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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




The Future

‘The future is a foreign country; they do things differently there’ – to misquote LP Hartley. Andrew Marr talks to Riel Miller, an economist at UNESCO, about the difficulties of understanding and predicting what happens in the future. Miller argues that individuals, institutions and governments fail to grasp its profound unpredictability, where the only certainty is radical change. He’s calling for a programme of future literacy, designed to challenge present complacency and improve...


Classics and class

The classics have never been solely the preserve of the British intellectual elite, according to the classicist Edith Hall. In A People’s History of Classics, Hall and her co-writer Henry Stead examine the working class experience of classical culture from the Bill of Rights in 1689 to the outbreak of World War II. This history challenges assumptions about the elitism surrounding the study of ancient Greeks and Romans, and Hall hopes it will expand the debate around the future of classical...


Richard Ford, writing from the edges

The prize winning writer Richard Ford talks to Andrew Marr about his latest collection of short stories, Sorry for Your Trouble. Irish America is Ford’s landscape, and his characters contemplate ageing, grief, love and marriage: ‘great moments in small lives’. Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi and has spent many years living in New Orleans – his characters, like himself, live far from the political centre of America. Professor of 19th Century Literature and Thought, Ruth Livesey, is also...


Art in an emergency

The writer Olivia Laing has long used art to make sense of the world. Over the last five years she has written a series of essays using art and artists to understand different political crises and emergencies around the globe. She tells Tom Sutcliffe how art can help to change the way people see the world, and how it can be a force for resistance and repair. In a new collection , Funny Weather, Laing presents her own idiosyncratic guide to staying sane during the current coronavirus...



Andrew Marr discusses the origins and growth of globalisation, and the impact of the coronavirus on the global world order with Valerie Hansen and Gideon Rachman. In her latest book, The Year 1000, the historian Valerie Hansen challenges the idea that globalisation began in 1492, the year Columbus discovered America. She argues that it was 500 years earlier when for the first time new trade routes linked the entire globe. New archaeological finds show how goods and people travelled far and...


Changing behaviour, from bystander to actor

Why do some people get involved while others stand by looking on? What makes people act for the sake of others? Kirsty Wark discusses the psychology of behaviour with Catherine Sanderson and David Halpern. In the Bystander Effect, Catherine Sanderson argues that the question of why some people act badly while others are heroic is not simply about good and bad. Our brains are hard-wired to conform and to avoid social embarrassment. But there are practical measures that can help create a sense...


Crisis in Europe from Notre-Dame to coronavirus

A year ago French people looked on with horror as the great Notre-Dame went up in flames. The journalist Agnès Poirier tells Andrew Marr that the cathedral with its 800 year history represents the soul of the nation. Even before the fire was out President Macron was promising that it would be rebuilt. But in Notre-Dame: The Soul of France, Poirier recounts how its current reconstruction has been mired in controversy – political, social, artistic and religious. Poirier also looks at how the...


Nature worship

On Easter Monday, Andrew Marr talks to the psychiatrist and keen gardener Sue Stuart-Smith on our love for nature. In The Well-Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World, she blends neuroscience, psychoanalysis and real-life stories. She reveals the remarkable effects that gardens and the great outdoors can have on us. William Wordsworth was the great poet of the British countryside, celebrated for his descriptions of daffodils and the passing of the river above Tintern Abbey....


The genetic gender gap

Women are faring better than men in the coronavirus pandemic because of their genetic superiority, according to the physician Sharon Moalem. He tells Kirsty Wark that women live longer than men and have stronger immune systems because they have two x chromosomes to choose from. In his book, The Better Half, Moalem calls for better understanding of the genetic gender gap and for a change to the male-centric, one-size-fits-all view of medical studies. But if women have greater advantage...


Rebuilding conservatism in changing times

Nick Timothy was once described as the ‘toxic’ power behind Theresa May’s early leadership. He talks to Amol Rajan about his experience in frontline government. In his new book, Remaking One Nation, he calls for the rebuilding of a more inclusive conservatism and the rejection of both extreme economic and cultural liberalism. As the Covid-19 pandemic forces the government to take more extreme measures, Timothy argues for a new social contract between the state, big companies and local...


Famous and Infamous

We think of our era as the age of celebrity. Billions of people follow the daily antics of the Kardashian family or the latest pop superstar. But celebrity obsession is centuries old, argues Horrible Histories writer Greg Jenner. He tells Tom Sutcliffe why we are captivated by famous - and infamous - figures, from the scandalous Lord Byron to the unwitting civilians who are hounded by paparazzi today. The Italian Renaissance gave us the world's most famous images: the Mona Lisa, Botticelli's...


Cultural icons from Shakespeare to Superman

Shakespeare has always been central to the American experience, argues the leading scholar James Shapiro. He tells Tom Sutcliffe how Shakespeare has been invoked – and at times weaponised – at pivotal moments in the history of America, from Revolutionary times to today’s divisionary politics. The film critic Mark Kermode celebrates another global phenomenon: cinematic superheroes. The genre stretches back more than eight decades and taps deeply into timeless themes and storytelling...


Morality, money and power

Morality has been outsourced to the markets and the state, argues the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. He tells Andrew Marr that society has become deeply divided, and that today’s challenges will never be met until we remember the importance of personal morality and responsibility. But this does not mean self-care, self-love and selfies - instead Sacks says we should focus on communities and caring for others. For a decade Mervyn King was the most influential banker in Britain as Head of...


Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Man Booker prize. In a special edition of Start the Week with Andrew Marr, she discusses the final book in her Cromwell trilogy. The Mirror and The Light shows 16th-century England beset by rebellion at home, traitors abroad and Henry VIII still desperate for a male heir. In the centre sits Thomas Cromwell, a man who came from nowhere and has climbed to the very heights of power. His vision is an England of the future, but it is the past and the...


Leila Slimani on Sexual Politics

Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. From stories of poverty, exploitation and sexual addiction she now turns her attention to sexual politics within a deeply conservative culture. She tells Amol Rajan why she wanted to give voice to young Moroccan women suffocating under the strictures of a society which allowed them only two roles: virgin or wife. The writer Olivia Fane questions whether liberal society is really that...


Love of home

Dan Jackson celebrates the distinctiveness of north-east England. He tells Andrew Marr how centuries of border warfare and dangerous industry has forged a unique people in Northumberland. With recent changes in political allegiance in towns and countryside across the region, Jackson questions whether the area can reassert itself after decades of industrial decline, indifference from the south, and resurgence north of the border. The economist Colin Mayer is looking at how to harness the...


Dresden - 75 years on

As the 75th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden approaches, the historian Sinclair McKay looks back at the obliteration of a city and its aftermath. He tells Tom Sutcliffe about the terrible suffering of the 25,000 people who were killed in one night. The artist Edmund de Waal is showcasing his latest work in Dresden. The installation ‘library of exile’ is a place of contemplation and dialogue, and celebrates the cultures of migration. De Waal also outlines the importance of Dresden...


Artistic influence: Beethoven, Rembrandt and MeToo

This year is Beethoven's 250th anniversary, and Sir Antonio Pappano is marking the occasion with a new production of Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio. He tells Andrew Marr how this work combined the composer's keen interest in politics with his bold new symphonic style. But Beethoven was never happy with the finished opera, and redrafted it many times. Pappano also tells Andrew about the enormous - and inescapable - influence Beethoven had on later generations. Rembrandt was another artist...


Grayson Perry - the early years

The artist Grayson Perry turns to his formative years in a new exhibition of early works, The Pre-Therapy Years. He tells Amol Rajan about the ideas and influences that helped lay the foundations for his work, and about the emergence of his own identity as ‘the Transvestite Potter’. Hashi Mohamed has a very different story of success: he is now a barrister but arrived in Britain aged nine as a child refugee from Somalia. He warns that his own path is denied to the majority of people in...


Puritans and God-given government

Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate in the mid-seventeenth century lasted a mere six years and was England’s sole experiment in republican government. The historian Paul Lay tells Andrew Marr how Cromwell forged both his foreign and domestic policy according to God’s will - including waging wars in the Americas. Protestant separatists are at the heart of Stephen Tomkins's recreation of the journey of the Mayflower, three decades before Cromwell’s rule. Escaping religious persecution, the Pilgrim...