301 episodes

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

Start the Week BBC Radio 4

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.4 • 208 Ratings

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

    The body clock and sleep

    The body clock and sleep

    Every moment of the day tiny biological clocks are ticking throughout the body, but Russell Foster, world-renowned expert in circadian neuroscience, warns that modern life is playing havoc with these ancient and delicate mechanisms. In his latest book, Life Time: The New Science Of The Body Clock And How It Can Revolutionise Your Sleep and Health, Professor Foster reveals how this essential part of our biology works. He tells Tom Sutcliffe how new understandings about our daily routines could help reset how we live and sleep.

    ViSiBLE is a professional theatre company dedicated to creating new and provocative works, with and about older people. Its latest performance, Five Characters in Search of a Good Night's Sleep, is at the Southwark Playhouse until 21st May. ViSiBLE’s founder, the playwright Sonja Linden, says the new piece was inspired by the experiences of the actors who as they’ve aged have found sleep more elusive and sleep-inducing techniques more desperate.

    Ros Holmes is a lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of St Andrews. Her research focuses on ideas about sleep and insomnia, and how they’ve been represented in the visual culture of twentieth century and contemporary China. From the images of ‘national awakening’ in the early years of the Republic and the always-alert workers of the Cultural Revolution to the cities that never sleep today – sleep deprivation has become part of life in China.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    Photo Image: 'Five Characters in Search of a Good Night's Sleep' (credit: Bessell Photography)

    • 41 min
    Marwa Al-Sabouni - Rebuilding with hope

    Marwa Al-Sabouni - Rebuilding with hope

    The Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni is the Guest Co-Director of this year’s Brighton Festival and her flagship project The Riwaq on Hove seafront provides a space for social and artistic exchange. Rebuilding is the festival’s theme and the subject of her latest book, Building for Hope – Towards an Architecture of Belonging which explores how cities can be rebuilt after crisis and war. She tells Helen Lewis that architecture has a pivotal role in generating community, not just in devastated cities, but all around the world.

    Dame Jo da Silva is an engineer at the building firm Arup who specialises in disaster relief. After years spent realising the high designs of architects for everything from airports to bus shelters, she became involved in projects to rebuild communities hit by catastrophes. As urbanisation reaches record levels globally she argues that it’s more important than ever to build in sustainability and resilience.

    The historian Jessie Childs focuses her story of the violence and disaster of the English civil war on The Siege of Loyalty House in the 1640s. To the parliamentarians Basing House, the royalist stronghold, was the devil’s seat. Over two years, the inhabitants were bombarded, starved and gassed from the outside, and faced smallpox, spies and mutiny from within.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 41 min
    Curiosity, ingenuity and experimentation

    Curiosity, ingenuity and experimentation

    Wonder at the natural world has inspired people and fuelled curiosity for millennia. The ancient Greek Theophrastus had interests that spread far and wide, from biology and physics to ethics and metaphysics. But although he was Aristotle’s friend and collaborator, and his notes on botany inspired Linnaeus, his name has mostly been forgotten. The writer Laura Beatty’s new book, Looking for Theophrastus, aims to rescue him from obscurity.

    The scientist, Suzie Sheehy, still feels a childlike wonder at the way physics seems to be able to describe everything – from the smallest subatomic particle to the scale of the Universe. In The Matter of Everything: Twelve Experiments That Changed Our World, she looks back at the people who engineered ground-breaking experiments, and the human ingenuity, creativity and curiosity, as well as luck and serendipity that propelled them forward.

    While physicists attempt to describe and define the universe, the workings of the human mind still remain a challenge to scientists and philosophers. In The Book of Minds, the science writer Philip Ball looks at what we know about the minds of other creatures, from octopuses to chimpanzees, and of the workings of computers and alien intelligences. By understanding how minds differ, he argues, the better we can understand our own.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 min
    The age of the strongman leader

    The age of the strongman leader

    In The Age of the Strongman, the journalist Gideon Rachman explores how populist and authoritarian leaders have become a central feature of global politics. Since Vladimir Putin took power in Russia at the beginning of the new millennium, self-styled strongmen have emerged across the globe, from Trump and Bolsonaro to Orbán, Xi and Modi. Rachman tells Tom Sutcliffe how these leaders have taken power and the challenge they pose to liberal democracy.

    Judy Dempsey is a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of the Strategic Europe blog. She explains how Viktor Orbán has tightened his grip on power in Hungary, while the EU has dragged its heels. And how Putin’s war in Ukraine has not only exacerbated pre-existing global divisions but divided Europe as well.

    History is littered with powerful leaders, and Christopher de Bellaigue, tells of the rise of one of the most feared – Suleyman the Magnificent. In The Lion House: The Coming of a King the 16th century Ottoman Sultan dominates the lives of those from Baghdad to the walls of Vienna.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 min
    NoViolet Bulawayo on Glory

    NoViolet Bulawayo on Glory

    The new novel, Glory, by prize winning writing NoViolet Bulawayo is a postcolonial tale of power and tyranny – an African Animal Farm. It’s set in the fictional Jidada, that resembles Zimbabwe during the overthrow of Robert Mugabe, and is populated by a vivid cast of animals – from the vicious dog-soldiers to the powerful Old Horse leader himself. She tells Adam Rutherford how her chorus of animal voices help reveal the human world more clearly.

    The journalist Dipo Faloyin wants to push against harmful stereotypes of modern Africa. In his latest book, Africa Is Not A Country, he argues that a continent of over 1.4 billion people, 54 countries and more than 2,000 languages has been reduced to a simplistic story. He looks at how politics, culture and community have emerged in different ways across Africa.

    Julia Gallagher is Professor of African Politics at SOAS, University of London. Her research explores the architecture of state buildings in different African countries – from the re-purposed colonial structures to the new palatial palaces of post-independence – and how citizens respond to them. Also as the African Union celebrates twenty years since it was founded – housed in a new compound built by the Chinese in Addis Ababa – she looks at the position of the AU in the 21st century.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    Image: photograph of NoViolet Bulawayo - copyright Nye' Lyn Tho

    • 42 min
    Love poetry; love books

    Love poetry; love books

    "Stand still, and I will read to thee / A lecture, love, in love's philosophy." John Donne is one of the greatest love poets in the history of the English language. In a new biography, Super-Infinite, Katherine Rundell reveals the many transformations in his life – from scholar to sea adventurer to priest. She also tells Kirsty Wark of his extraordinary ability to transform language into something new.

    Copies of his Metaphysical Poems will be well-thumbed by students around the country. But what of the power of books in general? In Portable Magic: A History of Books and their Readers, Emma Smith presents an iconoclastic and revisionist story of our love affair with books.

    Megan Walsh meanwhile has been looking at contemporary Chinese literature. The Subplot: What China is Reading and Why it Matters, reveals the huge appetite for books and the wonderful diversity of Chinese writing – from migrant-worker poetry movements and homoerotic romances to surreal stories and sci-fi.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
208 Ratings

208 Ratings

BoomShackerLacker ,

Marrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Marr has the capacity to infuriate and inspire, not quite in equal measure; a kind of smug self-righteous certainty and lack of reflective qualities combined with accurate non-PC qualities we need on the radio... my drive to work is better off for it though! Damn him!

veganman1961 ,

Amol Rajan

Amol Rajan is a breath of fresh air.

DDM16 ,

Vg

Interesting and lively as always

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