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Private Passions


Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives

Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives
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London, United Kingdom




Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives




Ronan Bennett

Ronan Bennett is a novelist and screenwriter whose latest drama series on the BBC, "Gunpowder", dramatizes the story of Guy Fawkes from the point of view of the Catholics, who were persecuted in England at the time. All through his substantial body of work Ronan Bennett has explored the roots of violence and terrorism, something he knows about from personal experience, having grown up as a Catholic in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. He was imprisoned twice as a young man, accused of IRA...

Duration: 00:33:34

Anna Pavord

Michael Berkeley's guest is Anna Pavord, the distinguished writer about gardens and landscape. Her best-known book is The Tulip, a biography of the bulb that created a mania in the 17th century, but she's written extensively about plants, and places, and spent years as gardening columnist of the Independent. Her latest book "Landskipping: painters, ploughmen and places", is an exploration of how, through the ages, we have responded to the land. The programme is recorded on location in the...

Duration: 00:31:36

Stephen Hugh-Jones

Stephen Hugh-Jones is a fellow of King's College Cambridge and has spent 45 years researching - and living among - the Amazonian Indians who live on the Equator, in South-Eastern Colombia. They are still one of the most remote peoples on earth, and when Dr Hugh-Jones and his wife Christine first went to live there, in the late 1960s, this was a people, and a culture, completely untouched by modern life. This was partly because people were afraid of them; they had a reputation for being...

Duration: 00:32:33

Janine di Giovanni

Janine di Giovanni has spent more than two decades reporting from some of the most dangerous places on earth: Sarajevo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Iraq, and Syria. She's the Middle East Editor of Newsweek, and writes for the New York Times, as well as for glossy magazines - winning numerous prizes, including two Amnesty International Media Awards. She's also written seven books - including most recently "Dispatches from Syria: The Morning They Came for Us", a moving account of the horror, and...

Duration: 00:32:57

Timberlake Wertenbaker

Timberlake Wertenbaker is one of our leading playwrights, adapters and translators. Her parents were American, but she was brought up in Basque country in France and has spent much of her life in Greece. Not surprising, then, that her major theme is exile, displacement, flight. She's best known for her play about convicts in 18th century Australia, "Our Country's Good", which was first staged in the late 1980s and which was revived recently at the National Theatre. It has become a set text...

Duration: 00:25:54

Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat is one of the world's leading composers of film music, with more than 120 scores to his name. His big breakthrough came in 2007 with Girl With A Pearl Earring, and since then he's been nominated for innumerable awards, including eight Oscars. 2015 was a particularly interesting year as Alexandre was Oscar-nominated for two films, with The Grand Budapest Hotel beating The Imitation Game on the night. Alexandre talks to Michael Berkeley about the pressures of writing up to...

Duration: 00:33:06

Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson began her working life busking and writing songs, and when one of her songs became a children's book, her phenomenally successful career as an author was born. She's been the biggest selling author in Britain for the last six years. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has anything to do with young children, who adore her vibrant and funny rhyming picture books - which include A Squash and a Squeeze, The Snail and the Whale, and the tale of that much-loved monster,...

Duration: 00:33:44

Glenda Jackson

For three decades Glenda Jackson was one of our most acclaimed actors, winning BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Emmys, and two Oscars - for Women in Love and for A Touch of Class. And alongside her film career were ground-breaking stage performances for directors such as Peter Brook and Peter Hall, and a television career which included an astonishing portrayal of Elizabeth I - a performance few of us will forget. But in 1992 she gave it all up to become the Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate,...

Duration: 00:32:06

Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia Medical Centre in New York, and a writer with a wide-ranging interest in families. He spent ten years talking to parents who faced extraordinary challenges, because their children had turned out so very different from them: either through disabilities, or because they were musical prodigies - or because they had committed serious crimes. The resulting book, "Far From the Tree - Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity"...

Duration: 00:36:27

John Sutherland

The scholar and critic John Sutherland talks to Michael Berkeley about his passions for film, music, and Victorian literature. An unsuccessful career at school and a backbreaking job laying railway tracks were an unlikely start in life for the future Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature at University College London. John Sutherland is hugely respected for his academic work on Victorian literature, but his infectious passion for books has led him to write for a...

Duration: 00:37:15

Tanita Tikaram

Tanita Tikaram became an overnight success when she was only a teenager; her debut album "Ancient Heart" sold four million copies in the late 80s and gave her hit singles like 'Twist in My Sobriety'. Since then she's gone on to release eight more albums, with some rather interesting silences in between - when she almost gave up on music altogether. In 2016 she toured Europe with her ninth album, 'Closer to the People'. In Private Passions, Tanita Tikaram talks to Michael Berkeley about the...

Duration: 00:28:36

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall was only twenty-four when in she went to live among the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, and she went on to spend more than 55 years there. She has done more than anyone else to transform our understanding of chimpanzees - and beyond that, her work has raised questions about how we treat these highly intelligent primates, and indeed about the rights of all animals. Now in her early eighties, she's on an extraordinary mission travelling round the world to protect...

Duration: 00:32:31

Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain is one of our finest writers, and her bestselling books - both novels and short stories - are garlanded with prizes. She defies categorisation and is equally at home with historical and contemporary fiction: she has created characters as diverse as Merivel, the physician turned fool at the court of Charles II; a 19th-century gold miner in New Zealand; and a transsexual growing up in rural Suffolk. Rose talks to Michael Berkeley about her latest novel, The Gustav Sonata, the...

Duration: 00:38:15

Roger Allam

Roger Allam is an actor equally at home with Shakespeare, musical theatre, detective shows, and comedy on both radio and television. From the Globe Theatre to Game of Thrones, through Endeavour, The Thick of It and Cabin Pressure, to the RSC and the West End, he refuses to be typecast. He talks to Michael Berkeley about his lifelong passion for music and why he became an actor rather than an opera singer. And he explains how he overcame his initial reservations about the Globe Theatre to...

Duration: 00:31:35

Jonathan Bate

Sir Jonathan Bate is one of the leading Shakespeare scholars of our time. He's also a biographer, broadcaster and critic, and a passionate advocate of the importance of the humanities in education. Provost of Worcester College and Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, he is the author of many influential books on Shakespeare and the joint editor of the RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works. And he's turned playwright himself, with the one-man play Being Shakespeare, written for...

Duration: 00:36:09

Melly Still

Melly Still is a theatre and opera director whose work has been described as inventive, ambitious and magical. She stages the unstageable - mermaids, angels animals, underwater realms - putting whole worlds of myth and magic into the theatre or opera house. She came to fame 10 years ago with Coram Boy at the National - the play about Handel, his Messiah and the Foundling Hospital. Since then she's directed at the Proms and Glyndebourne, and her new production of Cymbeline for the RSC opens...

Duration: 00:31:03

Melanie Reid

For Easter Sunday, Michael Berkeley's guest is Melanie Reid, who writes a weekly column in The Times about her life as a tetraplegic. Six years ago, on Good Friday 2010, she was out cross-country riding in the Scottish countryside near her home in Stirlingshire. The horse refused a jump and she was thrown off - flipping her body. She broke her neck and back. Since then Melanie Reid has been paralysed from the armpits down. When you're well and young, or young at heart, and busy devouring...

Duration: 00:33:37

Sunil Khilnani

Professor Sunil Khilnani is the Director of the India Institute at King's College London and the presenter of Radio 4's epic history of India: 'Incarnations: India in 50 Lives.' His books include an accompaniment to the series and the acclaimed The Idea of India. He talks to Michael Berkeley about his musical passions, which reflect a life lived all over the world, and chooses music by Mozart, Berg and Beethoven, as well as a ghazal from 13th century India; a piece of southern Indian...

Duration: 00:33:31

Martha Lane Fox

To mark International Women's Day, Michael Berkeley's guest is Martha Lane Fox. At the age of only 25 she co-founded, which floated at the peak of the dot-com bubble and was sold seven years later for £577m. Since then, Lane Fox was appointed, at 40, the youngest female member of the House of Lords (she's a cross-bencher) and the Chancellor of the Open University. She's also championed digital inclusivity and has recently founded Doteveryone. Voted one of the most powerful...

Duration: 00:31:53

Katharine Whitehorn

Michael Berkeley talks to veteran journalist Katharine Whitehorn about the music she's loved all her life. She's often quoted as saying: 'Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for it.' Katharine explains that she had quite a few false starts along the way - running away from school, failing as an architecture student, dabbling in modelling - until she found her true vocation of journalism and began a career that has spanned Picture Post, the Observer and Saga Magazine....

Duration: 00:24:05

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