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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.




From Ubermensch to Superman

The prize-winning novelist William Boyd has set his latest novel, Love Is Blind, at the turn of the 20th century. He tells Amol Rajan how his young Scottish protagonist travels across Europe in a tale of obsession, passion and music. Lust and violence combine in Strauss's opera Salome in which a young princess performs the Dance of the Seven Veils for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Director Adena Jacobs has put a bold new spin on the story for English National Opera in her...


David Attenborough: Life on Earth and Beyond

It is 40 years since Sir David Attenborough told the story of Life on Earth, from its very first spark 4 billion years ago to the abundance of plants and animals today. He tells Andrew Marr how more pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place over the last four decades. The German ornithologist Michael Quetting spent a year hand rearing seven goslings: caring for them as they hatched, helping them learn to swim, and teaching them to fly alongside his aircraft. The project is part of an...


The Reality of War

The Vietnam War was a 30-year conflict in which three million people died and the reputations of successive US presidents were wrecked. Max Hastings tells Andrew Marr about the extraordinary political meddling, strategic failure and lack of compassion that characterises that war. The historian Helen Parr was seven years old in 1982 when her uncle was killed in the Falklands War. She brings to life his experiences in the Parachute Regiment, often known as the Paras, an elite fighting force...


Storytelling at the Edinburgh Festivals

Andrew Marr presents a special edition of Start the Week at the Edinburgh Festivals, weaving together ancient stories and contemporary fiction - from Scotland to Iceland via ancient Greece. He speaks to award-winning writers Pat Barker, Sjón and James Robertson and the singer-songwriter Karine Polwart. Karine also performs live. Producer: Katy Hickman.


British culture and European influence

Britain has imported its culture from Europe for generations. Andrew Marr presents a special edition from Hatchlands Park in Surrey, home to the Cobbe Collection of musical instruments including pianos owned by Chopin, Mahler and Marie Antoinette. Frederic Chopin had a pan-European career. He swapped his native Poland for Paris, fled to Mallorca in search of sunshine and inspiration, and toured Britain twice, complaining bitterly about the 'crafty' locals and 'dreadful' British weather. But...


Shame, Status and Self-invention

Tina Brown was an Englishwoman barely out of her twenties when she arrived in New York. She transformed herself into a star magazine editor, at the helm of Vanity Fair and later the New Yorker. She tells Amol Rajan how the backstabbing and status-driven world of American politics allows figures like Donald Trump to triumph. Didier Eribon is one of France's leading philosophers and the biographer of Foucault. But he has only just "come out" as working class. In his memoir Returning to Reims...


Deserts and the Nuclear Age

One-third of the earth's surface is classified as desert. The writer William Atkins has travelled to eight of the world's hottest, driest places. He tells Andrew Marr about these forbidding, inhuman landscapes. The Arabian Desert lies mostly in Saudi Arabia but crosses borders from Egypt to Qatar, UAE to Oman. The economic analyst Jane Kinninmont looks at how this shared landscape affects regional politics and culture. In the 1950s deserts were the preferred places for Britain and America to...


Altered Minds

Psychedelic drugs are once again being trialled to treat a range of psychological conditions. The writer Mike Pollan tells Kirsty Wark about the science of LSD and magic mushrooms: from the 1940s to the 1960s they promised to shed light not only on the deep mysteries of consciousness, but also to offer relief from addiction and mental illness. Banned since the 1970s, there is now a resurgence of research into these mind-altering substances. While some psychiatrists were getting their...


Arundhati Roy on castes and outcasts

Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy's latest book weaves together the lives of the misfits and outcasts from India's bustling streets. Roy is famous as an advocate for the most vulnerable and dehumanised in Indian society. She tells Andrew Marr how her main character Anjum builds a small paradise for the dispossessed in a graveyard in Delhi. Ivan Mishukov walked out of his Moscow flat aged four and spent two years living on the city streets, where he found a home among a pack of wild...


Survival and Destruction

In a special edition at Hay Festival, Tom Sutcliffe explores success and failure, from Homer's epic poetry to global pandemics. The historian David Christian looks at the birth and development of the universe. He weaves together science, arts and humanities in his vast tale of human existence. Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate, The Odyssey, the great adventure story of classical literature. The historian Antony Beevor reconstructs the tragedy of Arnhem, the Battle for the Bridges...


Dark Satanic Mills

Giant factories are at the centre of Joshua Freeman's history of mass production. From the textile mills in England that powered the Industrial Revolution to the car plants of 20th century America and today's colossal sweat shops in Asia, Freeman tells Amol Rajan how factories have reflected both the hopes and fears of social change. The poems in Jane Commane's collection, Assembly Line, are set in a Midlands where ghosts haunt the deserted factory floor and the landscape is littered with...


Jordan Peterson: Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and YouTube sensation, professes to bring order to chaos in his 12 Rules for Life. He tells Tom Sutcliffe about the importance of individual responsibility, using lessons from humanity's oldest myths and stories. But his home truths are not without controversy: acclaimed by many, his critics accuse him of reinforcing traditional gender and family roles and attacking liberal values. Hashi Mohamed is the living embodiment of many of Peterson's life rules:...


The Death of Democracy

Will we recognise the signs that democracy has ended? Cambridge professor David Runciman worries that we spend far too much time comparing today's politics with the 1930s, and that this blinds us to the frailties of democracy today. He tells Amol Rajan why he thinks our current political system will come to an end - and why we may not even notice this happening. Professor Nic Cheeseman is all too aware that democracy can become an empty shell. His new book How To Rig An Election, co-written...


Mysteries of the Universe

The Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli delves into the meaning of time. He tells Andrew Marr how we live in a timeless world but have evolved to perceive time's flow. The astrophysicist Carole Mundell is interested in the extragalactic. Her studies of the universe beyond our Milky Way help expand knowledge of cosmic black holes and explain powerful explosions in space. Space travel is the new frontier, but exactly 250 years ago the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth seeking to test the limits of...


Life Is a Dream

Tom Sutcliffe discusses free will and fate; dreams and reality. Jesmyn Ward's prize-winning novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, set in the American South, is haunted by the ghosts of the past. Ward writes of incarceration and freedom, and the strength - and weakness - of family bonds. For his latest ballet, choreographer Kim Brandstrup has taken inspiration from Calderon's 17th century Spanish play Life is a Dream, in which a dire prophecy leads a King to imprison his son. Brandstrup uses...


1968: Radicals and Riots

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...