Great Lives

Great Lives

Biography series exploring the greatest people who ever lived. Matthew Parris interviews an eminent guest and an expert to reveal the truth behind their history heroes.

Updated: weekly
Episodes available for: Indefinitely
Series Feed: RSS

  • 10 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Stella Rimington on Dorothy L Sayers

    Dame Stella Rimington talks to Matthew Parris about her fascination with the life and writing of Dorothy L Sayers. With

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 09 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives:09 Sept 14 Labi Siffre on Arthur Ransome

    Singer-songwriter and poet Labi Siffre chooses the life of children's author Arthur Ransome whose work he says has

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 02 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Gramsci

    Dr Tom Shakespeare tells Matthew Parris why Antonio Gramsci's is a Great Life.

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 26 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Rommel

    Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, for a time Hitler's favourite general is nominated by Ray Mears. Matthew Parris hears why

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 19 Aug 15MB

    Great Lives: Oona King on Ida B Wells

    Matthew Parris leads a discussion on Ida B. Wells an African American civil rights and women's rights activist who was a

    Duration: 31 mins

  • 12 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Jazzie B on James Brown

    Matthew Parris invites his guests to nominate the person whom they feel is a great life. Music producer and DJ Jazzie B

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 05 Aug 13MB

    Great Lives: Edward Burra

    Writer Jonathan Meades nominates the English artist Edward Burra, who died in 1976, arguing that he deserves to be

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 27 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Michael Palin nominates Ernest Hemingway

    Michael Palin first came across his Great Life when he was studying for school exams, his love of Ernest Hemingway has

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 13 May 12MB

    GreatLives: John Craven on Brunel

    John Craven proposes engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Should this creator of great machines be considered a great man

    Duration: 25 mins

  • 06 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Isy Suttie on Jake Thackray

    Isy Suttie chooses Jake Thackray, Yorkshire's answer to Noel Coward. With Matthew Parris and Fake Thackray

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 06 May 12MB

    GreatLives: Emma Kirkby on Henry Purcell

    Soprano Emma Kirkby discusses the life of English composer Henry Purcell with Matthew Parris. Despite dying at the age

    Duration: 25 mins

  • 29 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Arnold Bennett

    Writer Deborah Moggach nominates the author Arnold Bennett whose work she thinks has been wrongly overlooked. Matthew

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 22 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Borges

    Mathematician Marcus de Sautoy chooses the blind Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges for Great Lives. He is fascinated

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 15 Apr 13MB

    Great Lives: Hans Sloane

    Sir Mark Walport, the government's Chief Scientific Advisor champions the life of Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 08 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Dante

    "Whenever I have too much to drink, I bang on about Dante ." Sarah Vine makes a choice from the heart - the great

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 01 Apr 13MB

    Great Lives: Jacqueline Du Pre

    Evelyn Glennie, solo percussionist talks about her admiration for the cellist Jacqueline Du Pre with presenter Matthew

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 28 Jan 13MB

    Great Lives: Lisa 'Lefteye' Lopes chosen by Sara Cox

    Sara Cox nominates Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes, a hip hop artist and rapper, the first on Great Lives. The presenter is

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 23 Jan 13MB

    Great Lives: Kahlil Gibran chosen by Mark Constantine

    Businessman Mark Constantine champions the life of Kahlil Gibran, telling Matthew Parris how the poet has inspired him

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 23 Jan 13MB

    Great Lives: Meg Rosoff on Isabella Bird

    The novelist Meg Rosoff explains how the pioneering Victorian travel writer Isabella Bird inspired her life, work and

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 14 Jan 13MB

    Great Lives: Dave Allen

    Comedian Dave Allen is chosen by Adil Ray, creator and star of Citizen Kahn. He explains to Matthew Parris how the

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 08 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: David Baddiel on John Updike

    The writer and comedian David Baddiel and the novelist Justin Cartwright explain their fascination with one of the great

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 31 Dec 13MB

    Great Lives:Sir David Chipperfield on Le Corbusier

    Pioneer of Modern architecture, Le Corbusier, chosen by award winning architect Sir David Chipperfield. Le Corbusier

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 17 Dec 13MB

    Great Lives: Michael Horovitz on Allen Ginsberg

    Matthew Parris is joined by Michael Horovitz who nominates fellow poet and founder of the Beat generation Allen Ginsberg

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 10 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Hank Williams 11 Dec 2013

    Deacon Blue singer Ricky Ross nominates the 'Hillbilly Shakespeare' Hank Williams. Matthew Parris presents.

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 02 Oct 13MB

    GreatLives: Nancy Mitford 22 Jan 13

    Grace Dent loves Nancy Mitford for her wit, and for the way in which she showed women that it was possible to live your

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 01 Oct 13MB

    GreatLives: Bernard Montgomery 01 Oct 13

    In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable" – so said Winston Churchill on this week's Great Live, Field Marshal

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 24 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: John Steinbeck 24 Sept 13

    Matthew Parris is joined by trade unionist Sir Brendan Barber who nominates American author John Steinbeck as his Great

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 17 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Ada Lovelace

    Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's only legitimate daughter is championed by TV presenter Konnie Huq , who along with Suw

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 10 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: George Devine

    Matthew Parris is joined by actor Peter Bowles who nominates George Devine, groundbreaking artistic director of the

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 03 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Louise Michel 03 Sept 13

    TV journalist and writer Paul Mason talks to Matthew Parris about the 19th Century French anarchist, Louise Michel,

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 27 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Ava Gardner

    The writer Julie Burchill talks to Matthew Parris about the Hollywood star Ava Gardner. They're joined by Ava's

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 20 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Rabindranath Tagore

    Playwright Tanika Gupta chooses as her Great Life, a man who is a hero to Bengali speakers across the World,

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 13 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Fela Kuti

    Poet, playwright, and critic Gabriel Gbadamosi chooses as his Great Life the political maverick and inventor of

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 06 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Ivor Novello

    Astrologer and performer Russell Grant chooses one of the greatest screen legends of cinema's early years – Ivor

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 05 Jun 13MB

    GreatLives: Florence Nightingale 28 May 13

    Dr Lucy Worsley, historian and Chief Curator at the independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, chooses 'The Lady with

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 21 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Primo Levi 21 May 13

    Edmund de Waal chooses a writer he believes is one of the greatest of the modern age - Primo Levi, author of the

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 14 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Salvador Dali 14 May 13

    John Cooper Clarke, poetry's Punk Laureate and the Bard of Salford, nominates Salvador Dali for great life status -

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 07 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Bill Shankly 7 May 13

    Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts champions the football manager Bill Shankly, who nurtured Liverpool to become one of the

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 30 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Arthur Conan Doyle 30 Apr 13

    Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth nominates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as his "Great Life". Matthew Parris chairs, assisted by

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 23 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: David Livingstone 23 Apr 13

    Dr David Livingstone was the Victorian equivalent of an astronaut - a man who ventured into the interior of Africa to

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 16 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Kenny Everett 16 Apr 13

    Chris Tarrant nominates Kenny Everett, mad little geezer and genius deejay. Matthew Parris presents with help from

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 09 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Galileo 09 Apr 13

    Bobby Friction - DJ and broadcaster better known for his Bhangra music remixes - champions Galileo Galilei, the Italian

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 02 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: George Bell 02 Apr 13

    Peter Hitchens chooses George Bell, bishop of Chichester, who spoke out against the area bombing of Germany in 1944.

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 29 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: William Robinson 29 Jan 13

    Gardener Carol Klein's great life is a hero of the wild garden, William Robinson. Matthew Parris presents with expert

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 15 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Aubrey Beardsley

    Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on the Victorian artist Aubrey Beardsley, whose shocking originality he compares to that of

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 08 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: JS Mill

    Max Mosley chooses John Stuart Mill, British philosopher and author of On Liberty. Matthew Parris presents.

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 01 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Rasputin

    Was Rasputin really the lover of the Russian queen ? Richard Herring nominates his hero with help from Bob Service.

    Duration: 27 mins

  • 25 Dec 12MB

    GreatLives: Vaughan Williams 25 Dec 12

    Classical composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is the hero of 6Music presenter Stuart Maconie. Matthew Parris is intrigued,

    Duration: 25 mins

  • 11 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Jean Cocteau

    Children's author Francesca Simon chooses for her great life the writer, poet, filmmaker and artist Jean Cocteau.

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 04 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: 04 Dec 12 Dick Francis

    Dick Francis, champion jockey and bestselling author, chosen by Martin Broughton. Matthew Parris presents.

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 28 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: George Orwell

    In conversation with Matthew Parris, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson explains why Orwell was crucial to his education

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 25 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Edith Wharton

    "If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time." Edith Wharton is as well known for her wit as

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 11 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Karel Reisz

    Film director Stephen Frears discusses the life of his mentor, Czech-born director, Karel Reisz, with the help of critic

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 04 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Stan Laurel

    Comedian and performer Ken Dodd tells Matthew Parris how Stan Laurel inspired him to go into comedy, with the help of

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 29 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Juvenal

    Matthew Parris invites writer and comic Natalie Haynes to explain why her nomination for a Great Life is a Roman poet

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 21 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Leonard Maguire

    Matthew Parris finds out why the actor Bill Paterson nominates the Scottish actor Leonard Maguire for Great Life status.

    Duration: 27 mins

  • 14 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Sir Walter Scott

    Tory MP, author and adventurer Rory Stewart champions the life of Sir Walter Scott. Matthew Parris is joined by

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 07 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Josephine Bonaparte

    Jospehine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon and first empress of France, nominated by Janine di Giovanni. Matthew Parris

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 31 Jul 13MB

    GreatLives: Henry Cooper

    Des Lynam nominates Henry Cooper, who fought Muhammed Ali twice. Matthew Parris presents and expert advice comes from

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 22 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Sebastian Walker

    Lynn Barber talks to Matthew Parris about why Sebastian Walker remains such a memorable friend. They're joined by

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 15 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Goya

    Diana Athill joins Matthew Parris to explore the life of the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya with the help of art

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 08 May 13MB

    GreatLives: John Ford

    John Ford, director of Stagecoach, The Searchers and The Grapes of Wrath, is chosen by Eric Pickles for Great Lives.

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 26 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Edward Said

    In Great Lives, comedian and author Alexei Sayle explains to Matthew Parris why Edward Said inspired him.

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 24 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: George Lyward

    Musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson tells Matthew Parris how educationalist George Lyward saved his life. Dr Norman

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 17 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Gertrude Stein

    Activist and best-selling novelist Erin Pizzey chooses the American poet and writer Gertrude Stein. Joining presenter

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 10 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Oscar Wilde

    Will Self chooses Oscar Wilde, author of The Importance of Being Earnest. Matthew Parris presents with expert

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 03 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Dylan Thomas

    Dylan Thomas proposed by another Welsh poet Owen Sheers in a specially recorded edition at Bristol's More Than Words

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 31 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Razia Sultana 31 Jan 12

    Co-chairman of the Conservative party Sayeeda Warsi tells Matthew Parris why she's fascinated by the much mythologized

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 24 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Vera Brittain 23 Jan 12

    The pacifist Vera Brittain - who bore witness to the toll of the First World War on her generation - is discussed by her

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 17 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Gracie Allen 1 Jan 12

    Matthew Parris is joined by the actress Emma Kennedy to explore the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen.

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 10 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Joseph Rotblat 10 Jan 12

    Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees tells Matthew Parris why his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat, lived a "great life".

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 03 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Lonnie Donegan 3 Jan 12

    Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter tells Matthew Parris why skiffle king Lonnie Donegan is his hero. Lonnie Donegan is

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 27 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Ludwig II of Bavaria 27 Dec 11

    Brian Sewell on his long-standing love of "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the ultimate fantasy castle at

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 20 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Thomas Hobbes 20 Dec 11

    Thomas Hobbes: the writer and psychologist Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great English

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 13 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Ludwig Wittgenstein 13 Dec 11

    Ludwig Wittgenstein, the fascinating and misunderstood genius who changed the course of philosophy, is chosen by writer

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 06 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Philip K Dick 06 Dec 11

    Actor Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon; The Queen; Midnight in Paris) explores the life of Philip K Dick, and explains how

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 07 Oct 13MB

    GreatLives: Shakespeare 30 Aug 11

    The bard himself, William Shakespeare, is nominated for great life status by poetry curator, Daisy Goodwin. Dominic

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 27 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: 27.09.11: Gerald Durrell

    Great Lives. Former England footballer Graeme le Saux champions the life of conservationist Gerald Durrell. Also joining

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 20 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Hildegard von Bingen 20 Sept 11

    The singer and broadcaster Cerys Matthews tells Matthew Parris why she thinks the life of the 12th century nun,

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 13 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Lutyens 13 Sept 11

    Edwin Lutyens, architect of New Delhi and the Cenotaph, chosen for Great Lives by Simon Jenkins. Expert advice from

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 06 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Hans Fallada 06 Sept 11

    Fast Show comedian Simon Day tells Matthew Parris why he's fascinated by the life of German author Hans Fallada. Matthew

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 23 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Eduardo Paolozzi 23 Aug 11

    Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates his friend the sculptor and forefather of Pop Art Eduardo Paolozzi as a Great

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 09 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Kirsty MacColl 09 Aug 11

    Broadcaster Janice Long tells Matthew Parris why her friend singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl led a "great life" despite

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 02 Aug 13MB

    GreatLives: Graham Greene 02 Aug 11

    Graham Greene, author of Brighton Rock and The Third Man, proposed by Tim Butcher. Matthew Parris presents and David

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 24 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Harold Pinter 24 May 11

    Playwright Harold Pinter is chosen by Diane Abbott MP. With expert assistance from the critic and biographer Michael

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 17 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Jack Johnson 17 May 11

    Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, was the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. Chosen by Matthew

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 10 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Petra Kelly 10 May 11

    Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who's inspired their lives. Green MP

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 03 May 13MB

    GreatLives: Lewis Carroll 03 May 11

    Matthew Parris and writer Lynne Truss discuss the life of author Lewis Carroll. Famous for the Alice books, Carroll was

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 26 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Kathleen Ferrier 27 Apr 11

    Broadcaster Sue MacGregor nominates singer Kathleen Ferrer, who died tragically young. Matthew Parris presents, with the

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 19 Apr 12MB

    GreatLives: Simone de Beauvoir

    Actress Diana Quick tells Matthew Parris why Simone de Beauvoir changed her life after reading "The Second Sex". Lisa

    Duration: 26 mins

  • 12 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Bernstein 12 Apr 10

    Leonard Bernstein, composer of West Side Story, was one of the greatest musical figures of the twentieth century. He's

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 05 Apr 13MB

    GreatLives: Thomas Edison 05 April 11

    Sir Clive Sinclair nominates fellow inventor Thomas Edison. Edison invented sound recording, the electric light bulb and

    Duration: 27 mins

  • 01 Feb 13MB

    GreatLives: Marcus Garvey 01 Feb 11

    Kwame Kwei-Armah chooses Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader of the early twentieth century. With biographer

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 25 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Mary Stott 25 Jan 2011

    Katharine Whitehorn nominates Mary Stott, the great campaigning journalist and the first editor of the Guardian women's

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 18 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Gertrude Bell 18 Jan 11

    Iraqi-born physicist Jim al-Khalili explores the life of Gertrude Bell, adventurer, archaeologist and arguably the

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 04 Jan 13MB

    GreatLives: Aneurin Bevan 04 Jan 11

    Matthew Parris explores the life of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS, chosen by the former leader of the Labour

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 28 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Sammy Davis Jr 28 Dec 10

    Lionel Blair chooses his friend and dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr - Puerto Rican, Jewish, and possessing only one eye,

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 21 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Beckett 21 Dec 10

    Sir Gerry Robinson chooses fellow Irishman Samuel Beckett. Matthew Parris presents and Jim Knowlson, a personal friend

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 14 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: DH Lawrence 14 Dec 10

    Matthew Parris is joined by John Hegley and Geoff Dyer to discuss the life of DH Lawrence, author, poet, painter, who

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 07 Dec 13MB

    GreatLives: Malcolm McLaren 07 Dec 10

    Was Malcolm McLaren a musical great, or the great rock n' roll swindler ? Mark Borkowski joins Matthew Parris and Chris

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 28 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Walt Disney 28 Sept 10

    Gerald Scarfe, creator of some of the most savage cartoon images of the last forty years, chooses Walt Disney for Great

    Duration: 29 mins

  • 21 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Montaigne 21 Sept 10

    Robert Winston chooses Michel de Montaigne, one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. Adding their

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 14 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Winston Churchill 14 Sept 10

    Winston Churchill's is the Great Life chosen by Lord Digby Jones, former Director General of the CBI. Expert

    Duration: 28 mins

  • 07 Sep 13MB

    GreatLives: Golda Meir 07 Sept 10

    Golda Meir was the Iron Lady of Israeli politics, a straight-talking, intransigent leader who once said, "There is a

    Duration: 28 mins