300 episodes

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

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    • Society & Culture
    • 4.7 • 130 Ratings

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

    Lionel Shriver on life and death decisions

    Lionel Shriver on life and death decisions

    In a year when Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on families, with loved ones dying sometimes alone in hospital or without the usual funeral rites, Tom Sutcliffe and guests discuss mortality and what it means to have ‘a good death’.

    In her latest book, Should We Stay Or Should We Go, the writer Lionel Shriver explores a number of alternative endings. The couple at the centre of her novel make a pact to end their lives when they hit 80, to avoid a slow decline either physically or mentally. As Shriver looks at how that decision might play out in reality, she’s arguing for a more open discussion about the end of life.

    It’s a view shared by the consultant geriatrician David Jarrett. In 33 Meditations on Death – Notes from the Wrong End of Medicine he draws on family stories and case histories from his three decades treating those who become old and frail. Jarret’s book is an impassioned plea for everyone – old and young – to engage and make plans for the end.

    The playwright Jack Thorne is part of the collaborative team (with designer Bunny Christie and director Jeremy Herrin) behind the National Theatre’s new play, After Life, based on Hirokazu Kore-eda's award-winning film. It follows a group of strangers as they grapple with the question: if you could spend eternity with just one precious memory, what would it be? Although all the characters are deceased, the play is a celebration of life, and about what matters to us most.

    Photo credit: Mark Kohn
    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 41 min
    DH Lawrence: life and work

    DH Lawrence: life and work

    DH Lawrence was once a towering figure in literature in the 20th century but his reputation has taken a battering, with accusations of nostalgia, self-indulgence and misogyny. But Frances Wilson tells Andrew Marr that it’s time to look again at this complex and courageous man, and the full spectrum of work he produced – from his novels, poetry, criticism and letters. In Burning Man Wilson focuses on a decade in his life from the suppression of The Rainbow in 1915 through his years of travelling to his diagnosis of tuberculosis.

    Lawrence mined his own life in his novels, populating them with the people he met, pioneering the genre of ‘auto-fiction'. The award-winning writer Salman Rushdie rejected that form in his own novels, preferring ‘magic realism’. In his latest collection of essays Languages of Truth Rushdie explores the power of storytelling, and the relationship between reality and fantasy.

    The poet Simon Armitage – an admirer of DH Lawrence – looks to rescue glorious poetry from pretention and obscurity, arguing the form offers ‘the best opportunity for reflection and scrutiny’. A Vertical Art brings together the public lectures he gave during his tenure as Oxford University Professor of Poetry. In them he offers his personal reflections of the work and lives of poets from Ted Hughes to Elizabeth Bishop and Douglas Dunn.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 min
    On Thin Ice: Glaciers, Geopolitics, and Nature's Goods

    On Thin Ice: Glaciers, Geopolitics, and Nature's Goods

    Once-indomitable glaciers – from high up in the Himalayas to the polar regions – are today in grave peril, as our climate warms at an accelerating rate. The glaciologist Jemma Wadham says that melting ice sheets not only leads to meltwater overwhelming sensitive marine ecosystems but could also release vast quantities of methane. In her book Ice Rivers she shows that far from being freezing sterile environments, the world’s glaciers are teeming with microbial life, as rich and fascinating as the forests.

    Record ice loss last year and the effect of climate change are also having an impact on geopolitics and international relations. Dwayne Ryan Menezes, the founding director of the think tank Polar Research and Policy Initiative looks at the viability of a busy sea route through the arctic region as ice recedes for longer periods. And he explains why the recent elections in Greenland – a territory of just over 56,000 people – sent reverberations around the world.

    The importance of nature’s finely-tuned system to our everyday lives is at the heart of Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson’s research at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. In her new book Tapestries of Life she uncovers many of the lifesaving secrets of the natural world which impact directly on humans, from medicines to pollution control, carbon sequestration to spiritual health.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 min
    Daniel Kahneman on 'noisy' human judgement

    Daniel Kahneman on 'noisy' human judgement

    The Nobel prize-winning economist and Professor of Psychology Daniel Kahneman focuses his latest research on the high cost of inconsistent decision making. In Noise, co-authored with Oliver Sibony and Cass R Sunstein, he looks at why humans can be so unreliable, and what can be done about it. He tells Andrew Marr that people working in the same job often make wildly different judgements, influenced by factors like their current mood, when they last ate, even the weather. He argues that ‘noise’ is distinct from bias and has been neglected by organisations and businesses.

    Gillian Tett is Editor-at-Large for the Financial Times and is also focused on transforming the world of business. But whereas Kahneman uses the methods of psychology, Tett argues for anthropology. For over a century anthropologists have immersed themselves in unfamiliar cultures, studying the hidden rituals at play. In her book Anthro-Vision, Tett uses similar techniques to reveal the underlying structures and human behaviour in our modern world – from Amazon warehouses to Silicon Valley to City trading floors.

    Ann Cairns is the Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard which has hundreds of offices worldwide. She explores how psychology and anthropology can help to manage the company’s fortunes and employees through times of flux and change. Cairns started out as a research scientist before developing an interest in offshore engineering, becoming the first woman qualified to work offshore in Britain. She moved into banking in the late 1980s and joined Mastercard in 2011.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 min
    The opioid crisis and erosion of trust

    The opioid crisis and erosion of trust

    The Sackler name is more often associated with philanthropy and lavish donations in the arts and sciences. But the investigative reporter Patrick Radden Keefe tells another story in Empire of Pain. He questions how much of the Sackler wealth was made from the making and aggressive marketing of the painkiller, Oxycontin. He tells Amol Rajan of the misery that has unfolded in today’s opioid crisis – an epidemic of drug addiction which has killed nearly half a million people in the US.

    The direct marketing to GPs and advertising campaigns in the US helped to make Oxycontin a hugely popular drug. But in the UK too there are concerns about the over-prescribing of painkillers for long periods of time. Dr Zoe Williams is a GP in South London and presenter of the BBC show, Trust Me I’m a Doctor. As a founding member of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine she’s pioneering changes to reduce dependency on drugs, and increase take-up of alternative treatments, like exercise.

    What happens when people start to mistrust medical authorities is at the heart of Heidi Larson’s work as Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. In her latest book, Stuck, she looks at how vaccine reluctance and refusal is no longer limited to the margins of society. As mistrust of the official message and messenger grows so does rumour, conflict and hesitancy.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 min
    Art - plunder, power and prestige

    Art - plunder, power and prestige

    The looting of art in war time is nothing new, but Napoleon took it to new heights: demanding of his defeated enemies across Italy their most valuable statues and paintings. Cynthia Saltzman’s Napoleon’s Plunder tells the story of how the most magnificent works of the High Renaissance – by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Veronese – went on triumphant display in the Louvre. She tells Andrew Marr how Paris was transformed during this period into the art capital of Europe, and the role art played in cementing the power of the new regime after the French Revolution.

    One of the most extraordinary paintings taken during this time was Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana, stripped from the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, on an island in Venice in 1797. The Italian architect and presenter Francesco da Mosto considers what this theft meant to Venice’s political and cultural authority at the time. While many paintings were returned after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, The Wedding Feast at Cana remains in Paris to this day, hanging directly across from the Mona Lisa. But Da Mosto looks at whether a 21st century solution – a digital facsimile – installed in the original monastery means that Venice can claim to have its Veronese back home.

    As the former Director of three major British institutions, including the National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith understands the importance and prestige of a country’s national collections. In The Art Museum In Modern Times he explores the changes that have taken place in the past century – from the architecture of the buildings to the expectation of the visitors. Where once was a mission to instruct, educate and amaze, now the emphasis is on contemplation and individual experience.

    Producer: Katy Hickman

    • 42 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
130 Ratings

130 Ratings

SquareBiz539 ,

Great discussion

Great arts round table discussion show, especially when hosted by Andrew Marr or Tom Sutcliffe.

Johnshyama ,

Fascinating

Wonderful discussion and real experts! What can be better?

EgbertSouse ,

Egbert Souse

I, too, learned of this outstanding program from an endorsement by Stephen Metcalf of Slate's Culture Gabfest, and it's now one of my three must-listen shows each week. Civil, engaging, stimulating conversation with a host adept at his work.

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