289 episodes

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

Great Lives BBC

    • Society & Culture

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

    Ruth Rogers on James Baldwin

    Ruth Rogers on James Baldwin

    The chef and co-founder of The River Cafe, Ruth Rogers, picks the life of the writer and activist James Baldwin.

    A writer, poet, playwright and activist, Baldwin was known as a trailblazing explorer of race, class and sexuality in America and the “literary voice of the Civil Rights movement”.

    Joining Ruth and Matthew is Professor Rich Blint from the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts in New York. He is director of the college’s race and ethnicity programme and is a contributing editor to the James Baldwin Review. Together they explore Baldwin's writing style, the turbulent times faced both politically and personally; and ask - were he alive today - whether he would feel the world had progressed in its attitude to race.

    Presented by Matthew Parris and produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Caitlin Hobbs.

    • 27 min
    Yanis Varoufakis on Hypatia

    Yanis Varoufakis on Hypatia

    The Greek politician and economist takes us back to ancient Alexandria and the life of the first woman to make her name as a mathematician. But Hypatia is best known now for being brutally murdered. Yanis Varoufakis makes the case for her as a philosopher and mathematician, and explores how her story has been interpreted and misinterpreted in the centuries after her death. He's joined by the writer and broadcaster, Professor Edith Hall.

    Presented by Matthew Parris and produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Chris Ledgard

    • 27 min
    Dorothy Byrne on Catherine of Siena

    Dorothy Byrne on Catherine of Siena

    The president of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge and former Channel 4 editor champions the life of a 14th-century mystic. Like Dorothy Byrne, famous for her scathing attacks on broadcasting executives in the 2019 MacTaggart Lecture, Catherine of Siena stood up to powerful men. She lobbied Popes, attacked corruption in the Catholic church, and played an active role in the troubled Italian politics of the late 14th century. Alongside Francis of Assisi, she is one of two patron saints of Italy.
    Carolyn Muessig, Chair of Christian Thought at the University of Calgary, provides the expert analysis.

    Presented by Matthew Parris and produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Chris Ledgard

    • 27 min
    Peggy Seeger on her husband Ewan MacColl

    Peggy Seeger on her husband Ewan MacColl

    Ewan MacColl sang "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" to Peggy Seeger down the phone. When they met, Peggy says, he was in the grip of his midlife crisis. "I'm fond of saying the poor boy didn't stand a chance," she tells Matthew Parris. This programme is her attempt to set the record straight. "I'd like to do a bit of justice to him, because there's an awful lot of myths, an awful lot of bad talk, misunderstandings."

    Ewan MacColl was born Jimmy Miller in Salford, which he wrote about in 1949 in his song, "Dirty Old Town." He made his name in theatre, was married to Joan Littlewood, and after the Second World War he was a powerful force behind the folk revival. He also with Peggy Seeger and Charles Parker created the famous Radio Ballads. Peggy is joined in discussion by Peter Cox, author of Set Into Song. The programme is heavily illustrated with MacColl's music and his voice.

    The producer for BBC audio in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 36 min
    Josiah Wedgwood, master potter

    Josiah Wedgwood, master potter

    When Josiah Wedgwood had part of an injured leg amputed, he encouraged his workers to celebrate the anniversary as St Amputation Day. This remarkable man from Stoke on Trent built a pottery empire that made him famous round the world. He's nominated here, on location, by the former MP for Stoke Central, Tristram Hunt, now head of the Victoria and Albert museum in London. The programme includes an interview with the head of Royal Staffordshire, Norman Tempest, plus readings from Brian Dolan's biography, The First Tycoon.

    Tristram Hunt's latest book is called The Radical Potter.

    The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer for BBC audio in Bristol is ex-Stoke resident Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    Frantz Fanon

    Frantz Fanon

    Born and raised in Martinique, Frantz Fanon fought for the Free French Forces against the Nazis, and then devoted his life to the liberation of Algeria from France. Fanon was a psychiatrist and author of two acclaimed anti-colonial works: Black Skin, White Masks, and The Wretched of the Earth. He is the choice of the writer and broadcaster Lindsay Johns, who explains why his connection to Fanon is not just intellectual and moral, but also personal. And from Paris, the Frantz Fanon expert, Françoise Vergès, offers her analysis of his life and work.

    The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer for BBC Audio in Bristol is Chris Ledgard
    Image: Archives Frantz Fanon / IMEC

    • 27 min

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