253 episodes

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

Great Lives BBC

    • Personal Journals
    • 4.0, 4 Ratings

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

    Sybille Bedford, author of Jigsaw and A Legacy

    Sybille Bedford, author of Jigsaw and A Legacy

    Sara Wheeler first read Sybille Bedford in her early twenties, and discovered a dazzling writer. The book she read was called A Visit to Don Otavio. It's set in Mexico, a country Bedford wanted to visit because of its 'long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible.' Born Sybille von Schoenebeck in 1911 in Germany, she lived in Italy, France, California and London, and her book Jigsaw was nominated for the Booker prize. But by her own admission she never sold many books.
    Sara Wheeler is the author of Terra Incognita - about her travels in Antarctica. Victoria Glendinning adds her thoughts and wit to the programme.
    There are archive contributions from Hilary Spurling, Sue McGregor and Sybille Bedford too.
    The presenter is Matthew Parris

    • 27 min
    Billy Bremner of Leeds United

    Billy Bremner of Leeds United

    Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe, chooses the life of infamous Leeds United Captain, Billy Bremner.

    Billy Bremner played for Leeds as a midfielder from 1959 until 1976. He scored 115 goals for the team and captained them for 11 years during the most successful period in their history. 5’5”, with a mop of red hair, he was known as “ten stone of barbed wire” "Wee Billy and “Midfield Terrier”.

    He grew up near Stirling in a working class family, moving to Leeds at 16 to where he returned in the 80s as manager.

    At the time, Anand was a schoolboy in Wakefield. Before he became a Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, he was first and foremost a Leeds fan.

    Anand was also at school with Telegraph journalist Rob Bagchi - author of the forthcoming biography of the club.

    Growing up in West Yorkshire instilled a lifelong devotion to Billy and the club in both of them - in spite of their "Dirty Leeds" reputation and the ups and downs of a team often destined to narrowly miss out on chances. "If being a Leeds fan has taught me anything, it's that anything which can go wrong, will go wrong."

    But there is another side to this story, both Anand and Rob are children of Indian parents. Elland Road was well known for the presence of the National Front on the terraces as they were growing up, and so Anand only saw Billy in the flesh a few times. But when Billy returned as manager in the 1980s, he went to great lengths to turn the culture of the terraces around.

    Presented by Matthew Parris

    Produced by Polly Weston

    • 27 min
    Sally Phillips on Hollywood star Myrna Loy

    Sally Phillips on Hollywood star Myrna Loy

    When Sally Phillips first saw Myrna Loy, she burst into tears. It was in a film called The Best Years of Our Lives, about three veterans returning to their wives after World War Two. Myrna Loy was most famous for the Thin Man series, and she also played voluptuous baddies in flicks like The Mask of Fun Manchu. But it's not just her screen career that inspires Sally, a star herself for work in Smack the Pony and Bridget Jones. Myrna Loy was a hardworking and often fearless person, heavily involved with The Red Cross and UNESCO after the war. The author of Fast Talking Dames, Maria di Battista, joins the discussion from Princeton.
    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood grew up in a bungalow high up on the moors in Lancashire. The rooms were partitioned off with plywood, and she loved to play the piano on her own. She became the biggest comedy star in the UK, writing, directing, acting, and winning BAFTAS for being funny, and being serious too. Nominating the star of Wood and Walters, Dinnerladies and Housewife, 49 is Daniel Rigby. He won a BAFTA playing Eric Morecambe in 2011, and Victoria Wood played his mum. She also became his landlady. Joining the often joyful discussion is Jasper Rees - author of the upcoming authorised biography of Victoria Wood.

    The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer in Bristol Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    The amazing Maya Angelou

    The amazing Maya Angelou

    Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in 1928. She was a mother, writer, dancer, director, performer, friend of presidents, and author of seven volumes of memoir. The very first - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - returned to the top of the best-seller lists when she died in 2014. So why were people fascinated by her life? Nominating her is Bristol University's recently appointed professor of slavery, Olivette Otele. "I l love her, I really do." She's joined by Patricia Cumper who has adapted many of Maya Angelou's books for radio. The presenter is Matthew Parris.
    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    Ursula Le Guin nominated by Kate Stables

    Ursula Le Guin nominated by Kate Stables

    Ursula le Guin was born in California in 1929. Her books - including A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness - have been described as masterpieces but she battled prejudice all her life from the literary elite. Choosing her because she loves both Ursula's books and who she was is the British musician Kate Stables. She's speaking to Matthew Parris from Paris. On the line from San Francisco is Arwen Curry - she knew the author and made the film The Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin with the strapline, A Wizard's Work is Never Done.

    The producers in Bristol are Toby Field and Miles Warde

    • 27 min

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