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Great Lives

Series 7 Genghis Khan

American commentator Joe Queenan chooses the Mongol leader Genghis Khan.

American commentator Joe Queenan chooses the Mongol leader Genghis Khan. With Francine Stock. From April 2005.

Great Lives

Series 7 George Sand

Mary Kenny nominates the 19th-century French novelist.

4 Extra Debut. Mary Kenny nominates the 19th-century French novelist, while biographer Belinda Jack offers expert advice. With Francine Stock. From April 2005.

Great Lives

Series 8 Zhao Ziyang

Journalist Robert Thomson on the rise and fall, in 1989, of Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang.

4 Extra Debut. Journalist Robert Thomson on the rise and fall, in 1989, of Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang. With Francine Stock. From November 2005.

Great Lives

Series 10 Nina Simone

Joanna MacGregor talks about the acclaimed chanteuse, pianist, composer and activist.

Joanna MacGregor chooses the singer, pianist and activist. With Matthew Parris and expert analysis from Mark Coles. From September 2006.

Great Lives

Series 1 Friedrich Nietzsche

Cartoonist Ralph Steadman and translator Adam Czerniawski discuss the philosopher's life.

4 Extra Debut. Cartoonist Ralph Steadman and translator Adam Czerniawski discuss the life of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. With Humphrey Carpenter. From September 2001.

Great Lives

Series 1 Henri Matisse

Writer Frank Delaney and biographer Hilary Spurling discuss the painter Henri Matisse

Writer Frank Delaney and biographer Hilary Spurling discuss the painter Henri Matisse. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2001.

Writer Frank Delaney and biographer Hilary Spurling discuss the painter Henri Matisse. With Humphrey Carpenter. From 2001.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

Great Lives

Series 3 Bob Marley

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah explores the life of reggae legend Bob Marley.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah explores the life of reggae legend Bob Marley. With Humphrey Carpenter and Chris Salewicz. From 2003.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah explores the life of reggae legend Bob Marley. With Humphrey Carpenter and Chris Salewicz.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life.

Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life?

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2003.

Great Lives

Series 2 Benedict Spinoza

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir Harry Kroto chooses the philosopher Benedict Spinoza.

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir Harry Kroto chooses the philosopher Benedict Spinoza. Biographical discussion series with Humphrey Carpenter. From November 2002.

Nobel Prize-winning chemist Sir Harry Kroto chooses the philosopher Spinoza. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2002.

Great Lives

Series 11 William Beveridge

Anne Fine nominates William Beveridge, who sparked the creation of the welfare state.

4 Extra debut. Writer Anne Fine chooses social security reformer William Beveridge. With Frank Field and Matthew Parris. From January 2007.

Great Lives

Series 4 Ian Dury

Comedian Linda Smith nominates musician, actor and artist Ian Dury.

4 Extra Debut. Comedian Linda Smith nominates musician, actor and artist Ian Dury as her choice of a life well-lived. With Humphrey Carpenter. From November 2003.

Comedian Linda Smith nominates musician, actor and artist Ian Dury as her choice of a life well-lived. Humphrey Carpenter is in the chair, while writer, broadcaster and Dury's former manager Charlie Gillett fills in the biographical details.

Credits

Presenter
Humphrey Carpenter
Interviewed Guest
Linda Smith
Interviewed Guest
Charlie Gillett

Great Lives

Series 4 Mary Kingsley

Journalist Ann Leslie chooses the pioneering writer and explorer Mary Kingsley.

Journalist Ann Leslie chooses the pioneering writer and explorer Mary Kingsley. With Humphrey Carpenter. From December 2003.

Great Lives

Series 4 Dr Samuel Johnson

Poet Kit Wright chooses author and creator of the English dictionary, Dr Samuel Johnson.

Poet Kit Wright chooses author and creator of the English dictionary, Dr Samuel Johnson. With Humphrey Carpenter. From October 2003.

Great Lives

Sarah Bernhardt

Comedienne Jenny Eclair chooses one of the first acting superstars, Sarah Bernhardt.

Comedienne Jenny Eclair chooses one of the first acting superstars, Sarah Bernhardt. With Humphrey Carpenter. From October 2003.

Comedienne Jenny Eclair chooses one of the first acting superstars, Sarah Bernhardt. With Humphrey Carpenter.

The biographical series in which a distinguished guest chooses someone who's inspired their life. Will their hero stand up to intensive scrutiny and merit the description of having led a great life? From 2003.

Brand

Great Lives

Great Lives

Series 13 Episode 8: Elizabeth David

Chef and novelist Prue Leith chooses cookery writer Elizabeth David.

4 Extra Debut. Chef and novelist Prue Leith chooses cookery writer Elizabeth David. With Matthew Parris and Artemis Cooper. From September 2007.

Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

8/9. Prue Leith nominates Elizabeth David, arguably the greatest food writer of the 20th century. She is joined by biographer Artemis Cooper.

Great Lives

Series 22 Episode 9: Walt Disney

Gerald Scarfe, merciless political cartoon satirist, chooses an icon who created icons.

Gerald Scarfe, merciless cartoon satirist of political figures, chooses an icon who created icons. Matthew Parris presents the biographical series. From September 2010.

Satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe nominates Walt Disney.

Gerald Scarfe spent much of his childhood in his sick bed, so it's not surprising that Disney cartoons and feature films meant so much to him. He can still recall the thrill at the prospect of seeing Pinocchio at the cinema, and then the agony of being lead away again in the rain because the tickets were too expensive.

Walt Disney came from a working family. His god-fearing father Elias, said by one writer to have 'hated Capital, and favoured Labour, but really needed to make a buck', found work where he could. So Walt lived a peripatetic childhood, and sought solace in drawing and play acting. Hard times early on did not make Walt frugal with money in adulthood, and despite the huge successes of the golden era of Disney, it was only with the opening of Disneyland that Walt attained any substantial personal wealth.

You don't have to look far to find myth surrounding Walt Disney. Even after his death, rumours that his body had been cryogenically frozen spread so widely that they soon slipped into folklore. He had actually been cremated, but the readiness with which the cryogenic claim was accepted perhaps bears witness to a man who was terrified of dying, who believed in the white hope of technology and who, some might say, had been searching all his life for an escape into an immortal, fairytale world.

Matthew Parris, Gerald Scarfe and guest experts Brian Sibley and Richard Williams, creator of Roger Rabbit, discuss the life of a complex cultural icon. A man who was seemingly unpretentious, and did not fit the image of movie mogul with his scruffy tweed jacket and awkward demeanour, yet a man who was accused of being a tyrannical egomaniac. The son of a socialist who ended up naming names at the House of Un- American Activities committee. Above all else perhaps though, they discuss the life of a man who strove tirelessly for perfection and who changed the cultural landscape of a little boy called Gerald, and arguably of the world, for ever.

Scarfe himself is best known for his classic images lampooning the great and the good of politics, and also in his iconic animation for Pink Floyd's The Wall. He reveals in this programme that he also spent time working on the Disney production Hercules.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Credits

Producer
Sarah Langan
Presenter
Matthew Parris

Great Lives

Series 23 Episode 2: DH Lawrence

Poet John Hegley chooses the author of Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence.

Poet John Hegley chooses the author of Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence. Author Geoff Dyer offers the expert's view alongside Matthew Parris. From December 2010.

DH Lawrence was, in the words of Geoff Dyer, a man with thin wrists and thick trousers. He was also the author of Women in Love, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley's Lover. But poet and performer John Hegley has chosen him above all for the quality of his poetry, an admiration presenter Matthew Parris also shares.

Lawrence died aged just 44. An obituary at the time reckoned he was 'a rebel against all the accepted values of modern civilization'. Certainly his life - born in Eastwood, Notts, became a teacher only to run off with a German-born mother of three to embark on his 'savage pilgrimage' around the world - was unpredictable. As indeed was this programme, recorded in front of an audience at the Arnolfini in Bristol, with John Hegley using both music and verse to make his point. Geoff Dyer, the author of Out of Sheer Rage, makes the case that Lawrence's unpredictability was a sign of strength, and that his best work lies in his letters and not his books.

The producer is Miles Warde.

Great Lives

Series 22 Episode 4: Mary Carpenter

Camila Batmanghelidjh discusses the life of her Victorian equivalent, Mary Carpenter.

Ex-charity leader Camila Batmanghelidjh chooses the Victorian reformer. With Matthew Parris and Carla Contractor. From August 2010.

Matthew Parris is joined by the founder of Kids' Company, the psychotherapist Camila Batmanghelidjh, to discuss the life of her Victorian equivalent, Mary Carpenter.

Mary Carpenter developed theories for helping deprived and criminalised children through the experience of running schools and reformatories in Bristol in the mid-nineteenth century. She became very influential as MPs turned to her for advice on educational and penal reform regarding children. Her guiding principle was that the treatment of troubled children should be based on the love of the child, not on ideas of punishment or retribution.

Camila Batmanghelidjh founded Kids' Company to offer practical support 'and love' to vulnerable inner city children who may lack it from their families. She was surprised to discover how closely Mary Carpenter's beliefs mirror her own, one hundred and fifty years on, and how many of the problems Mary Carpenter described remain unchanged. Camila finds Dickensian conditions in the homes of South London children now, with filthy conditions, parents who are intoxicated and drugs being used to control or pacify children. These scenes would have been familiar to Mary Carpenter as she visited families in the slums of Bristol.

The parallels between the two women are striking: both exhibited a gift for dealing with children at an early age; both decided to devote their lives to the cause, eschewing a family life of their own; both have had to spend time raising money and advocating on behalf of the children they represent.

Matthew and Camila are joined by biographer and historian Carla Contractor in this fascinating and moving programme.

Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.

Great Lives

Series 23 Episode 6: JB Priestley

Comedian Barry Cryer nods to his Yorkshire roots by choosing JB Priestley.

Barry Cryer nods to his Yorkshire roots by choosing JB Priestley, author of The Good Companions and An Inspector Calls. With Matthew Parris and Martin Wainwright. From January 2011.

Barry Cryer nods to his Yorkshire roots in choosing JB Priestley, the Bradford born author of The Good Companions and An Inspector Calls. Barry knew JB for the last ten years of his life, and fondly recalls visiting a man he loved with two members of Monty Python. Other memories include a trip to the Cafe Royal, and thoughts on Priestley's notorious love of women.

Martin Wainwright, northern editor of the Guardian, presenter of last year's radio documentary about the Postscripts, also brings to life a prolific writer nearly killed in World War One. Some say he wrote so much to avoid the memories of that war. Recorded in front of an audience at the Arnolfini in Bristol, the programme includes colourful clips of JB Priestley and also Priestley's son, Tom. The only discordant note is raised by presenter Matthew Parris: "It's awfully watchable, awfully readable ... but where's the magic ? Is Priestley really very good ?"

The producer is Miles Warde.

Credits

Producer
Miles Warde

Great Lives

Series 25 Episode 4: Eduardo Paolozzi

Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates the Scottish artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates the Scottish sculptor and artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. With Matthew Parris and Christopher Frayling. From August 2011.

This week's Great Life, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, hated being tagged as the father of pop art, yet his representations of images from popular culture came almost two decades before Warhol and Lichtenstein. Prolific and generous, his public sculptures populate many cities across the country, yet his name is not as well known as Moore, Hepworth or Gormley. The diversity of the forms that he worked in, and his reluctance to be packaged and promoted by agents, accounts at least partly for that.

Paolozzi's personal story is no less complicated. Born in Edinburgh to Italian parents that sent him back to Fascist summer camp in Italy every year, all the men in his family, including the young Eduardo were interned when Mussolini declares war in 1940. Eduardo spent three months prison, but his father and grandfather met a far worse fate.

Joining Matthew in the studio are two close friends of Paolozzi's. Nominating him is the restaurateur Antonio Carluccio, who remembers dining and cooking with Paolozzi, and marvelling at how his 'fatty sausage' fingers could produce artwork of such intricacy. Cultural historian, Professor Sir Christopher Frayling who taught with Paolozzi for many years also has many anecdotes to tell, and he and Matthew agree to differ on their appraisal of one of Paolozzi's most well known works; the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Produced by: Sarah Langan.

Great Lives

Series 21 Episode 8: Arthur Wharton

Viv Anderson champions the life of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer

4 Extra Debut. Viv Anderson talks to Matthew Parris about the life of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer. From May 2010.

Viv Anderson, the first black footballer to play for England, talks to Matthew Parris about the life of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional player.

Arthur Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865. He came to England to study, but he very quickly started to gain a reputation as an athlete, winning the 100 metres in a world record time of ten seconds. He was a superb all-round athlete, and excelled in football and cricket.

In his career he played for Preston North End, Sheffield United, Rotherham Town, Stalybridge Celtic and Ashton North End. He ended his career at Stockport County in Division Two, and, for the remainder of his working life, he laboured as a colliery haulage hand in the pits.

Wharton came from a middle class background, but his choice of a life of sport meant that a career in civil service administration was quickly closed to him, He chose to do what he loved to do, but paid a terrible price. As his playing career collapsed, he developed a drink problem, and died a penniless alcoholic.

Credits

Producer
John Byrne

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