273 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.

    Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist

    Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown picks Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart. With archive contributions from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Chinua Achebe himself. He was born in Nigeria in 1930 and Yasmin Alibhai Brown met him twice in Uganda in the 1960s and remains deeply impressed by both his books and his life.

    The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer is Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    The Talented Mr Ripley author, Patricia Highsmith

    The Talented Mr Ripley author, Patricia Highsmith

    Director Jonathan Kent was friends with Patricia Highsmith. He'd been playing Tom Ripley for a tv show, and staying in the hotel suite next door to her. She took a shine to him. Now he repays the debt with this revealing and intriguing programme to celebrate a hundred years since her birth in 1921. Although best known for the Ripley books, she first broke through with Alfred Hitchcock's film adaptation of her novel, Strangers on a Train. She was, says Kent, not so interested in murder as in what happens to a character after the crime is done.

    "I read sometimes how odd she was - I didn't find her odd at all. She was shy, very shy. She had a fringe, a sort of hank of hair that would fall over her eyes and I would catch her sneaking looks at me. But there was nothing odd about her. Perhaps my standards of oddness are different." Jonathan Kent

    The programme features extensive archive of Highsmith, plus the film director Anthony Minghella; at least one other Tom Ripley actor; and her award winning biographer, Andrew Wilson, who has a few Highsmithian novels on the way.

    This is the first in a new series which also features the African novelist, Chinua Achebe; the Plantagenet king Edward III; and the British entertainer Kenny Lynch.

    The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer is Miles Warde.

    • 27 min
    Rights activist Cesar Chavez nominated by Cori Crider

    Rights activist Cesar Chavez nominated by Cori Crider

    In 1960s California, Mexican-American Civil Rights Leader, Cesar Chavez led the United Farmworkers union in a series of strikes, boycotts and semi-religious processions, which inspired farmworkers, students and celebrities to join him in what he called 'La Causa'

    'The Cause' was his struggle to force the landowners and growers - and the system in which they operated - to recognise farmworkers as human beings who deserved dignity, respect and basic rights.

    Senator Robert F Kennedy was a fan, describing him as a "heroic figure". Joan Baez sang at his rallies. Years later, President Obama stole his slogan and opened a national monument to his memory. And yet he is little known internationally or even outside latino communities in the US.

    The lawyer and founder of Foxglove, Cori Crider, tells Mathew Parris why she is inspired by his legacy and why the lessons from his life are needed now more than ever.

    Matthew and Cori are joined by Miriam Pawel, the author of The Crusades of Cesar Chavez.
    Clips of Eliseo Medina were taken from an interview conducted by the producer.

    Producer: Ellie Richold

    • 32 min
    Caroline Catz on Delia Derbyshire

    Caroline Catz on Delia Derbyshire

    The actor Caroline Catz chooses Delia Derbyshire, the musician and composer who is best known for her work at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop where she realised the theme tune to Doctor Who. With Dr David Butler from the University of Manchester who looks after Delia's archive.

    Delia was born in Coventry in 1937 and describes her earliest recollections of sound as the sound of the German blitz and the air-raid sirens. She studied music and maths at Cambridge and joined the BBC Radiophonic Workshop where she could create sounds that had never existed in the world before. Her 'realisation' of Ron Grainer's theme tune to Doctor Who brought both her and the Workshop to greater prominence, but she later left the BBC and London and moved to Cumbria where she worked on a series of projects, as well as being briefly employed as a radio operator at the Gas Board. She was a pioneer of sound and her work is celebrated each year by Delia Derbyshire Day. Caroline was terrified by the Doctor Who theme tune as a child but fascinated by the woman, and later discovered tracks like 'Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO' and 'Blue Veils and Golden Sands' from Radiophonic Workshop mix tapes. The discovery of 267 tapes in Delia's attic provided another portal into the extraordinary sonic world of Psyche-Delia and the mystery surrounding both how she created her music and the choices she made in life provided the inspiration for Caroline's film 'Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes' in which she plays the lead. Delia appears in archive recordings to give Matthew Parris his first taste of a Wobbulator.

    Producer: Toby Field

    • 28 min
    David Jonsson on Jean Michel Basquiat

    David Jonsson on Jean Michel Basquiat

    Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat rose to fame in the 1980's Lower East Side New York arts scene.

    Andy Warhol was his friend and collaborator, Madonna a one time girlfriend and David Bowie a huge admirer. But beyond this club scene personality raged a prolific artist, writer and musician. During his short career Basquiat created no less than 1000 drawings, 700 paintings and many sculpture and mixed media works. In 2017 he became one of a handful of artists whose work broke the $100 million mark. His life challenged the boundaries of ‘blackness’ but also the boundaries of American art.

    He is championed by actor David Jonsson best known for his work on 'Deep State' and 'Industry'. He has described Basquiat's life as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale. He is joined by Jordana Moore Saggese, Associate Professor of American Art at the University of Maryland College Park and author of two scholarly books on Jean-Michel Basquiat. These include The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader: Writings, Interviews and Critical Responses.

    Presented by Matthew Parris
    Produced by Nicola Humphries for BBC Bristol

    Featuring excerpts from Radio 4's 'I Was...Basquiat's Partner in Noise' presented by Andrew McGibbon and available on BBC Sounds.

    • 27 min
    Rob Rinder on Jessica Mitford.

    Rob Rinder on Jessica Mitford.

    Jessica Mitford was the fifth born of the notorious Mitford Sisters. Born into the aristocracy, as a child she had her own language, collected a running-away fund and fought to set herself apart from her fascist siblings. As an adult she was in turn a communist rebel, an investigative journalist, a civil rights activist and pop singer - opening a gig for Cyndi Lauper and recording an unlikely duet with her friend and fellow mischief maker Maya Angelou.

    She’s championed by Robert Rinder, the criminal barrister and television personality known to many from the reality courtroom series ‘Judge Rinder’ and more recently, ‘My Family, The Holocaust and Me’ who reveals the impact her story has had on his own life. Robert Rinder is joined by guest expert Laura Thompson, author of the New York Times best seller, 'The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters'.

    Presented by Matthew Parris
    Produced By Nicola Humphries for BBC Bristol

    • 27 min

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