BBC Radio 3 announces a major reappraisal of the Anglo Saxon era through a 30-part series, The Essay: Anglo-Saxon Portraits.
Leading scholars and passionate broadcasters from the worlds of history, archaeology, religion, literature and art have been commissioned to write and read on-air portraits of 30 key Anglo-Saxon men and women. The series combines creative writing and recent scholarship to shed new light on this remarkable and often overlooked period in history.
The series will run in three 10-part essay series starting on Monday 15 October, and again in January and April 2013. The series will be all-encompassing, exploring the lives not only of influential individuals of the time but also the lives of men and women whose names may have faded with history, but whose work is just as significant today.
For example, the peasant farmers, whose labour created the sight of the classic English village surrounded by fields and the blacksmiths and goldsmiths who once laboured over treasures such as the famous Staffordshire hoard, uncovered in 2009.
Some of the many highlights include children’s author David Almond who has reimagined the life of Caedmon, the very first poet to write in the English language whose work has survived.
In addition, outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams gives a heart-felt account of the career of St Augustine at the point in which he arrived from Rome and took up his role as the first ever Archbishop of Canterbury.
Historian Michael Wood celebrates the life of Penda of Mercia, the last pagan King of England, whom he believes may have been the last man to wear items from the Staffordshire hoard.
Archaeologist Martin Carver discusses ‘three Anglo-Saxon alpha-females’ and Barbara Yorke tells the story of her heroine, Hild of Whitby, the abbess who ran a monastery the size of a small town and was in charge of the education of future bishops.
Later in the series running in January 2013, the poet Seamus Heaney speaks of the hero of the great Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf; Geoffrey Robinson QC explores the legacy of the Anglo-Saxon law-maker and Clive Anderson talks about King Harold.
The final programme of the 30-part series will be on the embroiderers of the Bayeux Tapestry; the magnificent art-work which so decisively marks the close of the Anglo-Saxon era.
Roger Wright, Controller of BBC Radio 3, said: “The Essay's major reappraisal of key figures from Anglo Saxon times is another example of the quality and diversity of BBC Radio 3’s output. From Caedmon to St Augustine and Eadfrith the Scribe to the hero Beowulf, this fascinating period of history will be brought to life through key figures painted in verbal portraits by some of the world's leading writers and scholars.”
Notes to Editors
The first 10 essays will run from Monday 15 October to Friday 26 October.
Radio 3’s The Essay programme features authored essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond, themed across a week. The Essay is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Monday to Friday from 22:45 – 23:00.
BBC Radio 3 is the home of classical music. The station also broadcasts a wide range of cultural programming including jazz, world music, arts and over 30 new drama programmes a year. BBC Radio 3 features more live classical music programming than any other and is the home of the BBC Proms, broadcasting every Prom live and over 600 complete concerts a year. The station is also the most significant commissioner of new musical works in the country and is committed to supporting new talent, composers, writers and new young performers through schemes such as World Routes Academy, New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers.
1. Vortigen: Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford discusses the near-legendary British warlord who may have invited the Anglo-Saxon legendary invaders.
2. The peasant-farmer: Helena Hamerow, Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Oxford, on the voiceless millions of peasant-farmers who shaped the landscape of lowland rural England as we see it today.
3. St Augustine: Rowan Williams, outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury discusses the first ever Archbishop of Canterbury and his challenge of leading and converting late 6th century England. This heart-felt piece is based around the touchingly human letters which the isolated and under-confident Augustine sent to Pope Gregory back in Rome, often expressing a surprising preoccupation with sex, religion and the English.
4. Three Alpha-females: Martin Carver explains how excavations from three Anglo Saxon graves has provided insight into the lives of women would otherwise be silent.
5. King Raewald: Martin Carver, archaeologist of Sutton Hoo and editor of Antiquity Magazine, discusses the occupant of the magnificent ship burial at Sutton Hoo, King Raedwald.
6. King Edwin: Richard Gameson discusses the Northumbrian king whose conversion to Christianity was the occasion for one of the most poetic descriptions of human life of all time, as recorded by the great Anglo Saxon historian, Bede.
7. Penda of Mercia: Michael Wood, historian and broadcaster, discusses the last Pagan king in Britain, who may also have been the last man to wear items from the magnificent Staffordshire Hoard.
8. Hilde of Whitby: Barbara Yorke, Emeritus Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Winchester discusses the now largely forgotten but hugely influential abbess Hilde of Whitby.
9. St Cuthbert: Tony Morris, former editor of history for Oxford University Press discusses St Cuthbert, and his continuing appeal today both on and far beyond the beautiful island of Lindisfarne where he made his home.
10. Eadfrith the Scribe: Richard Gameson, specialist in the history of the book at Durham University, discusses the creators of perhaps the greatest treasures from the entire Anglo-Saxon era - the illuminated book.
The Essay's major reappraisal of key figures from Anglo Saxon times is another example of the quality and diversity of BBC Radio 3’s output.”