Front Row

Front Row

By BBC Radio 4

Live magazine programme on the worlds of arts, literature, film, media and music

Episodes

London Grammar, Frank of Ireland, Photographer of the Year Craig Easton

London Grammar's debut album in 2013 won an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song. Their follow up four years later topped the album charts. Singer and songwriter Hannah Reid talks about their latest album Californian Soil, about sexism in the music industry, and using lockdown as a chance to learn to read music. Craig Easton was last week announced as Photographer of the Year at the Sony World Photography Awards. He discusses his project Bank Top, a photographic celebration of the residents of a mixed community in Blackburn, for which he won the award. Domhnall Gleeson and his brother Brian have paired up for the new Channel 4 sitcom Frank of Ireland - the first episode aired last last week which Brian has described as “a physical, slapstick comedy about an arrogant fantasist called Frank Maron who’s in his thirties at home with his mother.” Comedian and co-host of the Tellybox podcast Emma Doran reviews the new Channel 4 series. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser Main image: London Grammar Image credit: Alex Waespi
19/04/2128m 20s

Deborah Warner on Peter Grimes, Helen McCrory remembered, Mare of Easttown

Director Deborah Warner discusses her new production of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, which opens at the Teatro Real in Madrid on Monday. The staging of this multinational co-production has become significantly more difficult in the wake of Brexit and more recently she has had to adapt to the numerous challenges posed by Covid. The death was announced today at the age of 52 of Helen McCrory, whose credits included Peaky Blinders, The Queen, Harry Potter and many highly-praised stage roles including Medea and The Deep Blue Sea. Theatre critic Susannah Clapp reflects on her contribution to stage and screen. Cybercrime is a lucrative source for fraudsters; companies’ customer accounts, personal bank details, and pension funds, presenting regular targets for the digital criminals. Now it seems that the world of publishing is attracting the online scammers. Heloise Wood, Deputy News Editor of The Bookseller, shares her latest scoop. Mare of Easttown is a new HBO/Sky Atlantic series starring Kate Winslet as a small-town Pennsylvanian detective investigating a local murder as life crumbles around her. Lanre Bakare (Guardian arts and culture correspondent) and Jen Chaney (New York Magazine’s Vulture TV critic) discuss the drama with Kirsty Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Jerome Weatherald
16/04/2141m 30s

Paul Theroux on his new novel, Under The Wave at Waimea

Paul Theroux talks to Tom Sutcliffe about his latest novel “Under The Wave At Waimea” set in Hawaii where he now lives. Published just as he’s celebrated his 80th birthday - it uses surfing as an allegory for consideration of ageing, contemplation, writing, reading and reflecting on his professional and personal life. The conversation ranges across Theroux's long and successful career as a writer of fiction and of travel books. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Oliver Jones
15/04/2128m 11s

Testament, diversity in nature writing, festivals insurance update

Rapper and writer Testament discusses his new work Orpheus in the Record Shop which fuses spoken word and beatboxing with players from the Orchestra of Opera North in an new collaboration that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist. Festivals this summer are still in doubt as organisers can't secure insurance commercially. Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO of UK Music, discusses how likely it will be that the government will step in to provide an indemnity. British nature writing remains overwhelmingly white, despite its continuing popularity. With the recent establishment of new prizes and literary journals for diversity in nature writing things are starting to change - but slowly. John talks to two authors bucking the trend: Anita Sethi, author of a new memoir called I Belong Here about reclaiming the countryside for people of colour and Paul Mendez, who contributed an essay to the new collection, In the Garden, about the gardens of his Windrush grandparents. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Bob Nettles and Donald McDonald Main image: Testament in Orpheus in the Record Shop Image credit: Anthony Robling
14/04/2128m 50s

Ammonite; Jack Holden's play Cruise; Voices from the Peak

Ammonite tells the story of fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea who develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever. Set in 1840’s England and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. The British Council's Director of Film, Briony Hanson reviews. In his early 20s, the actor and producer Jack Holden volunteered for the LGBT+ helpline, Switchboard. A decade on, his experiences there form the foundation of his new play, Cruise, which explores the impact of the 1980s AIDS crisis on the gay community in Soho. Poet and performer Mark Gwynne Jones discusses his celebration of the landscape of Britain’s first National Park as it marks its 70th anniversary, in Voices from the Peak, a journey through the Peak District in word and sound, featuring the atmospheres, wildlife and stories of a land rich in contrasts. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser
13/04/2128m 21s

Too Close, Rachel Whiteread, Chloe Zhao, Rosa Rankin Gee

Leila Latif reviews Too Close, ITV’s new psychological thriller starring Emily Watson and Denise Gough, which will be broadcast on consecutive nights this week. On the day that commercial art galleries are allowed to re-open in England, Rachel Whiteread discusses her new exhibition Internal Objects at the Gagosian gallery in London. The exhibition features new resin sculptures, and the gallery's two main rooms are occupied by two new works - large sheds made of found materials and painted in white household paint. As the BAFTA winners were announced over the weekend, Chloe Zhao’s film Nomadland won four prizes including best film, best actress for star Frances McDormand and best director. Film critic Leila Latif joins Kirsty to tell us more about the exciting young director, and her first feature film Songs My Brothers Taught Me which has just been released for the first time in the UK. Novelist Rosa Rankin Gee joins Kirsty to talk about her new novel, Dreamland, set in a dystopian future where rising tides and political extremism have left one coastal community, and one small family, to fend for itself. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Main image: Emily Watson as Dr Emma Robertson in Too Close Image credit: ITV.com
12/04/2128m 40s

Taylor Swift's Fearless, Prince Philip portraitist Jonathan Yeo, David Almond, Them

Taylor Swift, who recently won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, has today released a new album called Fearless (Taylor's Version), which is an exact remake of her 2008 breakthrough album, Fearless. Music critic Sophie Harris explains why Taylor is repeating herself and reviews the new record. Tom Sutcliffe discusses HRH the Duke of Edinburgh's interest in art and literature with Jonathan Yeo, who painted his portrait, and Ian Lloyd, author of The Duke: 100 Chapters in the life of Prince Philip. Skellig author David Almond discusses his new novel Bone Music. Set in the forests and fells of Northern England, it's about a young girl who connects with a spiritual ancestor from the stone-age. Critics Jan Asante and Kohinoor Sahota discuss the provocative new Amazon drama, Them. Does it offer something new in the politicised American gothic horror genre or is it just a Jordan Peele rip off? Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Timothy Prosser Production Co-ordinator: Hilary Buchanan Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Main image above: Taylor Swift. Image credit: Francis Specker/CBS via Getty Images
10/04/2142m 21s

Peggy Seeger, Liverpool pilot of arts events, Fiction writers of faith

Peggy Seeger has just released her latest album, The First Farewell, at the age of 85. She tells us about the pleasures of working on it with her family, her worries about the post-Covid music scene, getting older - and getting younger. Liverpool is about to take part in a pilot scheme testing live events. There will be an open-air film screening, a comedy gig and a club night. We talk to Liverpool's director of culture, Claire McColgan, about how it will work and the scientific questions behind it. Francis Spufford is the author of Golden Hill which won the Costa First Novel Award. Hafsa Zayyan's novel We Are All Birds of Uganda is on Radio 4 this week and won the Merky Books New Writing Prize. The two authors discuss what it means to be a writer of faith in 21st century Britain. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager: Emma Harth
08/04/2128m 20s

Katherine Parkinson, Louise Kennedy, TikTok and bands

Katherine Parkinson is best known as an actress – she won a BAFTA playing Jen in The IT Crowd and warm praise for her performance on stage in Laura Wade’s play Home, I’m Darling. But she has also written a play, Sitting, an interwoven set of three monologues first performed at the Edinburgh Festival and now on BBC4 as part of BBC Lights Up. It is inspired by her own experience sitting for a portrait painter when she was a student and like the work of the actress herself spans from sharp comedy to raw emotion. She talks to John about performing in the play for the first time. Louise Kennedy discusses her new collection of short stories, The End of the World is a Cul de Sac, which focus on the rugged landscapes and tough characters of north-west Ireland, just south of the border, where she lives. Secrets, lies, cruelty and history lie at the heart of many of the 15 stories, infused with the country’s folklore and politics. The band Years and Years released a snippet of their new single on TikTok before any other platforms and set a challenge to fans to make the most interesting video with lead singer Olly Alexander. Music Journalist Zoya Raza-Sheikh discusses how bands use TikTok to interact with fans and promote their music. As he founds a new organisation dedicated to improving Muslim representation on screen, Muslim Film UK, we talk to actor and producer Sajid Varda. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson
07/04/2128m 20s

Riz Ahmed, Climate change books, Paul Ritter remembered, Israel covid passports

Riz Ahmed stars in Sound of Metal as a rock drummer who loses his hearing. The actor and rapper discusses learning American sign language, working with culturally Deaf actors as well as learning about addiction for his Oscar nominated performance. So far, 2021 has seen a large number of novels with a climate change theme being published. Toby Lichtig, Fiction Editor at the Times Literary Supplement, reports on some of the new releases and shifting attitudes in publishing towards avowedly-politicised fiction. Concerts and plays with a live audience have been taking place in Israel for over a month now, with audience members required to show a vaccination certificate known as a “green pass”. Allison Kaplan Sommer from the Haaretz Newspaper in Tel Aviv reports. Paul Ritter has died aged 54. Perhaps best known for playing the dad Martin in Friday Night Dinner, we speak to the show's writer Robert Popper about Paul's life and career. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones Sound Engineer: Matilda Macari
06/04/2128m 35s

Author Michael Rosen on his experience of Covid and his tribute to the NHS

A year ago, the writer, poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen was rushed to hospital with Covid. Put into an induced coma in intensive care for 48 days, he underwent weeks of convalescence as he learned to walk again. Following his recovery he wrote a new book, Many Different Kinds of Love: A Story of Life, Death and the NHS, featuring letters written to him by the medical staff who cared for him, as well as a series of poems about his months in hospital. Michael Rosen discusses his near-death experience and his desire to pay tribute to the NHS workers who saved his life. Presenter Elle Osili-Wood Producer Jerome Weatherald
05/04/2128m 32s

Front Row: The Blue Edition

Tonight's Font Row is a blue odyssey led by John Wilson as he talks to: Dr Narayan Khandekar, Director of the Forbes Pigment Collection and one of the first people in the world to recognise the significance of the accidental creation of new pigment, YInMn Blue; Artist Idris Khan is known for the use of blue in his work. He accepted Front Row's invitation to play with the newest blue pigment on the block. Idris Khan's work can be seen online as part of a group show at Victoria Miro, themed around the colour blue. The exhibition is called The Sky Was Blue the Sea Was Blue and the Boy Was Blue and runs until the end of April. Idris’s solo show, The Seasons Turn, will mark the reopening of the Victoria Miro gallery to the public, on April 13. His show runs until 15 May; Science journalist Kai Kupferschmidt who has written a new book, Blue: In Search of Nature's Rarest Colour which will be published in the UK in June; Architect Huang Wenjing who has designed a new blue building - the Pinghe Bibliotheater - in Shanghai; Saxophonist and composer Branford Marsalis who has written the blues soundtrack for the new film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom which can be seen on Netflix; and Colourist Jodie Davidson on the significance of blue when telling stories on the big and small screen. Presenter: John Wilson Studio Manager: Sue Maillot Producer: Ekene Akalawu
02/04/2141m 6s

Director Lee Isaac Chung, Samantha Ege, Jane Austen's Persuasion, musicians selling back catalogues

Minari tells the story of a Korean family who move to a farm in Arkansas in pursuit of the American Dream. The film’s director, Lee Isaac Chung, explains how his own family story inspired events in the film, and the impact Awards nominations have on his career as a director. Pianist and musicologist Samantha Ege has launched an album of piano music from the often overlooked African-American composer, Florence Price. She discusses the revival of Price's music, and why it is important her work is remembered today. With news that Paul Simon has joined a high-profile group of singer/songwriters - including Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks – who’ve recently sold the entirety of their musical output, comedian and singer Amy Webber muses on the 50 Ways to Monetize Your Back Catalogue. Professor John Mullan has been celebrating the pleasures of reading, and re-reading, the novels of Jane Austen during lockdown for Front Row. For the final novel he recommends Persuasion, with its depiction of a thwarted love, and reflects on the series. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager: Emma Harth
01/04/2128m 34s

Future of Disabled Theatre, Disability Champion Andrew Miller, London Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Miller, the Government’s first Disability Champion for Arts and Culture, is stepping down after three years in the post. He discusses the challenges facing disabled people in the creative industries and his hopes for the future. Jenny Sealey is Artistic Director of deaf and disabled theatre company Graeae and Robert Softley Gale is Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise, Scotland’s first touring theatre company employing disabled and non-disabled actors. They discuss the impact of the pandemic on disabled theatre makers. The London Symphony Orchestra has announced that Sir Antonio Pappano will be their next Chief Conductor, starting in September 2024. He takes over from Sir Simon Rattle who made a surprise announcement in January that he would be returning to conduct in Germany. Norman Lebrecht - author of The Maestro Myth - discusses the significance of this appointment for classical music in the UK. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser Main image: Graeae Theatre Company's 2018 tribute to wounded British veterans, This is Not For You Image credit: Dawn McNamara
31/03/2128m 22s

International Booker Prize longlist reviewed, Joanne Harris, Who should translate work?

Novelist Nadifa Mohamed and translator Maureen Freely review the just-announced longlist for the International Booker Prize 2021. Author Joanne Harris talks to her Italian translator Laura Grandi, her collaborator of 22 years, about their special partnership. Plus writer and artist Khairani Barokka and Maureen Freely explore the question of how to choose who is the best person to translate each text, in light of the recent departure of several translators from the project of translating the work of Black US inauguration poet Amanda Gorman. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Engineer: Donald MacDonald
30/03/2128m 30s

Tahar Rahim in The Mauritanian, Charlie Carroll, Greenborne

Kevin Macdonald’s new film The Mauritanian is based on the true story of a prisoner held in Guantánamo Bay for 14 years but never charged. The French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim, recently seen in the TV drama series The Serpent, discusses the challenges of playing Mohamedou Slahi, who was shackled, beaten and waterboarded by the US authorities. The Lip depicts a hidden Cornwall, the one we rarely see. Its author, Charlie Carroll discusses writing about the second poorest region in all of Europe and how he included mental health issues within his work. Ready for a new radio soap opera? Greenborne launched this month and this new audio drama aims to reflect the real world we live in. Ella Watts reviews. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Oliver Jones
29/03/2128m 22s

Tina Turner and Demi Lovato documentaries, author Dean Koontz, poet Marvin Thompson, artists on the high street

For our Friday Review, critics Jacqueline Springer and Sophie Harris give their verdict on two new documentaries, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil and Tina. Both detail each of the star’s respective troubles with abuse and drug addiction while in the limelight, and our reviewers discuss their candid telling of trauma. The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition winner was announced this Thursday in a virtual ceremony. The first prize, and the £5000 that came with it, was awarded to Marvin Thompson, a London-born poet of Jamaican heritage who now lives in mountainous south Wales. He explains what winning the prize means to him and how he explores his identity through his poetry. Dean Koontz is an extraordinarily successful author. His books have sold over 500m copies and been translated into 38 languages with many of them also being turned into screenplays. His first was published more than half a century ago in 1968 and his latest - The Other Emily – has just been published. He joins me from his home in California. Hypha Studios is a new organisation which seeks to regenerate Britain's high streets - 14 percent of whose shops are empty - and meet the needs of the thousands of artists across the UK in need of studio space. Kirsty Lang talks to its founder Camilla Cole about the process, and to its first beneficiary, artist Molly Stredwick whose temporary studio space is now a shop front in Eastbourne. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Image: Tina Turner in 'Tina' (2021) © Marc Gruninger
26/03/2141m 23s

Emerald Fennell, Benin Bronzes, Winner of the Sarah Maguire Prize for Poetry in Translation

Emerald Fennell is the director and writer of Promising Young Woman, a darkly comic revenge thriller starring Carey Mulligan. The film is nominated for five Academy Awards and six BAFTAs. Emerald is also a successful actress, most recently starring as the then-Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown as well as a cameo in the movie. We hear about what sparked the film, reactions to it and what it’s like to combine direction, writing and acting. The Humboldt Forum in Berlin is currently planning to return its entire collection of Benin bronzes to Nigeria, looted in the late 19th century in the era of European colonial expansion, and Aberdeen University has just announced it is going to be the first UK institution to return its own Benin bronze sculpture to the country. Alice Procter, author of the new book The Whole Picture: The Colonial Story of the Art in our Museums discusses the significance of these two examples of restitution. One of the most published Chinese poets in English Yang Lian, has won the inaugural Sarah Maguire Prize for Poetry in Translation along with his long time translator Brian Holton. He talks to Samira Ahmed from his home in exile in Berlin about his prize winning anthology Anniversary Snow as well as how his mother’s sudden death whilst he was being “re-educated” during China’s Cultural Revolution led to him becoming a poet Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May Studio Engineer: Emma Harth
25/03/2128m 17s

Playwright Mark Ravenhill, The Future of Festivals, 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize.

The playwright Mark Ravenhill joins us to talk about his new play Angela. It is a tender portrait of his parents; his mother, Angela, who died in 2019, and of his father, Ted. Angela had dementia and the play is about the memories that make us, and how time is more fluid than we might think. Ravenhill began Angela as a play for the stage that he was going to act - and even dance - himself. But Covid restirctions made that impossible so it became an audio play, starring Pam Ferris (Harry Potter, Call the Midwife) as Angela and Toby Jones (Detectorists, Uncle Vanya ) as Ted. Melanie Abbott joins us to update on the select committee concerning the future of UK music festivals. We also hear about a test festival that took place this weekend in The Netherlands, organised by Fieldlab. The winner of the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize is announced today and Front Row we will have the first interview.
24/03/2128m 26s

Orlando Bloom; Liverpool Biennial; Elizabeth Knox

Orlando Bloom talks to Samira Ahmed about taking on a very different kind of role in his intense and visceral film Retaliation, and the new career challenges he’s excited about. As the delayed Liverpool Biennial gets underway – showing only online and outdoor work for the moment because of the restrictions on galleries opening – art critic and editor of The Double Negative cultural website Mike Pinnington considers how the commissioned artists have responded to the theme of ‘the body’, and how the city is preparing to re-open its doors. Best selling New Zealand writer Elizabeth Knox discusses her new novel The Absolute Book, an apocalyptic fantasy novel which explores contemporary issues including climate change through a fusion of ancient myths, other worlds and a murder mystery in a spell binding story. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Image: Retaliation (2017) Credit: Zee Studios International
23/03/2128m 24s

Nile Rodgers on his digital portrait, composer Hannah Peel

Nile Rodgers – guitarist, producer, songwriter, arranger, and co-founder of Chic in the 1970s – is the subject of what claims to be the world’s first voice-interactive digital portrait, In the Room with Nile Rodgers, in association with the National Portrait Gallery. Nile Rodgers and the project's director, Sarah Coward, discuss and explain the ambitious artwork. Hannah Peel’s latest album Fir Wave is inspired by nature, and finds links between patterns in nature and in early electronic music. She explains the inspiration behind her new album, how she’s reinterpreted iconic music by the Radiophonic Workshop, and why Delia Derbyshire is such an important figure for her. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Jerome Weatherald Main image: Nile Rodgers Image credit: Dimitri Hakke/Getty Images
22/03/2128m 21s

Giles Terera, Griff, Line of Duty reviewed, Harriet Harman on touring musicians

Today, Griff was awarded the 2021 BRITs Rising Star prize. The 20 year old singer-songwriter joins us to discuss how she writes her lyrics including to her breakout single Black Hole, making music in lockdown and what the future holds for her now she’s won this award. Line of Duty returns to our screens this weekend. Crime writers Dreda Say Mitchell and Abir Mukherjee review Jed Mercurio’s sixth series and consider the depiction of the police in TV drama more generally. After concern that the government's post-Brexit trade deal with Europe left them out, Labour MP Harriet Harman tells us about her proposed 10 point plan to help musicians and other touring artists who want to work in the EU. Giles Terera won an Olivier Award for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. His next role will be in a play he's written himself: The Meaning of Zong is a powerful account of the notorious massacre aboard the slave ship Zong in 1781. Originally conceived for the stage, it's now been made for Radio 3 as part of the BBC Lights Up festival. Giles talks about the play and about his new song cycle, Black Matter, inspired by the last year. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Matilda Macari
19/03/2141m 29s

Michael Rosen, Chris Bush, Zack Snyder’s Justice League

A year ago, the poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen was admitted to hospital with Covid-19. Against all the odds, after months in hospital, including 48 days in intensive care and in an induced coma, he returned home and has written a new collection of prose poems and words about the experience. The poet discusses Many Different Kinds of Love: A Story of Life, Death and the NHS and how the trauma affected him. This week sees the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Originally released in 2017 in an edit by Joss Whedon, the film received poor reviews. A successful fan campaign, #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, has led to the release of a new version by original director Zack Snyder. But is it an improvement? Leila Latif reviews. The Band Plays On is a new play by writer Chris Bush, taking the form of a series of monologues punctuated by live music covers of some of Sheffield’s bands and artists. Chris joins us to discuss making theatre in lockdown and her choice to mark Sheffield’s history within the play. Presenter: Elle Osili-Wood Producer: Jerome Weatherald
18/03/2128m 21s

No Ordinary Man, Dream, Lofi Hip Hop, James Levine

Director Chase Joynt joins us to talk about his film No Ordinary Man, an in-depth look at the life of musician and trans culture icon Billy Tipton. Tipton was born in Oklahoma in 1914, and with the limited resources of the 1930s, had no choice but to transition alone. Entering the heady world of jazz as a pianist and band leader, he enjoyed a long and successful career, becoming a husband and father of three adopted sons in the 1960s. He never shared his gender history with anyone and when he died in 1989, the press seized on the public outing, generating much lurid coverage and incredulity. No Ordinary Man uses a unconventional format to explore the meaning of his life and legacy from the perspective of trans artists today. Dream is a new collaborative production by the RSC which isn’t quite like their usual work. It uses actors, stop motion techniques, graphics and interactivity familiar from gaming and puts them into a pandemic-proof online show inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream: a live performance in a virtual forest. Could this point the way to future developments on stage and screen? Critic Naima Khan gives her verdict. Looking for an accompaniment to working from home? Search “lofi hiphop” on YouTube and among the hours of background music mixes and Anime pictures, you’ll find communities of students and workers from around the world congregating to listen and work together. Journalists Allegra Frank and Wil Jones explain the appeal of the channels, the music and the communities around them. Conductor James Levine, who led New York's Metropolitan Opera for 40 years before being fired over sexual abuse allegations, has died at the age of 77. Main image: Bandleader Billy Tipton Image credit: Courtesy BFI Flare
17/03/2128m 27s

Theatre one year on - what now?

One year after theatres closed due to the Covid pandemic, leading figures from the industry join Front Row to look at how the past year has impacted upon theatres and the people who work in them. Sonia Friedman reflects on this time last year, when the unthinkable happened, and looks forward to when theatres might re-open. Julian Bird, CEO of SOLT and UK Theatre, reports on the results of their survey, just in, which asked questions of theatres and individuals around the UK. Actor Michael Balogun had all of his work cancelled immediately. Then in September, he appeared on stage at the National, starring in The Death of England - Delroy, but press night was also the last night as the theatre shut again. Theatre directors and writers Emma Rice (Wise Children), Lucy Askew (Creation) and Amy Ng discuss how they've adapted their working practices to cope with the difficulties of the last year, and what opportunities these new ways of working now present for their future work. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May
16/03/2128m 25s

Sarah Gavron and Theresa Ikoko on Rocks, Oscar nominations, Emma Stonex

Inspired by the real-life story of three men in a lighthouse who mysteriously vanished, Emma Stonex’s novel The Lamplighters is part thriller, part history and part ghost story. She explains why she felt drawn to write about the sea and what we can learn from the solitary lives of lighthouse keepers. David Fincher's film Mank leads the field in today's Oscar nominations, but who else stood out in the announcement? Film critic Larushka Ivan-Zadeh reflects on the nominations in a year when most cinemas in the world have been closed. The film Rocks is leading the BAFTA nominations this year. Its director, Sarah Gavron, and writer, Theresa Ikoko join us to discuss casting with no script, working in a wholly female team and the film’s success. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Jerome Weatherald Main image: Kosar Ali (Sumaya), Ruby Stokes (Agnes) and Bukky Bakray (Rocks) from the film Rocks. Image credit: Aimee Spinks/Altitude Films
15/03/2128m 10s

Aria Code podcast, Yaa Gyasi's new novel, Sky drama The Flight Attendant reviewed

The podcast ‘Aria Code’ from WQXR and the Metropolitan Opera aims to pull back the curtain on some of operas most well-known moments. Each episode “decodes” one aria, with academics and opera singers diving in to the music. But there are also a variety of unexpected guests, such as a marriage therapist talking relationships in Carmen or a former sex worker giving perspective on La Traviata. Host Rhiannon Giddens explains what’s coming up in the third series of the podcast. The 2020 film The Legend of Fire Saga told the story of Husavik - a plucky little village in Iceland - that wanted to send a local group to compete at The Eurovision Song Contest. They have a song ready to sing in English but decide at the last moment to swap to one which features their native tongue, even though they’ve been warned that it’ll mean they won’t win. It starred Will Ferrel and Rachel McAdams and the song’s real life composer was Atli Örvarsson (who’s also written for Maroon 5, Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding and many others). Now it’s Oscar nominations time and the citizens of Husavik want the ballad to their town to be nominated in the Best Original Song category shortlist. For our Friday Review, critics Lanre Bakare and Anna Smith give their verdict on whether Sky’s The Flight Attendant takes off. Starring Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory, it tells the story of a flight attendant whose wild night out in Bangkok lands her in a very sticky situation. Michelle Gomez and Rosie Perez also star. And we’ll be asking Lanre and Anna to give their suggestions for something cultural to enjoy this weekend. The author Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing was a breakthrough success with its account of the impact of slavery on generations of a family. Her second, Transcendent Kingdom, has just been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It’s about opioid addiction, religion and the line between belief and science, with its story of Gifty, a scientist who is looking for ways to understand what has happened to her and her family. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May
12/03/2141m 17s

The rise, fall and rise again of audio cassettes, poet Luke Wright, film director Shaka King

The recent death of Lou Ottens - the inventor of audio cassettes who later went on to work on the development of CD technology - gives us the opportunity to look back at the glory days of cassettes, their subsequent decline and the latest unexpected return to fashion, with music journalists Laura Barton and Jude Rogers. Young British poet Luke Wright describes himself as 'a louche poet (who) loves a bit of bathos'. He has a new collection of work, The Feelgood Movie Of The Year, with poems written over the past few years and right up to Covid lockdown, which brought his full touring diary to an abrupt standstill. How has life changed, and where does a poet find inspiration when their everyday world shrinks overnight? Shaka King is the director of Judas and the Black Messiah, a new film starring Daniel Kaluuya which tells the story of the political life and assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton at the age of 21 in 1969. King discusses the FBI's determined campaign to disrupt the powerful unifying movement and their infiltration of the Illinois chapter by a counter-intelligence operative. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Jerome Weatherald
11/03/2128m 15s

The One on Netflix, Women's Prize for Fiction longlist, Samuel West rebooting regional theatre, Kieran Hodgson's moment of joy

Netflix’s new drama, The One, set five minutes in the future, depicts a world where a DNA test can find your perfect partner. Kohinoor Sahota joins us to discuss its mix of sci-fi and romance, as well as whether this format could be the future of dating. The longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction is announced today. Critic Alex Clark joins Front Row to talk about the themes, highlights, whether there are any surprise inclusions and omissions, and which book might take the prize. At the weekend, actor and director Samuel West proposed a plan to ‘reboot’ regional theatre following the lockdown, which would see big-name TV and film stars doing a play at a theatre closest to where they grew up. The actor discusses the reaction to his suggestion and how it would work. In the latest of our Moments of Joy series, comedian Kieran Hodgson takes us into the world of Dvorak’s 8th Symphony, complete with its (figurative) partying elephants and comedy conclusion. Main image: Hannah Ware in the new Netflix series The One. Image credit: Steven Peskett
10/03/2128m 20s

Hilary Hahn; BAFTA nominations; competitive reading

The Bafta Film Awards have unveiled a highly diverse nominations list, with 16 of the 24 acting nominees this year coming from ethnic minority groups. This follows criticsm in previous years about shortlists that didn’t reflect modern Britain. Film maker, poet and founder of The Caramel Film Club Be Manzini joins us to ask whether this is the beginning of greater representation. Violinist Hilary Hahn’s new CD ‘Paris’ brings together music inspired by a city that has been pivotal in her career. She explains her connection to the pieces she’s recorded, how she juggles pandemic problems with being a professional violinist, and how she hopes to make changes for the next generation of musicians. Diyora Shadijanova and Stig Abell discuss the rise of competitive reading. With more and more people setting themselves a reading target and sharing their book history online, they consider whether social media has made the act of reading more performative than personal. The academic John Mullan has been recommending re-reading Jane Austen during lockdown. In the last in the series, tonight he presents the case for Persuasion. Presenter: Elle Osili-Wood Producer: Simon Richardson
09/03/2128m 26s

Oana Aristide, Remembering Stevie Smith, and what is an NFT?

Novelist Oana Aristide discusses her debut novel Under the Blue, about a reclusive artist forced to abandon his home and follow two young sisters across a post-pandemic Europe in search of a safe place. It has been described as eco-fiction and it explores themes of environmental destruction, the melting of the polar ice, eco-terrorism, all within a suspenseful story of three survivors on a terrifying road trip. The British poet Stevie Smith, best known for her work “Not Waving, But Drowning” died 50 years ago today. We speak with her biographer Frances Spalding, the editor of her collected poems and drawings Will May and we’re joined by the actor Juliet Stevenson to look at Smith’s life and works and consider her legacy. Kings of Leon have made their new album available as a form of cryptocurrency, and last week Grimes sold a digital collection of artworks in a similar way for almost $6m. Aleks Krotoski explains the growing craze for ‘non-fungible tokens’ or NFTs. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Oliver Jones Main image: Oana Aristide Image credit: Nikos Karanikolas
08/03/2128m 23s

David Mamet; The Glorias and Moxie reviewed; Danielle Evans

David Mamet's latest play, The Christopher Boy’s Communion is about a couple in New York whose son is facing trial charged with an appalling crime. First performed on the stage in Los Angeles last year, it’s premiers in the UK in the form of a radio play next week. He discusses the tricky issues it deals with and how he adapted a lengthier stage play it for radio (BBC Radio 4, Monday 8 March 8, 1415) In this week’s Friday Review, critics Karen Krizanovich and Jan Asante discuss two films with different perspectives on feminism: The Glorias, written and directed by Julie Taymor and starring Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore, which focuses on the life of the American feminist, writer and activist Gloria Steinem, and the US high school drama Moxie, directed by and starring Amy Poehler. American writer Danielle Evans talks to Kirsty about her second short story collection, The Office of Historical Corrections, which offers a kaleidoscopic exploration of what it is to be African American in the modern USA and uses the short story form to meditate on themes of history and memory. Our occasional series dedicated to moments of joy returns with games writer Jordan Erica Webber, who argues that even at the end of the universe one can find peace and happiness as in the game Outer Wilds. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Jerome Weatherald
05/03/2141m 29s

MC Grammar, Bookshop.org, proposed changes at the V&A

As World Book Day we’re speaking to teacher turned rapper turned internet sensation MC Grammar. He's created lots of videos setting information about grammar to a rap beat. He joins us to explain why it succeeds with school children and we hear the song he's composed specially for the day. Since the arrival of Amazon and online bookselling, independent bookshops have been facing an existential crisis, one that has only accelerated under Coronavirus. Going online to sell books feels like a natural way to boost profits and in November a new service, Bookshop.org, arrived in the UK promising to help bookshops get online and give them a bigger cut of profits. Bookshop.org has announced it has generated £1 million for independent bookshops - could the service be the saviour of independent bookshops and what is the future for ethical book buying online? Nicole Vanderbilt, Managing Director at Bookshop.org UK and Zool Verjee, head of marketing and publicity at Blackwells join us to discuss. And we hear about the potential impact of proposed changes, including restructuring and cutting some posts, at the V&A in London. Guy Baxter, formerly of the V&A, joins Front Row to discuss. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Sarah Johnson
04/03/2128m 23s

Guitarist Pat Metheny, Budget news for the arts, Translation

Pat Metheny has won 20 Grammy Awards, predominantly for his work as a jazz guitarist, but also for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and Best Instrumental Composition. His latest work is as a composer. The album Road to the Sun has two major works for classical guitar. Four Paths of Light is a four movement suite for a solo instrument, played by Jason Vieaux, and Road to the Sun, a piece in six parts, performed by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. Metheny himself plays his arrangement of Arvo Pärt's piano piece Für Alina, on an extraordinary 42 string instrument. Pat Metheny tells John Wilson about this ambitious work. We've reaction to today's Budget Statement from the Chancellor. Rishi Sunak has added £300m to the £1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund, £90m more for museums, and £18m for cultural community projects but will the newly announced extension to the Government's Self Employment Income Support scheme really help struggling arts freelancers? And how can the festivals industry plan for the summer without the government-backed insurance scheme many were calling for? Chairman of the DCMS parliamentary select committee, Julian Knight MP and Paule Constable from the Freelancers Make Theatre Work campaign join us to discuss. And Poet Amanda Gorman became famous around the world when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at Biden’s Inauguration, and now her work is due to be translated into multiple languages. Publishers Meulenhoff have been criticised for appointing a white writer, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, to translate Gorman’s poetry into Dutch, and now Rijneveld has stepped down amid the furore. Activist Janice Deul explains why she was so disappointed with the publisher’s original choice, and writer and translator Khairani Barokka describes the complicated relationship between writers and translators. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Main image: Pat Metheny, credit: John Peden
03/03/2128m 30s

The Anchoress; Your Honour; Stories That Get Us Through

Your Honour is a new Showtime miniseries starring Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as a respected New Orleans judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run. He faces a series of impossible choices questioning how far a Father will go to go to save a son's life. Developed by British Peter Moffat it's a remake of the hit Israeli show Kvodo. Novelist and journalist Lionel Shriver reviews. Stories To Get You Through is a new podcast performed by the people of Doncaster as part of the National Theatre's Public Acts programme. Participants developed their stories remotely on Zoom, over the phone, and through postal packs with creative writing activities, and recorded the stories at home with professional audio recording equipment. The podcast series consists of five episodes exploring themes of imagination, change, fear, friendship and heroes. Nick is joined by James Blakey, Associate Director of Public Acts at the National Theatre, and Lyn Sweeting, who took part. Singer songwriter Catherine Anne Davies makes music as The Anchoress. Her second album The Art of Losing is the follow up to her critically acclaimed album. 'Confessions of a Romantic Novelist'. Written and produced by Davies, the new album deals with mutiple losses and trauma that she has faced over the last few years - including the loss of her father and several miscarriages and is firmly concerned with how to find purpose in the midst of grief. She discusses how creativity can come from loss. Plus reactions to the news that the Chancellor is set announce four hundred million pounds of help for the arts sector in the budget tomorrow. Presenter: Nick Ahad Producer: Helen Roberts
02/03/2128m 25s

Review of Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun, Adrian Younge - The American Negro, Springtime in poetry

Kazuo Ishiguro has just published his eighth novel, the first to be written since he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017 and was knighted. Klara and the Sun is about an Artificial Friend, a robot whose role is to be a companion to the teenage Josie, though it becomes apparent that more may be expected of Klara. With resonances of two of his previous novels Never Let Me Go and of The Remains of the Day, it is a much-anticipated addition to Ishiguro’s body of work. Sameer Rahim, books editor at Prospect magazine, joins us to review. The kind of systemic violence that led to the death of George Floyd is the concern of the composer and producer Adrian Younge in The American Negro, his multimedia project for Black History Month in the US. It comprises an album of music and spoken word, a four part podcast series, Invisible Blackness, and a short film. Live from Los Angeles Adrian Younge talks to us about this ambitious and unapologetic critique of the malevolent psychology that afflicts people of colour in America today. Poet Alison Brackenbury considers poetic responses to the arrival of Spring, from the familiar to the over-familiiar. And our occasional series dedicated to Moments of Joy continues with games writer Jordan Erica Webber, who finds peace and happiness at the end of the universe in the game Outer Wilds. Presenter : Tom Sutcliffe Producer : Simon Richardson Main image: Sir Kazuo Ishiguro Image credit: Howard Sooley
01/03/2128m 22s

The United States vs Billie Holiday reviewed, Adrian Scarborough, Ronald Pickup remembered, Joanna Pocock

We review a new biopic of jazz singer Billie Holiday, directed by Lee Daniels, which tells the story of the FBI’s campaign against her. They were afraid that performing her most famous song Strange Fruit, about the lynching of Black Americans, would incite unrest. Andra Day stars as Holiday. Barb Jungr and Be Manzini give their verdict, comment on the week's arts news and give recommendations for what they've been enjoying recently. A True Born Englishman, a monologue written 30 years ago for Radio 3 by Peter Barnes but never broadcast, is now available online as part of Barnes' People, a collection of the writer's monologues, produced by Original Theatre Company. It imagines the story of a long-serving footman at Buckingham Palace. We talk to actor Adrian Scarborough about the role and why it wasn't broadcast at the time. We mark the passing of the much loved actor of stage and screen Ronald Pickup. Praised as a great character actor, he also played many lead roles. He found global fame with The Crown and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel following a prolific and acclaimed career. Theatre critic Michael Billington discusses Pickup’s career and interrogates the label of character actor. Joanna Pocock is the winner of the Arts Foundation Futures Award for Environmental Writing. Her book Surrender is a long-form essay blending reportage, memoir, and nature writing focusing on the ecological crisis in the American West and beyond. Joanna discusses the future of environmental writing in an environment with an uncertain future. And another Moment of Pleasure as Max Liu celebrates a scene from Annie Baker's play The Flick, an homage to the power of celluloid and the cinema. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio manager: Duncan Hannant
26/02/2141m 20s

Gilbert & George, Ryan Calais Cameron, Jadé Fadojutimi

Artists Gilbert & George open a new exhibition at the White Cube next week. The pair first met in 1967 whilst studying sculpture at Central St Martin’s art college. They’ve lived and worked together in East London for fifty years. The show - New Normal Pictures - consists of twenty-six new pictures which feature the pair in gritty London landscapes including bin bags, bus shelters and graffiti. It was first due to exhibit in April last year. They join John Wilson to discuss how they’ve been more industrious than ever in lockdown and how they hope their fans will experience their art online. First staged in 2019, Typical is a play based on the true-life story of the last night of Christopher Alder, a 37-year-old Black father of two, computer trainee and former paratrooper. That night out in Hull in 1998 would end with his death in police custody. Playwright Ryan Calais Cameron joins Front Row to talk about the Soho Theatre streaming of his play, a one man show performed by Richard Blackwood and co-produced by Nouveau Riche. In today’s #FrontRowGetCreative challenge Painter Jadé Fadojutimi gives us her advice on how to start turning an idea into a piece of art. It can be a new idea, or one you’ve had for a while, the important thing is to get yourself into a space where you can start to make something creative. Jadé invites us into her studio at 1:30 in the morning and shows us how she starts a painting. And we reflect on the life of renowned art detective Charley Hill whose investigative work led to the recovery of one of the world's most iconic paintings Edvard Munch's The Scream, stolen in Oslo in 1984. Charley Hill died earlier this week aged 73. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May
25/02/2128m 16s

Martina Cole, Sam Lee, opening date for museums

As she is awarded one of British crime writing’s top accolades, the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger, Samira talks to crime novelist Martina Cole. Hailed as the Queen of Crime Drama, Cole has written 25 novels and sold 10 million books since records began but her work is rarely reviewed - so what’s her secret? Under the road map unveiled by Boris Johnson on Monday public museums and galleries in England will be allowed to reopen no earlier than 17 May, along with other indoor venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, whilst commercial galleries, public libraries, community centres and gyms are allowed to open from 12 April. Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association talks to Samira Ahmed about the impact the continued classification of museums as "indoor entertainment venues" will have on the sector and whether there might be a shift on behalf of the government. Folk musician Sam Lee has collaborated with English Heritage on a project called Songs of England, a series of online films of sites from Stonehenge and Tintagel to Hadrian’s Wall and Whitby Abbey accompanied by traditional folksongs performed by members of Sam’s Nest Collective. He talks about the connection between music and location and sings John Barleycorn especially for Front Row. Sam also tells Samira about his fascination with the nightingale which he has turned into a compendium of ornithology, verse, legends and illustration and his plans for open-air concerts where nightingales will sing with the musicians. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser SM: John Boland
24/02/2128m 19s

Keats, Bonnie Tyler, Museums and contested heritage

John Keats was just 25 when he died in Rome 200 years ago. To mark the anniversary The Poetry Society has commissioned new work from award-winning contemporary poets responding to Keats’s work, and two of them – Rachael Boast and Will Harris – join us to share their poems and discuss why Keats is still important to contemporary writers 200 hundred years after his death. “The Best Is Yet To Come” is Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler’s 18th studio album. Pushed back by the pandemic, it’s a return to the bombastic full-figured 80s sound that characterised Total Eclipse of the Heart and some of her other greatest hits. At the age of 69, does the rock veteran feel like the best is yet to come? Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden summoned 25 heads of England's Museums and heritage organisations to a summit today to discuss the issue of contested history and the government policy of "retain and explain". Duncan Wilson, Chief Exec of Historic England, reports on the meeting. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Hilary Dunn Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant
23/02/2128m 37s

Huw Stephens on The Story of Welsh Art, Prequels, reaction to the covid roadmap

As the Prime Minister sets out his roadmap to ending the Covid lockdown we get reaction from Dominique Frazer, Founder of the Boileroom, a music venue in Guildford, and Hamish Moseley, Managing Director of an independent film distribution company Altitude Film Entertainment, and ask if this offers them enough information to start to plan for the year ahead. Radio Wales DJ Huw Stephens discusses is three part documentary, The Story of Welsh Art, which looks as visual art in the country more associated with poets and singers. As Nick, a prequel to The Great Gatsby is published, we speak to it's author Michael Farris Smith on why the rather retiring character Nick Carraway deserved a backstory and Professor of Literature Diane Roberts joins to discuss the appeal of the genre. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Simon Richardson Main Image: Huw Stephens holding a painting by Richard Wilson called Snowdon from Llyn Nantlle. Credit: BBC
22/02/2128m 24s

The Color Purple, Niven Govinden, U-Roy remembered, John Barber

Leicester Curve’s recent award-winning revival of the musical The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker’s novel, has been reimagined, filmed and is being streamed for audiences. Dreda Say Mitchell and David Benedict review. David Rodigan joins us to celebrate the life of the great Jamaican musician U-Roy, who died recently. He was a master of the toasting mic style – the precursor of rapping, MC-ing and freestyling. Niven Govinden studied film before becoming an award-winning writer. In his sixth novel Diary of a Film his cinematic knowledge is filtered through the lens of creative anxiety, queer desire, and European city walking. In it, an auteur and his lead actors arrive at a prestigious film festival to premiere his latest film. Alone one morning at a backstreet cafe, he strikes up a conversation with a local woman who takes him on a walk to uncover the city's secrets, historic and personal. A story of love and tragedy emerges, and he begins to see the chance meeting as fate. Every year the Arts Foundation makes awards of £10,000 to assist artists with living and working costs - helping them to carry on creating. All five of the 2021 winners are talking about their work on Front Row. The fourth is John Barber, Arts Foundation Fellow for Choral Composition. He tells John Wilson about the range of his music making, from a retelling of the Persephone myth for 1500 voices, 10 years running Woven Gold, a choir made up of refugees and asylum seekers and professional musicians, to pieces for small choirs such at The Sixteen. So much choral music is rooted in religious texts and liturgy. But Barber is not religious and he explains his concern with composing music for voices from a secular perspective. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: Donald MacDonald
19/02/2141m 21s

Wagner's Ring, Bloodlands, Victor Ambrus, Jessie Brennan

Dame Sarah Connolly sings the role of the goddess Fricka in the Royal Opera House's production of Wagner's The Ring Cycle, currently being broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She discusses the challenge of performing this 15 hour operatic epic. Chris Brandon on writing the new BBC crime drama series Bloodlands - which stars James Nesbitt as a detective - is exec produced by Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty and Bodyguard), and which draws on Brandon's own upbringing in Northern Ireland. Visual artist Jessie Brennan presents our latest #FrontRowGetCreative challenge: today it's "blind drawing", which invites us to take a more intimate view of a person or object. You'll need the help of someone you're bubbling with, or you could draw a pet or object. We pay tribute to the artist Victor Ambrus, who has died at the age of 85. A refugee from Hungary, Ambrus became known for his illustrations of children's books - folktales, history and animal stories - and for his appearances on the TV show Time Team. His powerful images of battles were influenced by his own experience of the Hungarian Uprising. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones
18/02/2128m 28s

K-Pop and the South Korean music industry, poet Kate Fox, touring shows in Europe post Brexit

Is listening to K-Pop like buying sweatshop-made clothes? From rigorous childhood performance academies to long, labour-intensive contracts for young idols, does the South Korean music industry have an exploitation problem? High profile suicides, sexual harassment claims and industry standards are complicating the nature of the industry and the fandom as it booms in the English speaking world. Musicologist Haekyung Um and journalist Taylor Glasby weigh in. Poet Kate Fox talks about her new collection The Oscillations, exploring distance and isolation in the age of the pandemic, refracted through the lenses of neurodiversity and trauma in poems that are bold, funny and open-hearted in their self-discoveries. Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic Tom Morris and Matt Hemley from The Stage discuss the viability of touring UK stage shows in Europe post Brexit as the National Theatre announce today that their planned European tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will not go ahead. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Hilary Dunn Main image: The K-pop girl group BlackPink on stage Image credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images
17/02/2128m 43s

Good Grief, Shalom Auslander, National Galleries

In 2006 a friend of the actor and writer Lorien Haynes died. Haynes's grief has found unusual expression - in a romantic comedy starring Sian Clifford and Nikesh Patel. In Good Grief the central character is dead. Director Natalie Abrahami has created an unusual hybrid of film and theatre, shot in what looks like a rehearsal studio, with a set of cardboard boxes - one marked 'cupboard'. Between scenes we see the crew setting lights and microphones. The critic Alice Saville reviews. Comic novelist Shalom Auslander talks to Tom about his latest novel, Mother for Dinner. Seventh Seltzer is a Cannibal-American who has done everything he can to break from his past, but in his overbearing, narcissistic mother's last moments he is drawn back into the life he left behind. At her deathbed, she whispers in his ear the two words he always knew she would: Eat me. The book explores ideas of legacy, assimilation, the things we owe our families, and the things we owe ourselves. As the National Gallery in London announces plans for its 200th anniversary in 2024, we discuss how museums and galleries might be different in a post pandemic future. With National Gallery Director Gabriele Finaldi and David Anderson, Director of the National Museums of Wales. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Timothy Prosser
16/02/2128m 41s

Lolita Chakrabarti on her play Hymn, literature about waiting, The Silence of the Lambs 30 years on

As the nation waits for the vaccine and lockdown restrictions to ease, what can literature teach us about the art of waiting? Writer Rebecca Stott, critic Alex Clark and poet Anthony Anaxagorou discuss the art of waiting, whether cheerfully or 'with a green and yellow melancholy… like Patience on a monument' as Viola says in Twelfth Night. Lolita Chakrabarti’s play Hymn begins at a funeral where two men meet, and begin to form a remarkable bond. Lolita discusses her play that uses music and dance to chart the developing bond between these men. The play that begins streaming live from the Almeida Theatre this week. What do you remember of The Silence of the Lambs? It was released 30 years ago yesterday - on St Valentine's Day. The critic Michael Carlson looks back at this horror classic which uses elements of the rom-com genre, and argues we are wrong to think Lecter is the central figure. Clarice Starling, the FBI trainee, played by Jodie Foster, is the focus, and the film plays out from her perspective. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Main image above: Adrian Lester as Gil in Hymn Image credit: Marc Brenner
15/02/2128m 30s

Chick Corea, Barbellion Prize winner Riva Lehrer, Sia's film Music reviewed & Schneel Malik

British jazz pianist and broadcaster Julian Joseph joins us to look at the life and music of his good friend; pianist and composer Chick Corea. Chick began his career in the early 60’s, released his first album in 1968 and over more than 5 decades he played with just about every big name in jazz, winning 23 Grammy awards and was still composing and performing new work just months ago – most recently a concerto inspired by the music of Bela Bartok Elusive pop sensation Sia makes her film directorial debut with Music, the story of a troubled older sister learning to love and live with her autistic younger sister. It’s released in the UK this week under a barrage of criticism from the autistic community which has seen Sia apologise for depicting a potentially lethal restraint technique, and for casting a neurotypical actress (long-time collaborator Maddie Ziegler) as the autistic eponymous character. TV writer and author of Drama Queen: One Autistic Woman and a Life of Unhelpful Labels Sara Gibbs joins film critic Tim Robey to review the film. They also take a look at the film Democrats presented during Donald Trump's second impeachment trial on 9 February for its cinematic technique and editing. When Riva Lehrer was born in 1958 with spina bifida, most children like her were not expected to survive. In her Barbellion prize winning memoir, Golem Girl, she recounts her life as a disabled person, using her paintings as a companion to her words. She joins us today to discuss the paradox of visibility, and how she uses art to amplify the lives of those who are usually left unseen. Every year the Arts Foundation makes award of £10,000 to assist recipients with living and working costs - helping them to carry on creating. All five winners are talking about their winning projects on Front Row. The third is Shneel Malik, a bio-architect. Her work Indus is a wall of tiles impressed with what look like the veins of leaves, down which water pours. It is strikingly beautiful - and very practical. The channels of the veins hold a micro-algae gel that purifies the water, contaminated by toxins in processes such as textile dyeing by small enterprises in India. It prevents pollution and allows the water - a scarce resource - to be recycled. Shneel Malik explains her work and its potential. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Tim Prosser Studio manager: Duncan Hannant
12/02/2141m 21s

Ben Hopkins, Luke Jerram, Winsome Pinnock, Rex Obano

Screenwriter and novelist Ben Hopkins talks to Tom about his ambitious new novel, Cathedral. It's a portrait of the construction of the medieval period's greatest buildings, featuring a cast of intriguing characters all vying for power - from the bishop to his treasurer to local merchants and lowly stone cutters. Faith, Hope and Glory is a new drama series on Radio 4 which sees British playwrights Roy Williams, Rex Obano, and Winsome Pinnock chart the history of postwar Britain through the intersecting lives of three women. Starting in 1946, a week of 15 minute dramas which set the scene: Hope and Jim’s baby, entrusted to Eunice to take home to Antigua, is lost at Tilbury Docks, and found by Gloria and Clement, a celibate couple, who decide to keep her and call her Joy. The series continues with three 45 minute plays. Winsome Pinnock and Rex Obano join Tom to discuss the series. Luke Jerram is the next artist to feature in #FrontRowGetCreative, where artists encourage you to try your hand at a piece of art. Today, he focuses on sound, which has been an important component to much of his work, from installing 2000 pianos in public spaces in 65 cities around the world to etching the sound of his own voice on the engagement ring for his wife (which actually plays!). Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Hilary Dunn
11/02/2128m 19s

Adam Curtis, Welcome to Your Fantasy, true crime podcasts

Documentary-maker Adam Curtis crafts densely-constructed, visually-fragmented work so packed full of ideas and images that you can’t take your eyes off the screen for a moment. He pulls together disparate images and soundtrack to create a mesmerising hypothesis. He discusses his newest work, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, which debuts on BBC iPlayer this Thursday. Welcome to Your Fantasy and The Missing are two new true crime podcasts swelling the ranks in a genre which continues to feature highly in both Spotify and Apple podcast charts. Crime writer and true podcast fan Denise Mina, Natalia Petrzela, presenter and co-producer of Welcome To Your Fantasy, and true crime podcast maker Hannah Maguire, co-host of RedHanded, discuss the continuing appeal of this format. We’ve another in our continuing series, Moments of Joy, showing how art can brighten dark times. Today it’s the turn of writer Max Liu, who celebrates a moment in Annie Baker‘s drama The Flick, which defies theatrical conventions to great effect. It also reminds us of the unacknowledged value of small talk. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May
10/02/2128m 29s

News of the World, Mary Wilson tribute, songwriter Roger Cook, Jean-Claude Carrière remembered

Tom Hanks stars in Paul Greengrass's new film, News of the World. Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who crosses paths with Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw gives us her verdict on the western. Songwriter Roger Cook discusses Thursday’s world premiere of Next Year in Jerusalem, the title song of a musical he wrote with Lionel Bart 47 years ago. Roger is now hoping to revive the musical they never managed to stage at the time, and shares an exclusive recording of one of the songs, sung by him and Lionel Bart. Mary Wilson was a founding members of The Supremes, one of the most successful and influential girl groups of all time to spring from the Motown stable. To celebrate her life, Kevin Le Gendre looks at what she achieved and her influence on the British beat group scene at the time. Jean-Claude Carriere, who died yesterday, aged 89, had an extraordinary career. He published his first novel in 1957. His first screenplay was filmed in 1962. He carried on writing novels and films - he acted, too - until 2019. He worked with Jacques Tati and wrote most of Luis Bunuel's later films, including The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire. He collaborated with Peter Brook on one of the most important productions in 20th Century theatre, the nine-hour-long stage version of The Mahabharata. Critic Christopher Cook assesses Carriere's cultural significance, paying tribute to a great French artist and intellectual. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald
09/02/2128m 24s

Cathy Yan on her film Dead Pigs

Twenty years ago this week, the artist Michael Landy famously destroyed every single one of his 7,227 possessions in an artwork called Break Down. The artist looks back on the 14-day event which took place on an industrial conveyor belt inside a disused department store in Oxford St in London, and considers how the process affected him. Since the now notorious Handforth Parish Council Meeting people have been imagining the film version starring Meryl Streep or Lesley Manville as Jackie Weaver, with cameos from Julie Walters and David Bradley, but films take forever to make. Already, though, people have been busy composing Handforth Parish Council, the musical, the opera, the sea shanty and the drill track, shooting videos and posting them online. Millie Taylor, professor of musical theatre assesses some of these almost instant offerings and talks to Kirsty Lang about what they reveal about creativity in lockdown. Cathy Yan joins us from New York, to discuss how her work as journalist in China informed her film, Dead Pigs. Based on a true story, the film focuses on the lives and connections of a disparate group of characters as thousands of dead pigs mysteriously float down the river towards Shanghai. Cathy will discuss what made her want to adapt the story for screen, as well as her experience shooting in China. How has the current situation affected plans for Coventry city of culture 2021, which is due to kick off on 15 May? Chenine Bhathena, creative director, discusses their plans, and how they've dealt with the challenges of lockdown and Covid. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Main image above: Vivian Wu as Candy Wang (Centre) in Dead Pigs. Image credit: MUBI
08/02/2128m 25s

Luke Jerram's Vaccine Artwork, Remembering Christopher Plummer, Malcolm & Marie

In April the artist Luke Jerram spoke on Front Row about his sculpture of the Covid-19 virus. Since then he has been ill with Covid and has created another sculpture - unveiled today - this time of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Jerram discusses his artistic engagement with Covid, including his piece In Memoriam, 120 flags made of NHS bed-sheets, commemorating those who have died. The Oscar-winning actor Christopher Plummer, whose death at the age of 91 was announced today, is remembered by the film critic Larushka Ivan-Zadeh. For our Friday Review, Larushka is joined by Carl Anka to discuss Malcolm & Marie, the black-and-white, made-in-lockdown relationship movie on Netflix starring Zendaya and John David Washington, written and directed by Sam Levinson. They also watch ZeroZeroZero, a new thriller on Sky unpicking the international cocaine trade based on the book by Roberto Saviano. Arts Foundation Futures Award winner Keisha Thompson discusses her past work as a theatre-maker and poet. She talks about how she uses her background in science and maths to inform her theatre practice, and why she is fascinated by taboo subjects in art. And to celebrate Welsh Language Music Day, the 19-year-old Welsh singer, composer and harpist Cerys Hafana joins us to explain how music and the Welsh language go hand-in-hand. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
05/02/2141m 24s

Sam Neill On New Film Rams

Hollywood star Sam Neill joins us from his home in New Zealand to discuss the perils of acting with sheep in his new film Rams, based on an acclaimed Icelandic drama about two estranged brothers and their flocks of a rare horned breed of sheep. A new colour blue has come onto artists’ palettes. Called YInMn it was discovered in 2009 by accident by scientists working on semiconductors but has only just become commercially available. Art critic Waldemar Januszczak looks at why this is significant and how artists have used the colour blue in painting. The next artist in our series #FrontRowGetCreative is Sarah Maple who will be exploring the art of collage. Using the idea of ‘negative space’, Sarah will be showing us how to create our own collage using text and imagery from magazines, newspapers and junk mail, the result of which will be a modern and striking image and a significant step up from what we were doing at primary school. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May
04/02/2128m 23s

Golden Globes, Sundance, K-Ming Chang and literary scouts

Film critic Leila Latif joins us to discuss today’s Golden Globe nominations, and gives us an overview of some of the highlights from the first ever online Sundance Festival. The folklore of Taiwan is visited and revisited by subsequent generations of women in Bestiary, the debut novel from K-Ming Chang, as a Daughter falls in love and confronts her family’s secrets in America. Shot through with a litany of mythical beasts, it’s a novel that offers a charged narrative of diaspora and beauty in a hazy magic realist renderings of California, Arkansas & Taiwan. Author and poet K-Ming Chang tells Kirsty Lang how tracing her own heritage led to a story of queer desire, violence, and identity. Writers write while agents tend to their interests and publishers bring their works to the public. There is, though, another lesser known but important worker in the books business - the Literary Scout. Their role is to find the right books, before anyone else, and bring them to publishers, all over the world. Scouts have to know everyone and everything and, as we all know, knowledge is power. Natasha Farrant, famous as a Costa Award winning children's author, has been a literary scout for 20 years. Antony Harwood has been a prominent literary agent even longer. On Front Row they discuss the role and importance of the literary scout, spilling the beans to Kirsty Lang...but probably not all of them. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Harry Parker Studio manager: Giles Aspen Main image: Josh 0'Connor as Prince Charles and Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer in the Netflix TV series The Crown Image credit: Des Willie/Netflix
03/02/2128m 38s

Kevin MacDonald Jakuta Alikavazovic

The Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald discusses his follow-up to his YouTube film Life In A Day from 2010, where he invited the public to upload their own footage of their lives taken on one specific day. He then edited those contributions to create a finished film to tell the story of a single day on Earth. For Life In A Day 2020 he received over 320,000 submissions from nearly 200 countries. Jakuta Alikavazovic is a Prix Goncourt winning French writer of Bosnian and Montenegrin origins. She talks to John Wilson about her new novel Night As It Falls which explores themes of identity, first love, class and contemporary anxiety against the backdrop of the war in the former Yugoslavia and is out in English this week. As part of our ongoing mission to bring a bit of artistic light to the darkness, we’ve been hearing about some Moments of Joy – those sudden, intense moments watching a play or a film, reading, listening to music or looking at a work of art, when your heart soars. Critic Hanna Flint's choice is a scene from the film Blinded by the Light – with a soundtrack by the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Continuing the theme, February 2nd is Candlemas, the celebration of the infant Christ's presentation in the Temple, and the coming of light, when all the candles needed for the year were brought into the church, and blessed. Poets have been drawn to the subject - Robert Herrick, T. S. Eliot and Amy Clampitt - all writing Candlemas poems. There are a number of Candlemas customs and sayings - about how the weather at Candlemas predicts the coming season, for instance. The Cornish poet Charles Causley incorporates one of these into his poem, At Candlemas, with which we end Front Row, in a setting by the Dartmoor singer, and relative of the poet, Jim Causley. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hilary Dunn
02/02/2128m 23s

Jill Halfpenny in new drama, The Drowning

Jill Halfpenny stars in a new tv thriller The Drowning. Nine years ago, Jodie’s little boy disappeared on a picnic by the lake, presumed drowned, and she’s never been able to accept his loss. Now, out of the blue, she catches sight of a teenage boy and she’s sure that it’s her missing son. Jill talks to Samira about why she likes playing morally ambiguous characters, shares her own personal experience of loss and how grief is a monster you just can’t outrun. The British Library has just acquired the archive of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and Helen Melody, Curator of Contemporary Literature and Creative Archives, tells Samira Ahmed about its treasures: scripts, performance recordings, letters, photographs, rehearsal notes, press cuttings and props. The archive also contains material from the tenures of later artistic directors, such Philip Hedley and Kerry Michael, who notably encouraged diversity and inclusion, Black and Asian theatre, and work made by people with disabilities. We mark the publication of a landmark anthology of queer writing, Queer: A Collection of LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday, which brings together an unusually broad range of voices from across the ages and the globe to form a survey of queer literature. Editor of the anthology, Frank Wynne, will be joined by writer and artist Morgan M Page, host of trans history podcast One From the Vaults, for a discussion about the cyclical nature of attitudes towards sexuality and gender and to highlight some lesser known voices in the tradition from India, Mexico and Greenland. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Main image: Jill Halfpenny in The Drowning Image credit: Unstoppable Film and Television/Bernard Walsh
02/02/2128m 20s

The Dig reviewed, Arts Foundation Futures Award winner Tanoa Sasraku, Novelist Max Porter, Moments of Joy: Walt Whitman

We review The Dig, starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and the Suffolk landscape, a film about the excavation of the Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo. It's also a revealing excavation of class and prejudice in 1930s England. The great ship was discovered, uncovered and conserved by Basil Brown, an autodidact who left school aged 12, He described himself as an excavator and he and his work were brushed aside by incoming university trained archaeologists. The film also tells stories of love and grief in the tense days as war approaches. Our reviewers are Roberta Gilchrist, Professor of Medieval Archaeology and film critic Hannah McGill. Tanoa Sasraku is one of five artists to receive this year’s Arts Foundation Futures Awards worth £10,000, awarded on the basis of past work and to enable future development. She talks about her art practice which uses video performance and flag making to explore her identity as a young, gay woman with British and Ghanaian heritage. And about her plans to use the Fellowship to produce the second film in a canon of Black horror fairytales: a queer re-telling of the Selkie legend. Max Porter, best known for his novel Grief is the Thing With Feathers - a meditation on Ted Hughes and loss - discusses his new 75-page book The Death of Francis Bacon, in which he imagines himself into the mind of the artist in his final days in Madrid in 1992 facing approaching death in a convent hospital. As part of our ongoing series of Moments of Joy, poet and winner of the 2018 TS Eliot prize Hannah Sullivan explores a poem– the final section of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself in his collection Leaves of Grass, read for us by Kerry Shale. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Sarah Johnson .
29/01/2141m 20s

Edmund de Waal launches our #FrontRowGetCreative challenge, Hafsa Zayyan, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Hung Parliament

The ceramicist, artist and writer Edmund de Waal today launches the #FrontRowGetCreative project, where artists will be encouraging you, our listeners, to try their hand at creating an artwork with easily-available materials. In his studio he talks us through the creation of a palimpsest, where letters and characters overlap in layers of clay – or domestic filler in this case – to memorialise words that are special to him. We'd love to see what you create. Show us what you've made by sharing on social media channels using the hashtag Front Row Get Creative and we'll show those that catch our eye on the BBC Arts and Front Row websites. Check out the BBC's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Hafsa Zayyan was the winner of the inaugural Merky Books New Writers' Prize - part of Stormzy’s ongoing partnership publishing new books with William Heinemann. We speak to her about her novel We Are All Birds Of Uganda. It’s a fascinating story about intergenerational trauma, racism and displacement set between Uganda in the 1960s and now. Les Enfants Terribles have a reputation for innovating in the world of immersive theatre. Their face-to-face shows included the Olivier-nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground performed literally underground, the prosecution of punk collective in Inside Pussy Riot, and United Queendom, telling the stories of some of Kensington Palace’s lesser known royals in the Palace itself. But can you do immersive theatre online? Oliver Lansley, founder and co-artistic director, discusses Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Hung Parliament described as a combination of theatre, gaming, escape room and board game - . Presenter: Elle Osili-Wood Producer: Simon Richardson
28/01/2128m 2s

Celeste, poet Brian Bilston, new film Palmer reviewed

Celeste talks to Front Row about her career from making tracks on a laptop in her bedroom to successes at the Brit and BBC Music Awards, composing and performing the music for last year's John Lewis advert, A Little Love, and the release of her debut album 'Not Your Muse'. She blew her fusilli, my pretty penne, when she found me watching daytime tagliatelle. The first stanza of 'The Remembrance of Things Pasta' is typical of the poetry of Brian Bilston, who has been called the Banksy of Poetry and Twitter's unofficial poet laureate. He talks and reads witty, wry and wise poetry from his new collection, 'Alexa, what is there to know about love?' And Ryan Gilbey gives his verdict on new film Palmer starring Justin Timberlake. Former high school football star Eddie Palmer went from hometown hero to convicted felon. He returns home to Louisiana and the grandmother who raised him but things become more complicated when Vivian’s hard-living neighbour Shelly (Juno Temple) disappears on a prolonged bender, leaving her precocious and unique 7-year-old son Sam (Ryder Allen), often the target of bullying for his gender non-conforming behaviour, in Palmer’s reluctant care. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Oliver Jones Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Main image: Celeste Image credit: Elizaveta Porodina
27/01/2128m 26s

Jenny Eclair, Jon Brown, Costa Book of the Year winner

Can you use craft to help make the world a better place, one stitch at a time? In her new BBC Four documentary, Craftivism: Making a Difference, writer, comedian and art lover Jenny Eclair meets people doing extraordinary things with knitting, cross-stitch, banners and felt to change hearts and minds. She tells us all about it. Tom talks to Jon Brown, BAFTA award-winning show-runner and screenwriter about his gaming sitcom Dead Pixels which returns to E4 for a new series. And we've an interview featuring the winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award, which has just been announced. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May
26/01/2128m 40s

Jonzi D and Pawlet Brookes on Black dance, TS Eliot Prizewinner Bhanu Kapil, portraying politicians

Choreographer Jonzi D has created a new work for Dancing Nation, the all-day digital festival of dance which is streamed on BBC iPlayer this Thursday. Jonzi discusses the state of Black dance with Pawlet Brookes, who runs Serendipity in Leicester and has edited the collection of essays My Voice, My Practice: Black Dance. In the light of the announcement that Kenneth Branagh has been cast to play Boris Johnson in a new TV drama about the Covid-19 crisis, critic, journalist and former political researcher Sam Delaney joins Samira to talk about the impact of dramatisations of contemporary political moments on the public imagination. Last night Bhanu Kapil won the TS Eliot Prize for her collection How to Wash a Heart. She talks to Samira about and reads from her book which, in the voice of an immigrant guest in the house of a citizen host, explores the idea, and limits, of hospitality, and the experiences of diaspora people. For his Moment of Joy, the writer Darran Anderson chooses a scene from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, an exploration of mortality that is nonetheless deeply life-affirming. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Main image above: Jonzi D Image credit: Dave Barros
25/01/2128m 34s

The White Tiger, the TS Eliot Prize shortlist, sculptor Denise Dutton

The White Tiger is a new Netflix film based on Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Booker Prize-winning novel, directed by Ramin Bahrani. It explores Indian society and how hard it can be to climb the social ladder, as Balram, played by Adarsh Gourav, struggles to advance even when he has found rich employers. For our Friday review, writer Abir Mukherjee and film critic and host of the Girls on Film podcast Anna Smith give their verdict, and reflect on the week that saw 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman perform The Hill We Climb at President Biden’s inauguration. Every year one of the first literary events is the T. S. Eliot Prize readings, when each of the 10 shortlisted poets performs to a packed Royal Festival Hall. But this year the The South Bank Centre is streaming the poets' readings instead. The winner will be announced immediately afterwards. Chair of the judges Lavinia Greenlaw discusses this year's shortlist. Denise Dutton discusses her commission to sculpt the statue of Mary Anning, the 19th-century fossil hunter from Lyme Regis. The statue of the pioneer of palaeontology was crowdfunded by a campaign started by 13-year-old Evie Swire. Denise, who has also made statues of suffragettes and the Women's Land Army, considers the role played by statues in bringing overlooked women to public attention. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Timothy Prosser
22/01/2141m 29s

It's a Sin, how Aids has been depicted in culture, Glastonbury Festival cancellation, London International Mime Festival

After weeks of speculation, we heard today that the 2021 Glastonbury festival is to be cancelled amidst uncertainly due to Covid. Tom talks to the Chairman of the Department of Culture Media and Sport parliamentary select committee, the Conservative MP Julian Knight, who today issued a strong statement condemning the government for not stepping in to assist the industry. Russell T Davies' hotly anticipated new Channel 4 series It’s A Sin begins tomorrow night. Set in the 1980s, it follows the story of the Aids crisis and charts the joy and heartbreak of a group of friends over 10 years in which everything changed. Critic David Benedict reviews. We’ll also be exploring depictions of the Aids crisis and its impact across the decades on stage, screen and other artforms with David and journalist Juliet Jacques. The London International Mime Festival started this week, online only this year, and as part of that they’ve commissioned five original short films – between three and 10 minutes each – which are available to view free. Critic Sarah Crompton reviews the five very different works. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Simon Richardson
21/01/2128m 24s

Schubert's Winterreise, novelist Olivia Sudjic, new US administration and the arts, performers' travel post-Brexit

Singers Roderick Williams and David Webb discuss Schubert’s celebrated 1827 song-cycle Winterreise, about a man dealing with rejection and loneliness who journeys through the winter snow. Roderick has recorded a new CD of Winterreise and David is about to perform it at the Wigmore Hall in London, having cycled 500 miles to raise money for mental health charities. More than 100 music stars including Elton John, Sting, Ed Sheeran Brian May, Nicola Benedetti and Roger Daltrey have signed a letter saying performers have been “shamefully failed” by the post-Brexit travel rules and that there is a “gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be”. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has been meeting today with music industry representatives and we speak to Jamie Njoku Goodwin of UK Music about what he told them. Anya, diligently studying for a doctorate and Luke, a committed environmental scientist, get engaged on holiday in Provence. They begin to plan their wedding in Cornwall. Anya escaped from Sarajevo as a child during the Balkan War and when she takes Luke to meet her family there her carefully contained uncertainties surface. Relationships and identities begin to unravel. Olivia Sudjic talks to Samira Ahmed about her new novel Asylum Road. As Joe Biden becomes the next President of the United States, Front Row asks what the new administration will mean for arts and culture, with the help of critic Matt Wolf. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Main image above: Franz Schubert portrait Image credit: Imagno/Getty Images
20/01/2128m 10s

Patricia Highsmith centenary, Caroline Shaw, Baby Done comedy reviewed

John is joined by composer, vocalist, violinist and producer Caroline Shaw – the youngest ever winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, winner of a Grammy in 2018 for her album Orange with Attaca Quartet. Caroline Shaw talks about her new album Narrow Sea featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw, Sō Percussion ensemble and the pianist Gilbert Kalish, as well as writing for unusual instruments, unconventional approaches to composing, and the difference between writing for an orchestra and collaborating with Kanye. Today (19 Jan) is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Patricia Highsmith, author of the classic thrillers The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train and of The Price of Salt, later published as Carol. Several of her books have been made into successful films and continue to be adapted: Deep Water starring Ben Affleck is expected later this year and the making of a new TV series based on Ripley starring Andrew Scott has been announced. To mark the anniversary, a new collection of her short stories has been published, Under a Dark Angel’s Eye, and a new biography, Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith by Richard Bradford. Bradford and the writer Joanna Briscoe discuss Highsmith’s compelling, dark writing and the troubled – and troubling - life behind it. Comedian Rose Matafeo stars in New Zealand comedy film Baby Done as a woman who finding herself unexpectedly pregnant attempts to fulfil a bucket list of adventures before the baby arrives. The film is exec produced by Taika Waititi and co-stars Matthew Lewis, best known for playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter franchise. Critic Hannah McGill reviews. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Jerome Weatherald
19/01/2128m 25s

Ashley Walters makes his directorial debut

English rapper, songwriter and actor Ashley Walters has now turned his hand to directing with a short film called BOYS. Shot in London it follows Noah, who – whilst trying to fulfil a request from his brother who’s in prison – has to decide which way he wants his own life to turn out. To lift our spirits in difficult times Front Row brings you Moments of Joy – a celebration of those intense moments when watching a film or a play, reading a book or poem, listening to music or looking at a picture makes your heart soar. Today, writer and critic Erica Wagner on the opening of Star Wars – a film she saw first in 1977 as a 10-year-old. American writer Torrey Peters joins us to talk about her ground breaking new novel, Detransition Baby. It charts the complex relationship between two trans women, Reese and Amy as the latter detransitions and renames himself Ames, then gets his boss Katrina pregnant. The trio ends up trying to figure out whether it’s possible for them to form a family together. Phil Spector, the pop producer who was convicted of murder, has died aged 81. Music journalist and biographer Richard Williams discusses Spector’s distinctive “Wall of Sound” recordings with artists such as The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers and John Lennon. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Oliver Jones Main image: Ashley Walters directing Boys Image credit: Sky UK Ltd/Alison Painter
18/01/2128m 36s

Music festivals, Keeley Hawes, WandaVision reviewed

What will happen with music festivals this year? For Front Row, DJ Emily Dust talks to some of those involved. Keeley Hawes is one of the most in-demand British actors for TV and film, with exceptional performances in a wide variety of roles. Coming soon for UK viewers there’ll be ITV’s dark comedy Finding Alice; To Olivia – a film about Roald Dahl’s complicated relationship with his wife Patricia Neal; and Russell T Davies’ series for Channel 4, It’s A Sin. She tells Front Row about filming in lockdown, how she chooses her work and about playing an unsympathetic character WandaVision, the first in a massive slate of high-budget new streaming series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes two of the Avengers - Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) - and plants them in a retro sitcom universe, complete with laugh track. Leila Latif scrutinises this first offering in a new era for mainstream entertainment. In a universe far, far away from that, Gen-Zers on TikTok have discovered the sea shanty in a big way. Music journalist Tom Service explains where the shanty comes from and what it might be doing for us in 2021. And Leila and Tom give their cultural picks. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: Emma Harth
15/01/2141m 32s

Stardust, The world's oldest painting, Jenni Fagan, Arts Students

Stardust is the new film about David Bowie’s promotional tour of the United States in 1971 during which he began to develop the concept of Ziggy Stardust. Bowie is played by musician and actor Johnny Flynn and the film has already attracted attention as they were unable to secure the rights to Bowie’s songs. Writer and Bowie fan Mark Billingham reviews. A vivid 45,500 year old painting of a warty pig, discovered on a cave wall in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is the oldest representational art in the world. What does the striking work tell us about the value of art to the civilisation that created it. With archeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes. Novelist Jenni Fagan talks about her latest book, Luckenbooth. It opens as the devil's daughter rows to Edinburgh in a coffin to work as maid for the Minister of Culture, a man who lives a dual life. But the real reason she's there is to bear him and his barren wife a child, the consequences of which curse the tenement building that is their home for a hundred years. How are students whose arts subjects at university or college require them to undertake in-person tuition adapting to the third lockdown? Callum Bruce, a second year musical theatre student at Trinity Laban in London, and Mary Johnson, third year percussion student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, discuss how the pandemic has affected their studies. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser
14/01/2128m 25s

Drag kings, Courttia Newland, wintry podcasts

As RuPaul’s Drag Race UK returns for a second season and the US series welcomes its first trans man as a competitor, are the ironically gendered boundaries of drag breaking down and what about the other side of drag - the kings? Drag kings Don One and Jodie Mitchell, better known as John Travulva, join Samira to talk about the world of Kings. Courttia Newland’s new novel A River Called Time has been 18 years in the making and imagines a city a little like London in a world in which colonialism and slavery never happened. The writer discusses imagination, speculative fiction and class – and his co-scripting with Steve McQueen for two of the Small Axe films - Lovers Rock and Red, White and Blue. You’re back in lockdown, it’s bitterly cold outside and the nights are long and dark. You could order a sad lamp online and hope for the best, or you can lean into it with writer Eleanor Penny’s round up of podcasts for this bleak midwinter. Creepy, desolate, bleak - but gripping and thrilling too. Recommendations include The Sink, The Orbiting Human Circus, and Victoriocity. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald Main image above: Drag King John Travulva Image credit: Holly Revell
13/01/2128m 25s

Regina King, classical music for kids, Northern Irish literature

Oscar winning actress Regina King tells Kirsty about her debut film as a director, One Night in Miami, inspired by the real-life meeting between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown on the night that Ali (then still called Cassius Clay) defeated Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight World Champion title. Europe's first classical music station especially for children was launched yesterday. Fun Kids Classical will play music by composers including Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens and Grieg; with performances from young artists such as cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, saxophonist Jess Gillam and violinist Jennifer Pike. The pianist Lang Lang, whose International Music Foundation encourages children to engage with music, is the new station's Ambassador. Matt Deegan, Fun Kids Classical's station, manager talks to Kirsty Lang about the need for such a radio station, and his ambitions for it. This year sees the 100th anniversary of the creation of Northern Ireland. Although the region is synonymous with the poetry of Seamus Heaney or the plays of Brian Friel, its recent literary reputation has tended to languor in the shadow of its southern neighbour. But today, as issues connected to Brexit and the status of the border with the EU have Northern Ireland back in the news, there is also cohort of younger writers from the region demanding attention. Kirsty talks to novelist Jan Carson, who has a new series of short stories, The Last Resort, serialised on Radio 4 alongside memoirist Darran Anderson, whose new book Inventory, is published next month, about what makes the region such a rich setting for fiction and nonfiction now. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Oliver Jones Studio Manager: Nigel Dix
12/01/2128m 19s

Ben Okri, The Pembrokeshire Murders, Michael Berkeley

Ben Okri published his poem 'Grenfell Tower, June 2017' in the Financial Times a few days after the inferno. On Channel 4's Facebook page it was played more than 6 million times. This is but one of his poems written in response to current events, politics and people, gathered in his new book, A Fire in my Head: Poems for the Dawn. Okri considers the poet's role to be the town crier, and there are poems about that other fire, at Notre Dame, Barack Obama and the Covid pandemic. But, as he tells Samira Ahmed, his collection also includes the personal, love poems and a tender evocation of a new-born's encounter with life, and the wonder of the world. A new miniseries, The Pembrokeshire Murders, starts soon on ITV. It tells the real story of the investigation by Dyfed Powys Police into 2 decades-old previously-unsolved fatal shootings, using advances in forensic science to find microscopic clues that were previously invisible to them. We speak to the writer for the series – Nick Stephens – about writing a gripping story when the outcome is already known. Composer, broadcaster and cross bench member of the House of Lords Michael Berkeley is tabling a question to ministers about the issue affecting UK musicians who will no longer be able to viably tour Europe as a result of the recent Brexit deal. He tells Samira about his concerns in light of reports over the weekend that a reciprocal arrangement was offered the British government but was refused. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Main image: Ben Okri Image credit: Mat Bray
11/01/2128m 22s

We commemorate the fifth anniversary of David Bowie's death and consider his continuing musical influence and legacy

Five years ago, on 10th Jan 2016, David Bowie died, just two days after his 69th birthday. To mark the anniversary, we revisit John Wilson's 2002 interview with him, recorded in New York. Two composers – Hannah Peel and Neil Brand – will also be discussing Bowie’s music and considering its legacy and influence. Ingrid Persaud has won the First Novel category in the Costa Book Awards 2020 for Love After Love. The author discusses her tale of a mother, her son and their lodger in Trinidad, each living with the burden of a secret they don’t want revealed. For our Friday Review, writer and journalist Kohinoor Sahota and Isabel Stevens of Sight and Sound give their view of Pieces of a Woman (Netflix). It’s a film that has already won praise for its powerful and realistic first half hour in which Vanessa Kirby plays a woman going through labour and giving birth. They’ll also consider some of the cultural stories of the week and tell us what they’ve been reading and watching. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Jerome Weatherald Main image: David Bowie Image credit: Nils Meilvang/AFP via Getty Images
08/01/2141m 26s

BBC Sound of 2021 Winner Pa Salieu, Finnish TV drama, Natasha Farrant

Pa Salieu, the Gambian-British artist from Coventry, has been named as the winner of the BBC Sound of 2021. His single Frontline was the most played track on BBC Radio 1Xtra in 2020. In 2019 he was shot in the head, but recovered to release his debut mixtape Send Them To Coventry at the end of 2020 and now picks up one of the biggest accolades in new music. On the fifth anniversary of Walter Presents, the global streaming service dedicated to showcasing award winning foreign language drama, the platform is launching its first ever dramas from Finland, All The Sins and Bullets. Whilst BBC 4 is launching its first ever Finnish drama, the 6 part drama series Man in Room 301. Walter Iuzzolino, curator of Walter Presents, and best selling Finnish crime writer Antti Tuomainen talk to Kirsty Lang about what makes Finnish drama distinctive and why we should be watching. Natasha Farrant, The Costa Award Children' s category winner, talks about her book Voyage of the Sparrowhawk which, with 12 year old Ben and Lotti becoming friends as they outwit a wicked uncle, a police chase, dogs and a perilous sea crossing in search of people they love, has just about everything a fast-paced adventure story requires. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Timothy Prosser
07/01/2128m 31s

Lee Lawrence, the impact of Brexit on classical music, Twelfth Night tradition at Theatre Royal Drury Lane

On 28th September 1985 Lee Lawrence’s mother Cherry Groce was shot by police during an armed raid on her Brixton home. Lee Lawrence talks to Samira Ahmed about his Costa Biography award winning memoir The Louder I will Sing in which he recounts the devastating impact the shooting had on the family’s life and his courageous fight for justice. As British musicians warn that costly post-Brexit bureaucracy could decimate European touring, we discuss the potential impact of the recent Brexit Trade Deal on the music industry. With Deborah Annetts from the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Mark Pemberton from the Association of British Orchestras and conductor Paul McCreesh, founder of the Grammy award-winning baroque ensemble, the Gabrieli Consort. Actor Robert Baddeley, a member of David Garrick’s company at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, created a tradition when he died in 1794. In his will, he left £100 to be invested and each year, the money from that sum be spent on “the purchase of a twelfth Cake or Cakes and Wine and Punch or both of them which it is my request the Ladies and Gentlemen performers of Theatre Royal Drury Lane will do me the favour to accept on twelfth night in every year in the Green Room”. Ever since the company playing has enjoyed Baddeley's largesse on January 6th. Theatre stage manager and author Nicholas Bromley joins us to reveal one of the longest standing British Theatre traditions. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May
06/01/2128m 24s

The Great, Eavan Boland, the origin of the blues

The Great, a new ahistorical comedy from The Favourite writer Tony McNamara arrives on Channel 4 this month. Describing itself as “an occasionally true story”, it is a satirical drama about the rise of Catherine the Great, staring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult. McNamara talks period dramas, historical inaccuracies and contemporary characters. The great Irish poet Eavan Boland has just posthumously won the Costa Poetry Prize. Boland's collection The Historians continues her reflections on the power of history and memory, of secrets and hidden histories, and of centring women’s stories. Tom is joined by Jody Allen Randolph, a friend and leading scholar of Eavan’s work, and actress Niamh Cusack reads from the collection. The genre that helped define American music and describe the Black American experience is the subject of a new series of album releases which trace the genesis of blues, ragtime, hokum and gospel from the mid-1920s. Matchbox Bluesmaster Series claims to be the most comprehensive survey of the origins of Black American blues music - Kevin Le Gendre assesses the success of its first instalment. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: John Boland
05/01/2128m 20s

Dante's Divine Comedy 700 years on with Katya Adler; Costa Book Awards category winners

Suzannah Lipscomb, Chair of Judges for the Costa Book Awards 2020, joins us to reveal exclusively the winners in each of category: Novel, Children’s, Poetry, Biography and Debut Novel. This is followed by an interview with the winner of the Best Novel category. Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy 7 centuries ago but - like all great literature – it still speaks to us in today’s world. Katya Adler, the BBC's Europe Editor and lover of all things Italian is a fan of the epic poem and has made a 3 part series for Radio 4. She discusses what she's set out ot explore and who she's done that with. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hilary Dunn SM: Donald MacDonald
04/01/2128m 26s

Art that brightened the year - violinist Tasmin Little, Baillie Gifford winner Craig Brown, actress Rochenda Sandall

Front Row celebrates some of the art that brightened a dark year. British violinist Tasmin Little has hung up her violin and retired from the concert stage in 2020. It’s the last night of the last year of her performing career - she looks back, and says goodbye to the year in style. Satirist Craig Brown won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction this year for his Beatles book, One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time. Rochenda Sandall has been praised for powerful performances in the lockdown Talking Heads which then went briefly on stage at the Bridge in London, and as activist Barbara Beese in Small Axe - Mangrove. And cultural commentator Elle Osili-Wood joins John in the Front Row studio to look back at some of the year's highlights. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
31/12/2028m 25s

Evelyn Glennie, The Serpent's Tom Shankland, chosen families in culture

The family you choose, rather than the family you’re born into, is fertile territory for writers. From Henry V, to The Lord of the Rings, to Josie and the Pussycats, family dynamics between those who start as strangers keep storytelling going. Playwright Temi Wilkey and screenwriter Sarah Dollard join Samira to talk about the enduring and endearing nature of the chosen family story. Inspired by real events, BBC One’s New Years Day drama The Serpent tells the story of how the conman and murderer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) was brought to justice. Posing as a gem dealer, Sobhraj and his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) travelled across Thailand, Nepal and India in 1975 and 1976, carrying out a spree of crimes on the Asian ‘Hippie Trail’ until Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle), a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, unwittingly walks into his intricate web of crime. Samira Ahmed talks to the director of The Serpent Tom Shankland. Percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie is the first full time solo percussionist. A career built in part by expanding the percussion repertoire by more than 200 pieces created alongside major composers, orchestras and musicians. In January she’s releasing two new albums. She talks to Samira about working with composers, listening in Lockdown, and demonstrates some of her over 2000 instruments. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Hilary Dunn
30/12/2028m 21s

Pianist Lang Lang on Bach's Goldberg Variations

The pianist Lang Lang this year released his first recording of Bach's 1741 keyboard masterpiece, Goldberg Variations, feeling he was finally ready to do so 20 years into his own musical career. At the piano from a studio near his home in Beijing, Lang Lang discusses the work originally written for harpsichord, what a challenge it presents for a performer, and why he chose to release two versions of the 31 works, - one recorded in one take in St Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany - Bach’s workplace for almost 30 years and where the composer is buried - and the second a studio version recorded shortly afterwards. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Jerome Weatherald
29/12/2028m 16s

A poetry edition, with Simon Armitage, Vanessa Kisuule, Anthony Anaxagorou, Em Power, Anna Selby, Daphne Astor, talking, reading

The pandemic is having a profound impact on the arts. But you don't need to go anywhere, involve other people or need many materials, to write or read poetry, and during the lockdown people have turned to verse. In an extended edition of Front Row devoted to poetry Samira Ahmed hears from the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, about his recent writing life - composing lyrics for Huddersfield Choral Society. Vanessa Kisuule, City Poet of Bristol, talks about her collaboration with the Old Vic and local groups, creating modern work inspired by medieval mystery plays. Em Power, three times Foyle Poet of the Year winner, reveals how poetry is a communal art. And they all read their work. Even before the lockdown there was a surge in sales of poetry books, driven by the internet. Anthony Anaxagorou and Vanessa Kisuule chart their journeys as poets via YouTube to the printed page. They discuss poetry addressing politics - Kisuule's poem on the toppling of the Colston statue went viral - and poets' engagement with the environment. Armitage launched the Laurel Prize to encourage this. In March Daphne Astor started the Hazel Press whose books about the natural world are created from it using local recycled paper, printed with vegetable inks. Anna Selby writes poems about the underwater world - while underwater. The prospect of inoculation against Covid gave rise to'vaccination nationalism'. When Edward Jenner pioneered smallpox vaccination in 1796 he was determined his discovery would benefit people around the globe. Several poets, including Robert Southey, wrote poems in his honour. Front Row has commissioned Anthony Anaxagorou to do the same for the developers of the Covid vaccine, and he reads his new poem. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May
28/12/2041m 5s

Australian composer, musician and actor, Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin, the Australian stage performer with unkempt long hair and black mascara eyes, looks back over his career since his early days trying to scrape a living in Perth and Melbourne. As he releases his first ever solo album Apart Together at the age of 45, he reflects on his early struggle to make a living through music, the success of his stage performances with a full orchestra, the RSC's Matilda the Musical for which he composed the score and wrote the lyrics, getting burned in Hollywood, writing, directing and starring in his TV drama series Upright, and his unsettling return to his homeland after four years in Los Angeles. Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Jerome Weatherald
25/12/2041m 14s

Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones - Death to 2020

Black Mirror creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones discuss their new Netflix mocumentary Death to 2020, a documentary-style film that tells the story of the year we’ll be glad to put behind us, featuring fictitious figures played by the likes of Hugh Grant, Samuel L Jackson and Tracey Ullman. Opera diva, drag artist and cabaret turn Le Gateau Chocolat concludes our increasingly wistful festive series on the best parties on screen with an ode to the don of the movie party, Baz Luhrmann. John talks to Neil Gaiman about his latest Radio 4 drama adaptation, The Sleeper and the Spindle, a Christmas-time fairy tale brought to life by award-winning dramatist Katie Hims. Starring Penelope Wilton, Gwendoline Christie and Ralph Ineson as well as Neil Gaiman himself, it's a new tale drawing on traditional folk stories, interweaving Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in an enchanting drama that puts the women firmly centre stage. In September Radio 3 challenged listeners to compose a tune for the poem ‘Christmas Carol’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar. More than a thousand people entered. Tthe judges whittled these down to a shortlist of six, listeners voted and the winner is James Walton. We’ll hear his carol, sung by the BBC Singers, and reveal more about Paul Laurence Dunbar, the pioneering black American writer who wrote the lyrics. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Image: Tracey Ullman (QUEEN ELIZABETH II) in Death to 2020 Image Credit: Keith Bernstein/Netflix © 2020
24/12/2027m 57s

Mackenzie Crook, Collaborative board games, Janey Godley, Zing Tsjeng's party choice

Mackenzie Crook talks about Saucy Nancy, the latest episode in his festive revivals of the children’s TV series Worzel Gummidge, which originally aired in the late 1970s. Saucy Nancy sees the children visit a scrapyard, where they meet Worzel's old friend Saucy Nancy. She's a carved ship’s figurehead, and wants their help to get back to the sea. As tensions run high in houses all over the country where people are cooped up over the Christmas period, writer and board gamer Natasha Hodgson reveals the world of cooperative board games: games where the players work together towards a goal, rather than trying to crush or bankrupt your dear mum. With many titles and styles to choose from, are the days of shouting over the Monopoly board over? In May, comedian Janey Godley was one of the Scottish actors and writers who took part in the National Theatre of Scotland’s project Scenes for Survival. Janey’s video short featured her as a character called Betty whose difficult relationship with her husband came to a head under Lockdown. It was one of the most viewed in the series and led to a follow-up. Now for Christmas and New Year, Janey revisits Betty. As festive party season is well and truly cancelled this year, Front Row is celebrating the best parties in culture. Today it’s Vice’s Zing Tsjeng on Euphoria and the dark side of teen parties. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Jerome Weatherald Main image: Mackenzie Crook as Worzel Gummidge Image credit: BBC/Leopard Pictures/Amanda Searle
23/12/2028m 22s

Bridgerton, Rachel Joyce, The custodians of our cultural institutions

Creator Chris van Dusen on Bridgerton, Netflix’s new drama series set in Regency England, about the daughter of a powerful family as she makes her debut onto London’s competitive marriage market. Award-winning novelist Rachel Joyce has created “Christmas by the Lake”, a new drama for BBC Radio 4. It’s a story with a twist on the Christmas theme and it's classic Rachel Joyce territory: relationships, loss and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. She joins Nick to talk about those chance encounters, and why Christmas is a perfect time for stories. While many of our concert halls, theatres, galleries and museums have been empty for much of 2020, dedicated teams take centre stage to make sure venues are ready for the public’s return through various stages of lockdown. Kieron Lillis Head of Facilities at the National Theatre in London and Jessica Yung Visitor Assistant at the World Museum in Liverpool give Nick a behind the scenes look at their empty buildings and talk about the vital role of those who take care of them for us during one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s cultural history. Presenter: Nick Ahad Producer: Tim Prosser Studio Manager: John Boland Image: Regé-Jean Page (SIMON BASSET) and Phoebe Dynevor (DAPHNE BRIDGERTON) in Bridgerton Image Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2020
22/12/2028m 13s

21/12/2020

Live magazine programme on the worlds of arts, literature, film, media and music
21/12/2028m 18s

George C Wolfe on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Let Him Go reviewed, Winifred Atwell celebrated

Director George C. Wolfe on his new film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, in which Viola Davis stars as the legendary “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey, alongside the late Chadwick Boseman, in his final role. It’s adapted from August Wilson’s play which is part of his ten play cycle chronicling African American experience in the 20th Century. Pianist Winifred Atwell was the first Black British artist to reach number 1 in the UK charts. She had a string of hits throughout the 50s and is still the only woman to have an instrumental International Number 1. On the day a new plaque is revealed at the site of the hair salon she founded in Brixton, we talk to music journalist and academic Jacqueline Springer about her legacy and influence. Secret Country is the new digital theatre show from Re-Live, a company who specialise in Life Story theatre work and who are based in Cardiff. Their new show is created and performed by a nine-strong company aged from 72 to 93, and is a candid, raucous and hopeful look at what life in lockdown has meant for our elderly community. Front Row hears from Karin Diamond, artistic director of Re-Live, and participant Terri Morrow. Kevin Costner won a heap of Oscars for his 1990 directorial debut Dances With Wolves including one for his direction. He now stars in Let Him Go, the story of a couple in their 60s who have to rescue their former daughter in law from the poisonous embrace of a violent new relationship. Playwright Daniel Ward and poet Laura Horton review the film and talk about the week's news in culture. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Main image: Viola Davis in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Image credit: David Lee/Netflix
18/12/2041m 24s

David Fincher

Visionary director David Fincher on Mank, his new film about 1930s Hollywood, as seen through the eyes of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he races to finish Citizen Kane with Orson Welles. Mank's screenplay is by Fincher's father Jack Fincher, who started writing it in the early 1990s and died in 2003. David Fincher's other films, which have earned thirty Oscar nominations, include Fight Club, Se7en, The Zodiac, The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button , Gone Girl and Panic Room. Fincher also talks about the future of cinema, streaming, and his early career as a director of iconic music videos such as Madonna's Vogue and George Michael's Freedom. Mank is released on Netflix. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Emma Harth
17/12/2028m 17s

Boris Giltburg, Christmas films, Party season substitutes

2020 marks Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and pianist Boris Giltburg has taken on the mammoth task of learning, performing and recording all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. What does it take to learn and record eleven hours of music and what can you learn about one of the world’s most famous composers.? Boris discusses the project and shares an exclusive recording. As Christmas approaches, we all love to curl up with a cocoa in front of a festive film. Netflix and Hallmark are churning out Christmas rom-coms, but why are they so popular? And should we be expecting more from these seasonal sensations? Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Amanny Mohamed discuss the film phenomenon. Front Row continues our festive foray into the best parties on screen with artist Scottee. We’re turning up Demis Roussos, cracking open a nice bottle of Beaujolais, but no olives for a celebration of Abigail’s Party. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Hilary Dunn Studio Manager: John Boland
16/12/2028m 19s

The Lark Ascending at 100, Wonder Woman 1984 reviewed, reading outside your comfort zone

Wonder Woman was the film that turned the reputation of DC Comics’ foray into big budget movies around in 2017. Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot return for the sequel which sees Wonder Woman and her love interest, played by Chris Pine, transplanted from the trenches of World War I to the technicolour world of the 80s. Can they repeat the success of the first instalment? Critic Leila Latif reviews. On the hundredth anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, violinist Jennifer Pike, who has been playing the piece professionally for over half her life, joins Liv to pull it apart, reveal its mysteries to us, and see what makes it a firm favourite in the British musical consciousness. We know that literature plays a huge role in how we develop our understanding of other people, places and cultures. But a recent survey revealed that of the 11 books the average person reads each year, 33% are either from the same genre or written by the same author and that just 13% of British adults had knowingly read a book from an author of colour over the course of the past year. Liv is joined to explore how we can read differently by two people who’ve been seeking inspiration from unusual sources this year: Stig Abell, who has just published Things I Learned on the 6:28, a diary of his reading over a year, and Amrou Al-Kadhi whose work is featured in an innovative book club which encourages its members to read across borders. Presenter: Liv Little Producer: Tim Prosser Studio Manager: John Boland
15/12/2028m 27s

John le Carré tribute; Comedy double act The Pin; Aliza Nisenbaum

Novelist William Boyd and Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at Oxford, reflect on the work of John le Carré exploring why he was more than a spy novelist, and how history shaped his novels and how they then shaped history. Comedy duo The Pin join Samira to talk about their West End debut “The Comeback”, which wittily dissects the dynamics of double acts. Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen’s show has been described by Sonia Friedman as “the cure for theatre” in these Covid times. Aliza Nisenbaum, the Mexican-born New York-based artist, is currently in her temporary studio in Los Angeles in lockdown. From there she discusses her new exhibition at Tate Liverpool, a series of portraits of key workers in the city that she painted during online conversations in August, including an entire team from the Emergency Department at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and other NHS staff on the Covid frontline. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
14/12/2028m 27s

Barbara Windsor remembered, Vaughan Williams, Cultural Recovery Fund loans, American Utopia reviewed, Zaina Arafat

The death of actress Barbara Windsor was announced today. A household name from EastEnders and the Carry On films, she was also acclaimed for her early performances at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Royal Stratford East. Cultural commentator Matthew Sweet discusses her career. The DCMS announced today the latest release of money from the Cultural Recovery Fund. Previously they issued grants and this time they’re issuing loans. What will this mean for the UK’s arts sector? Front Row asks minister Caroline Dinenage. The Chorus of the Royal Northern Sinfonia is premiering a new choral version of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, using the text of the original hymn on which the fantasia is based. Chorus Director Timothy Burke and soprano Joanna Finlay join Front Row. Spike Lee’s latest film is David Byrne’s American Utopia, a recording of the Broadway stage performance by the former Talking Heads frontman of his 2018 studio album. Kevin Le Gendre reviews the film which also features a number of Talking Heads hits, including Burning Down the House and Once in a Lifetime. Zaina Arafat talks about her debut novel, You Exist Too Much, a coming-of-age story set between the US and the Middle East. It follows a young woman struggling with her sexuality, her Palestinian heritage and an emotionally distant relationship with her conservative mother. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Nigel Dix
11/12/2041m 51s

10/12/2020

Live magazine programme on the worlds of arts, literature, film, media and music
10/12/2028m 21s

George Clooney's The Midnight Sky. Cyberpunk 2077. The debate on the National Trust

The Midnight Sky is George Clooney’s post-apocalyptic new film, which he directs and stars in alongside Felicity Jones and David Oyelowo. Is this Clooney’s Magnum Opus? Larushka Ivan-Zadeh reviews Eight years since its announcement and after several delays, futuristic roleplaying game Cyberpunk 2077 is released across consoles and PC this week. Its Warsaw-based studio CD Projekt is famous for The Witcher series and Cyberpunk 2077 promises to be the most detailed and expansive open-world game out there. But was it worth the wait? Elle Osili-Wood reviews. As debate continues about the role of the National Trust, whose recent work shedding light on many of its property’s links to slavery, as well as other historical injustices, has drawn criticism from members and a group of Conservative MPs, we ask what is the purpose of the Trust now? To explore the issues John is joined by Kirsty Weakley, Editor of Civil Society News, architectural historian Oliver Gerrish and David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Donald McDonald Main Image: George Clooney in The Midnight Sky Image credit: Netflix
09/12/2028m 23s

Julia Hart on her film I'm Your Woman, Benjamin Britten's Owen Wingrave

Writer and director Julia Hart joins Samira to talk about I'm Your Woman, a gritty crime drama set in the 1970s. Rachel Brosnahan (Marvellous Mrs Maisel) stars as a woman forced to go on the run after her husband betrays his partners, sending her and her baby on a dangerous journey. Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera Owen Wingrave was written for television and first appeared on BBC Two in 1971. Grange Park Opera have produced a new filmed version as part of their ‘Interim Season’, and director Stephen Medcalf joins us in the studio to explain how to film a socially-distanced opera. Dulwich Picture gallery is staging its first ever photography exhibition, Unearthed, which tells the story of photography through images of plants and botany. The show’s curator Alexander Moore talks about the work of the early pioneers in the 1840s, including the first known Victorian images by Fox Talbot, as well as the eroticisim of Robert Mapplethorpe's pictures and today’s leading innovators Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant
08/12/2028m 24s

Ryan Murphy’s new film starring Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman, reviewed

Ryan Murphy’s new film, The Prom, bursts into song and dance as four down-on-their-luck Broadway stars descend on a small Indiana town in support of a girl who just wants to go to the high school Prom with her girlfriend. The cast includes Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman and the critical reception in the US has been polarised; what does our reviewer Karen Krizanovich make of it? When theatre director Rebecca Frecknall and playwright Chris Bush began rehearsals for the show that would re-open London's Almeida Theatre after lockdown they had the title, Nine Lessons and Carols, but nothing else. They talk to Kirsty about creating a production, from scratch, with a cast that must maintain social distance; a show that addresses these dark times, but warmly welcomes an audience back to the theatre with lights, sound, and stories. A comic strip “Our Plague Year” by artist and illustrator Nick Burton, conceived in collaboration with HOME in Manchester, draws parallels between the Great Plague which struck England in the 17th century and the current Coronavirus epidemic. Set in the Derbyshire village of Eyam which, when The Plague took hold, famously chose to cut off all contact with the outside world to stop the contagion spreading. But it’s not just doom gloom and death, the strip is full of dark humour and makes readers wonder whether human society has really changed all that much between then and now. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May
07/12/2028m 42s

Viggo Mortensen, Alex Wheatle, William Hill Sports Book of the Year

Viggo Mortensen joins us live to talk about his new film, Falling, his debut as a director, which he also wrote. It's the story of a conservative father moving from his rural farm to live with his gay son's family in Los Angeles. We’ve been hearing from figures from the creative industries about their Lockdown Discovery, something that has given them great pleasure or solace during the two lockdowns. Today, the novelist Alex Wheatle, aka the Brixton Bard, who has been working with Steve McQueen on his Small Axe series of dramas and who is the subject of this week’s film, reveals his Lockdown Discovery. Would it be Christmas without A Christmas Carol? Even in 2020, there are still many live productions going on. A new film version by siblings Jacqui and David Morris combines voices of Simon Russell Beale, Daniel Kaluuya and Carey Mulligan with dance performances of Russell Maliphant and others. Sarah Crompton and Tobi Kyeremateng review the film and the phenomenon of Dickens’ story – is it particularly resonant this year? And they’ll consider the new National Theatre at Home subscription service as well as making their own cultural picks of the week. The winner of this year’s William Hill Sports Book of the Year is The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire. Grigory Rodchenkov was the head of Russian sport’s doping programme, and this is his detailed account of how he blew the whistle on what's been described by the World Anti-Doping Agency as the biggest sporting scandal in world history. Rodchenkov had to flee Russia and is still in hiding in the US. His editor Drummond Moir discusses the story and the challenges this presented. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Emma Harth
04/12/2042m 9s

New Tracey Emin exhibition, The Crown controversy, Walter Presents: The Announcer

The fourth in the Netflix series of The Crown, written by Peter Morgan and starring Olivia Coleman as the Queen, has raised questions about its historical accuracy, including from Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. Award winning novelist Naomi Alderman and journalist Simon Jenkins discuss the controversy in the context of the number of recent dramas set in the very recent past about real people. The Royal Academy in London has reopened its doors and is preparing to show Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul, in which 25 of Emin’s works sit alongside a series of oils and watercolours by the Norwegian artist Emin has been in love with since she was 18, in a shared exploration of grief, loss and longing. Described as somewhere between Mad Men and Agatha Christie, ‘The Announcer’ launched on All 4 this week. TV presenter Christine Beauval crashes against the glass ceiling in 1960s France, as she tries to outrun sinister threats on her life. Hannah McGill reviews. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Hilary Dunn Studio Manager: Emma Harth
03/12/2028m 30s

Katie Melua, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Crimes Against Christmas

Seventeen years after achieving global success with her debut album, Katie Melua talks about her latest record Album No.8, and how she took a course in short fiction writing before embarking on the lyrics. Plus she performs a special acoustic performance for Front Row. British-Ghanaian artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye paints 'figments': portraits of fictitious people constructed from memory and fantasy. As Tate Britain re-opens, her Covid-postponed show Fly in League With the Night surveys her body of work from 2003 to the present day with a distinctive sense of mystery. Art critic Asana Greenstreet reviews the exhibition and gives us a sense of Yiadom-Boakye’s importance to British art now. Husband and wife team Feargus Woods Dunlop and Heather Westwell from the New Old Friends Theatre company have come up with a novel way of beating Covid restrictions on live performances by turning their traditional Christmas show into an online advent calendar podcast – Crimes Against Christmas, which is loosely based on Agatha Christie’s Then There Were None. Feargus Woods Dunlop talks to Elle Osili-Wood about how and why they did it. Presenter Elle Osili-Wood Producer Jerome Weatherald Main image: Katie Melua Image credit: Rosie Matheson
02/12/2028m 18s

Yazz Ahmed, Lucy Bailey, The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone

Yazz Ahmed, trumpeter and composer, and winner of the Innovation Award at tonight’s Ivors Awards, joins us in the studio. Yazz’s music blends jazz, arabic scales and rhythms, electronics, and the music of Bahrain, where she spent her childhood. Francis Ford Coppola's first two Godfather films are considered cinematic masterpieces, but The Godfather Part III never received such acclaim. Thirty years after its release, Coppola has recut the film and renamed it The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. Film critic Tim Robey gives his verdict. When Oleanna was first staged in 1992 it prompted intense responses. “People used to get into fistfights in the lobby,” David Mamet said. In his play a student visits a professor for help, but then lodges a complaint of sexual harassment that will ruin his career. How will a new production fare today, after Me Too and Harvey Weinstein's conviction? Samira Ahmed hears from the director, Lucy Bailey. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser
01/12/2028m 21s

Henry Blake on County Lines; museums and galleries post Covid; re-reading Jane Austen's Emma

As museums and galleries in tiers one and two prepare to reopen on Wednesday, we consider what the future might look like for these much loved institutions. Has the pandemic changed their fundamental purpose or merely accelerated shifts that had already begun? What might museums and galleries look like as physical and social entities in ten years’ time? To explore these questions, Kirsty is joined by Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, an organisation currently working to assist organisations in innovating to meet the challenges COVID 19 presents, and museum and gallery designer Dinah Casson, whose new book Closed on Mondays: Behind the Scenes at the Museum is released tomorrow. Screenwriter and director Henry Blake talks about his forthcoming film, County Lines. Inspired by the stories Blake heard while mentoring young people at an East London pupil referral unit, County Lines follows Tyler, a 14-year-old boy who is groomed into a criminal network trafficking drugs between communities. John Mullen has been making the case for re-reading Jane Austen throughout lockdown. Today, it's the turn of Emma. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Main image: Conrad Khan in Henry Blake's film County Lines Image credit: BFI
30/11/2028m 25s

Mandolin player Avi Avital, Marina Abramović, Possessor reviewed

Avi Avital., the world's leading mandolin player, on his new album The Art of the Mandolin, in which he performs music specially written for the instrument by Vivaldi, Beethoven and Scarlatti through to contemporary composers David Bruce and Giovanni Sollima. Yesterday the Government announced which areas of England will be in Tiers 1, 2 or 3. For theatres and live performance venues in Tier 3 it's disappointing news as they will have to remain closed. What will be possible in Tier 2? Matt Hemley of The Stage joins us to look at the picture across the nation including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and we hear from Chris Stafford of the Curve Theatre in Leicester. Marina Abramović, the celebrated performance artist, discusses her takeover of a whole evening of Sky Arts next weekend. The five-hour series of programmes she’s curating and directing will delve into a hundred years of performance art, and guest Jarvis Cocker will explore meditation according to the ‘Abramović Method’. Possessor is a sci-fi psychological horror film written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, son of visionary film-maker David Cronenberg, starring Andrea Riseborough. Film critic Larushka Ivan-Zadeh and crime novelist Abir Mukherjee review. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Main image: Avi Avital Image credit: Christoph Kostlin
27/11/2041m 33s

Hollywood star Amy Adams, Corrie at 60 and Musician Jake Blount

The actress Amy Adams is one of Hollywood’s brightest stars with multiple Oscar nominations and a roster of unforgettable roles to her name from the adorable pregnant teenager in Junebug, to the lovable Disney Princess in Enchanted, to full on 1970s disco in American Hustle. Now she’s taken on the distinctly un-glamorous role of a drug addicted mother in the movie version of the best-selling memoir Hillbilly Elegy, a book that aimed to explain Trump’s appeal to white working class America. Nick Ahad talks to Amy Adams about poverty, Trump and what happens next. When ITV’s Coronation Street began in 1960 a columnist in a national newspaper predicted it wouldn't last more than three weeks. Now, as it prepares to celebrate 60 years on air next month, it’s the longest running TV soap opera in the world. Nick discusses the enduring charm of Weatherfield with former writer and archivist Daran Little and superfan BBC 6 Music DJ Chris Hawkins, who chose Coronation Street as his topic when invited on celebrity Mastermind. Jake Blount is black, queer and used to play guitar in punk-rock bands. He's also the first black musician to reach the finals at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Festival. He tells Nick Ahad about discovering the African-Americans roots of bluegrass and old time Appalachian fiddle and banjo songs, and repossess them. And he has recorded one of those songs, from his acclaimed new album, Spider Tales, especially for Front Row. Presenter: Nick Ahad Producer: Olive Clancy Picture credit: Lacey Terrell/Netflix
26/11/2028m 23s

Playwright Roy Williams, Poet Fred D'Aguiar, Defending Digga D documentary

Roy Williams joins Samira Ahmed to talk about Death of England: Delroy. Just before Lockdown 2, this play’s opening night became its closing night. The understudy Michael Balogun had just stepped into the role. Luckily the press and audience loved it, and the film of that performance will be available on the National Theatre’s youtube channel this Friday. Directed by Clint Dyer, and written by Roy Williams and Clint Dyer, this powerful monologue explores the experiences of a working class Black British man who has been told by his best friend that he ‘will never be one of us’. Fred D’Aguiar spent his childhood in Guyana, his teens in South London and now lives in California. All this experience is distilled in his novels, plays and, especially, his many books of poetry. We talk to him about his new collection, Letters to America which addresses his adopted country in poems such as ‘Burning Paradise’ and ‘Downtown L.A’, but also Britain and the Caribbean, with work influenced by Philip Larkin, Derek Walcott and Calypso. Digga D is a twenty year old star of the UK Drill music scene on the brink of global fame and fortune. He has also been convicted and imprisoned for planning a knife attack. A new BBC Three documentary follows him as he leaves prison and attempts to return to his recording career. Can he rehabilitate himself in spite of being saddled with a Criminal Behaviour Order that means the police vet his lyrics line by line? And can Drill music escape its connection to gangs and violence? We’ll ask the journalist Andre Johnson, presenter and director of Terms and Conditions, a YouTube commissioned documentary about the UK Drill scene. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: Emma Harth
25/11/2028m 22s

Simon Russell Beale; Costa Book Awards shortlists; Guy Garvey

We exclusively reveal and analyse the 2020 Costa Book Prize shortlists. Critics Alex Clark and Jade Cuttle discuss the books chosen in the five categories: Novel, First Novel, Poetry, Biography and Children's fiction. Category winners will appear on the programme in January and Front Row will announce the overall prize-winner on 26 January 2021. Guy Garvey from Elbow reports on what he said to MPs earlier today during the DCMS inquiry into the rise of music streaming services and the effect on musicians themselves. Are artists being fairly re-numerated or does the business model of streaming need an urgent overhaul? Simon Russell Beale, always a busy actor, gives his voice to Scrooge in a new dance-film version of A Christmas Carol directed by Jacqui and David Morris and will be giving his voice, and the rest of him, playing the epitome of meanness in Nicholas Hytner’s new production – with just three actors – at the Bridge Theatre. He talks to Irenosen about performing the role in the film and in the theatre, navigating the arc from misanthropy to philanthropy – and how to say ‘Bah, humbug’ as if no one has ever said that before. Presenter: Irenosen Okojie Producer: Jerome Weatherald
24/11/2028m 4s

Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart on Shuggie Bain

On Front Row last week, Douglas Stuart was awarded the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction for Shuggie Bain, his debut novel about a boy in 1980s Glasgow who supports his mother as she struggles with addiction. Tonight Douglas Stuart talks in-depth with John Wilson about his extraordinary journey from Glasgow to becoming a fashion designer in New York and now a best-selling novelist, after being rejected by more than 30 publishers. Plus we announce the winner of this year’s George Devine Award – the £15,000 prize for an original stage play. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser main image: Douglas Stuart Image credit: Martyn Pickersgill
24/11/2028m 24s

Tim Minchin, Jan Morris remembered, new gaming consoles, Nicholas Pinnock

Tim Minchin - the Australian actor, comedian, performer, musician, and composer and lyricist of the Olivier Award-winning RSC stage show Matilda The Musical – discusses his first solo album Apart Together, the themes he chooses to reflect on, and his approach to composition. Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 are in the shops. The much-anticipated new generation of gaming consoles has arrived seven years after the previous iteration. We review both consoles as well as new games Spiderman: Miles Morales and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla with video games broadcaster and writer Aoife Wilson. Travel writer and journalist Jan Morris, whose death was announced today at the age of 94, is remembered by fellow travel writer Horatio Clare. British actor Nicholas Pinnock on his leading role in the American TV drama series For Life, in which he plays a prisoner who trains to become a lawyer whilst incarcerated. Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Jerome Weatherald
20/11/2040m 36s

The 2020 Booker Prize Ceremony

Live from the Roundhouse, London, Front Row brings you the 2020 Booker Prize ceremony. Who will be the winner of the £50,000 prize for fiction in this extraordinary year? Taking part in the socially distanced proceedings will be Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, last year's winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, chair of judges Margaret Busby, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, former President of the United States Barack Obama - and of course, the winner. The evening will be hosted by Front Row's John Wilson and broadcast simultaneously on BBC iPlayer. The shortlisted authors and titles are: Diane Cook, The New Wilderness Tsitsi Dangarembga, This Mournable Body Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain Brandon Taylor, Real Life Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson
19/11/2043m 31s

Gillian Anderson, South Georgia artist commission, the role of literary prizes

Gillian Anderson on her technique for perfecting Margaret Thatcher’s distinctive voice in the fourth season of The Crown, and the recent debate the TV series has ignited over what is fact and fiction. South Georgia is a remote, windswept and icy Antarctic island, with no permanent population. But much of the industrial whaling industry was based here until the 1960s, when there were scarcely any whales left to slaughter. Now, though, whales are returning. Rats and mice that came with the whaling ships and ate chicks in their nests and burrows have been eradicated, and the seabirds are flourishing. To mark this history and celebrate the change there's been a competition to create an artwork on the site of the Grytviken whaling station. We speak to the Scottish sculptor Michael Visocchi about his inspiration and plans. We’ll soon know who has been awarded the 2020 Booker Prize. Novelist Sara Collins, whose debut The Confessions of Frannie Langton won the 2019 Costa First Novel Award, Ellah Wakatama, Editor at Large at Canongate, and literary critic John Self discuss the role of literary prizes with the BBC’s Elle Osili-Wood on the eve of one of the biggest highlights of the literary calendar. Producer: Julian May Presenter: Kirsty Lang Main image: Gillian Anderson as Margaret thatcher in The Crown Image credit: Des Willie/Netflix
18/11/2028m 26s

Patrick, Colm Tóibín on James Joyce, Amy Macdonald, Christopher Reid

Patrick is a black comedy from Belgium set in a woodland nudist camp. After his father dies and leaves him to run the campsite, Patrick’s favourite hammer is stolen, and he finds himself on an existential quest as he attempts to recover his beloved tool. The film is by Tim Mielants who directed the third series of Peaky Blinders. Briony Hanson gives us her verdict. The Dublin residence known as The House Of The Dead because James Joyce used it as the setting for part of his 1914 short story The Dubliners is in the news because developers want to turn it into a 50-bed hostel. Many important Irish writers have objected, saying that it would 'destroy an essential part of Ireland’s cultural history'. Colm Tóibín explains why he thinks the development shouldn’t go ahead. The poet Christopher Reid won the Costa Book of the Year in 2009 with A Scattering, in which he reflected on the death of his wife Lucinda. Today he discusses his new collection The Late Sun, in which he also memorialises those recently departed, including his mother, but also celebrates the vitality of living, as well as travel and the reality of the day-to-day experience. Scottish singer songwriter Amy Macdonald talks about her fifth album The Human Demands, which spans a range of emotions, from the happiness of falling in love to a feeling of loneliness. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Oliver Jones
17/11/2028m 23s

Fela Kuti documentary; writing and reading trauma; The Queen's Gambit review

Fela Kuti was the creator of Afrobeat – a blend of traditional Yoruba and Caribbean music with funk and jazz that exhilarated the global music scene in the 1970s and gave rise more recently to the Afrobeats scene from Burna Boy to Tiwa Savage. A new documentary by the Nigerian novelist and playwright Biyi Bandele aims to chart Fela Kuti’s rise to fame and politicisation in 1960s Lagos and the US. As Nigerians march the streets to protest at police brutality, using Fela Kuti’s music as a backdrop, Samira talks to Biyi Bandele about his musical and political legacy. With the Booker shortlist featuring books which deal with trauma – from Diana Cook’s The New Wilderness following a mother trying to keep her daughter safe after an environmental disaster and Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain about a childhood blighted by poverty and addiction in 1980s Glasgow we explore the issues for writers in writing about trauma in both fiction and non fiction with writers Meg Rosoff and Monique Roffey and the critic Suzi Feay. The Queen’s Gambit is a new miniseries on Netflix which tells the story of a young female chess genius. It’s being hailed as “one of their best ever shows” but how is a drama about 32 chess pieces and 64 black and white squares so compelling? Roisin O’Connor is a big fan and eager to tell everyone how wonderful it is. Main image: Fela Kuti Image credit: Ian Dickson/Redferns
16/11/2028m 18s

Steve McQueen, The Simpsons, Brutal North, Jenny Sturgeon

The Simpsons is the longest running scripted primetime TV show ever. As season 31 kicks off in the UK we explore its potent popularity with comedian and fan David Baddiel and writer, producer, and story editor on thes how Tim Long who’s worked on more than 450 episodes Photographer Simon Phipps discusses his book Brutal North, a celebration of modernist and brutalist architecture in the north of England. The post-war years saw the building of some of the most aspirational and successful modernist architecture in the world, from Newcastle’s Byker Wall Estate to the Preston bus station, completed in 1969. But how vulnerable are these buildings today? British film director Steve McQueen has achieved Oscar success but his latest project sees him returning to the small screen with a series of five new dramas for BBC TV, set in London’s West Indian community between 60s and the 80s. Jenny Sturgeon’s new album is inspired by and takes its title from Nan Shepherd’s book about the Cairngorms, The Living Mountain, which, though slender, has had a profound influence, changing the way we relate to high and wild places. There are 12 chapters and Sturgeon has written a song for each. She talks about recording them in the mountains, with a backing track of natural sounds. She tells, too, the story of her guitar, made from local materials – an old shelf from a local bar and even heather and lichen growing in the Cairngorms. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May
14/11/2041m 20s

Booker Prize Book Group, Julian Lloyd Webber on Malcolm Arnold, Nick Park's lockdown discovery

We conclude our tour of the novels shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 tonight with a final book group where listeners put their questions to Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life. A campus novel and a coming-of-age story, it tells the experiences of a gay, Black doctoral student in a predominantly White, PhD programme at a supposedly enlightened American university. With part of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s archive under threat of destruction by the Ministry of Justice, cellist Julian Lloyd Webber argues that these papers are important to the 20th Century British composer’s legacy. Throughout the period of two lockdowns, self-isolation and working from home, we’ve been hearing from individuals in the creative industries about something that has given them a lot of pleasure, and occasionally brought them solace, in these challenging times. Tonight it’s the turn of Nick Park, the Oscar-winning creator of Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, and many other Aardman classics, to reveal his personal Lockdown Discovery. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones Studio Manager: Donald MacDonald
12/11/2028m 24s

Tana French, Mary Wollstonecraft statue, Industry, Ralph McTell's The Unknown Warrior

Tana French is the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad crime books, that inspired the 2019 BBC TV series. Her gritty urban mysteries have been translated into 37 languages and sold around 7m copies worldwide, gaining praise from the likes of Stephen King and Marian Keyes. Her latest novel, The Searcher, moves the action to rural Ireland for the first time. A retired Chicago police officer reluctantly takes on the search for a missing teenager in a small town that seems tranquil on the surface but in reality is anything but. A new statue dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century advocate of women's rights, was unveiled this week at Newington Green in Islington, London, created by Maggi Hambling. It very quickly drew criticism from some because of its inclusion of a naked female figure. The art historian Jacky Klein gives her assessment. Industry is a new BBC2 drama, directed by Lena Dunham, set in the financial district in London and focuses on a new intake of 20-somethings who must all compete for a limited set of positions at a top investment bank in London. Kohinoor Sahota reviews. Today is Armistice Day, and the day that, 100 years ago, the body of an unidentified soldier killed in the First World War was drawn in a solemn procession through London to be laid to rest at Westminster Abbey. The story of The Unknown Warrior moved the English musician Ralph McTell to write a song chronicling it. In Front Row he talks about this, the powerful symbolism of the ceremony and how he recruited Billy Connolly, Anthony Hopkins and Liam Neeson from each of the other nations of the United Kingdom, to speak some of his words. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Jerome Weatherald Main image: Tana French Image credit: Jessica Ryan
11/11/2028m 30s

Abel Selaocoe, Billie Holiday, Edoardo Ponti on Sophia Loren

The cellist and singer Abel Selaocoe grew up in a township in the south of Johannesburg and creates music that draws on classical, African and contemporary music. He talks to Samira about As You Are, the music he’s composed for Opera North’s sound-walks in Leeds and about the celebration of music from Africa which he’s leading in collaboration with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at this year's London Jazz Festival. At the age of 86, film legend Sophia Loren stars in her first film in almost a decade, The Life Ahead. Directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, she plays a former sex worker who looks after a Senegalese migrant boy. Edoardo talks to Samira about directing his mother sixty years after she won a Best Actress Oscar for Two Women. Billie is a new online documentary about the jazz singer Billie Holiday which uses material collected by the journalist Linda Kipnack Kuehl: archive, colourisation techniques and previously unheard recordings of interviews with people who knew her. Tega Okiti reviews. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Hilary Dunn
10/11/2028m 33s

The Voices of the Women in Classical Myths in 15 Heroines; Front Row's Book Group with Booker Nominee Douglas Stuart

Ulysses, Hercules, Jason and Achilles - classical mythology is all about men of action. The women tend to have things - often horrible - happen to them: they get kidnapped, raped, abandoned. The Roman poet Ovid wrote a series of fictional letters, The Heroides, giving voice to these put-upon women. 15 leading British dramatists, all women or non-binary, have drawn on Ovid, recasting their stories for our times, and filmed live in an empty theatre for streaming. Front Row hears about the 15 Heroines project from director Adjoa Andoh and writers Natalie Haynes and Juliet Gilkes Romero. In advance of the winner announcement on the 19th of November here on Front Row, we’ve another of our Booker Prize Book Groups. Tonight’s it’s the turn of Douglas Stuart, who will be meeting readers to answer questions about his novel Shuggie Bain. It’s the story of a powerful bond between a mother suffering from addiction and a son whose nascent sexuality marks him out as different. The Booker Prize 2020 judges called the book “an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love.” Front Row reveals how, as well as reading from Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy on the campaign trail, and quoting the 'To every thing there is a season' verses from Ecclesiastes, in his victory speech President Elect Biden made a reference to the Langston Hughes poem Harlem - a subtle touch that will not be lost on African American voters. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Main image above: Olivia Williams as Hypsipyle by Natalie Haynes, part of 15 Heroines. Image credit: marc Brenner
09/11/2028m 26s

Dame Judi Dench and Wendy Craig remember Geoffrey Palmer; Ruth Wilson; Graeae; Kylie and Little Mix albums; Ted Hughes's Crow

The death of Geoffrey Palmer was announced today. Two of his leading co-stars, Dame Judi Dench and Wendy Craig, pay tribute. Ruth Wilson plays the sinister and ruthlessly ambitious Mrs Coulter in the BBC’s lavish adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. We catch up with her as series two begins to discuss the relationship with her estranged daughter Lyra, working with a digital monkey, and to ask if baddies are just more fun to play. November marks the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, criminalising discrimination against disabled people in many areas of life. The anniversary is being marked on BBC TV and radio with a focus on the arts. For Radio 4, Jenny Sealey, of Graeae Theatre, and Polly Thomas have directed an adaptation of a Ben Johnson play - Bartholomew Fair - reimagined as The Bartholomew Abominations, set in a dystopian future. Two major pop acts have new releases out – longstanding international treasure Kylie Minogue and relative newcomers on the block, Little Mix. Katie Puckrik and Roisin O’Connor join John to discuss the merits (or otherwise?) of the albums and also to select a cultural highlight they’ve been enjoying recently Fifty years ago Ted Hughes published Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow. The Crow is a violent shape-shifter, a ruthless trickster who is determined to survive. A new edition of Crow has just been published and in Front Row Marina Warner, who has written the foreword, reveals the brutal beauty that Hughes achieved. The poet Zaffar Kunial reflects on how the rough music of the Songs of the Crow echoes across half a century to us today. We hear, too, from the archive, powerful readings of the poems by Ted Hughes himself. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson
06/11/2041m 36s

Could being visually impaired enhance an artist’s work?

Could being visually impaired enhance an artist’s work? We’ll discuss that with Richard Butchins who’s made a BBC 4 documentary - The Disordered Eye - arguing just that. He looked at the work of artists who are known to have had low vision, such as Degas and Monet and those who were blind like Sargi Mann. And heard from contemporary artists like landscape painter Keith Salmon and sensory photographer Sally Booth. And we’ll hear from the British-Lebanese poet Claudine Toutungi about her new collection - Two Tongues – full of poignant and funny poems about identity, language and how her own low vision has changed her world. Plus Ethiopian-American novelist Maaza Mengiste is the latest subject of the Front Row Booker Prize Book Group. Three guests from around the world will join the author to discuss her Booker-shortlisted novel The Shadow King, about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Oliver Jones Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
05/11/2028m 14s

Alice Oswald's Weather Anthology, What a Carve Up!, Memoir writing

We can't go to the movies for a fix of action now. We can, though, witness spectacle that even the biggest budget blockbusters can't match - by simply going outside into the weather. 'Use should be made of it,' wrote Virginia Woolf. 'One should not let this gigantic cinema play perpetually to an empty house.' The poet Alice Oswald discusses Gigantic Cinema: A Weather Anthology that she's compiled with editor Paul Keegan, capturing writing about the weather, from the deluge in Gilgamesh, the earliest known poem, to 'Billie's Rain' one written a few years ago, about sitting in a van listening as rain hammers on the roof. Missing the stage? Don’t despair - three regional theatres just got together to stage a lockdown-proof digital production of Jonathan Coe’s classic 1994 satirical novel What A Carve Up! They’ve re-imagined it for 2020, and added an all-star cast from Tamzin Outhwaite to Sharon D Clark, with cameos from Stephen Fry and Derek Jacobi. Katie Popperwell reviews. In recent years, the growing popularity of Life Writing - creative writing based on autobiography or memoir - can be seen across book awards shortlists as well as the sheer number of creative writing courses dedicated to the subject. As the annual Spread the Word Life Writing Prize opens for entries, we talk to judge Frances Wilson about the kind of work the prize is seeking as well as the latest developments in this type of writing. She’ll be joined by Poet and teacher Anthony Anaxagorou, whose book How to Write It - published this month by Stormzy’s publishing imprint, Merky Books - aims to encourage budding writers to tell their story. Presenter Ben Bailey Smith Producer Jerome Weatherald
04/11/2027m 37s

Kristin Scott Thomas talks about playing Mrs Danvers in Rebecca

In an extended interview, Dame Kristin Scott Thomas talks about relishing her latest role as the scary housekeeper Mrs Danvers in the new Netflix adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Kristin first trained to teach drama, not to perform in it and when she tried to transfer to the acting course, she was told, without any consoling words, that her only real chance of playing a big part was to join an amateur drama group. Devastated, Kristin went to Paris to become an au-pair and eventually trained as an actor there. After a terrific review for a performance with a travelling theatre troupe, she landed a part in a Prince video which was followed by her first big break, playing the amoral, adulterous wife Brenda in an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust. Since then she's often been associated with a kind of bone-china English womanhood — playing characters who are beautiful, refined, perhaps a little brittle too— characters such as Katherine in Anthony Minghella's film The English Patient or Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Kristin reflects on how her upbringing taught her to hold back on emotions, and how she’s always sought out roles like Fiona, where the character is not all she seems and drops a mask. And she describes how her recent appearance in Fleabag struck a chord with a lot of women, where she gave a hilarious and rousing speech about reaching the menopause. Interviewed guest : Dame Kristin Scott Thomas Presenter : Tom Sutcliffe Producer : Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager : Jackie Margerum
03/11/2028m 18s

Cellist Steven Isserlis plays, the lockdown's impact on the arts and Booker shortlisted Avni Doshi

Steven Isserlis tells John Wilson about his new album of late works by Sir John Tavener. It is a very personal project: Tavener and Isserlis were friends, the composer wrote pieces for the cellist and Isserlis gave the first performances of some of Tavener's works. His music was greatly influenced by the liturgy and traditions of the Orthodox Church, but this album reveals his openness to other religions. One piece echoes the call and response form of the Anglican church, in another the cello duets with a Sufi singer. There isn't a piece for solo cello so Isserlis plays part of Tavener's famous piece, The Protecting Veil, which was written for him, . Avni Doshi’s debut novel Burnt Sugar was longlisted for the Booker Prize two days before it was even published in the UK, and just weeks later she gave birth to her second child. Now she’s on the shortlist and has a three month old to look after as well as a toddler, but she’s found the time to join some readers for Front Row’s Booker Prize Book Group. Avni answers listeners questions about her story of a fractious mother daughter relationship, set in and around Pune, India. The latest announcement about renewed lockdown restrictions which will remain in place until at least December 3rd have thrown the plans of theatres, museums and many other public institutions into disarray. They had just emerged from the first lockdown and reworked their plans to incorporate social distancing. Now all that effort seems to have come to naught as new rules have been announced. John Wilson speaks to Matt Hemley from The Stage and Adrian Vinken, CEO at Theatre Royal Plymouth, whose Christmas show may have to be cancelled…again. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson
02/11/2028m 59s

Sam Smith, Turner's Modern World, Cold War Steve, US elections on film

When the singer Sam Smith came out as non-binary last year it was headline news around the world. After two global number one albums, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, multiple Grammys and 3 Brit awards, the 28-year-old singer is very much an international household name. And yet, as they release their third album, Love Goes, they are still beset by self-doubt. Sam Smith talks to Front Row about fame, heartbreak and songs to put a smile on your face. Turner’s Modern World, a new exhibition at Tate Britain in London, explores how the painter JMW Turner (1775-1851) responded to the momentous events of his day, from technology’s impact on the natural world to the dizzying effects of modernisation on society. Charlotte Mullins reviews the exhibition which also reflects on the artist’s interest in social reform, especially his changing attitudes towards politics, labour and slavery. Satirist Cold War Steve, aka Christopher Spencer, has been described as the ‘Brexit Bruegel’ and ‘A modern day Hogarth’. The collage artist is famous for his provocative look at the state of art and politics, depicting international political figures in uncompromising terms. As the drama surrounding next week’s US presidential election reaches fever pitch, film critic Tim Robey picks his choice of the best portrayals of the contest on film, from Betty Boop for President to Primary Colours. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May Main image: Sam Smith Image credit: Alasdair McLellan
30/10/2041m 53s

Dawn French talks about her comedy and novel writing careers

Samira Ahmed talks to comedienne, actress and writer Dawn French. Dawn became famous with her comedy performimg partner of many decades; Jennifer Saunders. Together they won British Comedy Awards and BAFTAs but Dawn has also achieved acting success on her own - The Vicar Of Dibley, Murder Most Horrid, Delicious, Psychoville and many more. And she is also a best-selling, highly successful writer of 4 novels. Her latest is Because Of You, the story of a baby stolen from the maternity ward and raised by a different mother who lost her own baby the same day. Dawn reflects on her life and career: growing up as a Forces kid, meeting Jennifer, their stand-up and TV work together and as part of The Comic Strip Presents, working with Richard Curtis on The Vicar of Dibley and the power of comedy to agitate politically. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones
30/10/2027m 39s

His House director Remi Weekes, Booker Prize Book Group with Tsitsi Dangarembga

For the second of Front Row's Booker Prize Book Groups, listeners put their questions to Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga whose novel This Mournable Body is shortlisted for the title. It’s the third part of a trilogy that began with the highly-acclaimed Nervous Conditions in 1988. The books tell the story of Tambudzai, a woman whose life has been full of promise but who now finds herself mired in the conditions of late 20th century Harare and pushed to the very edge. The author will also talk about her arrest after a protest earlier this summer, its consequences and the support she has received from other writers. First-time feature film director Remi Weekes had his horror thriller snapped up by Netflix for an eight-figure sum at Sundance earlier this year. This week you’ll be able to see the film and Weekes joins Samira Ahmed to talk about His House - the story of Bol and Rial who escape war-torn South Sudan and arrive in the UK aboard a boat that sinks in the channel. The peeling walls of the Essex house they are allocated hold an evil spirit that has followed them from Africa. The authorities say they must not leave and the couple are left to deal with a haunted house that is almost as horrible as their own past. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Simon Richardson
28/10/2028m 25s

Elisabeth Moss, Julia Bullock, memorialising loved ones in video games

Elisabeth Moss on her latest role as the horror and mystery writer Shirley Jackson in the new film Shirley. And she discusses the new series of The Handmaid’s Tale, which she’s now directing as well as starring in, and which has had to be filmed during the pandemic. Presenter: Elle Osili-Wood Producer: Timothy Prosser Main image: Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Image credit: Neon Films
27/10/2028m 16s

Sofia Coppola, Booker Book Group with Diane Cook, Olivier Awards

Film-maker Sofia Coppola talks about reuniting with Bill Murray for her new film On The Rocks, a comedy about a martini-drinking playboy father who reconnects with his daughter (Rashida Jones) on an adventure through New York. Front Row is convening a series of Booker Prize book groups in which readers can put questions to the six shortlisted authors, ahead of the announcement of the winner on the programme in November. We start with American author Diane Cook who's nominated for her debut novel, The New Wilderness. Set in the near future in an unnamed country, it's about a mother who takes her daughter away from the life-threatening pollution of The City to live in the wilderness with an experimental community. Cook is joined by Front Row listeners to talk about the book. And with many venues still closed, the pandemic has hit the theatre sector particularly hard this year. But the industry was finally able to pay tribute to some of the best performances of the past year at last night's re-scheduled Olivier Awards. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Dymphna Flynn
26/10/2028m 35s

Frankenstein, William Boyd, Rachel Whiteread, The Sister

In Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster, six performers from Battersea Arts Centre's Beatbox Academy interpret Mary Shelley’s classic novel from their own perspective; as young people growing up in 21st-century Britain. Using only their own mouths and voices to make every sound in the film, they explore how today’s society creates its own monsters. John Wilson talks to one of the creator performers, Nadine Rose Johnson. Acclaimed author William Boyd talks about his new novel, Trio. Set in the summer of 1968, the year of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, there are riots in Paris and the Vietnam War is out of control. While the world is reeling, three characters - a producer, a novelist and an actress - are involved in making a Swingin' Sixties movie in sunny Brighton and each of them is harbouring a dangerous secret. Artist Rachel Whiteread discusses her series of works she has been creating in lockdown at her home in the Welsh countryside: March-Sept Drawings, as well as a newly-revealed resin sculpture, Untitled (Pinboard), which goes on digital display today. Author Irenosen Okojie and journalist Mik Scarlet review the new ITV drama series The Sister, written by Neil Cross (creator of Luther) and starring Russell Tovey. Mik will also be discussing the Shaw Trust Power 100, an annual publication aiming to further inclusivity by celebrating 100 most influential disabled people, and Irenosen celebrates her current cultural highlight, the Netflix American comedy film The 40-Year-Old Version. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Oliver Jones Main image: Grove in Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster Image credit: Lukas Galantay
23/10/2041m 35s

James Graham, Nottingham's Rock City celebrates 40 years, Liam Bailey, Phoebe Boswell

Geeta Pendse presents Front Row live from Nottingham in a shared broadcast with BBC Radio Nottingham. In spite of virus restrictions, Nottingham Playhouse goes live for the first time since March this week with a season they're calling Notthingham Unlocks. We'll talk to the playwright and local James Graham about his brand new play, a lockdown romance played by TV stars Jessica Raine and Pearl Mackie. James Graham, who's known for stage and TV dramas that take on big topical issues, from Brexit to Rupert Murdoch's rise to power, will explain why the the story of a couple who meet on a perfect date and then have to decide what to do when lockdown begins, is the perfect story for now. The live music venue Rock City is celebrating forty years of launching a thousand music careers and Nottingham relationships this year. We'll have memories right from the beginning but also from students who are finding the venue's pioneering socially distanced gigs a lifetime. We'll talk to the Nottingham-born musician Liam Bailey who fulfilled his dream of playing at Rock City. He was signed by Amy Winehouse, supported Paloma Faith and tours with Drum and bass duo Chance and Status. But his new album Ekundayo – named for a Yoruba word meaning sorrow becomes joy – is a new departure for the singer-songwriter. It’s an album motored by stories from his own life – from his search for his absent Jamaican father to his struggles with mental health to managing to make the most of lockdown against all the odds. And Phoebe Boswell will talk about her forthcoming exhibition - Here - at Nottingham's New Art exchange. She was born in Kenya, raised in the Arabian Gulf but now lives and works in the UK. Her work combines drawing with video, sound and digital animation but the themes are simple ones of identity and belonging. She’ll be talking about her brand new interactive work which struck an unexpected chord with lockdown-weary participants. Presenter: Geeta Pendse Producer: Olive Clancy
22/10/2029m 37s

Francois Ozon's Summer of '85; Acclaimed violinist Tasmin Little; Derry International Choir Festival

Acclaimed violinist Tasmin Little announced her retirement from the stage recently. The musician is selling her beloved violin to focus on teaching. She will perform her final UK recital at London's Royal Festival Hall tomorrow night. We talk to her about her career, why she took the decision to retire now and her plans for the future. Covid has had a huge impact on choral singing with choirs having to cease singing in the same space and many moving online. As Derry International Choir Festival opens, online, and the Rock Choir announce a christmas single, recorded virtually, we ask how can they reimagine their role and traditions, and how might they sing together again? Directed by Francois Ozon and adapted from the novel Dance on my Grave by English author Aidan Chambers, Summer of 85’ is a story of friendship and love between two teenage boys at a seaside resort in Normandy in the mid-1980s. When 16-year-old Alexis capsizes off the coast of Le Tréport, 18-year-old David heroically saves him. Alexis thinks he’s just met the friend of his dreams. But will the dream last more than one summer? Caspar Salmon reviews. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson
21/10/2028m 40s

Aké Festival special: Tayari Jones, Derek Owusu, Victor Ehikhamenor, Sara-Jayne Makwala King

A collaboration with the Aké Festival: leading black writers and artists discuss Black Lives Matter and related issues of this year in connection to their work. With Tayari Jones, Derek Owusu, Victor Ehikhamenor and Sara-Jayne Makwala King. The Aké Festival is the world's largest literary festival of black voices on black issues. Usually held in Lagos, Nigeria, this year it's online and free, from 22 to 25 October. See below for details. Tayari Jones' novels include Silver Sparrow and An American Marriage, which won the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction. Derek Owusu's novel That Reminds Me won this year's Desmond Elliot Prize. He has also published Safe: 20 Ways to be a Black Man in Britain Today. Victor Ehikhamenor is a writer and artist who has represented Nigeria at the Venice Biennale. Sara-Jayne Makwala King is a South African radio host and author of the autobiographical novel Killing Karoline. Presenter: Elle Osili-Wood Producer: Timothy Prosser Main Image: Tayari Jones Credit: Tyson Alan Horne
20/10/2028m 13s

Nicole Kidman, Professional magicians and COVID, Birmingham Royal Ballet

Nicole Kidman talks about starring in new thriller The Undoing. A therapist's life unravels after she learns that her husband might be responsible for a horrific murder. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself. The Undoing will be available from October 26 on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV. Abracadabra! We find out how professional magicians have been especially badly hit by Covid 19 restrictions and social distancing. Plus, social distancing has inspired the latest piece by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Choreographer Will Tuckett explains how they’re using architectural costumes, projection and augmented reality to bring the ballet to life, and how they’ve achieved a live performance bringing dancers, musicians and an audience together in the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May
19/10/2028m 15s

Roddy Doyle, Gairloch Museum, Kronos Quartet, Dr Blood's Old Travelling Show

Roddy Doyle talks about his latest novel, Love. In the course of one summer’s evening in Dublin, two old drinking buddies revisit the pubs and the love affairs of their youth, and talk openly about their marriages and other relationships, downing several pints of stout along the way. Gairloch Museum in the Highlands of Scotland is one of the winners of the 2020 Art Fund Museum of the Year prize. Its curator Karen Buchanan explains how they renovated a local nuclear bunker to house the museum and how the local community helped raise the £2.4m needed for the project as well as curating the exhibitions on Gaelic culture inside. As theatres attempt to work around the current restrictions, many are putting on outdoor performances and at the Leeds Playhouse last week, imitating the dog put on Dr Blood’s Old Travelling show, which is now touring. Nick Ahad went to see his first show since March and reports back. He’ll also discuss a nationwide project, Signal Fires, which sees theatres across Britain uniting in storytelling around the fire. The Kronos Quartet have just released their latest album, Long Time Passing. It is a celebration of the music and life of Pete Seeger, singer, banjo player and activist. Violinist David Harrington explains why one of the most renowned classical quartets is playing If I had a Hammer and Where Have All the Flowers Gone? This is a collaboration with several other artists and we hear from one, the Ethiopian-American singer, Meklit. Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Jerome Weatherald
16/10/2041m 42s

Anais Mitchell on creating her musical, Hadestown

Anaïs Mitchell took the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and turned it into Hadestown, which became an immensely successful musical at the National Theatre and on Broadway. Now she has written Working on a Song, a book that gets down to the nitty-gritty of writing for musical theatre, tracing the development of the songs of Hadestown from the spark of an idea to performance by a big ensemble and a full band on a huge stage. Northern Ireland’s foremost cultural event – Belfast International Arts Festival – is in full swing. As the city is introducing strict coronavirus restrictions, its mainly online content is proving a welcome distraction. But it's also a chance for everybody around the UK to watch the highlights from their front rooms as tickets are largely free. Marie Louise Muir gives her picks of the festival from a Macbeth reboot to an operatic version of the Good Friday agreement. Every day this week we’re hearing from one of the five winners of the 2020 Art Fund Museum of the Year. Today it’s the turn of the South London Gallery, who in the past year have doubled the size of their exhibition space by acquiring the fire station across the road. The gallery’s Director Margot Heller takes Samira on a tour. The photographer Chris Killip produced a series of black and white photographs of the North East of England in the 70s and 80s as it de-industrialised, called In Flagrante. Images such as a boy hunched on a wall and a ship towering beside children in the street have become iconic. Fellow photographer Martin Parr joins Front Row to mark the death of someone he calls one of the key players in post-war British photography. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Main Image: Anais Mitchell. Credit: Shervin Lainez
15/10/2027m 59s

Jodi Picoult, Science Museum, winners and losers of the Cultural Recovery Fund

The global bestselling author Jodi Picoult discusses her 26th novel The Book Of Two Ways. It’s the story of a hospice worker who - when her plane crashes in the opening pages -is surprised at the life that flashes before her eyes. Rather than her scientist husband and teenage daughter, she sees the life that might have been had she made different choices when she was a student. Jodi Picoult discusses life, death and Egyptology with Tom Shakespeare. Every day this week we’re hearing from one of the five winners of the 2020 Art Fund Museum of the Year. Today it’s the turn of the Science Museum in London. The institution’s director Sir Ian Blatchford looks back over a significant year, opening two extensive new galleries and receiving more visitors than ever in its history, and then having to close down and re-think its future in light of Covid. On Monday the recipients of the first round of the Cultural Recovery Fund grants were announced - just over 70% received something, but what then for those who didn't? James Tillit led a major restoration of the Astor Theatre in Deal just ten years ago and is now its general manager. They were not awarded a grant. He explains how catastrophic this will be for the them. Tom is then joined by Matt Hemley of The Stage, who has been taking a look at those who did and didn't receive a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, and assesses what impact this will have on the arts across the country. Presenter: Tom Shakespeare Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant Main image: Jodi Picoult Image credit: Nina Subin
14/10/2028m 34s

Hugh Laurie on new drama Roadkill, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Arts degrees and Covid

Hugh Laurie talks about Roadkill, a major new political drama for BBC One written by David Hare. Roadkill is a four-part fictional thriller about a self-made, forceful and charismatic politician trying to outrun his past. Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum is one of the winners in Art Fund’s Museum Of The Year 2020. We discover how they’ll be spending their £40,000 prize to benefit the local artistic community. And we talk to three students currently studying arts subjects at university or college which require them to undertake in-person tuition. How has the pandemic affected their studies and what are their views on the future for their industry? Lloyd Pierce, chair of the Conservatoires UK Student Network also joins the discussion. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
13/10/2028m 17s

Museum of the Year recipients. Arts minister Caroline Dinenage on the Cultural Recovery Fund results

This year’s Art Fund Museum of the Year Prize will be split 5 ways rather than a winner being chosen from a shortlist. Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, announces the museums who will each receive £40,000. We’ll also be looking at each individual museum over the course of this week on Front Row On the day that the government awarded Culture Recovery Fund grants totalling £257m to arts organisations, culture minister Caroline Dinenage discusses concerns being faced by the arts and entertainment sector. Stephanie Sirr, chief executive of Nottingham Playhouse which received a grant of nearly £800,000, outlines the significance of this cash boost. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Oliver Jones Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
12/10/2028m 30s

Alex Wheatle, Miranda July, Football club appoints Artistic Director, London Film Festival roundup

Alex Wheatle discusses his new novel Cane Warriors, based on the true story of a group of slaves in Jamaica who, in 1760, rose up against their white British slavemasters in a fight for the freedom of all enslaved people in the nearby plantations. As Forest Green Rovers become the UK's first football club to appoint an Artistic Director, Robert Del Naja, founding member of Massive Attack, explains his artistic plans for the club. Amanny Mohamed considers how the Covid pandemic has affected this week's London Film Festival and chooses her stand-out films. Miranda July tells us about her latest film Kajillionaire, a comedy starring a family of very petty criminals scraping a living who decide to involve an outsider in a scam. The American poet Louise Glück is the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. While not exactly a recluse, Louise Glück rarely gives interviews, so we hear from John Mcauliffe of Carcanet Press, Glück’s British publisher for a quarter of a century, to tell us about the poet and her work. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Donald McDonald
09/10/2041m 34s

Skunk Anansie's Skin on her new memoir

Skin - the singer, songwriter, DJ and lead vocalist of the multi-million-selling British rock band Skunk Anansie - looks back over her life in her new memoir It Takes Blood and Guts. Born to Jamaican parents, Skin - real name Deborah Dyer - grew up in Brixton in the 1970s which influenced her musical direction. The shaven-headed singer reflects on how a gay, black, working-class girl with a vision fought poverty and prejudice to write songs, produce and front her own band, headline Glastonbury, and become one of the most influential women in British rock. Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Jerome Weatherald
08/10/2028m 21s

Melanie C, live music industry in crisis, Johnny Nash remembered

We discuss the future of music making in the UK. We speak to Mel C, formerly Sporty Spice, about her eighth studio album, Melanie C, which reflects her new influences – as a dance music DJ, an LGBTQ+ icon and mother to a music-mad daughter. She joins John Wilson to talk about musical reinvention, putting aside her demons and how to read the dancefloor when you’re the DJ. Freelance musicians unable to work are receiving 20% of what they previously earned. Yesterday outside the Houses of Parliament and in Centenary Square in Birmingham musicians gathered and played Mars from Holst's 'The Planets' - 20% of it. John Wilson talks to the violinist, Jessie Murphy, whose idea this was. Marie-Louise Muir, who presents Radio Ulster's arts show, reports on the impact of new Covid regulations that effectively ban live music in Northern Ireland. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has spoken of ways 'for new business models to emerge' and John hears from Dominique Fraser, who has been running a successful music venue The Boileroom in Guildford for years, but is now radically changing her operation to survive, and it doesn’t involve music. We pay tribute to the US musician, Johnny Nash, who’s died at the age of eighty. He was best known for his reggae-inspired hit I Can See Clearly Now and for his record company which helped launch the career of his friend Bob Marley. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
07/10/2028m 41s

2020 BBC National Short Story Award and the BBC Young Writers' Award

We announce the winner of the 2020 BBC National Short Story Award and the Young Writers' Award on its 15th anniversary. Judges Irenosen Okojie and Jonathan Freedland discuss the merits of the entries from the shortlisted authors. In contention for the £15,000 prize are Caleb Azumah Nelson, Jan Carson, Sarah Hall, Jack Houston and Eley Williams. Writer and musician Testament performs Point Blank - a poem on writing specially commissioned to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the prize. Radio 1 presenter Katie Thistleton will announce the winner of the BBC Young Writers' Award and consider the strengths and emerging themes of the stories with fellow judge Laura Bates. The BBC National Short Story Award is presented in conjunction with Cambridge University and First Story. Later this month Front Row is running a series of Booker Prize book groups with the six shortlisted authors. To take part email frontrow@bbc.co.uk Presenter : Tom Sutcliffe Producer : Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager: Nigel Dix
06/10/2028m 19s

Grace Jones exhibition, Steve McQueen's film Mangrove, A newly rediscovered work by Henry Purcell

The London Film Festival opens this week with Mangrove, by the Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen. It’s the first in an ambitious five-part film series looking at individual stories about the West Indian Community in London from 1968 to 1985. Anna Smith joins us to review Mangrove, the story of a notorious 1970 prosecution that exposed police harassment of Black Britons, as well as to give us her picks from this year's London Film Festival, and to discuss the news about Cineworld's announcement of the closure of its venues. Front Row gives the first modern day performance of a lost piece by the great English baroque composer Henry Purcell. The song was recently discovered by Purcell scholar Rebecca Herissone, Professor of Music at Manchester University, who explains the significance of her find. Grace Jones has had a varied and highly successful career as a model, singer/songwriter and actress, lasting more than four decades. A new exhibition Grace Before Jones at Nottingham Contemporary looks at her life and her achievements. We speak with curator Cedric Fauq. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald Purcell’s O That my Grief was performed on Front Row by The English Concert Anthony Gregory – Tenor 1 Hugo Hymas – Tenor 2 Ashley Riches – Bass Kristian Bezuidenhout – Harpsichord Joseph Crouch – Cello
05/10/2028m 35s

Radha Blank, Chuck D, Dramas The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Comey Rule reviewed

Radha Blank won the Directing Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival for her debut film, The 40-Year-Old Version. She also wrote and stars in the movie which is inspired by her own experiences as a Black New York based playwright and rapper approaching her 40th birthday and frustrated at the lack of creative opportunities. It’s been praised as astute and funny and it’s filmed in black and white echoing many iconic New York films. She joins u to talk about the making of the movie. We talk to Chuck D, the frontman and lyricist of pioneering hip hop group Public Enemy. More than 30 years on from their debut, the group's new album 'What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?' addresses contemporary American issues, including the Coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter. Novelist Lionel Shriver and journalist Michael Goldfarb make up our Friday Review Panel. They’ll be discussing two new US political dramas: The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin’s film about the prosecution of Vietnam War protesters in 1969, and Sky Atlantic drama The Comey Rule, based on the memoir of the FBI boss James Comey that he wrote after being sacked by Trump, starring Brendan Gleeson as the President. This week the Governor of California declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Shasta counties because of devastating wildfires. Dana Gioia, who was the Poet Laureate of California until last year, lives in Sonoma, on a wooded hillside, in a wooden house. He reads the piece he has written especially for Front Row about trying to live and work as a poet while the country around you is in flames and, at any moment, you might have to flee. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Matilda Macari
02/10/2041m 35s

An extended interview with Graham Norton

Graham Norton is one of the most successful entertainment presenters in British broadcasting. He has a popular Radio 2 show, is the face of the BBC's Eurovision song contest coverage and, above all, his Friday night BBC1 chat show draws the biggest names to his sofa. His shows have won him nine BAFTAs and he begins a new series on BBC1 tomorrow. His journey is a fascinating one: raised in county Cork, he went to drama school in London with the plan to be an actor, but after a start in stand up and TV comedy, including the sitcom Father Ted, it was quickly the chat show that became his natural home. More recently Norton has won recognition as a best selling novelist, always drawing on his Irish roots. His latest novel, Home Stretch, is about the consequences of a fatal car accident. The lives of the families involved are shattered and the rifts between them are felt throughout the small Irish town where they live. Connor is one of the survivors, but staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame of having been the driver. He leaves the only place he knows for another life, taking his secrets with him. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Main image: Graham Norton Image credit: Hodder & Stoughton
01/10/2028m 19s

Miss Virginia, Helen Reddy remembered, Sarah Nicolls, Gary Clarke

Miss Virginia is a new film based on the story of Virginia Walden Ford’s fight to create positive educational opportunities for African-American students in Washington D.C. and stars Uzo Aduba. Elle Osili-Wood reviews. Australian singer Helen Reddy has died at the age of 77. Her biggest hit, I am Woman, became an anthem for the feminist movement. Writer Lucy O’Brien was an admirer and a fan, and she joins Samira to discuss why Helen Reddy is crucial to the story of women in popular music, and also feminism. Sarah Nicolls discusses her new composition, 12 Years, inspired by the 2018 IPCC report that said we have 12 years to prevent irreversible climate change. Sarah performs the narrative work that includes newspaper headlines and invented characters on her unique Inside-Out Piano, a vertical grand designed so that she can play the strings directly to create an array of incredible sounds. The choreographer Gary Clarke grew up in 1980s Grimethorpe, North Yorkshire, at the time one of Europe’s most deprived towns. So when he was asked to create a piece reflecting the experience of lockdown, his dance was inspired by a 1903 film of Alice in Wonderland, but draws heavily on the experiences of his youth. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald
30/09/2028m 33s

Little Mix: The Search, Artemisia Gentileschi, No Masks

The 17th Century Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi is the subject of a major new exhibition at London's National Gallery. Critic Waldemar Januszczak considers the importance of the artist who struggled against the male Establishment, but who gained fame, patronage and adoration in her lifetime. No Masks is a new co-production between Sky Arts and the Theatre Royal Stratford East; a TV drama based on the real-life testimonies of key workers during the pandemic, starring Russell Tovey and Anya Chalotra. Theatre Royal’s Artistic Director Nadia Fall discusses the series of monologues she’s co-written alongside playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz. As TV talent show winners Little Mix launch their own TV talent show (Little Mix: The Search) to find a band to accompany them on their next tour, we discuss the creation of manufactured pop bands with music journalist Roisin O'Connor from the Independent and Simon Webbe from the best-selling boy band Blue. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Oliver Jones
29/09/2028m 23s

2020 Booker shortlist, Nicholas Serota, author Sarah Hall

Earlier today the shortlist for the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction was announced. Two time winner Hilary Mantel has not made the list for the final part of her Cromwell series and four out of six of the books chosen are by debut authors. John speaks to Chair of Judges Margaret Busby and critics Sara Collins and Toby Lichtig give their verdict on the chosen few. Today Arts Council England published two new pieces of research into the value of the cultural institutions it funds to our high streets and how they are reanimating local economies. For instance, more than 300 cultural venues are in unemployment hotspots. There are 500 cafes in cultural centres across the country – almost as many outlets as Pret a Manger. Sir Nichola Serota, the Chair of ACE, unpicks this work with John Wilson, who will ask him, too, what is happening with the £1.57 billion pledged by the government to save the arts and livelihoods of artists. Last week on Front Row Lucy Noble, who runs the Royal Albert Hall, said that no one had yet received any money. Sarah Hall has been nominated for the National Short Story Award for the fourth time for her story The Grotesques. Ahead of the story being broadcast on Radio 4 tomorrow, we speak to the writer about exploring covert control, scapegoating and dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships in her story. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager: John Boland
29/09/2028m 33s

Michael Kiwanuka, Boys in the Band film, the future for arts freelancers

Michael Kiwanuka said he was seriously surprised when he won the 2020 Mercury Prize last week. Tom Sutcliffe talks to the singer-songwriter about dropping out of his music degree, hanging out in Hawaii with Kanye West and asks why such modesty when his self-titled album had rave reviews on release, and reached number 2 in the charts. Director Joe Mantello on his new film version of The Boys in the Band, Mart Crowley’s ground-breaking 1968 play about a group of gay friends at a birthday party in New York. As the Covid crisis continues, last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced viable jobs will receive support. As the creative industries rely on freelance workers Front Row discusses what this means for them, first talking to set designer Rebecca Brower, who has lost most of her work this year because theatres are closed. Plus Philippa Childs, head of the union Bectu, to which many freelance creatives belong, explains why so many won’t qualify for help. And director Fiona Laird offers an overview, suggesting ways to create future work for freelancers in the industry. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: John Boland Main image: Michael Kiwanuka Image credit: Olivia Rose
28/09/2028m 29s

Poetry and performance from Cumbria's Contains Strong Language festival

Dove Cottage Grasmere is the heart of Romantic poetry and is hosting part of this year's Contains Strong Language festival. We'll be asking what the Romantics have to tell us now, with the poet Kate Clanchy who has adapted Samuel Taylor Coleridge's unfinished poem Christabel with a newly commissioned score by composer Katie Chatburn. Novelist, poet and playwright Zosia Wand was born in London but didn't speak English till she went to school and spent all her holidays in Poland. Now she's written a radio play Bones - set on the sandbanks of Morecambe Bay - exploring how it feels to be a migrant and the emotional impact on the generations that follow. In 2005 the award winning poet and novelist Jacob Polley’s home town of Carlisle flooded catastrophically after heavy rain. Three people died and thousands were left homeless in an event that was supposed to be a one in a hundred year event. Now Jacob Polley’s returned to that time for a new play Emergency. It’s a love story set against a merciless storm voiced through ancient Anglo-Saxon riddles about the power of nature. And we discuss the impact of poetry in isolation with the young poet Hannah Hodgson who is living with a life limiting disease. She'll read from her lockdown collection and discuss how poetry managed to say what we needed to say this year from zoom poetry slams to tik tok haikus.
25/09/2041m 12s

David McKee - BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award, Royal Academy dilemma, Serlina Boyd on Cocoa Girl

David McKee has just been named as the recipient of the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award 2020. Author and illustrator of the Elmer books which with vivid colour and humour make a case for inclusion and acceptance, and the creator of the magical Mr Benn, he also wrote and illustrated Not Now, Bernard, a funny and perceptive plea for children not to be ignored. Now 85, he is still working. Front Row talks to him about his life and career. It has been reported that the Royal Academy in London is considering selling off its rare Michelangelo marble masterpiece known as the Taddei Tondo in an effort to avoid sacking 150 of its staff, as a result of lockdown. Axel Rϋger, Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy, and Alison Cole, Editor of The Art Newspaper, discuss the RA’s dilemma. A brand new bi-monthly magazine – Cocoa Girl – is unusual in many ways. First the editor is 6 years old, second it’s an actual physical magazine, not just an online offer and third it’s been a great success, selling more than 15,000 copies since its launch in June. We speak to Serlina Boyd, founder and publisher of the UK’s first magazine for Black children (and mum to editor Faith!) Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald Main image: David McKee drawing Elmer the Elephant Image credit: Jean Marc Chautems
24/09/2028m 23s

Mike Bartlett, Miss Juneteenth film, theatres repurposed as courtrooms, Susanna Clarke

Doctor Foster creator, Mike Bartlett, has come up with a new drama for BBC1. Set in Manchester, Life follows the stories of the residents of a large house divided into four flats, and explores love, loss, birth and death, and features some of the characters from Doctor Foster. Nick Ahad reviews. Channing Godfrey Peoples talks about writing and directing her debut film, Miss Juneteenth, about a beauty queen pageant commemorating the day slaves in Texas were freed – two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Life for Turquoise Jones didn’t turn out as beautifully as winning the title promised, so she is cultivating her daughter, Kai, to become Miss Juneteenth, even if Kai wants something else. Show Trials: The Lowry in Salford has come up with a unique way to bring in revenue whilst its regular artistic functions are paused because of pandemic regulations and social distancing. They’re going to become a temporary ‘Nightingale Court’. Julia Fawcett, Chief Executive of The Lowry, reveals how it’s going to work and what the implications will be. Susanna Clarke, who enjoyed enormous success with her novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, talks to Kirsty Lang about Piranesi, not a biography of the C18th Italian artist, but a novel set somewhere he might have imagined. The House is an endless sprawl of halls lined with statues, but it is falling apart, flooded by tides and populated, at first, by just the eponymous narrator and someone he knows only as The Other. An intriguing story of parallel realities, interrogating reality itself, unravels. She discusses her new novel with Kirsty. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Donald McDonald
23/09/2028m 29s

Skin, The Box in Plymouth, Sean Borodale

Lead singer of Britpop band Skunk Anansie, Skin has headlined Glastonbury, sold millions of albums, and recently competed in The Masked Singer. As her memoir, Skin - It takes Blood and Guts, is published, we ask her about channelling rage into her performances and if she thinks her achievements as queer black woman have been overlooked. After a six-month Covid delay, Plymouth’s new £40m arts and heritage museum space The Box is due to open next week. This weekend also sees the Plymouth Art Weekender, a city-wide festival of art and events. Sarah Gosling, BBC’s arts and culture presenter in Plymouth, considers the role of art and culture in helping to transform the city. It is the season of moths and spiders. Many people strive to keep these out of their houses. Not so the poet Sean Borodale whose new collection, Inmates, records close encounters with all manner of insects, in all stages of their existence – egg, maggot, flight, in death and decay. He talks about co-existing with the natural world and writing the process in poetry. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May
22/09/2028m 34s

ENO drive in opera, ITV drama Honour, Jesse Armstrong, 'Festival of Brexit'

Announced by Theresa May in 2018 and quickly dubbed the “Festival of Brexit”, submissions are now being made for the UK government funded £120 million festival that will celebrate British creativity in 2022. Creative director Martin Green tells us what kind of projects and ideas he’s looking for. Succession creator Jesse Armstrong on winning the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series at last night's awards. English National Opera are staging Europe’s first drive-in opera, Puccini’s La Bohème, at London’s Alexandra Palace, where the audience watch the singers from their cars. Will this be an exciting new way to experience opera? Alexandra Coghlan reviews. Writer Gwyneth Hughes discusses her new ITV drama, Honour, starring Keeley Hawes. It’s the story of the real-life detective who brought five killers to justice after the so-called honour killing of Banaz Mahmod, a 20 year old Iraqi Kurdish woman from Mitcham, south London, who was murdered for falling in love with the wrong man. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hannah Robins Studio Manager: Donald McDonald Main image: Soraya Mafi in ENO La bohème (c) Lloyd Winters, Courtesy ENO
21/09/2028m 28s

Katherine Ryan, Nick Hornby, artist Mark Bradford, TV drama Us reviewed

The Los Angeles-based American artist Mark Bradford, who represented the USA at the Venice Biennale in 2017, discusses his new series of Quarantine Paintings. The three works – only available to view online – explore the nature of art in isolation and how he responded when his city was suddenly shut down unexpectedly. Nick Hornby, the writer who gave us Fever Pitch, High Fidelity and About a Boy, discusses his new novel Just Like You, which features a relationship between a black man in his early 20s and a white 42-year-old English teacher and mother. The novel is set in 2016 and it’s not long before the social and political divisions brought about by the looming Brexit vote are becoming unavoidable. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May
18/09/2042m 8s

Rocks, Phoebe Stuckes, Eley Williams

Rocks is the new feature film directed by Sarah Gavron with a screenplay by Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson. Writer Niellah Arboine reviews the film which is set in Hackney with an ensemble cast of largely non-professional actors, and it tells the story of a teenage Londoner nicknamed Rocks who takes responsibility for her little brother Emmanuel in an attempt to stop them both from being taken into care, supported by a chaotic but loving group of friends. Poet Phoebe Stuckes discusses her first collection, Platinum Blonde, which gives us a glimpse of the life of a lively young woman today. She is only 24, but Phoebe Stuckes is a seasoned poet and performer, winner of the Foyle Young Poets Award - four times - she has also been Barbican Young Poet and the Ledbury Poetry Festival’s young poet-in-residence. Troubled Blood is the title of JK Rowling’s latest novel, written under her crime writing pseudonym Robert Galbraith. And it’s generated something of a troubled reaction so far as reviewers and then social media reacted to the inclusion of a character who cross dresses. Alex Clark joins Front Row to explain. BBC National Short Story Award shortlisted author Eley Williams on her story Scrimshaw, about a women texting late at night, and how Eley was influenced by the nonsense literature of Edward Lear. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Simon Richardson
17/09/2028m 21s

Tricky, Ratched reviewed, live theatre returns to The Playhouse Londonderry, NSSA nominee Jack Houston

Twenty five years ago Bristol musician Tricky pioneered a new genre of downtempo hip-hop with his album Maxinquaye. As he releases his 14th studio album, Fall to Pieces, Tricky joins us from his Berlin studio. Live theatre returns to Northern Ireland this evening with the play Anything Can Happen: 1972 at The Playhouse in Londonderry, in which people whose lives were affected by the Troubles tell their stories. We hear from playwright Damian Gorman, cast member Susan Stanley, whose brother was killed in a bombing, and Sarah Feeney-Morrison, who has contributed a photo of her aunt, shot by an IRA sniper. Netflix's new drama this week is Ratched, the origin story of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It stars Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, Judy Davis and Sharon Stone. Karen Krisanovich reviews. Our latest interview with an author shortlisted for the 2020 BBC National Short Story Award is Jack Houston, whose powerful story Come Down Heavy is about two people struggling on the edges of society, in a world of homelessness and drugs. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Main image: Tricky Image credit: Erik Weiss
16/09/2028m 24s

Dennis Kelly on The Third Day, Nica Burns, Jan Carson, Sir Terence Conran

Nica Burns, owner of some of the biggest West End theatres, discusses her plan to re-open them in sequence from 22 October, starting with Adam Kay’s one man show This is Going to Hurt and, in November, the hit musical Six. But what about large-scale shows like Harry Potter or Everyone’s Talking About Jamie? Writer Dennis Kelly tells Samira about The Third Day, his new project starring Jude Law and Naomie Harris. It's a psychological thriller, set on an alluring and mysterious island, that's been brought to life through a collaboration between Sky Atlantic and the immersive theatre company Punchdrunk. The drama consists of six one-hour episodes for TV plus a live-streamed twelve-hour event. The Northern Irish writer Jan Carson is best known for her award-winning magic realist novels. But her new work - shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award – is an authentic slice of rural protestant life. She discusses why this community is not often written about and explains why it’s important that their voices are heard now. And in an interview with John Wilson from 2013, the designer Sir Terence Conran - who died this weekend at the age of 88 - remembers how his collaboration with the Italian/Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi changed the direction of his approach when he was a young student of textile design in the 1940s. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald Main image above: Jude Law in The Third Day Image credit: (c) 2020 Sky UK Ltd & Home Box Office , Inc
14/09/2028m 34s

David Tennant on playing Dennis Nilsen, BBC National Short Story Award shortlist announced, The Painted Bird reviewed

David Tennant talks to Front Row about new ITV drama DES, in which he plays one of the most infamous serial killers in UK history, Dennis Nilsen - a civil servant who went undetected as he murdered boys and young men he met on the streets of London from 1978 to 1983. 2020 is the 15th anniversary of the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University. Tonight, with the help of judge Lucy Caldwell – who has herself been twice shortlisted for the award – Front Row announces this year’s shortlist. Critics Arifa Akbar and Leslie Felperin join Front Row to look back at the week in culture and to review The Painted Bird, a new film by Czech director/producer Václav Marhoul - an adaptation of Jerzy Kosiński's classic novel. 3 hours long, in black and white, it is the first film to feature the Interslavic language and tells the tale of a young Jewish boy who undergoes a series of harrowing, life-changing episodes in rural Eastern Europe during the Second World War. It was the Czech entry for the Best International Feature Film at the Oscars but its brutal depictions of violence have led to walkouts at festivals. Presenter: John Wilson Studio Manager: Emma Harth
11/09/2041m 25s

Lang Lang, Diana Rigg remembered, Cinema distribution under Covid-19

Diana Rigg has died aged 82. Her breakthrough role was as Mrs Emma Peel in The Avengers, going on to have a distinguished career across film, theatre and television with roles including as a Bond Girl in Her Majesty's Secret Service, Lady Macbeth at the National Theatre and Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones. Charles Dance remembers the actress alongside Mark Gatiss who wrote an episode of Doctor Who for Diana especially. On the line from Beijing, Chinese pianist Lang Lang discusses his new recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the culmination of a 20-year musical journey for the musician. One version was recorded in the studio, the other in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany, where Bach worked and is buried. Cinemas have faced huge disruption through this pandemic - closing and now re-opening, so how have film distributors managed to get their movies seen? Kirsty asks film producer Julie Baines and Hamish Moseley of the independent distributor Altitude whether the altered landscape of the cinema industry is here for good. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Hannah Robins Studio Manager: Emma Harth
10/09/2028m 15s

The future of Arts broadcasting, Winner of 2020 Women's Prize For Fiction, Film director Antonio Campos

Tonight the winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction is announced at a special virtual ceremony – the judgement delayed because of Covid 19. We talk to the winner live on air. How has the pandemic affected what viewers expect from the major arts broadcasters? We ask Director of Sky Arts Philip Edgar-Jones, whose channel becomes free to watch on the 17th of September and to Director of BBC Arts Jonty Claypole, who has just announced an extension to the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine season bringing the best of the UK arts world to people in their homes under lockdown. Film Director Antonio Campos tells us about his Southern Gothic thriller: The Devil All The Time, which stars Robert "Batman" Pattinson and Tom "Spider-man" Holland in a bloody revenge drama adapted from the award-winning novel by Donald Ray Pollock. It's a story which follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May
09/09/2028m 27s

Andrew O'Hagan, The Singapore Grip, Theatre at the point of no return

Andrew Lloyd Webber told MPs today that the arts are at the "point of no return". Also speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee was Rebecca Kane Burton, chief exec of LW Theatres, who joins us to discuss the crisis, and Lucy Noble, chief exec of the Royal Albert Hall. Will performing venues be saved by the government's recently announced Operation Sleeping Beauty? Andrew O’Hagan’s latest novel, Mayflies, is the story of two young friends in a small Scottish town who spend the summer of 1986 escaping from the world of their fathers and into the freedom of a magical weekend in Manchester. Thirty years after that, one calls the other with devastating news. O’Hagan talks about how the novel was inspired by the joy and sadness of a real-life friendship. A Christopher Hampton adaptation of J G Farrell’s 1978 novel The Singapore Grip starts on Sunday on ITV, starring David Morrissey, Jane Horrocks, Charles Dance and Luke Treadaway. Set in the Second World War it tells of the fortunes of a family of rich rubber planters in the months before and during the Japanese invasion of Singapore. Actor and writer Daniel York Loh reviews. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser Production Co-ordinator: Lizzie Harris
08/09/2028m 36s

Benjamin Grosvenor performs for Front Row

The Venice Film Festival is currently underway, featuring films we’ll be seeing on our screens over the coming months. Jason Solomons is just back from the city and discusses the films to look out for and which to avoid! In light of some of the critical reaction to Christopher Nolan's new film Tenet, which found the film to be confusing and difficult to follow, we ask how much do you have to understand a work of art, be it a film, a complex poem, a piece of atonal music to enjoy enjoy it? Novelist Louise Doughty, music scholar and critic Alexandra Coghlan and film critic Jason Solomons discuss. When Benjamin Grosvenor first played at The Proms in 2011, he was just 19 and the youngest musician to give a solo recital. On Wednesday he’ll be back at London’s Royal Albert Hall performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto #1 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra but under Covid 19 restrictions – a socially distanced orchestra and without an audience. Benjamin talks to Front Row about taking a break from the piano under lockdown, setting up his own music festival in Bromley, South London, Shostakovich and the thrill of playing live. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
07/09/2028m 35s

Mulan review, Lorna Sage's memoir 20 years on, and must art be political?

The much-loved story of the Chinese warrior Mulan is the latest Disney animation to get a live-action remake. Its less a direct remake of the 1998 original and more a retelling of the Chinese folk legend of Hua Mulan with an all-Asian cast. There have been changes - no cute animated dragon or songs - are we going to love it as much? Find out with critic Gavia Baker Whitelaw. Lorna Sage was a much admired literary critic but it was her memoir Bad Blood that made her a household name. Bad Blood examines Lorna’s childhood and adolescence in a small Welsh border town and is an exploration of thwarted desires, marital disappointment and the search for freedom from the limits and smallness of family life. The critic Frances Wilson has written an introduction to the twentieth anniversary edition and discusses the legacy of what is one of the most critically acclaimed memoirs ever written - vividly bringing to life Lorna’s dissolute but charismatic vicar grandfather, her embittered grandmother and her domestically inept mother. Hull’s annual Freedom Festival begins this weekend. Its an event rooted in the legacy of the Hull-born anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce and usually brings thousands onto the streets to celebrate. This year due to Covid 19, its moving online, but its keeping its strong commitment to “art that helps build a stronger and fairer society”, fuelled by current affairs from Black Lives Matter to the virus itself. But if artists have a political aim, does that affect the quality of the art? Should Art be valued for its political engagement even if we don’t rate the artwork itself? We'll be debating these questions with the director of the Design Museum Tim Marlow, Jazz saxophonist Soweto Kinch and artist Davina Drummond, part of the duo Yara and Davina. Across the country independent music venues are in serious crisis. They’re having to keep their doors closed - in spite of a cash injection of £3.36m from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund - because they simply don’t have the room to operate within social distancing guidelines. Passport: Back to Our Roots is a campaign that aims to raise money for these stricken venues by asking some of the UK’s biggest bands to commit to playing small local gigs. All fans have to do is make a minimum £5 donation to be entered into a prize draw to see these artists, should the gigs go ahead. We find out more from Ash drummer Rick McMurray and campaign co-founder Sally Cook. Presenter Katie Popperwell Producer Olive Clancy
04/09/2042m 13s

The office in culture, Kate Clanchy, publishers' Super Thursday

As major City firms and the likes of Facebook and Google allow their employees to work from home for the foreseeable future, does it herald the end of the office as we know it? And what does it mean for culture? From Working Girl to The Office, The Bell Jar to Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came To An End, the office has provided rich inspiration for the arts. We discuss the history of the office in culture and contemplate what comes next with writer Jonathan Lee and film and TV critic Hannah McGill. The Orwell Prize-winning writer and teacher Kate Clanchy has spent years with young people helping them to become poets. Some of her students are from migrant or refugee families and have brought with them rich poetic traditions; some from home backgrounds that haven’t traditionally seen poetry as a world open to them. Now she has written a book, How to Grow Your Own Poem, which details the way that she uses existing poems and her students’ lived experience to teach – a method that she believes anyone can follow to write their own poem. The start of September would always be a busy time for new books, jostling for attention in the run up to the lucrative Christmas buying period. But lockdown saw many publishers freeze releases from March onwards. And today the floodgates were opened meaning the launch of an unprecedented 590 hardbacks, 28% up on last year. To explore what this means for writers, publishers and consumers Samira is joined by Thea Lenarduzzi, commissioning editor at the Times Literary Supplement, and Kit Caless co-founder and editor at independent publisher Influx Press. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Studio producer: Hilary Dunn
03/09/2028m 26s

Bernardine Evaristo shortlisted for Women's Prize, Anoushka Shankar at the Proms, Film Les Misérables reviewed

Bernardine Evaristo on Girl, Woman, Other - shortlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize For Fiction. As Front Row continues our interviews with writers on the shortlist, the author talks to us about her Booker prize winning novel which follows 12 characters, most of them black British women, on an entwined journey of discovery. Ginette Vincendeau reviews Les Misérables, the French entry for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Its director, Ladj Ly was raised in Les Bosquets, a febrile housing estate in Montfermeil, and documented the 2005 riots there in his film 365 days in Clichy-Montfermeil. Inspired by an act of real police violence Ly witnessed, the film follows the residents of Les Bosquets as tensions between police and local teenagers escalate. The celebrated sitar player Anoushka Shankar on her BBC Proms performance this Friday for which she’ll be collaborating with many contrasting musicians including electronic artist Gold Panda. She also talks about collaborations on her latest EP, Love Letters, a set of intimate songs influenced by the theme of heartbreak. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Main image: Bernadine Evaristo Image credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
02/09/2027m 51s

Ruth Jones, Roger Kneebone, Game Review, The Tempest

Gavin & Stacey writer and actor Ruth Jones joins us to discuss her new novel Us Three, which follows the tumultuous friendship of three women over four decades. She shares the inspiration behind the book, how her screenwriting has influenced her novel writing and whether Gavin & Stacey will return to our screens… As many theatres remain shuttered due to Covid-19, those looking to get their thespian fix may find some consolation n the form of virtual reality. Tender Claws, an independent games studio in LA, has created a live VR performance of The Tempest which can be watched using an Oculus Rift or Quest gaming systems. Each performance is interactive, as eight participants are linked up with a live, remote actor playing the role of Prospero, guiding them through a virtual landscape. Entertainment journalist Elle Osili-Wood joins us to review this blend of theatre and gaming. In his new book Expert, Roger Kneebone, Professor of Surgical Education at Imperial College London, makes the case for learning a craft and honing skills – a path that means lacemakers and vascular surgeons have more in common than they might think. He explains the value of expertise in the arts and beyond. Presenter; Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Oliver Jones
01/09/2028m 22s

Robert Macfarlane, bestselling author, walker, mountaineer and campaigner, talks to Kirsty Lang

Robert Macfarlane walks into the mountains, along ancient paths and down into caves and potholes. He has written beautiful and popular books about these - Mountains of the Mind, The Old Ways, Underland. He is concerned about the depletion of the natural world, and the language we use to speak of it. Landmarks is a lexicon of landscape and nature. When a new edition of a famous children's dictionary left out several common nature words - bluebell, conker, kingfisher - he wrote a series of poems, spells to bring them back to use, and with the artist Jackie Morris created a book. The Lost Words: A Spell Book found its way into half the primary schools in England, and every one in Scotland, and has had a profound impact on the education of children about nature. He worked with several musicians, who set the spells to create an album. Macfarlane is also a campaigner: moved by the felling of trees in Sheffield, and the protests against this, he gave a poem for anyone to use in protests. It has been translated into Telegu and used in India, as well as at HS2 demonstrations. Now Macfarlane is working with the actor and singer Johnny Flynn, writing songs inspired by the oldest known written story, Gilgamesh. In this Gilgamesh takes an axe to a scared cedar grove in the first act of deforestation. In the month when Donald Trump has finalized plans to allow drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, the earliest story, Macfarlane explains, speaks across 4,000 year to us today. Macfarlane talks to Kirsty Lang about books, collaborations and work in progress. He is deeply concerned about our treatment of the natural world, but his writing is charged with joy and, he explains, he his hopeful. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May
31/08/2027m 28s

Luke Jerram, Elena Ferrante's new novel, Bolu Babalola, Britney Spears's conservatorship battle

British artist Luke Jerram discusses his new work, In Memoriam, a large-scale outdoor installation designed specifically to be presented in large open and windy spaces, constructed from bed sheets flying from tall flagpoles arranged in a 36-metre wide circular formation. It was created as a temporary memorial to honour those we have lost during the Covid-19 pandemic and also in tribute to NHS staff and key workers. The Lying Life of Adults is the much-anticipated new novel from Elena Ferrante, the author of the quartet of books known as the Neapolitan Novels. It’s familiar ground as we follow a teenage girl and her negotiation of life both with her middle-class parents and on the rougher side of town – but will it satisfy the Ferrante fans? Critic and writer Thea Lenarduzzi reviews Love in Colour is the name of a collection of fresh and romantic takes on myths from around the world by self-proclaimed "romcomoisseur" and writer Bolu Babalola. She joins Front Row to talk about decolonising traditional tales and why she believes in the power of love. As Britney Spears continues her legal battle to remove father as her conservator, music journalist Laura Barton explains the latest and considers other examples of parents exerting control over their high-profile offspring. Jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker would have been 100 years old tomorrow. He died tragically young at the age of 34 but his genius still exerts a powerful influence over popular music today, including bands like Red Hot Chilli Peppers. British alto saxophonist Soweto Kinch is a fan and tells us why Parker is still so important. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald
28/08/2041m 26s

Eastenders returns, Composer Errollyn Wallen, Katy Perry profiled, I'm Thinking of Ending Things reviewed

British composer Errollyn Wallen has been putting the finishing touches to her new arrangement of the Hubert Parry hymn Jerusalem, to be performed as part of a very different Last Night of the Proms. After a public row about whether to drop the traditional favourites that make up the concert's programme, the Proms announced new versions for a smaller, socially-distanced orchestra with no choir. Errollyn joins Samira to discuss the work of arranging well-loved music, her relationship with Jerusalem, and the Proms. As Eastenders returns to our screens, after an unprecedented 3 month hiatus, we speak to the show’s Executive Producer Jon Sen to find out how they’ve been filming with social distancing and how coronavirus has affected the storylines we’ll be seeing on screen. Ryan Gilbey reviews new Netflix psychological horror film I’m Thinking of Ending Things, based on Iain Reid’s book and adapted into a screenplay by director Charlie Kaufman. As Katy Perry makes headlines for her new album Smile and the birth of her first child, Scarlett Russell, Entertainment Editor of The Sunday Times Style, pays tribute to the pop sensation. Producer: Simon Richardson Studio manager: Nigel Dix Main image above: Errollyn Wallen Image credit: Azzurra Primavera
27/08/2028m 23s

Women’s Prize For Fiction - Natalie Haynes; 2020 International Booker Prize winner; Agatha Christie’s lost play, The Lie

Natalie Haynes on A Thousand Ships - shortlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize For Fiction. As Front Row continues our interviews with authors on the shortlist, Natalie Haynes talks to us about her novel which tells the stories of The Trojan War from the perspective of the female characters. Literary critic Alex Clark reviews the winner of the International Booker Prize 2020, which was announced this evening. And Agatha Christie’s lost play, The Lie – a very personal 1920s domestic drama which lay unread until discovered by drama director Julius Green, and which he has turned into a radio play for Radio 4 this weekend. Julius Green joins Tom Sutcliffe to tell us about The Lie and how it came to be abandoned and then rediscovered. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
26/08/2028m 18s

An extended interview with dramatist Lucy Prebble

As her new drama I Hate Suzie launches, dramatist Lucy Prebble talks to Tom Sutcliffe about her writing career. Prebble is Co-Executive Producer and writer on the BAFTA, Golden Globe and EMMY award winning HBO drama Succession. She was the creator of the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. She wrote the political thriller A Very Expensive Poison (Old Vic), and before that The Effect (National Theatre), which is a study of love and neuroscience, as well as the hugely successful drama Enron, about corporate fraud, which transferred to the West End and Broadway after sell-out runs at both the Royal Court and Chichester Festival Theatre. Prebble's latest TV show, I Hate Suzie, sees Billie Piper star as a celebrity who has her life upended when her phone is hacked and pictures of her emerge in an extremely compromising position. I Hate Suzie begins on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on Thursday at 9pm. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Simon Richardson Main image: Lucy Prebble Image credit: Robert Viglasky/Sky UK
25/08/2028m 17s

Algorithms in the arts, Composer Hannah Kendall, Daljit Nagra's Poetry Roundup, Cuties film controversy

Following the outcry at shool exam results downgraded by an algorithm and then revised to take into account human teachers expectations instead, we consider how algorithms perform versus humans in creativity in the arts – do they deserve an A* or a fail? What are algorithms used for in the arts? Can they be creative and make good work, or do we need the human touch? We're joined by Marcus Du Sautoy, mathematician and author of The Creativity Code, and artist Anna Ridler, who uses data sets and algorithms in her work. This Friday the 2020 Proms season begins. Despite being held behind closed doors for the first time in its history, the Proms 2020 promises an eclectic programme of live performances. The very first composition will be a specially commissioned piece by the British composer Hannah Kendall titled “Tuxedo: Vasco de Gama”, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She joins us to discuss the piece and what it's like to write it knowing there'll be a socially distanced orchestra and no live audience. A new film coming soon to Netflix has caused controversy - it's about an 11 year old Senegalese Muslim girl who moves to France and decides to join a dance group, in the face of parental disapproval. The poet Daljit Nagra, who curates the poetry programming on Radio 4 Extra, introduces three recently-published poetry books. Rachel Long’s debut collection, My Darling from the Lions; Pascale Petit’s mid-career book Tiger Girl , inspired by her grandmother’s life in India; and the Selected Poems 1965 – 2018 of Jeremy Hooker, who in his eightieth year, is still writing as beautifully and prolifically as ever. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones
25/08/2028m 39s

Christopher Nolan's Tenet reviewed, British Museum re-opens, Paula Peters on Wampum exhibition, Shedinburgh fringe festival

Next week finally sees the release of Tenet, the latest big-budget film by Christopher Nolan. For our Friday Review, film critic Ryan Gilbey and novelist and short story writer Irenosen Okojie give their response to the film, and consider the future of cinema in light of the pandemic. And they’ll be discussing their cultural picks – the TV series Broad City and Lovecraft Country. Algorithm-downgraded A level student Jessica Johnson on her strangely prescient Orwell Youth Prize winning short story about an algorithm that decides school grades according to social class. The British Museum is the UK’s most-visited tourist attraction but during lockdown it’s had no visitors. Now they’re getting ready to reopen with limited numbers. We speak to the director Hartwig Fischer about how the museum has been using the hiatus to rethink the ethos behind displaying its extraordinary collection. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage. While the story of the “Pilgrim Fathers” is well known, the history of the Wampanoag people they met is less so. Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America is a touring exhibition which hopes to change this. This new exhibition is presented by The Box, Plymouth and grew out of a partnership with Wampanoag Advisory Committee to Plymouth 400 and the Wampanoag cultural advisors SmokeSygnals. The wampum belt is a tapestry of tribal history made from thousands of handcrafted beads. Paula Peters, founder of SmokeSygnals and a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation, explains. Shedinburgh is an online festival attempting to capture the spirit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by live streaming performances from sheds around the country. Theatre producer, Francesca Moody, who also made Fleabag explains the endeavour. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio Manager: Nigel Dix
21/08/2041m 56s

The One and Only Ivan director Thea Sharrock, Educating Rita, writing about music, research on Covid-19 risk from singing

The One and Only Ivan is a new Disney film about a 400-pound silverback gorilla called Ivan. He lives in a suburban shopping mall with other animals where they perform in a circus owned by Mack, played by Bryan Cranston. The film is a hybrid of live action and CGI and features the voices of Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren and Chaka Khan. We speak to the film's director Thea Sharrock. 40 years since Willy Russell wrote Educating Rita Stephen Tompkinson stars in an open air production at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. Novelist Patrick Gale reviews. How dangerous is singing at a time of Covid-19? Declan Costello, Consultant Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon and an accomplished tenor, has been leading UK research to assess the risks. He joins Front Row to share the results. David Mitchell said of his recent novel Utopia Avenue – about a band - that writing about music is impossible. Former concert violinist now poet Fiona Sampson, novelist and one time cellist Patrick Gale and writer and teacher Jeffrey Boakye, whose book Hold Tight explored grime’s cultural impact, reflect on the premise that writing about music is – as the saying goes - like dancing about architecture. What made them take up the challenge in their different writing forms? Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Hannah Robins
20/08/2028m 29s

Stanley Spencer's wives, the damage to culture in Beirut, Angie Cruz

The Wives of Stanley Spencer are the subject of a new exhibition Love, Art, Loss at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham, Berkshire. Artist and illustrator Siân Pattenden reviews. The explosion in Beirut two weeks destroyed thousands of buildings in the Lebanese city, including many of the art galleries and museums. Sursock Museum Director Zeina Arida and gallery owner Saleh Barakat consider the damage done to the city's culture as well as its infrastructure. Continuing Front Row's interviews with all the authors shortlisted for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction,Angie Cruz discusses her novel Dominicana. Ana is a schoolgirl muddling through adolescence on a small farm in the Dominican Republic, but her mother marries her off to a man twice her age, whom she sees as the ticket to America for the whole family. Ana, fifteen, with no English, no money and no autonomy, arrives on a false passport to begin a new life in cold, grey New York. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald Image above: Portrait of Patricia Preece, 1933 by Stanley Spencer (C) Estate Stanley Spencer & Bridgeman Images, London Courtesy Southampton City Art Gallery
19/08/2028m 34s

Modern Productions in a Roman Theatre, the Art of the Prequel, the Pandemic and Redundancies in the Arts Industries

As novelist John Connolly publishes a prequel to his hugely successful Charlie Parker thriller series, he and critic Suzi Feay discuss the art of creating a prequel, both in books and on screen, from Endeavour to Hannibal Rising to The Wide Sargasso Sea. From the Minack Theatre, nestled in the cliffs of west Cornwall, to Cirencester’s Barnfest, and Brighton Open Air Theatre, many theatre-goers have turned to the great outdoors as indoor theatres remain shuttered due to Covid-19 restrictions. The Maltings Theatre in St Albans has just kicked off its 6th annual outdoor festival, set in a Roman Theatre built in 140AD, with a programme that includes The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry V and HMS Pinafore. Its Artistic Director, Adam Nichols, joins John Wilson to discuss the joys, challenges and opportunities of outdoor theatre. Around the UK, the pandemic has caused arts venues, organisations and establishments to have to make dramatic cuts to their output and costs just to stay afloat. With no definite end in sight when they can start generating income again, redundancies seem inevitable. Plus Suzi Feay comments on the publication of 25 books by female authors who will be known, for the first time, by their real names. All of them are women who wrote under male pen-names - including George Eliot, whose Middlemarch will now be republished with the name Mary Anne Evans on the cover. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
18/08/2028m 44s

An interview with Jamaican dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson

Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamiaca 68 years ago, moving to London to join his mother aged 11 and has created a unique career as a performance poet. Signed by Richard Branson to Virgin Records in 1978 he went on to record a series of acclaimed albums which combined his powerful verse with reggae rhythms. Linton Kwesi Johnson was the first black poet to be published in the Penguin Modern Classics series, and was recently been awarded the 2020 PEN Pinter Prize, a literary award for a lifetime’s work. He spoke to John WIlson about his life and career and the continued relevance of his poetry. Main image: Linton Kwesi Johnson Image credit: Chiaku Nozu/WireImage/Getty Images
18/08/2028m 15s

Gloria Estefan, Pinocchio, Shane McCrae

The Miami singer Gloria Estefan discusses her Cuban roots and the musical and cultural links the country shares with Brazil, as she releases her new album Brazil305. The singer also remembers the sadness she faced as a child when her father returned from Vietnam, contracting multiple sclerosis as a result of the military’s use of Agent Orange. A new film version of Pinocchio has just been released. And if you’re hoping for a wholesome remake of the 1940 Disney film, you’ll be in for quite a surprise. 80 years on from the all-singing version telling the story of a loveable boy puppet who wants to become a REAL boy, this latest Italian language version takes a less sentimental approach. It’s a story which has been translated into over 300 languages, which apparently makes it the most translated non-religious book in the world and one of the best-selling books ever published, To review this and to take a look at other cultural highlights of their weeks, I’m joined down the line from Edinburgh by the poet Don Paterson and by the theatre critic for The Scotsman newspaper Joyce McMillan When Shane McCrae was three he was taken from his black father and brought up by his grandmother as a white supremacist so, in effect, to hate himself. Today McCrae is an acclaimed American poet, a finalist for the National Book Award and author of seven collections. His poems are this month being published in the UK for the first time , with two books, Sometimes I Never Suffered and The Gilded Auction Block, coming out simultaneously. His poetry is totally engaged with the present, with references to Donald Trump, yet is deeply informed by the forms and prosody of the canon of English poetry, in which he is steeped. In his first UK interview he talks to Kirsty Lang about his life, and reads his powerful work. Classical guitarist Sean Shibe discusses the impact of Julian Bream, the British guitarist and lutenist who has died aged 87.
14/08/2041m 31s

Lyricist Don Black

Lyricist Don Black looks back at his five decade career writing hit songs and musicals. The first British songwriter to win an Oscar, for Born Free in 1967, Don wrote many classic Bond Themes including Diamonds are Forever and Thunderball. As he publishes his autobiography The Sanest Guy in the Room: A Life in Lyrics, Don talks about his close friendship and working partnership with composer John Barry, and his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, including Sunset Boulevard and Tell Me on a Sunday, Marvin Hamlisch, Quincy Jones, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser
13/08/2028m 2s

Lovecraft Country, Prison Radio Drama, Women's Prize For Fiction Shortlisted Jenny Offill

Lovecraft Country is a new 10-episode HBO series, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, set in 1950s Jim Crow America. The story is about a young African American man whose search for his missing father begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and also terrifying monsters that could be pulled from the pages of horror fiction writer H.P Lovecraft’s weird tales. Writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun reviews the series. We continue our interviews with the writers shortlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. American author Jenny Offill discusses her acclaimed novel, Weather, about a female librarian struggling to cope with a domestic life haunted by the growing awareness of catastrophic climate change. National Prison Radio is run by a British prison-based charity, broadcasting programmes made by and for prisoners in over 100 prisons in the UK, and is the world's first national radio station of its kind. Next week they broadcast an ambitious radio drama – a 29 minute sci–fi adventure called Project Zed, conceived and produced by artist Ruth Beale, working with prisoners at HMP Lincoln. It was commissioned by Mansions of the Future - an arts and cultural hub in Lincoln City Centre. Samira is joined by Ruth and facilitator Sonia Rossington, who worked together with the prisoners to put the drama together. On Monday’s Front Row we heard from Natalia Kaliada, co-founder of the Belarus Free Theatre - the only company in Europe to be banned by their country’s government – who told us three of their members have been arrested in Minsk following the election. Their whereabouts and condition were unknown. Natalia returns to Front Row with an update. Main image: Jonathan majors as Atticus Freeman in Sky Atlantic's series Lovecraft Country Image credit: (c) Elizabeth Morris/2020 Home Box Office Inc Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Emma Wallace
12/08/2027m 3s

Glyndebourne Opera returns. My Rembrandt film. How dangerous is playing the trumpet?

From Wednesday, opera lovers will again be able to watch performances at Glyndebourne Opera in East Sussex, although this year the summer festival will look rather different to comply with Covid restrictions. A much-reduced audience will be able to enjoy opera in the open air setting of its sumptuous gardens starting with Offenbach’s French farce, Mesdames de la Halle, in a new translation entitled In the Market for Love. It's been re-imagined to take place in a society recovering from a pandemic, complete with an over-zealous police officer enforcing social distancing, and a huge tub of sanitiser centre stage. Surgeon Declan Costello is leading the UK research assessing the dangers of singing and playing wind instruments in the spread of Covid-19. He discusses the trial and its impact on orchestras with Gavin Reid, Chief Exec of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chair of the Association of British Orchestras. My Rembrandt is the name of a new film documentary by Dutch filmmaker Oeke Hoogendijk. It explores the world of art dealers and collectors and the sometimes intimate, sometimes fraught relationship they have with the works they own and sell. Anna Somers Cocks, founder editor of The Art Newspaper, reviews. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson
11/08/2028m 20s

Xiaolu Guo, Belarus Free Theatre, Blindness, The Leach Pottery

Xiaolu Guo was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013. She talks about her latest book A Lover’s Discourse, which is a story of love and language – and the meaning of home set at the time of the European referendum. With a nod to Roland Barthes’ book of the same name, Guo’s novel is told through conversations between a Chinese woman newly arrived in the UK and her Anglo-German boyfriend. It is 100 years since Bernard Leach, with his Japanese colleague Hamada Shojie, established his pottery in St Ives. Since then his influence as a studio potter, making vessels that are both beautiful and functional, by hand, has spread around the globe. Roelof Uys, the lead potter at the studio today, discusses Leach's ideas and work, and the projects marking the centenary. Last night three members of the Belarus Free Theatre - Nadia Brodskaya, Sveta Sugako and Dasha Andreyanova - were arrested in Minsk, during protests against the results - widely believed to be fabricated - of the election there. Their colleagues in the company do not know where they are being held. We hear from Natalia Kaliada, one of the founding directors of the Belarus Free Theatre, the only theatre company in Europe banned by its government on political grounds. London's Donmar Warehouse is re-opening temporarily from 3 to 22 August with a socially-distanced sound installation, Blindness, which is based on the dystopian novel by Nobel prize-winning José Saramago, adapted by Simon Stephens and starring the voice of Juliet Stevenson. Susannah Clapp reviews. Main image above: Xiaolu Guo Image credit: Stephen Barker Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Jerome Weatherald
10/08/2028m 18s

Es Devlin, Drama by postcard, Ali Smith's Summer, photographer Alys Tomlinson

To mark the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki this week, the Imperial War Museum commissioned artist and stage designer Es Devlin and her Japanese collaborator Machiko Weston to make a short film in memory of those who died. They discuss their resulting artwork, I Saw the World End. New Perspectives, the Midlands company that takes theatre to rural areas and usually performs in village halls, has come up with a novel idea. For its latest production created during lockdown it has embraced old technology: 'Love from Cleethorpes' is a drama told on postcards. Every few days a new postcard arrives at the homes of the audience and, over a couple of weeks, the story unfolds. Tom Sutcliffe is joined by New Perspectives artistic director Jack McNamara. Literary critic Suzi Feay and arts journalist Kohinoor Sahota review Ali Smith's new novel Summer, the final instalment in her seasonal quartet of books, and discuss arts stories from the week including I'm a Celebrity moving from the Australian jungle to a British castle and Vogue theming their September issue on activism. The final guest for the Front Row Lockdown Discoveries, where artists and creators select something cultural that has given them pleasure or inspiration in the dark months of isolation, is Alys Tomlinson, Photographer of the Year at the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards. She describes her discovery – zoom portraiture. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Timothy Prosser
07/08/2041m 48s

Arts in the Midlands, Love Letters to Scotland, Soweto Kinch

Arts organisations in the West Midlands say the region is one of the worst hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. In Birmingham, despite emergency relief funding from the Arts Council, the Town Hall and Symphony Hall face cutting half of their workforce, while both the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Hippodrome have announced substantial job losses. What impact does it have on a city when its cultural centres are forced to close their doors? Over 20 British playwrights and poets have been commissioned by Pitlochry Festival Theatre to write A Love Letter to Scotland, inspired by the River Tay. The works written as part of its three-year Shades of Tay project, will be shown online as audio dramas, podcasts and short films. Douglas Maxwell and Chinonyerem Odimba are two of the playwrights taking part in the project. All this week on Front Row, individuals from the arts are choosing one Lockdown Discovery, a cultural find that has given them pleasure during the dark months of being stuck at home due to Covid-19. Today alto-saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch explains how running and cycling along the canals of Birmingham has sparked a creative love affair with the canals and decaying backwaters of his home city. The emergence of quarantine or quara-horror, with a frankly terrifying new film set on a Zoom call. Host was filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine entirely on Zoom. Presenter: Katie Popperwell Producer: Cecile Wright Main image: The River Tay
06/08/2028m 24s

Maggie O'Farrell, Singing in Choirs and Covid, Mark Billingham's Lockdown Discovery

Front Row is featuring interviews with all the shortlisted authors for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction. Tonight, Maggie O'Farrell, whose novel Hamnet is about the son of William Shakespeare who died aged 11, an event thought to be the inspiration for Hamlet. In her novel, Maggie O’Farrell imagines the family life and tragedy of one of our greatest playwrights, about whom so little is known. Group singing has been severely affected by government advice on restricting the spread of Coronavirus as inhaling microscopic droplets expelled by fellow singers is a high risk activity. But choirs serve functions beyond singing together. We speak to Katherine Dienes Williams, Master of The Choristers at Guildford Cathedral and to Martin Trotman, director of The Wellbeing Choirs which aim to promote and maintain good mental and physical health through singing. This week we’ve been hearing from artists and creators who’ve been telling us about their Lockdown Discoveries, a cultural find that has given them pleasure in the dark months of isolation. Today crime writer Mark Billingham reveals his unexpected rediscovery…jigsaws! Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Sarah Johnson
05/08/2028m 21s

Little Birds writer Sophia Al-Maria, Simon Armitage, Summer reads, Tara Gbolade

Qatari-American artist, writer, and filmmaker Sophia Al-Maria discusses her screenplay for the latest big release from Sky Atlantic. Inspired by Anaïs Nin’s collection of erotic stories, Little Birds is set in the famous 'international zone' of Tangier. New York heiress Lucy Savage (Juno Temple) is fresh off the transatlantic steamer and ready for love and marriage in exotic climes. But when her husband Hugo (Hugh Skinner) does not receive her in the way she expected, she spins off into a new surprising, diverse and sexually liberated world. Poet Laureate Simon Armitage responds to today's decision by Ofqual, the exams regulator, that students taking English Literature GCSE next year will not be required to study any poetry. They will be assessed on a Shakespeare play, but have the option to cover a 19th century novel or a post-1914 work of British fiction or drama, or poetry. This summer, many of us are holidaying at home so rather than recommending books to take on holiday, tonight we're recommending books about holidays or set in holiday locations. Clare Allfree, books editor at The Metro Newspaper, guides us through her selection of vacation-themed literature. All this week on Front Row, creative individuals from the arts are choosing one Lockdown Discovery, a cultural find that gave them pleasure in the dark months being stuck at home. Today it’s the turn of the architect Tara Gbolade, whose lockdown was significantly improved by accidentally stumbling upon a book which captured her architectural imagination: Vernacular Architecture of West Africa: A World in Dwelling. Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Simon Richardson
04/08/2028m 23s

Barbara Kingsolver as poet, Es Devlin's Lockdown Discovery, Sculptor Thomas J. Price, pianist Leon Fleisher remembered

Barbara Kingsolver talks about her new book, How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) which is only her second collection of poetry. As well as offering practical advice (on knitting, getting divorced, doing nothing) the poems are about family, and making peace with life and death. Barbara also reflects on the redemptive power of art and poetry itself and celebrates the natural world whilst mourning its desecration. All this week on Front Row, creative individuals from the arts are choosing one Lockdown Discovery, a cultural find that has given them pleasure in the dark months of Covid-19. We start today with production designer Es Devlin, who tells us about her discovery - The Tempest by Creation Theatre. Sculptor Thomas J Price will unveil his statue Reaching Out this Wednesday. Depicting an anonymous everywoman absorbed in silent communication, the statue stands at 9 feet tall and will be one of only three public sculptures of Black women in the whole of the UK. Norman Lebrecht discusses the extraordinary career of the American concert pianist Leon Fleisher, who has just died at the age of 92. Fleisher lost the use of his right hand and performed left-handed for several decades, before regaining the ability to play with both hands later in life. Presenter : Kirsty Lang Producer : Julian May Production Co-ordinator : Hilary Buchanan Main image: Barbara Kingsolver Image credit: Steven L. Hopp
03/08/2028m 19s

Sir Alan Parker remembered, Beyoncé's Black is King, Prodigal Son, Natasha Trethewey, Don Hahn

Film director Alan Parker is remembered by Dick Clements and Ian La Frenais, who wrote The Commitments. Disney Producer Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) joins Samira Ahmed to discuss his new documentary about the legendary lyricist Howard Ashman, who wrote Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and part of Aladdin, before dying of Aids in 1991 at the age of forty, before Beauty and the Beast was released. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, writers of comedy classics such as The Likely Lads and Porridge pay tribute to their colleague, the Bafta-winning director and producer Sydney Lotterby, who has died aged 93. In a long career, which he put down to luck, Lotterby made Porridge, Last Of The Summer Wine, Yes Minister, Butterflies, May To December and Open All Hours. The producer and founder of Black Ticket Project Tobi Kyeremateng and award winning crime writer Denise Mina join Samira Ahmed to review some of the week's most striking works - Prodigal Son starring Michael Sheen in a Silence of the Lambs style television drama series and Beyonce’s visual ablum Black is King, released today. Denise, Tobi and Samira also give choices of their own. Natasha Trethewey has twice been the US poet laureate. She talks to Samira Ahmed about her new book Memorial Drive, a prose memoir about growing up the daughter of a white father and a black mother. That marriage, when she was born in 1966, was illegal in Mississippi. It foundered and Natasha moved away with her mother who married a black Vietnam veteran. He battered her mother and, when Natasha was 19 and away at college, shot her dead. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald
31/07/2041m 20s

Whipped cream on The Fourth Plinth, Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee, and Booker Prize nominated Avni Doshi

Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee discusses her new TV series - psychological thriller, The Deceived. In the drama, inspired by Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Dial M for Murder and other classic films of that time, a student falls for her married tutor and after a shocking death finds herself doubting her own mind. Sculptor Heather Phillipson on putting whipped cream and a cherry on Trafalagar Square’s Fourth Plinth. This morning she unveiled her sculpture, The End - a giant swirl of cream, a cherry, a fly, and a drone that transmits a live feed of the square. It is the thirteenth commission for The Fourth Plinth since the programme began in 1998, and it is also the tallest to date - measuring 9.4m and weighing nine tonnes. The artist joins Kirsty to discuss her vast physical and digital sculpture. Avni Doshi’s debut novel Burnt Sugar has just been longlisted for the Booker Prize, two days before it’s UK publication date. Avni discusses her work about a fractious mother-daughter relationship, set in and around Pune in India – in an ashram, a club, and the streets. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Emma Wallace
30/07/2028m 11s

Hilary Mantel, Electronic at The Design Museum, Ai Wei Wei, the future for the panto?

In the run-up to the announcement of the winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction on the 9th of September, Front Row will be hearing from each of the six novelists on this year’s shortlist. We begin today with Hilary Mantel, whose novel The Mirror and the Light is the conclusion of her wildly acclaimed Thomas Cromwell series, which began with Wolf Hall in 2009. Ai Wei Wei’s latest work has opened to the public. The Chinese-born, Europe-based artist has created a piece for London’s Imperial War Museum which takes over the entire floorspace of the atrium, depicting The History of Bombs We heard this morning that theatres will have to wait until November to be told whey can re-open without social distancing. That will be too late to plan the lucrative pantomime season. We talk to Julian Bird of UK Theatre about what this means. Electronic at the Design Museum. Design Museum director Tim Marlow on recreating the thumping atmosphere of a nightclub for their new exhibition about electronic music, from Kraftwerk to The Chemical Brothers
29/07/2028m 16s

Shawanda Corbett, Booker longlist 2020, Claire Oakley

Shawanda Corbett, a ceramic artist and performer whose performances combine dance with music, prose and poetry, is the latest in our series of interviews with artists awarded a £10,000 Tate bursary in place of this year's Turner Prize. She was born with one arm and without legs and has developed a unique throwing technique in order to make pottery. Shawanda bases her vessels on people, referenced journeys out of slavery on the Underground Railroad as well as her own personal history of rehabilitation. Literary critics Sarah Shaffi and Toby Lichtig dissect the longlist of the 2020 Booker Prize. For the full list see below. Writer-director Claire Oakley discusses her acclaimed debut feature film Make Up, a coming-of-age psycho-sexual thriller set in a Cornish caravan park. And we salute Peter Green, guitarist and founder member of Fleetwood Mac, who died on Saturday. He wrote some of the most memorable melodies and riffs of the late '60s and '70s, including the evocative instrumental, Albatross. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Julian May
28/07/2028m 21s

Shirley Collins, Kit de Waal, Caine Prize for African Writing winner, Olivia de Havilland remembered

Nigerian British writer Irenosen Okojie has been announced as the winner of this year’s £10,000 Caine Prize for African Writing. It was awarded for her story Grace Jones from her recent collection Nudibranch. We speak to her about the story. Kit de Waal discusses Supporting Cast, her new collection of short stories featuring characters from two of her earlier novels - the international bestseller My Name is Leon and The Trick to Time. Shirley Collins is regarded by many as England’s greatest living traditional folk singer. She was a pivotal figure in the English folk song revival of the 60’s and ’70’s but lost her voice to a broken heart and fell silent for 38 years. In 2016, in her eighties, she returned to music with her album Lodestar, and now discusses her latest release - Heart’s Ease. Star of Hollywood's Golden Age Olivia de Havilland has died aged 104. Cultural historian Matthew Sweet celebrates her indomitable spirit, as a person as well as a performer. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Hannah Robins
27/07/2028m 21s

Mira Nair on A Suitable Boy, Taylor Swift's album Folklore, the film How to Build a Girl, Alberta Whittle and Theatre News

Film director Mira Nair on A Suitable Boy - her six part BBC One adaptation of Vikram Seth's huge novel. Set in 1951 in newly independent, post-partition India, its cast of more than a hundred is entirely of Indian origin - the BBC’s first historical drama with no white characters. The book inspired Nair's film Monsoon Wedding, and she has long nursed an ambition to film it. How to Build a Girl is the film of Caitlin Moran’s autobiographical novel. We review it alongside Taylor Swift’s surprise album Folklore, released late last night. Film critic Hannah McGill and poet Be Manzini discuss both, and look at the week's arts news: the delay of big summer film releases and the introduction of an specialist afrobeats chart. McGill reports too on what’s happening in her home city, Edinburgh, which should now be busy preparing for the International, Fringe and the film festivals. In our series of interviews with the 10 artists who’ve each been awarded a £10,000 Tate bursary in place of this year’s Turner Prize, we hear from Glasgow-based Alberta Whittle. She has a Caribbean background and is in Barbados, from where she describes how her film, performance and collage work focuses on post-colonial power, battling anti-blackness, and the effects of climate devastation, something she witnesses first-hand in the hurricane season. Yesterday Andrew Lloyd Webber ran an experimental socially distanced performance in the London Palladium and made a speech saying, "Give us a date, mate." Matt Hemley of The Stage was there. He explains the experience, considers when that date for theatres to open - without social distancing - might be, and the precarious state of things...do Chinese developers have their eyes on the West End? Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May
24/07/2041m 59s

Jimmy McGovern; crime writing prize; dancing in lockdown; photographer Tyler Mitchell

In July 2005 Anthony Walker an 18 year old black man was killed in a racist attack in Huyton, Merseyside. Jimmy McGovern’s new BBC drama Anthony - inspired by conversations with Gee Walker, Anthony's mother – is a 90 minute film looking at what his life might have been like had he lived. The story works backwards from him imagined at age 25 – married, a father and on his way to a successful career as a lawyer - to the night of his death. Adrian McKinty almost gave up writing but was persuaded to give another shot with a storyline that had been bubbling away in his head for several years, and now the book he wrote has won the UK's most prestigious prize for crime fiction. His psychological thriller The Chain has been named as the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year. The closure of theatres and performance venues during the pandemic has affected many artists, but for dancers it’s been particularly hard. The future is uncertain especially for those young dancers about to embark on a career in the industry. Sharon Watson is the CEO and Principal of the Northern School of contemporary Dance in Leeds. How has the college continued to prepare its students for the future, and what now for those young dancers looking for work in an arts industry struggling to survive? 25-year-old Tyler Mitchell has quickly and suddenly become one of the most in-demand photographers in the world. In 2018, his portrait of Beyoncé on the front of American Vogue made him the first black photographer—and one of the youngest people ever - to create a cover in the magazine’s 125-year history. His new book, I Can make You Feel Good presents his vision of what he calls Black utopia .
24/07/2028m 38s

Tom Sutcliffe talks to screenwriter and film director Oliver Stone about his memoir Chasing the Light

Oliver Stone has written or directed some of cinema's most powerful films - Midnight Express, Platoon, Scarface, Salvador, Natural Born Killers. Now he has written a memoir, Chasing the Light - How I fought my Way into Hollywood From the 1960s to Platoon. Making films, he tells Tom Sutcliffe, is his vocation, but getting them done...that's never come easily. Feeling betrayed by his parents' divorce Stone dropped out of Yale, he enlisted as a 'grunt' and fought in Vietnam, then was briefly imprisoned for smuggling hash from Mexico. He recalls studying on the film course at New York University - where Martin Scorsese,a tutor, admired his first short. Even so, throughout his career Stone has struggled to finance his projects - he had to flee from Canada with the print of his first feature. Decades later, making Salvador after global success and winning an Oscar, the difficulties were much the same. Early on Stone worked with Michael Caine and Robert Bolt, gaining insight into acting and writing. While directors such as Jean-Luc Godard improvised, Stone respected the script, yet left room for great actors to work. So Al Pacino 'punched up lines' in Scarface. Stone talks about his cocaine use - which brought him into contact with dealers and gangsters - so was crucial research. Writing Scarface opened doors - wherever Stone went afterwards, he says, corrupt, powerful men had respect for him. Narco-terrorist Pablo Escobar was a big fan. These days Stone is making documentaries. He admires the films being made for television - streamers - but regrets the loss of the communal experience of cinema, a couple of thousand people together, responding to the film. There aren't, he laments, any movies anymore. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May
23/07/2028m 1s

Oliver Stone

Film director Oliver Stone speaks to Tom Sutcliffe about his long film career
23/07/2028m 4s

Nell Dunn, Kelly O'Sullivan, 846, Q Magazine

An icon of 1960s feminism and freethinking, Nell Dunn – now in her 80s - author of Up The Junction, Poor Cow and Steaming talks to Tom Sutcliffe about The Muse, A Memoir of Love at First Sight about her friendship with a woman named Josie who inspired much of her work. Kelly O’Sullivan discusses her film Saint Frances which she has written and stars in as Bridget, a 34 year old whose life is transformed when she starts work as a nanny. It's a gentle comedy which explores issues such as post-coital menstruation, interracial lesbian relationships, abortion, post-natal depression, and conception in a most un-Hollywood-like fashion. For a new project, 846, commissioned by the Theatre Royal Stratford East, playwright Roy Williams brought together 14 British Black and Asian writers to respond artistically to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Elle Osili-Wood reviews the collection of short audio pieces exploring racial inequality, whose title comes from the eight minutes and 46 seconds it took a police officer in Minneapolis to kill George Floyd by kneeling on his neck. And co-founder of Q Magazine David Hepworth on the closure of a cornerstone of rock journalism after 34 years. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Dymphna Flynn
21/07/2028m 25s

Josephine Mackerras, Sean Edwards, summer theatre round-up, John Mullan on Mansfield Park

Josephine Mackerras discusses her award winning first feature film, Alice, which she has directed, written and produced. Alice is living an enviable life in Paris with her handsome husband and young son. Then a card payment is refused, their bank account is empty and her husband disappears. He has spent their money using expensive escorts, which gives Alice an idea about how to save her home and her son – and achieve some independence and control. Welsh artist Sean Edwards has won a Turner Bursary of £10,000 for his work, which includes the exhibition Undo Things Done which represented Wales at the Venice Biennale last year and featured his mother's voice which was broadcast live in the gallery each afternoon from her home in Cardiff. We speak to the artist about his work and what this money, which has replaced the Turner Prize this year, will allow him to do. As lockdown restrictions lift, including on live performance, critic Sam Marlowe gives us a run down of what theatre will be happening around the country this summer and how venues are making it work. Many of us have been reading for solace and distraction in recent months. Professor of English, John Mullan has been making the case for picking up Jane Austen - tonight he tries to tempt us with Mansfield Park. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hannah Robins
20/07/2028m 26s

Alfre Woodard, film Come As You Are and Ellie Goulding album Brightest Blue reviewed, Richard Herring

American actress Alfre Woodard on her powerful lead performance as a death row prison warden in Clemency, written and directed by Chinoye Chukwu, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The government has announced that live performance will be possible again in indoor venues from August. The London Symphony Orchestra has already experimented with socially distanced live performance and their managing director, Kathryn McDowell, joins Front Row to talk about the possibilities and limitations. Our Friday Review this week covers new independent film Come As You are about three disabled men who embark on a road trip in a quest to lose their virginity, plus Ellie Goulding's new album, The Brightest Blue, her first since 2015. And in the light of the announcement that facemasks will be mandatory in shops from the 24th of July, our reviewers Mik Scarlett and Amber Butchart will be discussing the fashion world's reactions to COVID 19. Comedian, writer and podcaster Richard Herring on his new family comedy Radio 4 series Relativity, based on his own family life. Plus we hear about his prolific podcasting keeping him busy in lockdown, and on the plight facing stand up comedy in the pandemic Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio manager: Emma Harth Production Co-ordinator: Caitlin Benedict
17/07/2041m 23s

Get Carter director Mike Hodges, Tate Bursary artist Oreet Ashery, the plight of arts freelancers in the pandemic

Film director and writer Mike Hodges, of Get Carter fame, on his 1989 film Black Rainbow, starring Rosanna Arquette. Despite being critically acclaimed, it went straight to video, but has now been restored and re-released on DVD and streaming. Plus, the financial plight of freelance arts workers in the pandemic: the government has agreed a £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts, but how much will make it into the pockets of the many freelance and self-employed arts workers who have been put out of work? Theatre director Fiona Laird is concerned the money will be swallowed up by bureaucracy, and joins Samira Ahmed to discuss this, alongside Dominic Cooke, former Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre. And Oreet Ashery, one of ten artists to be awarded a £10 000 Tate Bursary - an initiative launched after the cancellation of the Turner Prize due to Covid 19. Working in a range of media, including installation, live art, and video, Oreet talks to Samira about making art inspired by illness: Dying Under Your Eyes, in response to the sudden death of Oreet's father, and Revisiting Genesis - a series of digital slideshows and an experimental film depicting nurses and people with life limiting conditions. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Emma Wallace
16/07/2028m 21s

Winning back audience trust, the doctor turned novelist, musical collaboration in lockdown

How will community theatre companies help restore audience confidence to go back into theatres after the lockdown? And how do we measure how important they are in bringing people to watch live theatre? Alan Lane is director of Slung Low and Holly Lombardo leads the National Rural Touring Simon Stephenson gave up a career as a paediatric doctor to pursue a career in writing. His first novel Set My Heart to Five, a futurisitic story about an Android who wants to feel human emotion is set to be adapted as a film by the Oscar-winning producers of hits such as Notting Hill. Opera North’s Resonance programme offers residencies to BAME music-makers to collaborate with other artists on new work. However most of this year's residencies have been postponed due to Coronavirus, so instead artists have been taking part in a special lockdown instalment of the programme, collaborating remotely to bring together African music with Indian raag, electro dub with traditional Chinese zither playing, poetry and hip hop. Singer-songwriter Tawiah and composer Matthew Kofi Waldren have been working on weaving African gospel sounds with the western choral tradition in a piece that explores themes of matriarchy, motherhood and liberation.
16/07/2028m 24s

The Chicks, Hammed Animashaun, Liz Johnson Artur

American country group The Chicks (formerly know as The Dixie Chicks), the biggest-selling U.S. female band of all time, talk about Gaslighter, their first album in fourteen years. Natalie Maines, lead vocalist, and Marti Maguire who plays the fiddle, reflect on the band’s outspoken political stances from the War in Iraq to Black Lives Matter and the effect these have had on their work. Actor Hammed Animashaun has won praise and awards for his role as Bottom in The Bridge Theatre’s production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And he also stars in NT At Home’s final production – Amadeus by Peter Schaffer. This year, because of the pandemic, there will be no Turner Prize exhibition. Instead bursaries of £10,000 are being awarded to ten artists. Front Row is talking to the recipients and today Kirsty interviews photographer Liz Johnson Artur about her work documenting the lives of black people from across the African Diaspora. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Tim Prosser
14/07/2028m 20s

Anish Kapoor, The Plot Against America, Rachel De-Lahay, drive in comedy

Winona Ryder, John Turturro and Anthony Boyle star in a new Sky Atlantic drama The Plot Against America adapted by David Simon from Philip Roth’s alternate history which was first published in 2004. Jonathan Freedland reviews. Rachel De-Lahay brings her letter writing project to the Royal Court Theatre for a week-long online festival. My White Best Friend is Rachel's original letter to her white friend explaining the casual everyday racism and microaggressions her friend commits towards her seemingly unwittingly. For the festival, Rachel has invited 10 other black writers to write their own letters of something unsaid. We speak to Rachel about the project. John goes to Houghton Hall in Norfolk to talk to artist Anish Kapoor about his exhibition of outdoor sculptures, and how the art world has changed during the last few months. We also hear from Lord Cholmondeley, owner of Houghton. An old-fashioned method for performers to reach their audiences in these times of social isolation has re-emerged, in a new way. The Drive-in experience is back! Drive-in opera, drive-in theatre, drive-in shows for kids and even drive-in comedy. John Wilson talks to comedian Daniel Sloss who took part in a drive-in comedy gig where the audience flashed their lights and beeped their horns instead of applauding Image: Sky Mirror, 2018 by Anish Kapoor Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
13/07/2028m 24s

The Kanneh-Masons, Minack Theatre, Imran Perretta

The Kanneh-Masons are an extraordinarily musical family of seven siblings who spent lockdown together at their home in Nottingham and were filmed by BBC1's Imagine. Tonight we're joined by pianist Isata and cellist Sheku, who perform live from their home, and we also talk to their mother Kadie. Open air theatre performances with socially distanced audiences are allowed from tomorrow, and first out of the block is The Minack Theatre in Cornwall. Director Zoe Curnow talks about restarting her theatre with a one-man play. Last year’s Turner Prize was awarded not – as it usually would have been – to one artist but to all four finalists as a group. And this year the situation has changed again - Tate Britain announced that ten artists who will each receive one-off £10,000 bursaries. We’ll be interviewing all 10 here on Front Row and start tonight with Imran Perretta. David Mitchell's new novel Utopia Avenue, about a band in the 1960s, is reviewed by crime writer Mark Billingham and books journalist Sarah Shaffi. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Timothy Prosser Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Production Co-ordinator: Lizzie Harris
10/07/2041m 14s

Philip Pullman on Northern Lights 25 years on, Mrs America reviewed, Simon Schama

Today is the 25th anniversary of the publication of Northern Lights, the first novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy that introduced Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon to the world. It’s been announced that a previously unseen short story by Philip Pullman about a teenage Lyra, Serpentine, will be published in October. He joins Front Row live to talk about its place in the series and what the novels and last year’s TV dramatisation have meant to so many. Mrs America stars Cate Blanchett as conservative political activist Phyllis Schlafly who in 1970s opposed the implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Women’s Liberation movement that supported it. American novelist Meg Rosoff and journalist Elle Osili-Wood consider how the drama portrays real historical events and how relevant the battles depicted in the TV series seem to young women today. Simon Schama talks about his new BBC Radio 4 lockdown series The Great Gallery Tour. He was inspired to make the series because he is badly missing the joy of museums and galleries and he will be exploring some of his favourite treasure-houses of great art around the world: the Prado, the Rijksmuseum and the Whitney. He begins with the Courtauld Gallery in London. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Hilary Dunn Studio manager: Nigel Dix Image: Philip Pullman Image credit: Roberto Ricciutti/Getty Images
09/07/2028m 26s

Katori Hall; cinema after lockdown; documenting empty arts spaces

Katori Hall is a playwright from Memphis, Tennessee, whose story of a Southern strip club and the women who work in it has been adapted for television as a series called P-Valley - an “unflinching and unapologetic look” at the lives of women working at a Mississippi club called The Pynk. Cinema after lockdown. The government’s recently announced £1.75bn rescue package for the arts is to be spread across the sector, but what is specifically required by the British film industry and cinemas? Why are many cinemas still closed, despite having permission to open from last Saturday? And how can they recover? We speak to Ben Roberts, Chief Executive at BFI, and to film critic Larushka Ivan- Zadeh. Empty theatres, museums, and galleries: we speak to two artists examining the impact of coronavirus by documenting these deserted spaces. We’re joined by photographer Joanna Vestey, whose photographic series Custodians For Covid is fundraising for theatres under threat, and by artist Eloise Moody, who has produced a series of audio diaries with the caretakers of six museums and galleries across the UK. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Emma Wallace
08/07/2028m 22s

Rufus Wainwright, Neil Mendoza, Tate Bursaries, Ringo at 80

Rufus Wainwright joins us to talk about his new album, Unfollow The Rules, lockdown's threat to live music, and his online robe recitals. In the wake of the announcement of £1.57 billion investment in the arts, John Wilson speaks to Neil Mendoza, the government's Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal, about how far-reaching this rescue package can be. Tate Britain is giving ten artists £10,000 bursaries in place of this year’s Turner Prize. Critic Louisa Buck discusses the range of artists being supported and what this initiative might mean for the future of the prize itself. And on his 80th birthday, we hear from Ringo Starr in a Front Row interview first broadcast in 2008. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Dymphna Flynn
07/07/2028m 20s

Funding for the arts, Wayne McGregor, Ennio Morricone

Will the government’s £1.57 billion investment in the arts be enough save UK cultural organisations and freelancers? Samira discusses the arts rescue package with Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens, Artistic Director of Leicester’s Curve Theatre, Nikolai Foster, and head of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Deborah Annetts We speak to dancer and choreographer Wayne McGregor about his latest work “Morgen”, created under lockdown, which strikes a note of optimism in hard times. Ennio Morricone, the Italian film composer, has died at the age of 91. His scores for films like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly helped define the western - but he worked across all genres, from The Battle of Algiers, Cinema Paradiso to The Untouchables - and in 2016 with Quentin Tarantino on The Hateful Eight for which Morricone won an Oscar. Neil Brand pays tribute to the work of the celebrated composer. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Nigel Dix Main image: Cesar Corrales and Francesca Howard perform Morgen Image credit: Lara Capelli/Royal Opera House
06/07/2028m 20s

Theatres in pink, David Pickard on the BBC Proms, Friday Review on Hamilton, Decolonising arts curriculum in school

Some of our major theatres are wrapped in pink today as part of the #missinglivetheatre campaign. Designer Tom Piper talks about the project. Novelist Sara Collins and actor Daniel York Loh make up our Friday Review panel. They’ve watched the newly released recording of the smash hit musical Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which allows viewers to replicate the theatrical experience at home. Also on the agenda, Michaela Coel’s BBC One drama I May Destroy you, which continues to make waves; and what the cancellation of pantomimes means for theatres and actors. The Black Lives Matter movement has thrown into sharper focus the role of schools in providing an appropriately diverse curriculum, with many saying that Black British history for example should take a greater place. But what about the curriculum in arts subjects? Is change needed and if so what? Bennie Kara is the author of the upcoming A Little Guide for Teachers: Diversity in Schools and a deputy head teacher in the East Midlands. BBC Proms director David Pickard discusses his plans for this year’s festival as the official guide is published, and how he’s had to adapt to the restrictions he faces for the safety of live audiences and performers. From Fargo to The Silence of the Lambs, via James Bond, whenever someone in a film is about to meet a particularly grisly end it seems, these days, their demise has to be accompanied by the most beautiful classical music. It wasn’t always this way. Critic Theodore Gioia considers why, and what this means. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Main photo shows: The National Theatre on London's South Bank wrapped in bright pink barrier tape reading "Missing Live Theatre" (c) John Wilson/BBC
03/07/2041m 0s

The Secrets She Keeps, Fyzal Boulifa, Urdu poetry in Bradford

The new Australian TV thriller series The Secrets She Keeps. Felicity Ward reviews the BBC One drama about two women due to give birth on the same day, but whose pregnancies are not quite what they seem. Former culture minister Ed Vaizey considers the government's approach to the current challenges facing the performing arts. Director and writer Fyzal Boulifa on his debut feature film, Lynn + Lucy – a tragic tale of two childhood friends and young mothers on an Essex housing estate, and the judgements and unhappiness of a claustrophobic, working-class community. And as Bradford Literature Festival is about to host its annual mushaira - a traditional celebration of Urdu poetry, and a beloved part of North Indian, Pakistani, and Deccan culture for over three centuries - we talk to Urdu poets Ghazal Ansari and Atif Tauqeer who will be taking part, but online this year. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant
02/07/2028m 20s

Director Werner Herzog, actor Danny Sapani, Watford bookclub

Werner Herzog has made over 70 films, from the ambitious feature film Fitzcarraldo to the documentary Grizzly Man. From Los Angeles he discusses his latest project, Family Romance LLC, a fictional film set in Tokyo about a real company that loans out actors to impersonate family members or imitation friends ‘to create illusions to make clients’ lives better’. The town of Watford is joining together to form a huge book club, reading Katharine McMahon’s novel The Hour of Separation, which is set in the town, for the One Town, One Book initiative. We speak to Watford resident and reader Helen Nicell about why she’s taking part and Katharine McMahon about why Watford was the perfect setting for her book and how she’s feeling about getting feedback from local residents. NT At Home's latest free production is the 2016 staging of Les Blancs, Lorraine Hansbury’s posthumous play about one man’s place in an African country struggling for independence from British colonialism. Hansbury was the first black female playwright to have a play on Broadway. We speak to Danny Sapani who plays Tshembe. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Main Image: Werner Herzog Image credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
01/07/2028m 25s

The Arts in Crisis

Are the arts facing an existential crisis in the UK? Sir Simon Rattle, conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, on the imminent threat to orchestras and other arts organisations unless the government provides signficant financial support. The state of UK Theatre is discussed by Royal Shakespeare Company Executive Director, Catherine Mallyon, Actors’ Touring Company Artistic Director Matthew Xia, and Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director of London's Kiln Theatre. Today the National Gallery announced they will be the first major museum to reopen next week. John is joined by the Director of the National Gallery, Gabriele Finaldi and Jenny Waldman, Director of the Art Fund to explore the situation facing galleries and museums. John is also joined by Guardian Chief Culture Writer Charlotte Higgins. Presenter: John Wilson Producers: Ekene Akalawu and Timothy Prosser Main image: Sir Simon Rattle Image credit: Mark Allan
30/06/2043m 19s

Kevin Kwan, Annilese Miskimmon of ENO, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

Kevin Kwan, author of the Crazy Rich Asians novels, which was adapted into the hit film of 2018, talks about his new book Sex and Vanity, a satire set in the worlds of uber-rich New York and Capri, and is an homage to EM Forster’s A Room with a View. Annilese Miskimmon, the new Artistic Director of English National Opera, discusses her first project, ENO Drive & Live, a series of live opera performances that audiences can safely drive to and stay in their cars for the experience. As demonstrations for Black Trans Lives take place in the UK and the USA, Caitlin Benedict talks to creator of the Black Trans Archive, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, about how a video game can archive the experiences of black transgender people. Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, discusses how the institution has chosen to focus on younger people and those from the local area, rather than the usual international visitors, since re-opening post-coronavirus. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Hannah Robins Main image: Kevin Kwan Image credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for HFA
29/06/2028m 22s

Michael Palin, The Last of Us Part II reviewed, Anthony Thwaite, Rethink - Nicola Triscott, Roadmap to Reopening Theatres

Michael Palin on staging a version of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot to raise money for The Royal Theatre Fund - and what else he’s been doing during lockdown. We round up the week's big arts stories. The Last of Us Part II is one of the most highly anticipated games for a generation. Part I was an unexpected hit, praised for bringing the storytelling qualities of films to gaming. Elle Osili-Wood and Aoife Wilson review Part II which has a lesbian love story at its heart. They discuss the BBC’s announcement that from April 20% of commissions must be given to diverse productions, and Elle visits a bookshop in Independent Bookshops Week to see if the experience is as special as it was before social distancing. Plus, Aoife, Elle and Samira give their cultural recommendations. Anthony Thwaite is 90 this week and joins Front Row to read two of his poems. He published his first in 1957 and his last (he thinks) in 2017. He talks about his work including his sojourns in Japan and Libya, and producing at the BBC where he shared an office with Louis MacNeice and broadcast poems by the then little-known Philip Larkin. Nicola Triscott is Director of FACT (Foundation for Art & Creative Technology). For BBC Radio 4’s Rethink she argues that given how important internet access to art has been in lockdown, we should value and invest in it. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced a five stage roadmap for the reopening of the performing arts. It comes without dates or a financial support package, so what is included, how helpful is it, what’s been the reaction, and what more needs to be done to save a sector in crisis? Front Row talks to Matt Hemley, News Editor of The Stage. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald Studio manager: Matilda Macari
26/06/2041m 30s

Crisis in theatre, Stuart Evers new novel, Eurovision the film, Bristol’s Colston statue

Redundancies at the Theatre Royal Plymouth - over 100 jobs have been announced at risk as income falls by over 90 per cent due to the pandemic. We hear about the devastating impact on staff and the region, the threat to the theatre’s existence, and the warning bell it sounds to the future of theatre across the country. Stuart Evers on his new novel, The Blind Light – a story of two families from across the class divide and across the decades, living in the shadow of nuclear fear and political events of the past 60 years. The statue of Edward Colston - now it's been fished out of Bristol harbour, what is happening to it now? Fran Coles is the conservationist in charge of preserving the statue, and the graffiti which is also part of its story. She tells Samira Ahmed about this work, and the important discovery found tucked in the bronze fold of Colston’s frock. Eurovision, the film - a new film comedy, starring Will Ferrell and set at the Eurovision Song Contest looks affectionately at the glorious ridiculousness of the annual kitschfest. Eurovision veteran, the BBC’s Paddy O’Connell, has been to every one since 2004 and joins us to review the new Netflix film. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Emma Wallace Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
25/06/2028m 16s

Griselda Pollock

The Holberg Prize is awarded annually to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to research in the arts and humanities, social sciences, law or theology. This year the 6 million Norwegian kroner prize (approximately £500,000) has been awarded to the British-Canadian art historian Professor Griselda Pollock who the judges described as “the foremost feminist art historian working in the world today”. In the month when she would have travelled to Norway to receive the prize, she joins Front Row to discuss why art history is too important a subject to be left to art historians. Presenter: Katie Popperwell Producer: Ekene Akalawu Studio Managers: Phil Booth and Mike Smith
24/06/2028m 37s

Rethink The Arts

The arts world is facing a “cultural catastrophe” with the impact of Covid-19 leading to the loss of an annual revenue of £74 billion according to one report along with warnings of 400,000 jobs lost. But does this terrible crisis also provide an opportunity to rethink the arts world? Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern, Amanda Parker, Editor of Arts Professional and Director of Inc Arts, David Jubb, theatre producer and former Director of Battersea Arts Centre, and Music Writer Alexandra Coughlan share their ideas for positive change. Radio 4's Rethink week is exploring ways in which the world should be rethought after the pandemic. Main Image: Luke Jerram's coronavirus - Covid 19 - glass sculpture Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Ekene Akalawu Producer: Tim Prosser Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant
23/06/2028m 25s

Talking Heads, Jarvis Cocker, Thomas Clay

Alan Bennett's Talking Heads have been remade for television decades after the original series. Alongside two brand new monologues, ten episodes have been re-created with actors including Jodie Comer, Sarah Lancashire and Lucian Msamati. Theatre critic Sam Marlowe reviews these socially distanced dramas, and actor Lisa Dwan joins her to discuss the art of the monologue. The pandemic has changed all of our lives, but could there be a way to change society for the better as we re-build after coronavirus. As part of BBC Radio's Re-think season, musician and broadcaster Jarvis Cocker makes the case for creating space for nature. Thomas Clay discusses his new film Fanny Lye Deliver’d, which he wrote, directed and composed the music for, and which he describes as a ‘Puritan western’. Maxine Peak and Charles Dance star as a married couple on a remote Shropshire farm in the wake of the English Civil War, whose lives change forever following the unexpected arrival of a young couple in need. Main image above: Tamsin Greig in BBC One's Talking Heads Image credit: BBC/London Theatre Company Productions/Zac Nicholson Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Hannah Robins
22/06/2029m 11s

Rebel Wilson, Ian Holm remembered, Bob Dylan, The Luminaries

Rebel Wilson discusses her new TV series Last One Laughing, where ten comedians are locked in room and if they laugh they get kicked out. The last one standing wins a big cash prize. The death was announced today of the actor Sir Ian Holm. Theatre critic Michael Billington pays tribute. Bob Dylan has just released a new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. For our Friday Review, music journalist Laura Barton and commentator Michael Carlson give their verdict on whether this is vintage Dylan. And they discuss The Luminaries, a new BBC drama based on the Booker-winning novel by Eleanor Catton set during New Zealand’s Gold Rush in 1866. Unemployed theatre professionals in Minneapolis have been putting their skills to good use, protecting businesses during recent Black Lives Matter protests in the city where George Floyd lived and was killed. As the protests subside, Daisuke Kawachi discusses the University Rebuild project that she's been working on. Alison Brackenbury has been Front Row’s poet-in-residence this week, reading one of her Museums Unlocked poems every evening. Alison travels about the country to give poetry readings. She makes a point, wherever she goes, of visiting the museum or art gallery. With most now closed, Alison has written new poems about some of the museums she has visited. Her final poem is inspired by a letter she came across in Charles Dickens’ house. During the lockdown author Rebecca Stott has re-read Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year, a fictional account of the bubonic epidemic of 1665; Rebecca tells Kirsty Lang how the book resonates during Covid-19. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Sarah Johnson Studio Manager Matilda Macari
19/06/2041m 44s

Vera Lynn remembered, guitarist Sean Shibe, PlacePrints audio plays reviewed, Poetry from Alison Brackenbury

We mark the passing of Dame Vera Lynn, the Forces' Sweetheart, whose songs helped raise morale in World War Two. After Dame Vera's death, aged 103, was announced today, composer and author Neil Brand explores her unique musical gifts. Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe's critically acclaimed work brings a new approach to the classical guitar by experimenting with instruments and repertoire. His new album Bach: Pour La Luth Ò Cembal, featuring works written for the lute but played on guitar, is number one in the Official Specialist Classical Chart. PlacePrints is a series of audio plays by David Rudkin invoking the hidden stories imprinted on ten different locations around the UK, and spanning time from the Stone Age to the present day. Jack McNamara, director of theatre company New Perspectives, has been recording these vignettes over four years with actors including Josie Lawrence, Toby Jones, Stephen Rea, Juliet Stevenson and Michael Pennington. Theatre critic Susannah Clapp reviews this ambitious endeavour. Alison Brackenbury is Front Row’s poet-in-residence this week taking inspiration from her travels around the country. Wherever she goes Alison visits museums and galleries. Their current closure this has inspired her to write new poems about some of the museums she has visited, and so, imaginatively, open them up. Today she takes us back to the 16th century and to Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Here Mary, Queen of Scots, witnessed her husband murder her secretary, and confronted John Knox who objected to rule by ‘the monstrous regiment of women’. Presenter: John Wilson Studio Manager: Matilda Macari Producer: Simon Richardson Main image: Dame Vera Lynn
18/06/2028m 24s

Judd Apatow, Carnegie and Greenaway Medals for children's literature, job losses in theatre, Alison Brackenbury

Judd Apatow - famous for film comedies like Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Trainwreck - on his new film The King Of Staten Island, which he co-wrote with Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson. Pete plays a young man trying to get his life together after the death of his fire-fighter father. Today the damage to UK theatre caused by the Coronavirus has really begun to show: major producer Cameron Mackintosh has announced redundancy consultations for staff on blockbuster shows, including Hamilton and Phantom Of The Opera. Additionally, a hundred leading creative figures have signed a letter calling for government action to save the sector. We talk to Matthew Hemley, News Editor of theatre magazine The Stage, about the crisis faced by UK theatre. We announce the 2020 winners of the CILIP Carnegie Medal for writing for children and the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration for children, and speak to the winners about their work. Plus Alison Brackenbury, Front Row’s virtual poet-in-residence for the week. She's been inspired by the museums and galleries she visited before lockdown and is sharing a poem a day from her Museums Unlocked series. Today’s is about buried treasure and takes us to Birmingham Museums’ Staffordshire Hoard exhibition, and back to the age of the Anglo-Saxons. Main image: Pete Davidson in The King of Staten Island Image credit: (C) 2020 Universal Studios Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Emma Wallace
17/06/2028m 32s

Jean Toomer's Cane adapted, Bloomsday, Alison Brackenbury, Museums in lockdown

In 1923, African American author Jean Toomer published the novel Cane. It wasn’t a best seller at the time but is now held as a modernist classic and a central work of The Harlem Renaissance. A new radio adaptation is to be broadcast on Radio 4. We speak to playwright Janice Okoh and score composer, soul singer Carleen Anderson. Today is Bloomsday, when Dubliners celebrate James Joyce’s Ulysses, the novel about Irish newspaper advertising salesman Leopold Bloom wandering round the city. As Ireland is emerging from lockdown events are moving online and for Zoomsday actor Seán Doyle is MC-ing a Joycean Punk Cabaret with an alternative presentation of extracts, songs, poems as well as Joyce’s saucier love letters. Seán joins us from Dublin just before the event begins. Lockdown came quickly and affected arts organisations around the country with barely any warning. Venues closed their doors and hung up the “closed until further notice” signs. But what’s happening behind the closed doors? We speak to Joanna Meacock from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow and Anna Renton from Penlee House in Penzance. For one week only Alison Brackenbury is Front Row’s poet in residence. The colsure of museums during Coronavirus has inspired Alison to write new poems about some of those she has visited. Every day this week we will be hearing one of her Museums Unlocked poems. In today’s Alison takes us to Aghanistan via a painting in the Museum of Somerset in Taunton Castle. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: John Boland
16/06/2028m 20s

Tracey Emin, Alison Brackenbury, Book Covers

Tracey Emin discusses the creative burst she has experienced during lockdown, resulting in a series of new paintings created for an online exhibition called I Thrive on Solitude, the first time White Cube gallery has mounted an online exhibition. Alison Brackenbury is Front Row's new Lockdown Poet in Residence. She's written a series of poems inspired by the museums throughout the country which have been shut for months. From Taunton to Edinburgh, Alison opens up these museums in her imagination, beginning tonight with a strange meeting in the Handel and Hendrix Museum. As shops begin to reopen today, bookshops have introduced ‘book quarantine’ bins where books that have been picked up are placed to avoid cross-contamination. So are we now more likely to judge a book by its cover? Designer Jamie Keenan on the secrets behind a good book cover. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Prodcuer: Timothy Prosser Main Image: Self Portrait © Tracey Emin
15/06/2028m 29s

The Salisbury Poisonings, Víkingur Ólafsson, Walter Scott Prize, Pilgrims

The Salisbury Poisonings, a new BBC One three-part drama, focuses on the 2018 Novichok poisonings, the public health response, and the heroism of the community. Writer Declan Lawn describes how his years as an investigative reporter for Panorama primed him to create this drama based on real events, and the resonance of the story with the government's response to the pandemic. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, Front Row’s Lockdown Artist in Residence, has been entertaining us each week with a live performance from the empty Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík. For his eleventh and final performance Víkingur plays Debussy’s The Snow is Dancing from the Children’s Corner. The historian Tom Holland and film critic Hanna Flint give their verdicts on Pilgrims, the latest novel by Matthew Kneale, recounting the journey of a disparate bunch who set off for Rome in 1289. His earlier book English Passengers won the Whitbread Book of the Year. They also watch Banana Split, a high school movie with a difference, starring and co-written by Hannah Marks. It foregrounds the friendship of two teenage girls who’ve gone out with the same boy. We announce the winner of the 2020 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager Duncan Hannant
12/06/2041m 18s

Simon Bird, Whiteness, Ruth Patterson, Tony Walsh

It’s as the clever but put-upon Will Mackenzie in The Inbetweeners or the elder son Adam in Friday Night Dinner that Simon Bird has come to public attention but now the star of these successful sitcoms has stepped behind the cameras to direct his first feature film. Simon joins Front Row to discuss Days of the Bagnold Summer. The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minnesota Police has led to worldwide protests and calls for the end of systemic racism. What part can white artists and writers play to illuminate a subject that so many white people find difficult to understand and address? Playwright and performer Professor Eliza Bent, and writer and author Professor Jess Row discuss the subject of Whiteness and how it obscures racism. Musicians have been deeply affected by the loss of concerts, shows, and tours but an overlooked area has been Artist-In-Residencies programmes which many of our national music institutions offer to musicians for their career development. Ruth Patterson, lead singer of Newcastle-based folk-rock band Holy Moly & The Crackers, was an Artist-In-Residence at Sage Gateshead this year to enable her to develop as a solo performer. She joins Front Row to discuss her debut single as a singer-songwriter, performing as a musician in wheelchair, and she’ll be singing live on the show. As the lockdown eases for some next week, those heading into Manchester city centre will see posters featuring a new poem by Tony Walsh, aka Longfella, called The Sum of Us. Tony came to public attention with the poem, This Is The Place, that he performed in the city in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing. He joins Front Row to talk about the new work and perform an extract from it. Presenter: Katie Popperwell Producer: Ekene Akalawu
11/06/2034m 32s

Robert Lindsay, Tony Hall, How to make a new musical

Robert Lindsay on his first acting job fifty years ago at the Nortcott Theatre in Devon, in a play which has contemporary resonance: Don Taylor's historical drama The Roses of Eyam, about the village that voluntarily put itself into lockdown during the Great Plague that swept Britain in the mid 17th Century. Director General Tony Hall discusses the BBC’s renewed commitment to the arts with its Culture in Quarantine initiative, and the serious situation currently facing the arts in the this country. How to write a new musical? In the second of a series going behind the scenes in the creation of a musical about the climate crisis called House Fire, Edwina Pitman talks to writer / director Poppy Burton Morgan and composer Ben Toth. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May
10/06/2028m 26s

Spike Lee; Hope Mirrlees' Paris - A Poem; and are we being more creative in lockdown?

Spike Lee’s new film Da 5 Bloods follows four African-American Vietnam veterans who served together in battle, who return to the country and reunite to locate their fallen squad leader. The writer and director discusses the Netflix film and how resonant many of its issues are particularly now, in the week of its release. Dr Daisy Fancourt is leading the UK’s biggest study looking at the impact the coronavirus crisis has had on our mental health. In recent weeks the team has been looking at the effect of participating in arts and crafts on our wellbeing during this turbulent time. She explains the findings. Hope Mirrlees' Paris – A Poem is a modernist masterpiece that is little known today. It was published in 1920, two years before TS Eliot’s The Waste Land - which might well have been influenced by it. A century later Paris - A Poem has been published again. Neil Gaiman, a big fan, and Sandeep Parma, who is working on a biography of Mirrlees, reveal the importance of this lost poem, illustrated by extracts read by Charlotte Rampling and Lambert Wilson. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager: John Boland
09/06/2028m 22s

Michaela Coel, The Comedy Women in Print Prize, Bristol's Colston statue

Michaela Coel, the double-BAFTA winning actor/writer/director of the TV series Chewing Gum, discusses her new show I May Destroy You, a 12-parter telling a story about one young woman’s date rape and her attempt to piece together what happened to her. Yesterday in Bristol the statue of Edward Colston, who made his fortune from slavery, was noosed, pulled from its plinth, dragged and rolled through the streets of Bristol and dumped in the harbour. We hear a personal account from local artist and journalist Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley who was there. Jasmine reflects on the event and its meaning and writer Ekow Eshun, who is chair of the committee that commissions the art that goes on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, further considers the cultural significance of the toppling of the statue, and what should now happen to the remains. Today the shortlist for the UK and Ireland’s only awards to shine a light on funny writing by women - The Comedy Women in Print Prize – has been announced. It’s the award’s second year and the shortlisted stories demonstrate the unique way humour can tackle hard-hitting subjects such as mental health, addiction and gender discrimination. Kirsty is joined by one of the panel of judges, comedian Lolly Adefope. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Simon Richardson Studio Manager Matilda Macari Main image: Michaela Coel as Arabella in BBC1's I May Destroy You series Image credit: BBC/Various Artist Ltd and FALKNA Productions /Natalie Seery
08/06/2028m 25s

Víkingur Ólafsson, David Greig, El Presidente, Inclusive publishing

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson continues his weekly live performances from the empty Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, as Front Row’s Lockdown Artist in Residence. Tonight Víkingur plays his own transcription of J.S Bach’s cantata Widerstehe doch der Sünde, BWV 54. David Greig talks about his new play Adventures With The Painted People - a first century romcom between a Pict and a Roman - which was to have opened Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s summer season, and has now been adapted for Radio 3, as part of the BBC's Culture in Quarantine project. For our Friday review, we watch El Presidente- a new Amazon Prime comedy drama about the FIFA corruption scandal, scripted by Birdman writer Armando Bó. And Lily King’s novel Writers and Lovers comes with accolades from Elizabeth Strout and Tessa Hadley. What will critics Carl Anka and Alex Clark make of its consideration of grief, love, writing... and waitressing? Following the death of George Floyd there’s been a dramatic increase in sales of books which help explain structural racism. Knights Of - a small publisher specialising in titles tackling prejudice - was facing financial crisis due to the Coronavirus, but now a crowdfunding appeal to help publishers like them has smashed its £100 000 target. Knights Of’s co-founder, Aimee Felone, on publishing during the pandemic and the Inclusive Indies fundraising campaign. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser
05/06/2041m 20s

Andrew Patterson, Writing about Race, Mark Damazer Chair of Booker Prize Foundation

Director Andrew Patterson joins us to talk about new movie The Vast of Night, the story of a small New Mexico town disturbed by lights in the sky and unidentified radio signals which is a loving homage to the sci-fi TV of the 1950s. The low budget, high concept film, which is Patterson’s directorial debut, is available on Amazon Prime. Writers Timberlake Wertenbaker and Winsome Pinnock talk about how white and black writers engage with race, and the importance and responsibility of white writers to talk about race and racism. Mark Damazer is the newly announced Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation which oversees the management of the Booker Prize and the International Booker Prize, for fiction in translation. After the Booker judges’ controversial decision in 2019 to split the main award between two authors, Bernadine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood, he joins us to talk about the Foundation’s plans for the year ahead. It’s the 31st anniversary today of the massacre of thousands of protestors in Tiananmen Square. Writers, musicians and writers, such as Bei Dao, Duo Duo and singer Cui Jian, were involved in the movement for Democracy in China, and Front Row briefly reflects on their role. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
04/06/2028m 15s

David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, Ethiopian poetry, Talking About Race

Michael Sheen and David Tennant play themselves in Staged, a new BBC One series of six 15-minute Zoom dramas, in which they play two furloughed actors in lockdown. Comedian and writer Viv Groskop reviews. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, has released a new online portal to facilitate conversations about race and racism in America. Beverly Morgan-Welch, Director of External Affairs at the Museum, discusses the project, Talking About Race. The poets Alemu Tebeje and Chris Beckett, the editors and translators of Songs We Learn from Trees, discuss the very first anthology of Ethiopian poetry to be published in English. With poems written in Amharic over the past two centuries it reveals a rich and various and witty tradition - of boasts, war cries, poems about wealth, famine, religion, politics and love. Main image: David Tennant in Staged Image credit: BBC/GCB Films/Infinity Hill Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager Tim Heffer
03/06/2028m 12s

Carrie Mae Weems, Liz Lochhead, How will museums reflect the pandemic

As public protests continue nationally and internationally, award-winning American artist Carrie Mae Weems - whose work explores race, identity, and power - joins Front Row to discuss the role of art in response to tragedies such as the death of George Floyd. Liz Lochhead, the former Makar, or National Poet of Scotland, performs a new poem written during the lockdown, called The Spaces Between. How will museums reflect the current crisis in the future? What will they have on display and in their archives to record the way we’re living now? We find out what the Wellcome Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum are collecting. And we conclude our series of specially commissioned introductions to some of the books on the GCSE English literature syllabus with novelist and games writer Naomi Alderman, whose feminist sci fi novel The Power won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in 2017. So it’s appropriate that tonight she’ll be talking about about HG Wells’ trailblazing science fiction classic The War of the Worlds. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson
02/06/2028m 35s

Sitting in Limbo, Joanna Briscoe, Christo, The Uncertain Kingdom

Sitting In Limbo is a new BBC drama telling the story of one man’s entanglement with the Windrush scandal where legal migrants, some of whom had lived here for decades, were denied legal rights, threatened with deportation and some were wrongly deported. The drama tells the story of Anthony Bryan who came to the UK from Jamaica with his mother at the age of 8. Gaylene Gould reviews. Joanna Briscoe made her name with Mothers and Other Lovers and Sleep With Me which was adapted by Andrew Davies for ITV. Her new novel is Seduction and is the story of an artist who is hounded by her estranged mother, has a difficult relationship with her own teenage daughter and goes into therapy – falling madly in love with her female therapist. The death of the artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, known as Christo has been announced. Working with his wife Jeanne-Claude, the pair were known for their monumental public works which involved wrapping architectural creation such as the Reichstag - the German Parliament in Berlin, the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris, and New York’s Central Park. Critic Louisa Buck discusses his work. The Uncertain Kingdom project is an anthology of twenty new short films by twenty directors reflecting contemporary Britain. Kirsty talks to producer Georgia Goggin and director David Proud, whose film Verisimilitude is about a disabled actress who advises an obnoxious star on how to perform with a disability for his latest role. Main image: Patrick Robinson in Sitting in Limbo Image credit: BBC/Left Bank Pictures Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Hannah Robins
01/06/2028m 20s

Indira Varma, Víkingur Ólafsson, Snowpiercer and The Lockdown Plays reviewed, DJ Mr Switch, Tom Morris

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind,” wrote Virginia Woolf in her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own. On the eve of Radio 4’s adaptation of Woolf’s totemic study in the treatment of women across the generations we talk to Indira Varma who stars. The DJ Mr Switch, aka Anthony Culverwell, discusses Gabriel Prokofiev’s classical composition, Concerto for Turntables, released this week. Mr Switch performed it at the BBC Proms in 2011 to great acclaim, and at home at his turntables the DJ explains and demonstrates the art of turntablism. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson continues his weekly live performances from the empty Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, as Front Row’s Lockdown Artist in Residence. Tonight Víkingur plays Chopin’s Prelude in B Minor, a piece very special to the composer. For Front Row's Friday review, Bong Joon Ho's 2013 film Snowpiercer never had a full cinematic release in this country but won critical acclaim. Now Netflix have produced a new series based on the story. And The Lockdown Plays is a new podcast for charity involving some of the country's top actors and playwrights such as Caryl Churchill and Clint Dyer. Critics Naima Khan and Ryan Gilbey give their verdicts on both. Tomorrow will be Bristol Old Vic’s 254th birthday. Usually anyone living in Bristol can perform on the stage of the oldest theatre in the country on its birthday. This, sadly, has had to now move online. Tom Morris talks about the Bristol Arts Channel, which opens tonight with the streaming of the Bristol Old Vic production of Messiah. The channel involves venues all over the city offering the audience a night out in Bristol. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May
29/05/2041m 21s

Can arts venues survive social distancing?

Social distancing has become one of the key measures for controlling coronavirus, but implementing it is creating an existential threat to arts venues like theatres, museums, galleries, independent music venues and concert halls. With such vastly reduced capacity - as much as 90% - can venues ever make the finances stack up, and what is lost when the audience, and performers, must be so far apart? Despite the restrictions, some venues are starting to find ways of making it work. John Wilson goes to the Wigmore Hall where they're beginning live concerts on Radio 3 next week. Violinist Alina Ibragimova performs in the hall - the first instrument played there in ten weeks - and speaks to John alongside Director of the Wigmore Hall John Gilhooly about what it means to be creating live performance again amidst such huge financial uncertainty. Alan Davey tells us what to expect from this years' Proms. Across Europe some museums and galleries are already open. Christina Haak, deputy director of the Berlin State Museums, which include the Pergamonmuseum, Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie, tells us what it was like welcoming audiences again. Robert Hastie, Director of Sheffield Theatres, reports on his plans for Shakespeare in the Park this summer, which have the aim of keeping some theatre alive in the city. And Dominique Frazer, who runs the Boileroom indie music venue in Guildford, discusses how social distancing is impossible in their venue which is all about getting close to bands and each other. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hannah Robins
28/05/2028m 14s

John Grisham, re-opening of museums and galleries, the best of theatre online

Bestselling author John Grisham on his new novel Camino Winds, a sequel to Camino Island, in which a coterie of crime authors discover one of their colleagues has been murdered during a hurricane. There are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, including A Time To Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief and The Client. With museums and galleries in Europe announcing their preparations for re-opening on a limited scale, how do things look in the UK? Ros Kerslake, CEO of the Heritage Fund, discusses the challenges being faced by institutions across the country and their financial situation with Dr Kathy Talbot, Trustee of the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery in Wales. While the Covid 19 crisis has led to physical theatres going dark, many theatre companies have released work online for anyone to watch in the comfort of their own homes, often for free. What makes some plays, monologues and adaptations successful? Sarah Crompton joins Tom to discuss the best of what's available online. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Simon Richardson
27/05/2028m 13s

Tracee Ellis Ross, Walter Iuzzolino, Southbank Centre

Tracee Ellis Ross is the daughter of Diana Ross and in 2017 became the first African-American woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy since 1983, for her sitcom Black-ish. She tells us about her new film The High Note, in which she plays a pop superstar looking to reinvigorate her career. Pushkin Press has partnered with Walter Iuzzolino from Channel 4’s ‘Walter Presents’ on a collaboration of timeless novels with strong international appeal. Walter discusses the first title in the partnership, The Mystery of Henri Pick by French writer David Foenkinos, about the importance of curatorship in a global world of mass content and his ambition to promote his series of foreign language novels into must-haves as compelling as box sets. London’s Southbank Centre says it’s at risk of closure until at least April 2021 due to the economic impact of the Coronavirus, and is calling on the Government to help the cultural sector survive. To discuss the extent of the crisis facing the organisation and the arts, Kirsty is joined by Southbank Centre CEO, Elaine Bedell. As part of Radio 4’s support for students in lockdown we’ve been asking writers to record new introductions to some of the books on the GCSE English literature syllabus. Today we’re going to hear from Sara Collins who won the 2019 Costa First Novel Award for The Confessions of Frannie Langton. She’s sharing her thoughts on Frankenstein by the English author Mary Shelley. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager Duncan Hannant
26/05/2028m 16s

Kirsty Lang talks to American writer AM Homes

AM Homes won the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 for her novel May We Be Forgiven, beating off stellar competition from Hilary Mantel, Kate Atkinson, Barbara Kingsolver and Zadie Smith. Kirsty Lang has been finding AM's darkly comic novels and short stories perfect reading for the lockdown. Her writing penetrates contemporary America, with characters who are pulled apart by accidents, trauma, jealousy, chance encounters and who must examine their lives in order to start over again. The stories are wickedly funny, relentless in their pace and often redemptive. In this extended Front Row interview, AM talks to Kirsty about recovering from Covid-19, growing up in Washington DC and her fascination with Nixon; why she loves to write male protagonists, her lack of inhibition when writing sex scenes - and the challenges of satirising our strange times. She also reads from and talks about her memoir, The Mistress's Daughter, which tells the story of how she was given up for adoption on the day she was born. Her birth parents were a twenty-two year old woman and an older married man. Thirty-one years later, her birth mother tracked her down. Presenter : Kirsty Lang Producer : Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager: Nigel Dix Harry Silver.....David Seddon Narrator.....Darcey Halsey Richard Novak.....Tony Pasqualini Emergency Operator.....Adriana Sevan Patty.....Lisa Pelikan Main image above: A. M. Homes
25/05/2028m 28s

The County & Little Fires Everywhere; The Archers; Víkingur Ólafsson; poetry to console

For Front Row’s Friday review, the author Patrice Lawrence and film critic Hannah McGill consider two new options to stream. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng’s bestselling novel set in 1997 suburban America and raising questions around class and race, has been made into a drama on Amazon Prime, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. The Icelandic director Grímur Hákonarson won acclaim for his film Rams. In his latest film The County, he tells the story of a woman who singlehandedly takes on corruption in her local farmers’ cooperative. The film is available on Curzon Home Cinema. As new episodes of The Archers return to Radio 4, we talk to James Cartwright who plays PC Harrison Burns about ways the world’s longest running soap is responding to the challenges of Coronavirus on and off air. President Macron has announced a series of measures to help the culture sector in France recover from the effects of Covid-19. French author and cultural commentator Agnes Poirier explains how they will work and whether any lessons can be learned for sustaining the cultural landscape in Britain. Emilia Clarke has a new online project in which she asks leading actors to perform poems to help us with the psychological difficulties of the pandemic. The poems are chosen from William Sieghart’s Poetry Pharmacy anthologies which prescribe poems ‘for the heart, mind and soul’, and have been performed so far by Helena Bonham Carter, Idris Elba, Stephen Fry and Andrew Scott. William Sieghart joins us to discuss poetry's pwer to soothe. And Front Row’s artist in residence pianist Víkingur Ólafsson plays La Damoiselle élue by Claude Debussy, live from Reykjavik’s Harper concert hall. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer Edwina Pitman
22/05/2041m 30s

Unprecedented: Real Time Theatre from a State of Isolation, Rubaiyat Hossain, Abigail Pogson, Martin Green

Percy Bysshe Shelley called poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. A new series of short plays written as we entered the lockdown aims to make playwrights the unacknowledged reporters of the coronavirus crisis. Playwright April de Angelis and Jeremy Herrin, Artistic Director of the theatre company, Headlong, discuss Unprecedented: Real Time Theatre from a State of Isolation – one of the first artistic responses to pandemic. The latest contribution to Front Row's occasional new series of audio diaries from Britain’s cultural leaders - revealing the work they are currently doing do ensure their institution will still be able to opens its doors once the coronavirus crisis ends - comes from Abigail Pogson, Managing Director of Sage Gateshead. Bangladeshi filmmaker Rubaiyat Hossain is a rising star on the international film circuit. Her new film, Made In Bangladesh, looks at one woman’s fight to unionize her garment factory co-workers after a fatal workplace fire. It will be streamed as part of the digital return of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival after the festival’s early closure in March. Rubaiyat joins Front Row to talk about her film which shines a light on the women working in an industry which powers the Bangladesh economy. Martin Green is a composer, accordion player, electronic experimentalist, and one third of award-winning band Lau. He’s on the bill for this weekend’s Bristol Takeover Online. The event has been organised to raise money for Bristol’s music venues and the participating artists. Martin joins Front Row to provide a taster of the music he’ll be performing for the live streamed festival. Presenter: Katie Popperwell Producer: Ekene Akalawu
21/05/2028m 40s

Simon Schama on Rembrandt's The Night Watch, can the performing arts survive coronavirus?

How serious is coronavirus for the survival for the performing arts long term? As a government inquiry begins this week, it’s expected that the performing arts that serve an audience in a confined space, such as theatre, music and dance, will take the longest to return to normal, and even then some of the damage may be irreversible. Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre, discuss the ramifications of the current crisis on the performing arts. The Night Watch is arguably Rembrandt’s most famous painting. The imposing canvas from 1642, is housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and has been undergoing a major restoration since July last year, but work is currently on hold because of the lockdown. The museum recently posted online a ‘hyper-resolution’ photograph of the masterpiece, allowing the viewer unprecedented access to the painting’s finest details. Historian Simon Schama discusses what the image reveals about the painting and the artist. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hannah Robins
20/05/2028m 26s

Stephen La Rivière, Nancy Kerr, Silas Marner

Many TV programmes are on hold during lockdown, but one production house is creating a multi-character series set on board a spaceship travelling through the farthest reaches of unchartered space, filmed in Supermarionation and in Super-Isolation. Creator Stephen La Rivière discusses Nebula-75, starring Gerry Anderson-style puppets. The entire enterprise is being made by a team of three friends in their flat, using bits and pieces from around the flat as props. And it’s proved extremely popular. Folk musician and singer Nancy Kerr tells us about her lockdown online song project for May - A Leon Rosselson Song A Day – and performs for us, live from her home. Did you know that BBC Sounds recently released a selection of free audiobooks of GCSE English Literature texts? The selection includes a wide range of works from The War of the Worlds to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As part of Radio 4’s education initiative we’re asking writers to record introductions to the books, and today award-winning novelist Tessa Hadley offers her guide to George Eliot’s novel Silas Marner, the apparently simple tale of a linen weaver in the English village of Raveloe, written in 1861. Mark Davyd, founder of the Music Venue Trust, discusses the progress being made in its campaign to rescue 500 grassroots music venues across the UK that are in danger of going under due to the economic fallout from coronavirus. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager John Boland
19/05/2028m 24s

Tom Sutcliffe talks to playwright and poet Inua Ellams

This evening's Front Row is packed: Tom Sutcliffe talks to a poet, a novelist, a graphic artist, a cultural entrepreneur and a dramatist - but he has only one guest. Inua Ellams is all of these. This week the National Theatre is streaming in its At Home series Ellams' play Barber Shop Chronicles. It sold out at the National twice and toured the UK and internationally to rave reviews. It is set in a barber's in Peckham, and in Accra, Lagos, Kampala and Johannesburg. Ellams explains that men gather in barber's shops not just for haircuts but to talk and argue, about being men, about fatherhood, about women and politics. He tells Tom about how he came to this country, aged 12, when his family had to flee Nigeria because his father, a Muslim, was married to his mother, a Christian. An early work was An Evening with an Immigrant, which he toured all over the country, to places where some of the audience was initially suspicious and some, sharing his experience, saw their own experience onstage. Ellams also invented The Midnight Run, taking people on a waking tour through London overnight, with artists and and musicians, exploring the city, he says, 'with the wonder of children in a maze'. He talks too about basketball and Greek and African gods and his collaboration with Anton Chekhov, whose Three Sisters he set in Nigeria in the Biafran War, about home, black masculinity and the way he creates Main image above: Inua Ellams Image credit: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May
19/05/2028m 1s

White Lines, Víkingur Ólafsson, How to write a play, Eliza Hittman

The new Netflix thriller White Lines takes the viewer to the sunshine and drug-fuelled world of 90s raves in Ibiza. A Spanish-British production, it stars Laura Haddock, Daniel Mays and Angela Griffin. For our Friday Review, Rowan Pelling and Gaylene Gould give their verdicts on that and Rainbow Milk, the debut novel by Paul Mendez, which depicts a childhood in the West Midlands where religion and family put pressure on Jesse to repress his sexuality before he escapes to London. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson continues his weekly live performances from the empty Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík, as Front Row’s Lockdown Artist in Residence. Tonight Víkingur plays Bartók’s Three Hungarian Folksongs from Csík. Have you been to the theatre, or heard a play or watched a TV series and thought 'I could write something better than that' but didn’t know how to get started? To point you in the right direction, Deirdre O’Halloran from London’s Bush Theatre, and stage and screenwriter Vinay Patel (Murdered By My Father and Doctor Who), offer advice about where to start. Director and writer Eliza Hittman on depicting the harsh reality for a teenage girl seeking an abortion in America in her acclaimed new film drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager Emma Harth
15/05/2041m 21s

Benjamin Zephaniah

As one of Britain’s best known and loved poets, Benjamin Zephaniah's work has long been featured on the school curriculum. Lately he’s also become a familiar face on television, not least in Peaky Blinders, set in his home city of Birmingham, as well as appearing as a regular panelist on BBC Question Time. But his journey to national literary figure and Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Brunel University has been a remarkable one. There was the relentless racism he faced as in childhood in the 1960s; there was violence within his family, and repeatedly from the police. Zephaniah was involved in crime as a young man. But he knew from an early age that he wanted to be a poet. And he found his voice in a fusion of dub style improvisation and West Indian Music, pioneering live performance poetry on television. Benjamin Zephaniah joins Front Row from his home in rural Lincolnshire for an extended interview with presenter Samira Ahmed which explores his roots as a poet, his throughts on the Coronavirus crisis and its impact on frontline workers, and to premiere a new poem he's written in praise of the NHS entitled Praise the Saviour. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Simon Richardson
14/05/2028m 28s

Jude Kelly, Emma Thompson, how to write a musical, online art games reviewed

Ten years ago, Jude Kelly founded WOW – the Women of the World foundation – aimed at celebrating women and girls and the challenges they face in society. The former artistic director of London’s Southbank Centre discusses this weekend’s WOW Festival in collaboration with the BBC, the first to take place online because of the pandemic. Emma Thompson reads one of her favourite poems. It's by Liz Lochhead, the former Scottish Makar, and called Photograph, Art Student, Female, Working Class. How do you set about writing a musical? In the first of a new series, Front Row follows a team of creatives led by writer Poppy Burton Morgan and composer Ben Toth, through every stage of the process of developing House Fire, a new musical about the climate crisis. With art galleries across the world closed, access to art for pleasure and education is severely limited and sorely missed, but some art organisations and games companies have developed games to help art lovers continue to engage with art at home. Gabrielle de la Puente of The White Pube, a collaboration of two art critics, joins Tom to review the Pompidou Centre’s single-player game Prisme 7 and the online multiplayer game Occupy White Walls. Main image: Jude Kelly Image credit: Ellie kurttz Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Julian May
13/05/2028m 29s

Alicia Keys, Vanessa Redgrave

Alicia Keys, the 15-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, best known for her hit Girl On Fire and her vocal on Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, discusses her early years growing up in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, and her success in the music industry at a very young age, which she describes in her new autobiography, More Myself. Vanessa Redgrave shares her VE Day poetry performance from the recital Voices of Remembrance, cancelled due to the lockdown, and describes the significance of the anniversary to her. Playwright Simon Stephens on his online adaptation of acclaimed stage work Sea Wall, starring 'hot priest' Andrew Scott (Fleabag, Sherlock Holmes), and performed in one room with only three cuts in single take, using a locked-off camera. BBC Sounds recently released a selection of free audiobooks of GCSE English Literature texts, including a wide range, from The War of the Worlds to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As part of Radio 4’s education initiative we’re asking writers to record introductions to the books, and today novelist Richard T Kelly offers his guide to the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Emma Wallace Studio Manager: John Boland
12/05/2028m 22s

Will Pound, Future of Television, Royal Albert Hall

BBC Director of Content Charlotte Moore – who oversees the BBC’s TV channels, and Stephen Lambert – producer of hit shows including Gogglebox, consider the effects of the lockdown on the TV landscape, and how it will look in the coming months. Will Pound is a virtuoso harmonica player who has been nominated three times for Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and who has played with Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams. His new album is a collection of 27 tunes from each of the member European Union member states. He tells Kirsty about the discoveries he's made in this musical exploration, and performs live. Next year the Royal Albert Hall is set to celebrate its 150th birthday, but its CEO, Craig Hassall, fears that social distancing measures could lead to financial disaster. He discusses his concerns for one of the most famous music venues in the world. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Timothy Prosser
11/05/2028m 32s

Jeremy Deller

Jeremy Deller is one of Britain’s most celebrated artists, best known for his works We’re Here Because We’re Here and The Battle of Orgreave. Mostly collaborative, his work spans music, documentaries, posters, installations and historical re-enactments. From convincing a brass band to cover techno music for his Acid Brass project, to touring a bombed car from the Iraq War around the US, his work encompasses politics, history and social anthropology. His latest projects include Everybody in the Place, a BBC4 documentary exploring rave culture, and Putin’s Happy, a short film following pro- and anti-Brexit protestors in Parliament Square 2019. Deller won the Turner Prize in 2004 and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2013. He joins Tom Sutcliffe to discuss his career and how he is producing art during the lockdown. Main image: Jeremy Deller Image credit: Jeremy Deller Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Lucy Wai
08/05/2040m 20s

George the Poet, Víkingur Ólafsson, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Pride and Prejudice

Continuing his weekly live performances as Front Row’s Lockdown Artist in Residence, Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson performs live from the empty Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik. Tonight Víkingur will play The Arts and the Hours by Rameau, an interlude from the 18th Century French composer’s final opera, Les Boreades. George The Poet is a London-born spoken word performer of Ugandan heritage. His podcast 'Have You Heard George’s Podcast?' has won armfuls of awards and his work as a recording artist and a social commentator has now been recognised at the Visionary Honours Awards for championing diversity and inclusion in the arts, entertainment and showbiz. Elizabeth Newman, director of the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, is directing David Greig's new play Adventures of the Painted People remotely, the actors all separately isolated. Towards the end of the first week she tells John Wilson how the work is going. She explains too the unique situation of her theatre, in a small community in the Scottish Highlands, its financial predicament and how through imaginative creative initiatives it is continuing its role. Professor John Mullan is celebrating the merits of reading, or re-reading, the novels of Jane Austen during lockdown. Today, the title that’s many people’s favourite, thanks not least to countless adaptations: Pride and Prejudice. Presenter John Wilson Producer Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager Tim Heffer
07/05/2028m 29s

Miranda July, The Fall's Greatest Album? Gemma Bodinetz

Award-winning film-maker, artist, and writer Miranda July is known for making art out of the everyday and overlooked aspects of life. It was her 2005 film, You, Me and Everything We Know, that brought her to public attention. As a monograph dedicated to her work is published, she joins Front Row to discuss a protean career which has seen her push at the boundaries of making art. In 1982 post-punk group, The Fall, led by charismatic frontman Mark E. Smith, released their fourth album Hex Enduction Hour. At the time the group were struggling for attention and success outside their small but devoted following that included Radio 1 DJ John Peel who regularly championed their music. Hex Enduction Hour changed all that and five decades on is still regarded as a masterpiece. Former Fall drummer, Paul Hanley has written a new book, Have A Bleedin Guess, about the making of the album and is joined by music critic Kate Mossman to discuss the album's significance. For a new occasional series Front Row is commissioning audio diaries from Britain’s cultural leaders about the work they're doing to continue to connect with their audiences and to ensure their institutions will be able to open again once this crisis ends. First up is Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director of the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse theatres. English folk group, The Unthanks, released a new album, Diversions Vol 5: Live and Unaccompanied, just before the lockdown. The album marked a return to the unaccompanied vocal harmonising that made the group’s name. They were supposed to be on tour, instead they’ve launched a new series of daily performances - At Home With The Unthanks - on their Facebook page. Singer Becky Unthank gives a live performance from her home in Tynedale Valley, Northumberland. Presenter: Katie Popperwell Producer: Ekene Akalawu
06/05/2028m 25s

Film director Alice Wu, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, the allure of Golden Brown and baritone Peter Brathwaite remakes paintings

Writer and director Alice Wu talks to Samira Ahmed about her new film, The Half of It, a queer love triangle that draws on the Cyrano de Bergerac story. Set in small town America, the film explores the Asian American experience and navigating love, friendship and fitting in at High School. Among the anxieties associated with the coronavirus pandemic many readers are finding it more and more difficult to concentrate on a book. But the modern adult's ability to concentrate has been under pressure from the myriad sources of digital text we confront daily. To explore the psychology and neurology of modern reading, Samira is joined by author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce and academic Maryanne Woolf, author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. When the baritone Peter Brathwaite's opera engagements were cancelled because of the pandemic he took up the Getty Museum's challenge to remake paintings with household objects. He searches for works featuring black people and what began as a pastime has developed into a serious artistic project winning wide attention. He tells Samira Ahmed what has drawn him to this, how he goes about it and what he has learned. The Stranglers' keyboard player Dave Greenfield died on Sunday having been infected with the coronavirus. He wrote their best-known song, Golden Brown, which, involving a harpsichord an eddying melody and varying time signatures, is an unusual work for a punk band. Composer and Radio 3 presenter Hannah Peel explains the allure of this sophisticated piece, which depends on a strange rhythm shift, from 12/8 to 13/8. And The Nan and Elsie Transcripts, a micro-psychodrama recorded remotely by members of the BBC's Radio Drama Company. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Julian May
05/05/2028m 37s

Nicola Benedetti, Music Memories, The Tempest

Violinist Nicola Benedetti talks about her new Virtual Benedetti Sessions of free online tuition, and her new album of music by Edward Elgar, including his violin concerto. A new BBC initiative - Music Memories - has been launched to help friends and family of dementia patients communicate with them through music. We're joined by Sarah Metcalfe, from Playlist For Life, and by Sebastian Crutch, Professor of Neuropsychology at the UCL Institute of Neurology. Creation Theatre has found a way of involving the audience in their live streamed production of The Tempest, with actors performing in their own homes, whilst the audience respond live from their homes. Critic Charlotte Keatley explains and reviews this new interactive production. David Crosby and Chrissie Hynde remember how the killing of four Kent State university students 50 years ago today inspired the classic protest song, Ohio. Producer: Timothy Prosser Presenter: John Wilson Main image: Nicola Benedetti Image credit: Andy Gotts
04/05/2028m 31s

Crafts in lockdown, Víkingur Ólafsson performs Glass, Netflix series Hollywood and Lionel Shriver novel reviewed

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, Front Row’s Lockdown Artist in Residence, continues his weekly live performances from the empty Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. Tonight he plays an energetic piece by the American minimalist composer Philip Glass, Etude No.9. What has been the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our mental health and how might being creative at home help our mental wellbeing at this challenging time? Dr Daisy Fancourt is leading the UK’s biggest study looking at the impact the coronavirus crisis has had on our mental health. She explains their findings so far and the potential impact craft can have on mental wellbeing. And embroiderer Ekta Kaul and maker Joe Hartley discuss how their own practice has changed under lockdown, the online tutorials they’ve been running and how you can start making at home yourself. We mark the loss of the great afrobeat drummer Tony Allen whose death has been announced at the age of 79 with an interview for Front Row from 2014. And novelist Sara Collins and critic Karen Krizanovich review Hollywood, the Netflix series from Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy, and the new Lionel Shriver novel The Motion of the Body Through Space. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson Studio manager: Matilda Macari
01/05/2041m 35s

Emma Thompson, Damien Chazelle, Film news

Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle discusses The Eddy, his new Netflix musical drama mini-series set in a multi-lingual Paris jazz club, written by Jack Thorne. Dame Emma Thompson reads one of her favourite poems and discusses her new short film Extinction, made during the Extinction Rebellion protests. With cinemas closed and many film releases on hold, what power does lockdown streaming have to change the industry? After the success of Universal's Trolls World Tour as a digital-only release, it says it will continue to put films out via both cinemas and streaming after restrictions are lifted. In response, world leading cinema chain AMC has said it will boycott Universal films, makers of hits like James Bond. Meanwhile the Oscars will for the first time include digital-only films in next year's awards. To discuss the significance of this, Kirsty is joined by film critic Larushka Ivan Zadeh. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Jerome Weatherald Studio manager Duncan Hannant
30/04/2028m 19s

Singer James Bay, film director Pablo Larraín, tribute to actor Irrfan Khan and new drama by disabled writers

James Bay is a multi-award-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist. He has released two albums, Chaos and the Calm, and Electric Light; for which he has won multiple Brits and been nominated for three Grammys. He was recording his third album when lockdown happened, but has been keeping busy - providing guitar lessons of his greatest hits on Instagram. He joins Kirsty Lang to perform his song Hold Back the River and to provide his top tips for beginner guitarists. Chilean director Pablo Larraín was Oscar-nominated for his film Jackie, about the life of Jackie Kennedy. Larraín discusses his latest film Ema, about a young reggaeton dancer in modern-day Chile who goes to great lengths to get her adopted child back after rashly handing him back to the state. The director Gurinder Chadha pays a tribute to the Indian actor Irrfan Khan who had died aged 53. Best known in Britain for his roles as the policeman in Slumdog Millionaire and Pi as an adult in The Life of Pi, Khan was a huge star in India, appearing in many films. He played the title role in Maqbool, a version of Macbeth set in the Mumbai underworld, and starred the Bollywood musical Life in a ...Metro. Graeae, the UK’s leading disabled-led theatre company has launched an eleven-week programme of online activity to provide audiences with a rich variety of work whilst the country is in lockdown. It has a deliberately in-your-face title: Crips Without Constraints – A Play, A Podcast, A Picture - and the intention is to embrace the need to isolate and at the same time celebrate the creativity of Deaf and disabled artists. Kirsty is joined by screenwriter, dramatist and Graeae patron Jack Thorne and one of the playwrights for this season, Kat Golding. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May
29/04/2028m 27s

Nmon Ford, Eavan Boland, Kit de Waal, London Mozart Players

Panamanian-American baritone Nmon Ford on fusing house music with opera and the legend of Orfeus to create a unique new work which was set to premiere at London’s Young Vic last week. Sinéad Gleeson pays tribute to the great Irish poet Eavan Boland, who died yesterday at the age of seventy five. Boland's poems often drew connections between the lives of Irish women past and present. Author Kit de Waal revisits a novel she has always struggled with - Thackeray's Vanity Fair, and she talks about The Big Book weekend - her new online literary festival (8 -10 May) which is part of the BBC's Culture in Quarantine initiative. Composer Alex Woolf has written a series of pieces for the musicians of the London Mozart Players to play in their own homes. Tonight on Front Row we give the world premiere of Homespun Miniatures No.2, for violin and cello. Main image: Nmon Ford Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser
28/04/2028m 29s

Randy Newman; song lyrics in Latin; Romeo and Juliet; the NHS on radio and TV

Randy Newman is most widely known as the Oscar winning composer of the Toy Story films and he has won armfuls of Grammys too for his Southern States-inflected music. His latest release, ‘Stay Away’, is a charity single to raise money for the New Orleans’ Ellis Marsalis Center, in memory of the revered jazz musician and founder of the Marsalis dynasty who died from Covid 19. Latin Rocks On is a new book of song lyrics translated into ancient Latin. It’s author Sarah Rowley tells us why it’s a great way to learn the language and which songs work particularly well. Ola Ince’s new production of Romeo and Juliet was due to open at the Globe last week, launching its summer season. Its stars Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter, How To Get Away With Murder) and Rebekah Murrell (Nine Night) perform a scene from the iconic play for Front Row live from their homes. The Citadel, AJ Cronin’s groundbreaking novel about medical life in the 1920s, pre-NHS, returns to Radio 4 next week. The drama’s producer Gary Brown discusses its resonance today, and the technical challenges they faced recording it under lockdown. And Dr Christopher Peters, a cancer and general surgeon, reflects on his decade as a medical advisor for TV dramas from Trauma to Holby City, Eastenders, and Death in Paradise. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hannah Robins Studio Manager: Matilda Macari
27/04/2028m 28s

Normal People, Víkingur Ólafsson, Seán Hewitt, Theresa Lola

For Front Row’s Friday Review, BBC journalist Sophie Raworth and the novelist Naomi Alderman discuss the new TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s extraordinarily successful novel Normal People. They also review the new collection of short stories by Frances Leviston, The Voice in my Ear. Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, Front Row's Artist in Residence during the lockdown, continues his weekly live performances from the Harpa Concert Hall in Iceland. This week Víkingur will play the sublime Andante from Bach's Organ Sonata No.4, transcribed for piano by August Stradal. The poet Seán Hewitt's discusses his first collection, Tongues of Fire, which contains poems about encounters in the natural world, with owls, trees and plants. He signed his book contract the day his father died and the pervading grief makes this a collection for our condition today. Theresa Lola, the Young People's Laureate for London, has launched an online initiative encouraging young people to write something that describes what is bringing them calm during the lockdown, Say your Peace. For Front Row's Culture Club, Theresa and Seán offer tips on how to begin writing a poem - and how to know when it's finished. Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Timothy Prosser
24/04/2041m 36s

Moffie director Oliver Hermanus, Sharon D Clarke, Lesbian visibility, Anna Meredith

Oliver Hermanus's new film about a gay teenage conscript and his brutal experience of being in the South African army during Apartheid is called Moffie, a common Afrikaans anti-gay slur. He tells us how a fear of homosexuality fuelled the problem of toxic masculinity that is still so prevalent in the country, and why he used such a provocative title for his film. This week is Lesbian Visibility Week and we’ll be considering how far LGBTQ+ campaigning progress has extended to the visibility of lesbians and lesbian relationships across books, film and TV, with Erica Gillingham, bookseller at London’s Gay’s The Word bookshop and Emma Smart, programmer for the BFI’s Flare Festival of queer cinema. Tonight is World Book Night, the annual celebration of books and writing that aims to encourage more adults to read for pleasure. Sharon D. Clarke, best known to TV audiences as Grace O'Brien in Doctor Who, will be joining Samira to read an excerpt from one of World Book Night’s specially chosen titles, Bedtime Stories for Stressed Out Adults. Digital copies of the book are available free via a link on the Front Row website. As the recent Thursday evening tradition of ClapForCarers continues shortly after we come off air, composer Anna Meredith discusses Handsfree, her instrument-free, 'body-percussion' piece which involves extensive clapping, which has been performed many times around the world and was included as part of the 2012 Proms Season. Main image: Kai Luke Brummer (Left) and Ryan de Villiers in the film Moffie Image credit: Daniel Rutland Manners/Curzon Artificial Eye Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Jerome Weatherald Studio Manager: Donald MacDonald
24/04/2028m 20s

Paapa Essiedu, Arts Minister Caroline Dinenage, Turning our tragedies into comedy

Arts Minister Caroline Dinenage on the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. We put questions to her from arts organisations around the country. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday. To celebrate, actor Paapa Essiedu performs the iconic “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy from Hamlet for us live from his home. Paapa played Hamlet in Simon Godwin’s highly acclaimed 2016 production at the RSC, which transplanted the action from Denmark to West Africa. It will be available to watch on iPlayer from tomorrow as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine series. How can personal tragedy inspire comedy? Alice Fraser and Darren Harriott discuss talking about the death of a parent on stage – why do it, how do they make it work, and what has been the audience’s reaction. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
22/04/2028m 20s

Organist Anna Lapwood, The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist, Gangs of London

Organist Anna Lapwood, who is Director of Music at Pembroke College Cambridge, performs a Bach chorale prelude, live on the new organ she has installed in her living room. She talks about her virtual Bach-a-thon, for which musicians post videos of themselves playing Bach, and her new role as conductor of the NHS Chorus-19 - a virtual choir of over 700 NHS staff across the UK. Front Row announces the shortlist for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020, and critics Alex Clark and Sarah Shaffi comment on the six novels that made it through from the longlist of 16. Gareth Evans, co-creator of the new Sky drama series Gangs of London, discusses how video games and his background in martial arts films influenced the look and feel of his story of a city being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of the international gangs that control it. And the curlew. There are eight species of curlew. Or there were. Neither the Eskimo and the Slender-Billed curlew has been seen for decades. Out of the remaining six species, three are at risk of extinction. To draw attention to their plight, 21April has been designated World Curlew Day. These beautiful waders, with their elegant curved bills and haunting song, have long inspired musician and poets. The poet Jeremy Hooker lived in an area of rural Wales mid Wales. Every year the curlews came and he tried to capture them and their calls in language. We hear his poem, Curlew. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May Studio Manager: John Boland
21/04/2028m 13s

Jackie Kay, Roderick Williams, Killing Eve Season 3 and C Pam Zhang

Leading baritone Roderick Williams was halfway through an ENO run of Anthony Minghella’s production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly at the London Coliseum when it was closed due to the coronavirus. Now at home under lockdown, he joins us to for a special live performance of The Toreador’s Song from Bizet's Carmen in a rather different setting – on Skype from his kitchen. Scots Makar Jackie Kay on a new international poetry project, WRITE where we are NOW, which is inviting poets across the world to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was launched today by Carol Ann Duffy and the Manchester Writing School. After Season Two divided critics, Mik Scarlet reviews Season Three of smash hit spy-action thriller Killing Eve. The story sees two fiercely intelligent women, equally obsessed with each other, go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse. C Pam Zhang's debut novel How Much of These Hills is Gold is about the gold rush in the American West. It focuses on the missing stories of American history - of the thousands of Chinese Americans who came to build the railroads and to work in its mines. C Pam Zhang joins us from her home in San Francisco. We pay tribute to the French chanteur Christophe, who has died, by playing his first single from 1965, Aline. Producer : Dymphna Flynn Presenter : Samira Ahmed Sound Engineer: Matilda Macari
20/04/2028m 32s

Adam Macqueen's thriller, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, a podcast masterclass and the amazing set of Treasure Island

Adam Macqueen talks to Kirsty about his debut novel, Beneath the Streets, a counterfactual thriller set in London in the 1970s which imagines what might have happened had Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe successfully arranged the murder of his ex-lover Norman Scott. The story, the historic version of which was recently dramatized by Russell T. Davies for television, features a cast of real-life characters including Prime Minister Harold Wilson, his senior adviser Lady Falkender, gay Labour peer Tom Driberg and the investigative journalist Paul Foot. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson is Front Row’s Artist in Residence during the lockdown, performing live for us each week on the concert grand in the empty Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. Tonight he plays an enigmatic piece by the French 18th Century composer Rameau, called La Cupis. Bryony Shanahan is joint artistic director of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Dave Moutrey is Chief Executive at the venue HOME and Director of Culture for Manchester City Council. They talk about the challenges they face now their institutions are closed. What about their staff and their finances? Will things ever be the same again and what of their own working lives? What do they do, day to day, now? Last night the National Theatre streamed its popular production of Treasure Island and it is available, free, until next Thursday. When the show opened in the Olivier auditorium audiences were amazed by the set - it's a ship, a pub, a cave and a strange, pulsating island. And a pirate's corpse. It's impressive still on television. Kirsty talked to the designer, Lizzie Clachan on the set during a rehearsal just before the show opened, and we revisit this tonight. The Front Row Masterclass series continues. Amanda Litherland, presenter of 4 Extra’s Podcast Radio Hour and novelist and nature writer Melissa Harrison (who has just launched her own nature podcast The Stubborn Light Of Things) join Kirsty to talk about how to make your own podcast. The great American actor Brian Dennehy has died. His was a wide ranging career in films, on television and in the theatre. He was hailed for his performance as Willy Loman in the 50th anniversary production of Death of a Salesman, for which he won both a Tony and a Laurence Olivier Award. He spoke about his approach to this role in a programme called Playing the Salesman, and we hear some of his thoughts. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May
20/04/2040m 56s

Virus Art, Naomi Alderman, Angela Barnes

Comedian Angela Barnes is the new host of Radio 4’s stalwart show The News Quiz. Fresh from recording the first episode of the new series, we ask how they’re keeping it funny when the only story is a deadly virus, and what it’s been like making the show under lockdown when there’s no audience to laugh at your jokes. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Women’s Prize-winning novelist and games writer Naomi Alderman was in the middle of a new writing project. The subject? A piece of speculative fiction about a global pandemic. Alderman joins us to talk about the dilemmas a novelist faces when unpublished work is overtaken by real events. John Mullan on the delights of Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen's first published novel, that juxtaposes pain and pleasure to powerful effect. And how the physical qualities of viruses are re-created by two very different artists: Luke Jerram – the latest in his Glass Microbiology series of glass sculptures is a replica of Covid 19 - and the political cartoonist Martin Rowson. They talk to Front Row about the terrible beauty of viruses and the human attributes we project onto them. Image: Covid-19 glass sculpture by Luke Jerram Image credit: Luke Jerram Presenter: Tom Sutcliffe Producer: Sarah Johnson
16/04/2028m 20s

Sir Patrick Stewart on Shakespeare's Sonnets, Shahnaz Ahsan, Devs

Sir Patrick Stewart has been releasing daily readings of Shakespeare's Sonnets on Twitter, recorded in different parts of his Californian home. He tells Kirsty why he's doing "A Sonnet a Day" during the lockdown and what he's discovered about Shakespeare in the process. Mik Scarlet reviews Devs, BBC 2’s new thriller miniseries created by Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later). Devs is about a computer engineer, played by Sonoya Mizuno, investigating the tech company she blames for the disappearance of her boyfriend. Shahnaz Ahsan on her debut novel, Hashim and Family: a story inspired by her grandparents' generation - about Bangladeshi migration to Britain, belonging, identity, race and family history. Image: Sir Patrick Stewart Image credit: Jemal Countess/Wire Image/Getty Images Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Timothy Prosser
15/04/2028m 21s

Russell Howard, Siobhan Miller, International Prize for Arabic Fiction, John Mullan on Northanger Abbey

Comedian Russell Howard on his new lockdown TV show, Home Time. Video conferenced from his childhood bedroom, he gives his entertaining take on life in quarantine, with remote music performances and interviews with comedians and key workers. The 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction has been announced today. The winner is Algerian novelist Abdelouahab Aissaoui for The Spartan Court which is set in the early 19th century when Algeria was invaded and captured by the French. Aissaoui is the first Algerian to win the prize, designed to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction. Scottish folk singer-songwriter Siobhan Miller is the three times MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards Singer of the Year and has also won a Radio 2 Folk Award. She discusses her fourth album, All Is Not Forgotten, and performs live. While we’re stuck at home John Mullan is making the case for us raising our spirits by reading, or re-reading, Austen novels. Tonight he makes the case for Northanger Abbey. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Hannah Robins
14/04/2028m 23s

Roy Hudd

Roy Hudd was a comedian, actor and music-hall veteran whose career spanned seven decades. He sadly passed away in March. Starting out as a redcoat at Butlins in the 1950s, Roy became one the UK's best-loved entertainers. His show The News Huddlines ran for 26 years on Radio 2. When Samira spoke to Roy in 2015, he was approaching his 80th birthday, and was about to play Dame for the first time in panto, in Dick Whittington at Wilton's Music Hall. He discussed a lifetime of entertaining audiences, his close relationship with Dennis Potter, who left Hudd a role in his will, and his grandmother, who raised him, and to whom he owed his passion for variety and music hall. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser
13/04/2028m 18s

Martin Scorsese

Masculinity, music, violence, guilt and redemption: one of the all-time great Hollywood directors Martin Scorsese in conversation about his latest film, The Irishman, and the themes that have fascinated and inspired him through his movie-making career. Main image: Martin Scorsese Image credit: Jon Kopaloff/Film Magic/Getty Images Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson
10/04/2040m 43s

Víkingur Ólafsson, Christabel Blackburn, Nitin Sawhney, Audiobooks

Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson will be Front Row's Artist-in-Residence during the lockdown, delivering weekly live performances on the grand piano of the currently empty Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík, Iceland. Each week will also feature a mini-masterclass about the piece. Tonight Víkingur performs his own transcription of Sigvaldi Kaldalóns’ Ave Maria. Kaldalóns was a doctor aswell as a composer and Víkingur dedicates this performance as a prayer to all the people suffering and to the health workers fighting against COVID-19. Winner of the Sky Portrait Artists of the Year, Christabel Blackburn, gives us top tips on how to draw a portrait ourselves at home, and discusses why she's so drawn to the genre and what it was like winning the show. British-Indian musician, producer and composer Nitin Sawhney discusses his forthcoming album Immigrants, a celebration of émigrés' culture across the globe, in which he showcases creations 'inspired and contributed to by artists who either identify themselves as immigrants, are from immigrant heritage or wish to express support for those international immigrants who have found themselves judged or disadvantaged by pure accident of birth.’ We conclude our ‘listening week’, focusing on entertainment available for the ear, with a look at audiobooks. Over the past decade this $3.5bn industry has been the success story of an otherwise sluggish publishing market and in a moment when many have more time on their hands there’s no better way to consume books whilst being productive. Times audiobook critic Christina Hardyment discusses the best and worst recent releases and what goes into making a good recorded reading. Presenter Tom Sutcliffe Producer Jerome Weatherald
09/04/2028m 20s

James Graham on Quiz, Braids, changes in the ways we listen to music, and John Prine

On Easter Monday ITV will broadcast the first instalment of Quiz, the adaptation by James Graham of his play about the coughing controversy and the major convicted of cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Graham tells Kirsty Lang why the story remains important. It's about truth, fact and power - the power of television. And there's a remarkable performance by Michael Sheen as Chris Tarrant. Braids was scheduled to premiere at the Live Theatre in Newcastle this April. Longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, it follows two girls – Jasmine and Abeni - who navigate growing up as the only people of colour in a rural part of Durham. Kirsty is joined by writer Olivia Hannah, and actors Olivia Onyehara and Cynthia Emeagi, who will be performing a scene from the play. With Front Row focusing on ‘listening’ this week, music writer Kieran Yates considers the changing landscape of music, from live radio broadcasts to live streaming and ‘quarantine concerts’. She also discusses the listening experience of what’s called 8D audio, and the importance of listening on headphones. And the death of the singer songwriter John Prine, who won the respect of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Kris Kristofferson. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May Sound Operator: Emma Harth Image: MATTHEW MACFADYEN as Charles Ingram and SIAN CLIFFORD as Diana Ingram in Quiz Credit: Leftbank Pictures for ITV
08/04/2028m 18s

AL Kennedy, Sam Sweeney performs live, lockdown listening habits

AL Kennedy won the Costa Prize 2007 for her novel Day. She talks about her new book of short stories, the aptly named We Are Attempting to Survive Our Time – a powerful collection about characters living on the edge, from a woman finally snapping at a white man's racist tirade at a zoo, to the host of a podcast revealing why she is haunted by the state of New Mexico. Sam Sweeney, fiddle player in the trio Leveret and formerly of Bellowhead, has just released his second album, Unearth Repeat. It is, he says, is an un-concept album, where he simply plays the music he loves. He tells Samira what he means and plays a tune. As our routines are changed beyond recognition, what happens to regular activities like listening to podcasts and radio? Initial statistics suggest that most podcast listening is down, while radio listening is up. Podcasters Caroline Crampton and Joseph Fink consider what this means for listeners and for the people who make audio. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Dymphna Flynn Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant Image: AL Kennedy Credit: Geraint Lewis 2013
07/04/2028m 19s

Wordsworth Anniversary, Kerry Shale radio play, Critic Gillian Reynolds, Composer Nainita Desai

On the eve of the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great English poet William Wordsworth, Juliet Stevenson reads some of his most famous poems and Michael McGregor, Director of the Wordsworth Trust, explains why Wordsworth is particularly relevant today, at a time of crisis. As Front Row begins a week of celebrating the joys of listening - to radio, podcasts, audiobooks, music and drama - radio critic Gillian Reynolds talks about the joys of entertainment for the ears. Actor Kerry Shale discusses his radio drama, The Kubrick Test, which tells the true story of his encounter with one of cinema’s most influential figures. For many years, the great director’s methods were shrouded in mystery. So when, in 1987, a young actor gets an invitation to enter Kubrick’s hidden world, he leaps at it. And, of course, gets more than he bargained for. The Kubrick Test will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday at 2.15 pm. Composer Nainita Desai is a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, and is the International Film Music Critics Association Breakthrough Composer of 2020. She has scored many TV and film dramas as well as video games, and she discusses her score for For Sama, Waad al-Kateab’s Oscar-nominated film that won the BAFTA for Best Documentary this year. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson
06/04/2029m 30s

Miles Davis's Bitches Brew, Gaming, Cressida Cowell in the Culture Clinic

Miles Davis released his seminal album Bitches Brew 50 years ago this week. Saxophonist Soweto Kinch and Michael Carlson consider the impact of the double album, and discuss the recent documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool. What video games should we play while we’re self-isolating? Video games expert, journalist and broadcaster Jordan Erica Webber gives us her top picks and tips for first-time gamers. And as even the World Health Organisation recommends 'playing active video games' during lockdown, we look at the mental and physical health benefits of gaming. This week The Front Row Culture Clinic is looking at how to keep children entertained and educated whilst under lockdown, with portrait painter Lorna May Wadsworth who is launching a painting competition for the under 12s - the winner will have their painting hung in a prestigious London gallery. Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell, who is reading a chapter of How To Train Your Dragon every day from her garden shed with Book Trust Home Time, considers how to keep house-bound kids happy and motivated. As the Scottish Ensemble string orchestra celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, concert violinists Jonathan Morton and Clio Gould from the Ensemble perform two short inventions by Bach, live from their home. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald
03/04/2041m 20s

Dua Lipa, Sara Collins, Edinburgh festivals cancelled, Molly O’Cathain

Dua Lipa shares the inspiration behind her new album Future Nostalgia, what it's been like releasing an album under quarantine. As the Edinburgh Festivals are cancelled this year, Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman discusses what this means for theatre, comedy and the arts, and for the city itself. Set and costume designer Molly O’Cathain, on lockdown at home with her parents in Dublin, has combined her love of art and skill as a production designer to recreate famous painting of couples using her parents as models. She tells John how she's been doing it. Sara Collins won the 2019 Costa First Novel Award for The Confessions of Frannie Langton. In the latest in our J’Accuse series, she takes on what she sees as the segregation of publishing and the expectations on writers of colour to “tackle” the subject of race. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hannah Robins
02/04/2028m 28s

The Dramatist James Graham

This edition of Front Row is devoted to one of the most exciting playwrights to emerge this century. James Graham is only 37 but has already become a foremost chronicler of modern Britain on stage and screen. He is known for taking on the big issues of the day – Brexit, privacy online, parliamentary democracy, fake news - whilst enabling his audience to see things from the points of view of those involved. In This House the whip's office, more than the chamber of the House of Commons, is where power plays. His controversial television play Brexit: The Uncivil War, set in the offices of the Vote Leave campaign, brought our attention to the critical role played by Dominic Cummings, now the Prime Minister’s chief adviser. At Easter ITV will broadcast his adaptation of his play – Quiz – about the coughing controversy and the major accused of cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It is about truth, fact and power - the power of television. Graham's work in the theatre is often interactive: in Privacy audience members were asked to keep their phones on and information gathered from them became part of the drama. The final performance of The Vote, set in a polling station, was live-streamed from one as it closed on the night of the general election of 2015. In Quiz the audience became the trial jury. Graham talks about the importance of the live, communal aspect of theatre, and, too, how television can be an arena where millions can consider the complex challenges of our times. In a wide ranging, richly illustrated interview James Graham tells Kirsty Lang about the crucial role of drama in explaining power and politics, in learning about how our society works, and the importance of being even-handed. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Julian May
02/04/2028m 1s

Soprano Chen Reiss, Theatre Online, National Poetry Competition

To mark Beethoven's 250th anniversary, soprano Chen Reiss has released an album of rarely performed Beethoven arias called Immortal Beloved. She joins us live from her home in Vienna, and also performs a favourite aria by Handel. With arts organisations scrambling to reproduce their output online, we discuss the dilemmas of streaming works intended to be experienced communally. Academic Kirsty Sedgman, who specialises in audience research, and theatre critic Alice Saville, Editor of Exeunt Magazine, consider the consequences for artists and their audiences. Susannah Hart has won the National Poetry Competition for her poem Reading the Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy, which draws from her experiences as a school governor - the poem is her reaction to how we support and look after children at risk. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Timothy Prosser Engineer: John Boland Image: Chen Reiss Photo Credit: Paul Marc Mitchell
31/03/2028m 4s

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson plays live from Reykjavik

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has a new album, Debussy – Rameau, exploring the music of two very different but complementary composers. He plays live from Reykjavik, exclusively for Front Row. Actor Jo Hartley - best known for her roles in Shane Meadows' This is England series - discusses her new TV drama, In My Skin, which is coming to BBC Three. It's the story of a Welsh teenager - Bethan - who is dealing with mental illness, friendships and her sexuality. Her mother Trina - played by Hartley - has bipolar disorder and is sectioned in a psychiatric ward but Bethan is doing all she can to hide her mother's condition from her friends and the school authorities. The part is based on the personal experiences of Welsh writer Kayleigh Llewellyn. Musician Mik Scarlet gives his Disabled Person’s Guide to Surviving (and Thriving) in Lockdown. He passes on his top tips and argues that, although on screen disabled people are often portrayed as weak and needing help, there is a lot the able-bodied can learn from this community who are more familiar with enforced time spent at home. The death of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki has been announced. Music critic and Radio 3 presenter Tom Service considers what it was about his music, which sounded uncompromisingly modern, that also appealed to people who felt they wouldn't normally enjoy modern classical music. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones
30/03/2028m 16s

Gloria Gaynor, Offline Arts, film Vivarium and novel Hamnet reviewed, Culture Clinic

Disco legend Gloria Gaynor made headlines earlier this month when her TikTok video encouraging people to wash their hands to her hit I Will Survive went viral. She joins us from her home in South Carolina, to discuss winning a Grammy for her latest album Testimony, and how she's keeping busy in self-isolation. As galleries and art centres close their doors many organisations are turning to digital platforms to reach audiences, but what about the 5 million people in the UK that don’t have access to the internet? Front Row speaks to Stella Duffy, co-director of Fun Palaces and Sally Shaw, Director of Firstsite Gallery in Colchester about the initiatives they’re setting up to reach those that are not online. Maggie O’Farrell’s latest novel is named after Shakespeare’s only son Hamnet, who died of the Plague. It has been almost universally acclaimed as her finest work. And a new film – Vivarium – is a study in claustrophobia and enforced closeness for a young couple who have to live in a house they can’t leave. Starring Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg it has an eerie resonance in the current world of social isolation and lockdown. Jenny McCartney and Barb Jungr join John to review the book and the film. And Shahidha Bari joins Front Row for our Cultural Clinic. She'll be answering questions on the cultural significance of clothes - especially when we're at home and tempted to stay in our PJs all day. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson
27/03/2041m 37s

Owen Sheers, Nikita Lalwani, Writing in isolation

The bestselling children’s book series The Snow Spider has been adapted for TV by award-winning writer, poet and playwright Owen Sheers. It is a fantasy drama that follows nine-year-old Gwyn as he discovers his magical powers and his family connection to the Welsh myths of the Mabinogion. Owen tells us how he adapted a much-loved classic. Booker longlisted author Nikita Lalwani discusses her new novel You People, which tells the story of a London pizzeria that employs and supports refugees and illegal immigrants. But what happens when moral decisions are left at the hands of a man beyond the law? Nikita reveals the inspiration behind the story and her research into the refugee crisis and Britain’s hostile environment. With book festivals cancelled, Amazon book stocks about to run out and self-employed authors facing difficult financial circumstances, book publicist Georgina Moore joins us to discuss how the literary world is adapting to the challenges of Coronavirus. Looking for a creative project while self-isolating? Writers Nikita Lalwani and Owen Sheers give us a masterclass in how to write a novel. As well as being award-winning authors, Nikita and Owen also teach creative writing – Nikita is a Senior Lecturer on the MA Creative Writing course at Royal Holloway and Owen is a Professor in Creativity at Swansea University. Presenter: Shahidha Bari Producer: Edwina Pitman and Lucy Wai Main image: Fflynn Edwards as Gwyn Griffiths in The Snow Spider Image credit: Leopard Pictures
26/03/2028m 39s

Eliza Carthy, Art galleries and coronavirus, Terrence McNally obituary

Singer and fiddle player Eliza Carthy, daughter of folk doyens Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy, is known as a folk musician but, while being steeped in traditional music, she has wide musical horizons. Her new album Through that Sound (My Secret was Made Known) is a collection of her own songs. It’s a collaboration with musician and producer Ben Seal, who provides arrangements for string quartet, bass clarinet and keys. Eliza and her band were all rehearsed and ready to tour this month, but that is of course cancelled. She joins Front Row live from the Waterson Carthy household in Robin Hood's Bay, to talk about being a single mother, part-time carer and professional musician, to play and sing, and offer some tips to people for whom self-isolation offers the opportunity to write songs. As all galleries in the UK are ordered to close by the government as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus we consider the financial impact, how much can realistically move online and if the government and arts bodies are doing enough to support galleries. Kirsty is joined by director of the National Gallery, Gabriele Finaldi, Director of Spike Island in Bristol, Robert Leckie and art critic Louisa Buck to give us the picture across the UK. Novelist Armstead Maupin, author of the Tales of the City series, pays tribute to playwright Terrence McNally who has died of Coronavirus complications aged 81. The four-time Tony winner, was known for his thoughtful chronicles of gay life, homophobia, love and AIDS. Presenter: Kirsty Lang Producer: Simon Richardson Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant Image: Eliza Carthy
25/03/2028m 30s

Simon Armitage, Stephen Hough, Chris Riddell on Asterix creator Albert Uderzo

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage talks about his new poetry collection Magnetic Field: the Marsden Poems, which is inspired by the West Yorkshire village he grew up in. As classical musicians struggle to cope with the loss of their income due to the cancellation of all concerts, Samira is joined by music critic Anna Picard, Deborah Annetts of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, and pianist Stephen Hough, who plays live from his home. Former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell pays tribute to the French comic book artist Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix, who has died aged 92. Presenter: Timothy Prosser Producer: Samira Ahmed Main Image: Simon Armitage Image credit: Robert Shiret/BBC
24/03/2028m 20s

Rathbones Folio winner, Disney+, Malory Towers on TV, Live performance from National Theatre of Scotland

Front Row has announced Valeria Luiselli the winner of the 2020 Rathbones Folio book prize for her novel Lost Children Archive and John Wilson speaks live to Valeria from her home in New York. This Tuesday sees the UK launch of Disney+, the new television streaming service from the second largest media company in the world. As well as all their classic releases, the service will include access to the full Star Wars franchise, the Marvel and Pixar back catalogues and National Geographic programming. Adam Satariano, technology correspondent for The New York Times, and TV critic Julia Raeside discuss the impact Disney+ is likely to have on the UK's TV landscape. Malory Towers is a new 13-part TV drama series set in post-war Britain based on the bestselling children’s novels by Enid Blyton. Set in a girl's boarding school and packed full of midnight feasts, lacrosse games and mysteries to be solved, the books have been a beloved staple for generations of schoolchildren. Julia Raeside reviews the new CBBC adaptation. John McGrath's The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil is one of Scotland’s most iconic plays, exploring the exploitation of the country’s natural resources from the Highland Clearances of the 18th century to the North Sea Oil Boom. Due to be revived by the National Theatre of Scotland in association with Dundee Rep Theatre and Live Theatre, Newcastle, the run has been cancelled due to Covid-19 guidelines. Two members of the cast, Billy Mack and Jo Freer, join us live to perform a scene and a song from the production. Presenter : John Wilson Producer : Dymphna Flynn Image: Darrell (ELLA BRIGHT) in Malory Towers Credit: Steve Wilkie/Queen Bert Limited/WildBrain/BBC
23/03/2028m 42s

Gareth Malone, Contraltos, Louise Wallwein

It was a call from Dame Esther Rantzen for choirmaster Gareth Malone to bring the nation together under his metaphorical baton that has inspired Gareth’s latest choral idea – The Great British Home Chorus. He talks to Katie about the challenge of creating a virtual choir from amateurs and professionals at a time when we are all being told to keep our distance from each other. The contralto voice used to have a regular presence on opera, recital, and choral stages across this country but in recent decades there seems to be have been a concerted effort to excise this particular voice category with singers, directors, agents, and teachers all turning away from the deep tones this voice can provide in favour of higher and brighter voices. Music critic and writer Jessica Duchen, and founder-director of the Kinder Choirs of the High Peak and a former professional contralto Joyce Ellis, discuss why contraltos have been frozen out and whether it’s time they came in from the cold. The Creative Industries Federation are calling for a Temporary Income Protection Fund for the many hundreds of thousands of freelancers in the creative sector who have seen their contracted work vanish overnight in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis. CEO Caroline Norbury discusses why her organisation wants the government to act now. To celebrate the first day of Spring, Radio 4 has commissioned poets to write new poems marking the arrival of the new season which listeners will be able to hear throughout the day. On Front Row, award-winning poet, playwright, and performer Louise Wallwein will be premiering her new poem. Presenter: Katie Popperwell Producer: Ekene Akalawu
20/03/2028m 55s

Lennie James, Rob Auton, Jess Gillam

Actor and screenwriter Lennie James talks about the return of his award-winning Sky drama Save Me, in which he plays a father trying to rescue his daughter from a sex trafficking ring. In the new series Save Me Too, he finds someone who may hold the key to her location. Writer and comedian Rob Auton performs live and talks about finding inspiration from small everyday things including hair, water, talking, and the colour yellow. His stand-up tour has been cancelled but his daily podcast will continue with a short burst of spoken word each day to lift us from the gloom. Saxophonist Jess Gillam performs live with pianist James Ballieu. Presenter: Chrystal Genesis Producer: Edwina Pitman
19/03/2029m 54s

Gary Sinyor, Arts Council aid, Theatre Uncut

Director and writer Gary Sinyor joins John Wilson to discuss his new sitcom The Jewish Enquirer. This follows hapless journalist Paul, played by Tim Downie, in search of scoops for Britain’s “fourth most-read Jewish newspaper”. Sinyor reveals how his own Jewish heritage inspired this irreverent depiction of a Jewish family and how everything and everyone from circumcision to Philip Green is ripe for satire. Most people working in the arts are freelance and so may lose their livelihoods when shows close and projects are curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier this week the Arts Council announced that it will change some of its funding programmes to help compensate individual artists and freelancers for lost earnings. Laura Dyer, the Deputy Chief Executive of Arts Council England, explains what is planned and how this will work. Theatre Uncut has created an online film, which stars actors from different Universities across Europe who have filmed themselves on their phones. Their performances were then edited together. Written by Kieran Hurley using text and emojis, Bubble is about freedom of speech and will premiere on Facebook on Monday. Director Emma Callander discusses this unique project. With actors working in isolation, edited elsewhere and viewed on phones and laptops, this is a film for our troubled times. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Simon Richardson
18/03/2028m 21s

David Baddiel, arts prize for social change, film news

Author and comedian David Baddiel is going to read The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, now his UK tour has been cancelled due to coronavirus, and he has the time. David tells Stig Abell why this novel has always been such a challenge to him. As cinemas close round the country, Universal Pictures have announced they are home releasing several current big films such as Emma and The Invisible Man. Critic Jason Solomons discusses what this means for the industry. The Visionary Honours is a prize recognising artworks in all genres that have generated the greatest social change from diversity, mental health, anti-social behaviour and environmental change. We speak to the co-founder Adrian Grant about why he felt this award was needed, and critic Hannah McGill charts the ups and downs of art for social good. And Irish musicians John Gaughan and Gerry Diver perform Splendid Isolation live in the studio to celebrate St Patrick's Day Presenter: Stig Abell Producer: Dymphna Flynn
17/03/2028m 21s

How theatres will cope with PM's advice? Jennifer Offill, Roy Hudd, Kevin Guthrie

American author Jenny Offill discusses her highly anticipated new novel, Weather, about a female librarian struggling to cope with a domestic life haunted by the growing awareness of catastrophic climate change. Actor and comic Roy Hudd has died at the age of 83. We speak to producer and writer John Lloyd - who was also a friend - about Roy's career. The English Game, a new Netflix drama written by Julian "Downton Abbey" Fellowes charts the formative years of football in late 19th century England. The six-part series which follows two sportsmen on opposite sides of the class divide, begins streaming this week. Actor Kevin Guthrie, talks about taking on the role of Fergus Suter, the man considered to be the first professional footballer. The Prime Minister has announced that - among other precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus - the public should 'avoid pubs clubs theatres and other social venues'. How is this likley to affect arts venues? Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones
16/03/2028m 22s

Kodo Drummers, Marina Lewycka, Arts affected by coronavirus

The Kodo drummers from Japan formed in 1981 and are currently nearing the end of their world tour. Five members bring their drums, flutes and cymbals to our studio to perform, and to discuss the strict regime for their apprenticeship and the physical demands of their stage show. As theatres empty, film releases are delayed and festivals cancelled, Front Row considers the ongoing impact of coronavirus on the arts. With Nancy Durrant of the Evening Standard. Marina Lewycka’s novel A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian sold over a million copies and won the Bollinger Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction. Her new book The Good, the Bad and the Little Bit Stupid is the story of a family torn apart by Brexit and international bank fraud. She talks about making fun out of testing times. Presenter: Stig Abell Producer: Timothy Prosser
13/03/2031m 27s

Dame Judi Dench

Dame Judi Dench looks back at her six decade career in theatre, television and film, from playing Lady Macbeth to M in Bond. As she prepares to return to the stage for a series of conversations at the Bridge Theatre in London, Judi discusses Shakespeare, Musicals, Awards, how she copes with losing her eyesight, and how she was originally told she didn't have a face for films. Now she has a record seven Oscar nominations and one win, eight Olivier awards and eleven BAFTAs. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Timothy Prosser
12/03/2028m 20s

Cartoonist Steven Appleby, Sally Abbott, The Hunt and Bacurau

Steven Appleby’s comic strips have graced the pages of many national newspapers including The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Observer. Now he’s created his first graphic novel, Dragman - a thriller about August Crimp who discovers that wearing women’s clothing gives him the power of flight. As his superhero alter ego, Dragman, he’s on the case of the missing souls, but can he also use his powers to save his marriage and himself? Playwright Sally Abbott discusses her new play, directed by Kathy Burke, that helps to mark 25 years of Frantic Assembly and their distinctively physical take on theatre. I Think We Are Alone is a multi-stranded story of the connections - and disconnections - between people and their desire for intimacy. Humans hunting humans for sport – this is the theme of two new films, The Hunt and Bacurau, both seemingly inspired by the 1920s short story The Most Dangerous Game. Controversial thriller The Hunt is a satire of the American political landscape, with a liberal elite hunting conservative 'deplorables'; while Bacurau explores neo-colonial tensions with a small Brazilian village held siege by bloodthirsty American and European hunters. Mark Eccleston reviews. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald
11/03/2028m 5s

Misbehaviour, Marian Keyes, Mental health app, McCoy Tyner obituary

The Miss World beauty pageant in 1970 is probably best remebered for one thing: The Women’s Liberation movement's intervention. They staged a protest at the final and it got them on the front pages of newspapers around the world. And now it’s the subject of a new film called Misbehaviour starring Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jessie Buckley. We speak to the film’s director Philippa Lowthorpe about bring this moment of history to life on screen. We continue our new series, J’Accuse, in which contributors get the chance to make a short, uninterrupted argument on an artistic subject that matters to them. Tonight John is joined by bestselling author Marian Keyes who shares her thoughts on the fiction genre often dismissed as Chick Lit. A daily 9 minute breakfast show, hosted by Love Island’s Chris Taylor and drag queen Ginger Johnson is the newest way that entertainment and technology have combined to improve mental health. A new app, Wakey, has been designed with scientists and television experts to come straight to your phone so you can watch as you start the day in a positive way. Founder Deborah Coughlin tells us how it works. The jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, whose death at the age of 81 was announced at the weekend, made his name playing alongside improvisational saxophonist John Coltrane before carving out his own career as a soloist, bandleader and composer. Music writer Kevin Le Gendre looks back over the life of the influential figure. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Oliver Jones
10/03/2028m 18s

Representation and diversity in the arts

In recent weeks, two new reports on diversity in the arts have generated headlines. Arts Council England has issued a document called Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case, and The Creative Diversity Network, an organisation funded by all the main broadcasters, has released its third assessment of representation on screen and off. Discussing what we can be learnt from their findings are: Deborah Williams, the head of the CDN, Priya Khanchandani, writer, curator and editor of Icon magazine, Tiffany Jenkins, writer and broadcaster, Will Harris, poet whose debut collection Rendang is a reflection on his mixed-race heritage, Sophie Duker, comedian. And in the first of an occasional series on Front Row called J'accuse, Tiffany Jenkins makes the case for a greater diversity of opinion in the arts. Presenter: Stig Abell Producer: Edwina Pitman
09/03/2028m 33s

Rachel Parris, Mark Gatiss on Aubrey Beardsley, Andy Burnham

The Mash Report’s Rachel Parris discusses why her private life rather than politics has inspired her new stand up show, All Change Please. As the Greater Manchester Combined Authority announces increased funding for arts venues across its ten boroughs, we talk to Mayor of Greater Manchester and former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham about the effect Local Government funding cuts have had on councils’ cultural activities. Actor and writer Mark Gatiss discusses his lifelong fascination with the artist Aubrey Beardsley, who died of tuberculosis in 1898 at the age of just 25. Gatiss has made a BBC4 film about Beardsley, famous for his distinctive black and white drawings, which coincides with an extensive new exhibition at Tate Britain of the artist’s work. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Sarah Johnson
06/03/2028m 13s

Hassan Abdulrazzak, Onward, The art of the memoir

Playwright and writer Hassan Abdulrazzak discusses his latest play The Special Relationship, a dark satire about the deportation of ex-prisoners from the US, which is based on interviews with real ex-prisoners. Tim Robey reviews Onward, the new Pixar/Disney animation about two teenage elves who go in search of their father, set in a realm of mythical creatures who live as humans do, with houses and modern appliances. Recently there have been a number of memoirs written by people who have experienced or witnessed extreme trauma. Psychotherapist and writer Sasha Bates, whose memoir Languages of Loss is a graphic and personal account of the sudden death of her husband, and memoirist and author Horatio Clare discuss the increasing popularity of the form, and why the personal voice has come to have such resonance in 21st century Britain. Presenter: Nikki Bedi Producer: Edwina Pitman
05/03/2028m 22s

Hilary Mantel's Cromwell trilogy, Women in hip hop, Creativity in isolation

Hilary Mantel's novel The Mirror and The Light is published tomorrow. In the Front Row readers' panel, three of our listeners - Deborah Stuart, Sasha Simic, and Laura Helen Back - gather to discuss the first two novels in the Cromwell trilogy, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, and to express their hopes and fears for the final instalment. Shay D, a UK hip hop artist, is curating a national tour of women-only artists, to redress the balance of the male-dominated world. She joins Stig along with journalist J’na Jefferson from New York to talk about how women are cutting through the hip hop and rap world. How does isolation or solitude breed creativity? As the likelihood of self-isolation increases with the coronavirus situation, what can we learn from artists about the creative properties of solitude, loneliness and even boredom? We discuss with composer and musician Errollyn Wallen, who composes from a remote lighthouse in Scotland, and poet and author Andrew Greig, who divides his time living in Edinburgh and the Orkney Islands. Presenter Stig Abell Producer Jerome Weatherald
04/03/2028m 23s

Noughts + Crosses, Pretty Woman the Musical, the rise of Subtitles

Koby Adom on directing Malorie Blackman's best-selling young adult novel Noughts + Crosses for BBC1, creating an alternative world where Europe has been colonised by Africa, the ruling class are black and the white population are slaves. As Korean film Parasite dominates the box office, have theatre, film and TV audiences become more accepting of subtitles? Declan Donnellan, artistic director of theatre company Cheek by Jowl, who is directing Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy on stage in Italian with English surtitles, discusses with Film and TV critic Hannah McGill. The Broadway production of Pretty Woman The Musical, based on the 1990s classic rom-com, has transferred to London, featuring new songs co-written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, and a book based on the original film script. Liz Carr, actor and fan of the film, reviews. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Timothy Prosser Main Image: Sephy Hadley (Masali Baduza) and Callum McGregor (Jack Rowan) in Noughts + Crosses. Credit: BBC / Mammoth Screen / Ilze Kitshoff
03/03/2028m 21s

Film director Francis Annan, Denise Mina, Amateur dramatics - its development and popularity

Director Francis Annan discusses his film Escape from Pretoria. Daniel Radcliffe and Ian Hart star in the true story of the imprisonment of white anti-apartheid campaigners in the 1970s and their incredible escape from South Africa’s maximum-security Pretoria prison. Did you know that amateur dramatics is the third most popular pastime in the UK after fishing and football? Michael Coveney has been a theatre reviewer for four decades and in his new book Questors, Jesters and Renegades he tells the story of Britain’s amateur theatrical companies. He is joined by Clare Greer from the Bangor Drama Club in Northern Ireland, established in 1935. Denise Mina is acclaimed for her award-winning crime fiction, and now she’s turned her hand to crime of a different nature. Bertolt Brecht famously said 'What is robbing a bank compared with founding a bank?'. Denise discusses Mrs Puntila and her Man Matti, her new gender-swapping adaptation of a Brecht play which seeks to show how the law is always on the side of the wealthy. Main image: Daniel Radcliffe as Tim Jenkins in Escape from Pretoria Image credit: Signature Entertainment Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Oliver Jones
02/03/2028m 14s

Elisabeth Moss, Aravind Adiga, 20th anniversary of The Sims computer game

Elisabeth Moss talks about her new film The Invisible Man, a 21st century reboot of the HG Wells story. Told from the victim’s point of view, Elisabeth plays Cecilia who fears for her safety after escaping an abusive relationship. But when she discovers her ex has killed himself, she fears something far worse: that he’s not dead and has found a way to make himself invisible. Booker winning novelist Aravind Adiga on his latest novel Amnesty, a novel set Sydney, Australia over 24 hours that follows Danny, an illegal immigrant, who gets unwittingly involved in a murder. Twenty years ago this month, the video game The Sims was launched and went on to become one of the most successful games to date with millions of players worldwide. Games critic Jordan Erica Webber, and Dr Jo Twist, CEO of Ukie, discuss the ground-breaking impact of The Sims and how the games industry has changed in the last two decades. Presenter: Stig Abell Producer: Hilary Dunn
28/02/2028m 19s

Director Céline Sciamma, conductor André J. Thomas, clash of the titles

French director Céline Sciamma on her BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated film Portrait of a Lady on Fire, about an 18th Century artist who falls in love with the woman she is painting. Critics have hailed it as a manifesto for the female gaze. André J. Thomas, composer and conductor of gospel music and spirituals, discusses the African-American musical tradition and his forthcoming event, Symphonic Gospel Spirit with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in London this weekend. In a year which has seen two novels published called Queenie, joining the swelling ranks of books that have the same titles from Possession to Joyland, from Life After Life to Twilight – writer and international trade lawyer Petina Gappah joins art critic Richard Cork to discuss what’s in a name across the arts. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Jerome Weatherald Main image above: Noémie Merlant (Left) as Marianne and Adèle Haenel as Héloïse in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Image credit: Lilies Films
27/02/2028m 15s

Viviana Durante, Jeet Thayil, filming amidst the coronavirus outbreak, new visa rules for touring artists

Ballerina Viviana Durante discusses her evening of dance celebrating Isadora Duncan, whose radical barefoot dancing shocked and enthralled European audiences in the early 1900s, before she was killed in a freak accident when her scarf got caught in the wheels of a car. Life is beginning to imitate art for a British film crew in northern Italy. Director Nicholas Hulbert discusses the challenges they’re facing from the coronavirus outbreak as they film The Decameron, the 14th century Italian collection of novellas about a small group of young people sheltering in a secluded villa to escape the Black Death. Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, on the impact of the recently announced proposed changes to the immigration system to musicians and others working in the creative industries. Booker shortlisted author Jeet Thayil discusses his new novel Low, which follows one man’s weekend of self-destructive grief in Mumbai. It's a black comedy, a tender portrayal of depression and drug addiction, a love letter to Mumbai and a biting satire of contemporary Indian society. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Hannah Robins Main image: Viviana Durante Company performing Dance of the Furies in Isadora Now Image credit: David Scheinmann
26/02/2028m 22s

Zadie Smith on Authors as Readers, British Surrealism, Playwright Jingan Young, The Mirror and the Light publicity

Authors Zadie Smith and Francine Prose join Front Row to consider how authors read, as the shortlist for the Rathbones Folio Prize, largely chosen by authors, is announced. Is it with the same eyes as any other reader or are they more aware of the scaffolding as well as the building? How do they judge writing, and how does what they read inform their own work? British Surrealism at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London is the first major exhibition to explore the origins of surrealist art in Britain, positioning it as a fundamental movement in the history of art, with roots in the work of writers such as William Blake and Lewis Carroll. The show also features the significant contribution made by female artists to surrealism, including Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington and Ithell Colquhoun. Art critic Louisa Buck reviews. Jingan Young is a Hong Kong born playwright, best known for Filth: Failed in London, Try Hong Kong. She talks to Stig Abell about her new play, Life and Death of a Journalist. Set against the backdrop of the Hong Kong protests, it tells the tale of a reporter for a Chinese-owned newspaper in Britain asked to compromise her coverage to appease a powerful investor. And Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times Literary Editor, talks about the publicity surrounding Hilary Mantel's much anticipated novel The Mirror and the Light. How does the book's marketing and launch compare with the hoopla - as one newspaper described it- surrounding the last major campaign in the books world, for Margaret Atwood's The Testaments? Presenter: Stig Abell Producer: Dymphna Flynn
25/02/2028m 27s

Sarah Williams - Flesh and Blood, Todd Haynes - Dark Waters, Bradford Library Funding, Murder 24/7

Film director Todd Haynes talks to Samira about his latest film Dark Waters. Starring Tim Robbins, it's a tale of environmental catastrophe, corporate greed and an attempt to harness the power of the law to seek redress. Are libararies good for our health? Bradford City Council thinks so and are diverting a tranche of their wellbeing budget to ensure libraries can stay open for the benefit of local people. Flesh and Blood is a new crime drama set in a coastal town. It centres on a widowed mother-of-three as she begins a new relationship and stars Francesca Annis. Writer Sarah Williams discusses the family dynamics that inspired her to write the script, and about putting older women in leading roles. Murder 24/7 is a new BBC documentary series which follows real murder investigations as they evolve. Viewers get to see all the behind the scenes detective work and procedures of Essex Police, from the critical first day to through to arrest and conviction. Julia Raeside reviews. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer: Oliver Jones
24/02/2028m 16s