Leading artists, writers, thinkers discuss the ideas shaping our lives & links between past & present and new academic research.
"I have no relation or friend" - words spoken by Frankenstein's monster in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel. That story, alongside Georg Büchner's expressionist classic Woyzeck, has inspired the new production for English National Ballet put together by Akram Khan.
He joins poet Hannah Lowe, who's been reflecting on her experiences of teaching London teenagers; Tash Aw, who explores his Chinese and Malaysian heritage, and his status as insider and outsider in memoir Strangers on a Pier; and New Generation Thinker Eleanor Lybeck, who's been looking at the images of music hall performance and circus life in the paintings of Walter Sickert (1860 - 1942) and Laura Knight (1877-1970) for a conversation exploring different ideas about belonging.
Shahidha Bari hosts.
Creature: a co-production between English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells and Opera Ballet Vlaanderen opens at Sadler's Wells on 23rd Sept and then tours internationally.
Hannah Lowe's new collection from Bloodaxe is called The Kids.
Strangers on a Pier by Tash Aw is published by Fourth Estate.
Sickert: A Life in Art is on show at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool from 18 Sep 2021—27 Feb 2022. It's the largest retrospective in the UK for 30 years.
Laura Knight: A Panoramic View is on show at the Milton Keynes Gallery from 9 Oct 2021 - 20 Feb 2022.
Eleanor Lybeck is an academic on the scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council called New Generation Thinkers which turns research into radio. She is a lecturer in Irish Literature at the University of Liverpool and explored her own family history and her great grandfather's links with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in a short Sunday Feature for Radio 3 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06pqsqr
Producer: Tim Bano
Image: Akram Khan
Credit: Jean-Louis Fernandez
You might also be interested in our exploration of language and belonging in which the writers Preti Taneja, Michael Rosen, Guy Gunaratne, Deena Mohamed, Dina Nayeri and Momtaza Mehri compare notes https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0006fh9
Green Thinking: Fashion
The fast fashion industry stands accused of depleting natural resources, creating vast carbon emissions and producing endless garments destined for landfill. So, what can be done? Researchers across creative and scientific disciplines have been looking at how the fashion industry can cut waste, recycle, consume less – and, critically, change our attitudes to what we wear. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough talks to Professor Jane Harris and Professor Simon McQueen Mason about how we can change clothes production and curb our shopping habits.
Professor Jane Harris is Director of Research and Innovation (Stratford) and Professor of Digital Design and Innovation at the University of the Arts London. She has over 25 years’ experience in transdisciplinary research, with a background in textile design and extensive experience of computer graphic imaging. Through her research, Professor Harris has devised novel approaches to the digital representation of dress and textiles.
She is also Director of the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT), a five-year industry-led project, funded by the Industrial Strategy through the Arts and Humanities Research Council and part of the Creative Industries Cluster Programme. The project, which delivers sustainable innovation within the entire fashion and textile supply chain, aims to create a new business culture that supports fashion, textiles and technology businesses of all sizes to use R&D to grow. Its focus on sustainability centres around sustainable design and business practice, material usage, and new methods of manufacturing. You can read more about the project here: https://bftt.org.uk/ and its recent report co-authored by here: https://bftt.org.uk/publications/
Professor Simon McQueen-Mason is Chair in Materials Biology at the University of York. His research encompasses various aspects of plant cell wall biology. He is a member of the UKRI-funded Textiles Circularity Centre (Royal College of Art, RCA) and its Materials Circularity Research Strand where his work plays a critical role in helping to establish new processes for using biotechnology to convert household waste and used textiles into new, functional and regenerative textiles designed for circularity. His research makes use of waste cellulose to create textile fibres, which are sent from the University of York to the University of Cranfield where they are spun to make new textiles. These textiles are then sent to the Royal College of Art for the students to design and make new clothing with.
You can read more about McQueen Mason’s work around sustainable fashion here: https://www.plasticexpert.co.uk/york-biologists-discover-method-of-turning-waste-into-fashion/ and his latest project, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and here: https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=BB%2FT017023%2F1#/tabOverview
You can also read more about the Textiles Circularity Centre here: https://www.rca.ac.uk/research-innovation/research-centres/materials-science-research-centre/textiles-circularity-centre/ and find out more about the five UKRI-funded circular economy research centres here: https://www.ukri.org/news/circular-economy-centres-to-drive-uk-to-a-sustainable-future/
Dr Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is a New Generation Thinker based at the University of Durham.
You can find a new podcast series Green Thinking: 26 episodes 26 minutes long in the run up to COP26 made in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UKRI, exploring the latest research and ideas around understanding and tackling the climate and nature emergency. New Generation Thinkers Des Fitzgerald and Eleanor Barraclough will be in conversation with researchers on a wide-range of subjects from cryptocurrencies and finance to eco poetry and fast fashion.
The podcasts are all available from the Arts
One definition of a glitch is a short-lived fault in a system operating otherwise as it should. Glitches in digital systems have been used by artists for at least a decade to produce work with a characteristic aesthetic, that invite reflection on the computer systems that play an ever bigger part in our lives. Matthew Sweet is joined by the artists and theorist of glitches Rosa Menkman and Antonio Roberts to discuss the glitch as a meeting point between technology and aesthetics, along with the novelist Tom McCarthy whose new novel The Making of Incarnation features the work of the psychologist and industrial engineer Lilian Gilbreth (1878-1972), who developed a series of time-and-motion studies which aimed to improve the organisation of factory production lines, and ultimately arrive at the one most efficient way of doing everything. And they're joined by the philosopher Hugo Drochon, who's investigated conspiracy theories and the role glitches play for people who follow them.
The Making of Incarnation by Tom McCarthy is published in September 2021.
Antonio Roberts' website is https://www.hellocatfood.com/
Rosa Menkman's is http://rosa-menkman.blogspot.com/
Producer: Luke Mulhall
You can find Tom McCarthy in a Free Thinking conversation about the "experimentalism" of Alain Robbe Grillet https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000xr4m
and he discusses a previous novel Satin Island in this episode with Anne McElvoy https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b054t24q
Descending into the nine circles of Hell is one of the key ideas set out in Dante's Inferno. Today's Free Thinking looks at the way his thinking and imagery have been taken up by other artists and writers. Rana Mitter's guests include the art historian Martin Kemp, the painter Emma Safe, the scholar and Dante website creator Deborah Parker and the New Generation Thinker Julia Hartley from Kings College London.
Professor Martin Kemp's latest book is called Visions of Heaven: Dante and the Art of Divine Light. He is a leading authority on the work of Leonardo da Vinci and has written explorations of science and art.
Dr Julia Hartley has written a book called Reading Dante and Proust by Analogy. The clip from the Dante dramedy she's developing features Sam Ferguson as Dante and Matthew Salisbury as Guido Cavalcanti.
Deborah Parker is Professor of Italian at the University of Virginia and has created worldofdante.org
You can see examples of Emma Safe's artwork at https://www.emmasafe.com/
Producer: Torquil MacLeod
The most recent episode of Words and Music sets extracts from different translations of the key works by Dante with music including by Tchaikovsky, Liszt and Puccini. That will be available on BBC Sounds and the Radio 3 website for 28 days.
For a discussion of Dante's writing in The Divine Comedy the Free Thinking Landmarks playlist features a discussion with the scholars Prue Shaw and Nick Havely, poet Sean O'Brien and writer Kevin Jackson https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05tq3st
Saint John Henry Newman
Catherine Pepinster, Kate Kennedy, Tim Stanley and New Generation Thinker Dafydd Mills Daniel join Rana Mitter to look at the poet, theologian and now Saint John Henry. The programme explores Newman's conversion from the high church tradition of Anglicanism and the Oxford Movement to the Catholic faith looking at his thinking, his poetic writing and what his story tells us about Catholicism and the British establishment.
Catherine Pepinster is former editor of the Tablet and the author of The Keys and the Kingdom: The British and the Papacy
Dafydd Mills Daniel is McDonald Departmental Lecturer in Christian Ethics at the University of Oxford and a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. His book is called Ethical Rationalism and Secularisation in the British Enlightenment
Tim Stanley is a columnist and leader writer for the Daily Telegraph who studied history at Cambridge and who is a contributing editor for the Catholic Herald https://www.timothystanley.co.uk/index.html
Dr Kate Kennedy is Oxford Centre for Life-Writing Associate Director and a music specialist who has written on Ivor Gurney, and co-edited The Silent Morning: Culture and Memory after the Armistice and The First World War: Literature, Music, Memory. You can find her presenting a Sunday Feature for Radio 3 about her research into Ivor Gurney.
You can find a playlist Free Thinking explores religious belief https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03mwxlp including contributions from Ziauddin Sardar, Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, Rabbi Sacks, Marilynne Robinson and Simon Schama.
Producer: Ruth Watts
From Roman sandals to trainers and stilettos. Shahidha Bari looks at the shoe trade, with guests including Thomas Turner, who has written about sneakers in his book The Sports Shoe, A History From Field To Fashion; Tansy Hoskins,who examines global commerce in her book Footwork: What Your Shoes Are Doing To The World; Rebecca Shawcross, Shoe Curator at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery; and Roman shoe expert Owen Humphreys from Museum of London Archaeology.
Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street runs at the Design Museum in London until October 24th
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and its collection of over 15,000 shoes has re-opened this July following a £6million revamp.
Producer: Emma Wallace