263 episodes

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Great Lives BBC

    • Personal Journals

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

    Xuanzang, Chinese monk and traveller

    Xuanzang, Chinese monk and traveller

    It was an extraordinary journey, and a life that reads like a fairy tale. Xuanzang was born at the start of the seventh century in China. He studied as a monk and travelled for 16 years - first westwards, and then in a crescent back and down over the Himalayas to India . He returned a famous man, laden with Buddhists texts and artefacts. Historian Michael Wood has followed much of his route; he first discovered Xuanzang at university and became intrigued about his life. "I'm tempted to say this is one of the greatest lives in all the civilisations of the world," says Michael.

    Joining him in discussion is Frances Wood and the presenter Matthew Parris.

    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    James Graham on John Maynard Keynes

    James Graham on John Maynard Keynes

    James Graham, the award-winning playwright whose work includes the TV dramas "Brexit: The Uncivil War" and "Quiz", tells Matthew Parris why he is inspired by the life and work of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes was not just the revolutionary economist who helped shape the course of post-war history. The programme explores his colourful love life and lifelong passion for the arts. Matthew and James are joined by Linda Yueh, economist and author of "The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today".
    Producer: Chris Ledgard

    • 27 min
    Sir David Adjaye on Okwui Enwezor

    Sir David Adjaye on Okwui Enwezor

    “I was astonished by the experience of standing there, where the two oceans met. I knew at that very moment this would be my concept: the meeting of worlds".
    Okwui Enwezor.

    For centuries, the art establishment had been defined and dictated by predominantly white, wealthy, western critics and curators. Then in the early 90’s a young man who was born in Nigeria and studied Political Science in New York came onto the scene and said, ‘no more’.

    With an eye for aesthetic and a burning fire of political concern, curator and educator Okwui Enwezor transformed the art world. He placed non-western art histories on an equal footing with the long-established narrative of European and North American art. He was a man with a mission, utterly confident and determined.

    Sir David Adjaye, the architect perhaps best known for his largest project to date – the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture - champions the ground-breaking life of Okwui Enwezor, who became both his friend and collaborator. He is joined by Chika Okeke-Agulu, one of the foremost scholars of African Art and Professor of African and African Diaspora Art at Princeton University.

    Presented by Matthew Parris
    Produced in Bristol by Nicola Humphries

    • 27 min
    Tom Allen on Kenneth Williams

    Tom Allen on Kenneth Williams

    Comedian and presenter Tom Allen first discovered Kenneth Williams as a young boy, watching the Carry On films and listening to Round the Horne with his mum. He joins Matthew Parris and Kenneth's biographer, Christopher Stevens, to explore the life of the famous twentieth century entertainer. Together, they discuss stealing the show, sexuality and living solo. Featuring clips from Kenneth's performances from Parkinson to Just a Minute, Desert Island Discs to Hancock's Half Hour, the trio reflect on Kenneth's dexterity and complexity, as a performer and as a person.
    Producer: Camellia Sinclair

    • 27 min
    Ernie Bevin, forgotten political giant

    Ernie Bevin, forgotten political giant

    Ernie Bevin led an extraordinary life. Born in Somerset in 1881, his father is unknown and his mother died when he was eight. He left his job as a farm labourer age 11 and moved to Bristol, where he helped to found the Transport and General Worker's Union. He was Churchill's Labour minister in the wartime cabinet, and heavily involved in postwar reconstruction as Foreign secretary under Clement Attlee. He smoked too much and drank too much, and made a massive impression on everyone he met. So why is he not better known? Nominating him is Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, Matthew Parris presents and also contributing is his biographer, Andrew Adonis, author of Ernest Bevin: Labour's Churchill.

    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    Jessie Ware on Donna Summer

    Jessie Ware on Donna Summer

    Jessie Ware is a singer, songwriter and podcaster. Her latest, critically acclaimed, album, What's Your Pleasure?, draws inspiration from soul, funk, boogie, and disco - and, notably, the work of the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer.
    Jessie joins Matthew Parris and Pete Bellotte, co-producer and co-writer of many of Donna Summer's biggest hits - I Feel Love, Love to Love You Baby, and Hot Stuff, among others - to explore the life and work of her musical heroine.
    Jessie, Pete and Matthew discuss Donna's Protean vocal abilities, her eventful childhood and how post-war Munich provided the perfect environment to create some of disco's most momentous hits. Pete reveals how a three-minute demo of Love to Love You Baby became a seventeen-minute breakout hit and together they explore why disco has endured despite an early backlash. Jessie ponders whether life has changed for a woman in the music industry and reflects on Donna's personal legacy.
    With additional contributions from Danyel Smith, author of Shine Bright: A Personal History of Black Women in Pop (published Spring 2021).
    Produced in Bristol by Camellia Sinclair

    • 27 min

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