different judgements, influenced by factors like their current mood, when they last ate, even the weather. He argues that...


The opioid crisis and erosion of trust

The Sackler name is more often associated with philanthropy and lavish donations in the arts and sciences. But the investigative reporter Patrick Radden Keefe tells another story in Empire of Pain. He questions how much of the Sackler wealth was made from the making and aggressive marketing of the painkiller, Oxycontin. He tells Amol Rajan of the misery that has unfolded in today’s opioid crisis – an epidemic of drug addiction which has killed nearly half a million people in the US. The...


Art - plunder, power and prestige

The looting of art in war time is nothing new, but Napoleon took it to new heights: demanding of his defeated enemies across Italy their most valuable statues and paintings. Cynthia Saltzman’s Napoleon’s Plunder tells the story of how the most magnificent works of the High Renaissance – by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Veronese – went on triumphant display in the Louvre. She tells Andrew Marr how Paris was transformed during this period into the art capital of Europe, and the role...


Personal faith and the Church

What it means to be a black Christian woman in the UK is at the heart of Chine McDonald’s new book, God Is Not a White Man. Part memoir and part theological and historical study, McDonald looks back at the role the Christian faith has played over the centuries in perpetuating ideas of white supremacy. She tells Tom Sutcliffe that black women in the church have stayed silent too long. The writer Jeet Thayil re-imagines the story of the New Testament through the eyes of the women suppressed...


What if the Incas had colonised Europe?

The French writer Laurent Binet’s new book Civilisations is a flight of fancy re-imagining the modern world. He tells Andrew Marr that his counter-factual novel looks at what could have happened if the Vikings had made it to America, Columbus had failed, and the Incas and Aztecs had ended up fighting over the colonisation of Europe. Caroline Dodds Pennock, one of the world’s foremost historians of Mesoamerican culture, considers the experiences of Indigenous Americans (such as the Aztecs,...


Nuclear destruction

In 1962 the world teetered on the edge of nuclear destruction as the Presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union fought over Soviet warheads installed on the islands of Cuba. In Nuclear Folly: A New History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the historian Serhii Plokhy retells the tortuous decision-making and calculated brinkmanship of John F Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. He tells Amol Rajan it was ultimately fear that saved the planet, and it’s time to draw lessons from the many...


Defining mental illness

Reports of a mental health epidemic among young people both leading up to and during the pandemic are now widespread. Sally Holland is the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and a former social worker. She tells Andrew Marr that mental health services in Wales, and the rest of the UK, need a serious rethink, because too many children are waiting too long for help. But the health researcher and psychologist Lucy Foulkes asks whether we have become fixated with labelling the stresses and...


Trade deals and human rights – in Africa and China

Tom Tugendhat MP is the Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He tells Andrew Marr that he’s very much focused on British foreign policy priorities after Brexit. But the government’s new Trade Bill is facing opposition from those insisting that human rights abuses must be investigated before any deals are done. The MP for Tonbridge and Malling also highlights the need to be more aware of China’s economic ambitions and global role. Geeta Tharmaratnam is keen that more focus...


Newton: science and worldly riches

Edward St Aubyn is the award-winning author of the Patrick Melrose series. His new novel, Double Blind, also revolves around transformation and the headlong pursuit of knowledge. He tells Tom Sutcliffe that his characters range across the sciences – from genetics to ecology to psychoanalysis. And their investigations into inheritance, freedom and consciousness intertwine with their feelings of love, fear and greed. Isaac Newton is often revered as the scientific genius of the 18th century:...


Rights and responsibilities

The journalist Matthew d’Ancona attacks the torpor and complacency which has come to dominate the political landscape. In Identity, Ignorance, Innovation he analyses what’s gone wrong in Britain from education and social care, to technological inequality. He tells Andrew Marr that far from demonising identity politics, the right needs to embrace a diversity of voices. But identity politics has become a major battleground in the culture wars in Britain and the US. The writer Kenan Malik has...


Understanding Melancholy

400 years ago Robert Burton produced his labyrinthine masterpiece, The Anatomy of Melancholy – a work which was celebrated in the Renaissance for its understanding of the huge variety of causes, symptoms and cures of mental distress. In A User’s Guide To Melancholy the academic Mary Ann Lund looks back to this precursor of the self-help book. She tells Amol Rajan that we have much to learn from those who struggled with melancholy in the past. In Heavy Light, the writer Horatio Clare shares...


Monsters of the deep

The deep sea is the last, vast wilderness on Earth. In The Brilliant Abyss the marine biologist Helen Scales dives below the surface to tell the story of our relationship with the ocean floor. With an average depth of 12,000 feet it remains a frontier for new discoveries and extraordinary creatures. But Helen Scales warns Andrew Marr of the unfolding environmental disasters as people seek to exploit this new world, far beyond the public gaze. The writer Philip Hoare explores nature through...


Family struggles - from Greek tragedy to The Troubles

Kerri ní Dochartaigh was born in Derry-Londonderry at the height of the Troubles, to a Catholic mother and Protestant father. In Thin Places she traces a life affected by poverty, loss and violence, and the invisible border that runs through it. But she tells Kirsty Wark how the natural world has helped heal the traumas of childhood. For the writer Sally Bayley it was Shakespeare that brought her solace and ignited her imagination. Growing up in a working class household with no father...


Living online and IRL

What happens when real life collides with your digital existence – the writer and ‘Poet Laureate of Twitter’ Patricia Lockwood talks to Andrew Marr. In her highly original novel, No One is Talking About This, Lockwood’s narrator becomes overwhelmed as drama in the human world encroaches on the life she leads online. Roisin Kiberd is part of the internet generation and believes the line between online and IRL has become so porous as to become meaningless. From the lure of endless scrolling,...