280 episodes

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

Great Lives BBC

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.4 • 82 Ratings

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

    THE SURPRISE LIVES

    THE SURPRISE LIVES

    "Step one: invite notable guest. Step two: get them to talk about someone else."

    After nearly 500 episodes, Great Lives feels like a stable series, but there have been surprises along the way.
    From Bernard Manning on Mother Theresa to Timmy Mallett on Richard the Lionheart, there's a tradition of guests picking unexpected people they admire.
    Cerys Matthews on Hildegard of Bingen, Diane Morgan on Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, Iain Lee on Andy Kaufmann, and Lemn Sissay on Prince Alemayu of Ethiopia: "Maybe this is the first Great Life that is a life that hasn't happened," he says.
    Also features Josie Long on Kurt Vonnegut plus a host of other famous voices in the mix.

    Presented by Matthew Parris
    Produced by Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    Rosie Millard on Edward III

    Rosie Millard on Edward III

    Edward III should be much better known, Rosie tells Matthew Parris. He not only won great battles like Crecy in 1346. He also championed the flourishing of Perpendicular architecture; he understood the "branding" of England, and introduced the flag of St George; and he was ahead of his time in other ways - he was the first king of England to own a mechanical clock and the first to have hot and cold running water in his bathroom!
    The expert is the medieval historian, Lord Sumption. He agrees Edward III deserves to be better known, but is less starry-eyed about his achievements. Edward, Lord Sumption says, was an incompetent diplomat, lived too long, and ended his reign a "heroic failure".

    Presented by Matthew Parris
    Produced by Chris Ledgard

    • 27 min
    Ben Miller on William Hazlitt

    Ben Miller on William Hazlitt

    Actor, comedian and Author Ben Miller discusses the colourful, complicated and uncompromising life of William Hazlitt.

    Born in 1778 William Hazlitt is considered one of the greatest critics and essayists in the history of the English language, but for centuries, his life and works were lost in the shadows. He was an advocate of universal rights and civil liberties, and a fierce opponent of pomp and power. He railed against slavery, believed strongly in the power of the imagination, and said, 'The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves'.
    But he wasn't without his own demons and fell out of public favour. Rumours of gambling, sex addiction and adultery challenged his reputation. In recent years scholars have debated his life and works and a renewed interest in his essays has emerged.

    Ben Miller plays Lord Featherington in Bridgerton, and he wrote and starred in The Armstrong and Miller Show on Channel Four.
    With expert contributions from Dr Uttara Nataragen, a founding organiser of The Hazlitt Society and editor of The Hazlitt Review.

    Presented by Matthew Parris
    Produced by Nicola Humphries for BBC Bristol

    • 27 min
    Arlo Parks on Elliott Smith

    Arlo Parks on Elliott Smith

    Singer-songwriter Arlo Parks has been nominated for three Brit Awards at just 20 years old. Her inspiration for her debut studio album is drawn from American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith.

    Matthew Parris and Arlo Parks are joined by Elliott’s friend and former manager of his band Heatmiser, JJ Gonson. They also hear from writer and college professor William Todd Schultz, author of the biography ‘Torment Saint: The Life Of Elliott Smith’.

    Together they explore Elliott’s life and musical achievements; from his unsettled childhood to performing at the 1998 Oscar awards ceremony. Although nominated for Best Original Song in the Hollywood film Good Will Hunting and deemed a cult icon in the Indie music scene after releasing an impressive six solo albums, Elliott rose to fame with reluctance and eventually committed suicide at just 34 years old.

    Arlo contemplates the direction Elliott’s music might have taken were he still alive today, and how his work has influenced and inspired her own.

    Produced in Bristol by Caitlin Hobbs.

    • 27 min
    Jonathan Dimbleby on Harry Hopkins.

    Jonathan Dimbleby on Harry Hopkins.

    On May 10 1940, the Germans invaded the Low Countries, Winston Churchill became prime minister, and Harry Hopkins moved in to the White House. This remarkable man was President Roosevelt's closest confidante until the end of the war. A principal architect of the New Deal, he was the president's first envoy to meet Churchill and was sent off to meet Stalin too. But what also impresses his nominator, Jonathan Dimbleby, is his courage - Harry Hopkins had stomach cancer and died in 1946.
    Features biographer David Roll, author of The Hopkins Touch, plus impressive archive of Hopkins on the BBC.
    Presented by Matthew Parris
    Produced in Bristol by Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    KT Tunstall on Ivor Cutler

    KT Tunstall on Ivor Cutler

    Ivor Cutler is hard to categorise. Whimsical and uncompromising, depressive yet joyful, childlike and curmudgeonly, an 'outsider', championed by insiders like Paul McCartney, he's perhaps best known for his collection 'Life in a Scotch Sitting Room Volume Two" (there is no volume one) or his much-covered 1983 indie hit 'Women of the World'.

    Cutler often referred to himself as a 'humourist', though his work spans music, poetry, children's books, performative and visual art. A sensitive soul and keen member of the Noise Abatement Society, he loved the small, quiet things in life - bugs, flowers, birds, small kindnesses and cups of tea. He hated chemical smells, loud noises and cars and always rode his bicycle to get around - whether peddling his harmonium to a gig to support Soft Machine or heading to Hampstead Heath to sit quietly with his notebook under a tree.

    The Scottish eccentric had a distinctive style - wearing plus fours and often with a flower adorning his hat. He would approach strangers offering small sticky labels with 'cutlerisms' on like "Never Knowingly Understood", "Illiterates Against the Nizis" or "Funny Smell". He was convinced that the world was absurd and met it with a unique blend of dark and daft humour, refusing to let it crush his child's eye view.

    John Peel, who recorded many sessions with Ivor Cutler, once remarked that Cutler was probably the only performer whose work had been featured on Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4. He continues to inspire a cult following 15 years after his death.

    Matthew Parris and nominator KT Tunstall are joined by Bruce Lindsay, currently at work on a biography of Ivor Cutler.
    We also hear excerpts from interviews with Ivor's partner Phyllis King and his son Jeremy Cutler, conducted by the producer, Ellie Richold.

    Image: Courtesy of Jeremy Cutler

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
82 Ratings

82 Ratings

MDmighty ,

Addicted

Found this podcast today. Love it.

wertham ,

making the most out of LIVES

This is a great way to get to know the people we should never forget.

lostmyputter ,

Quite Interesting

I really enjoy this type of podcast as I usually listen whilst out on my daily walks. I subscribe to several podcasts abd would definitely rate this as one of the ten I enjoy most. Give it a try - the price is right and you just might learn something interesting.

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