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:
                Indefinitely help

              Subscribe for free

              Subscribe to this podcast and automatically receive the latest episodes.

              More help with subscribing

              All episodes (122)

              • 26May15 Louis Braille

                Thu, 28 May 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                David Blunkett discusses the life of Louis Braille, the French peasant boy who went on to develop the eponymous reading and writing system.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • GreatLives:19May15 JG Winant by Matthew Barzun

                Tue, 19 May 15

                Duration:
                25 mins

                The American Ambassador chooses Jon Gil Winant, Roosevelt's envoy to London during World War Two

                Download 12MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Marlon Brando by Antonia Quirke

                Tue, 12 May 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Marlon Brando - greatest actor of the twentieth century? Film critic Antonia Quirke definitely thinks he is. But the star of the Godfather, On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire divides opinion in this lively assessment of his life. With contributions from writer Robyn Karney and Joe Queenan in the United States. Matthew Parris presents. The producer is Miles Warde.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Wendy Cope on John Clare

                Tue, 5 May 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                The poet Wendy Cope chooses for her Great Life that of John Clare. The expert witness in the studio with Matthew Parris and Wendy Cope is Sir Jonathan Bate, Clare's biographer.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 28 Apr 15: Dame Helen Ghosh on James Lees-Milne

                Tue, 28 Apr 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris's guest is Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, who chooses as her Great Life James Lees-Milne who worked for the Trust between 1936 and 1966. He was responsible for acquiring many of the Trust's most iconic properties and his particular talent was his ability to persuade the aristocratic owners of the houses into handing them over to the Trust for protection. His other talent was in writing, and it is his deliciously indiscreet diaries for which many people know him. Merlin Waterson, who was a friend of Lees-Milne's, is the expert witness.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: Zoran Music

                Tue, 21 Apr 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Comedian and actor Kulvinder Ghir nominates the artist Zoran Music who painted corpses in Dachau concentration camp. Matthew Parris presents with art expert Michael Peppiatt. Producer,Perminder Khatkar.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 14 Apr 15: Rachel Johnson on Ottoline Morrell

                Tue, 14 Apr 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Rachel Johnson author and journalist champions the life of Ottoline Morrell and tells Matthew Parris why she is a Great Life.They are also joined by biographer Miranda Seymour. Producer : Perminder Khatkar.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 07 Apr 15: Sir Trevor McDonald on Learie Constantine

                Tue, 7 Apr 15

                Duration:
                25 mins

                The veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald chooses the life of Learie Constantine, the Trinidadian cricketer, politician and broadcaster who championed the rights of West Indians in Britain during the war years and afterwards.

                Download 12MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 30Jan15 Mervyn King on Risto Ryti

                Tue, 27 Jan 15

                Duration:
                29 mins

                The Finnish Prime Minster and banker is profiled by Sir Mervyn King

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • GreatLives:20Jan15 Nora Ephrom

                Mon, 26 Jan 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Journalist Eve Pollard chooses the life of the stage and screenplay writer Nora Ephrom, famous for writing When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 13 Jan 15: Guy Burgess

                Tue, 13 Jan 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Michael Dobbs champions the life of Guy Burgess - journalist, diplomat and spy. Matthew Parris chairs and Burgess’s biographer Stewart Purvis contributes to the debate.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 06 Jan 14: Richard the Third

                Tue, 6 Jan 15

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris talks to Philippa Langley, who led the search for the remains of Richard III in Leicester, to find out why for her his was a Great Life.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 30 DEC 14: Roald Dahl

                Tue, 30 Dec 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Professor Tom Solomon proposes Roald Dahl for Great Life status.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 23Dec14: Michael Young

                Tue, 23 Dec 14

                Duration:
                25 mins

                The musician Brian Eno nominates Michael Young

                Download 12MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 16 Dec 14 : Louisa M Alcott

                Tue, 16 Dec 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Journalist Laura Bates tells Matthew Parris why her nomination for a Great Life is Louisa M. Alcott, author of Little Women.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 09Dec14: Emil Zatopek

                Tue, 9 Dec 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Comedian Arthur Smith on Czech runner Emil Zatopek

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 30 Sept 14 Lucille Ball

                Thu, 2 Oct 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris asks Professor Edith Hall about the life and work of Lucille Ball, whom she nominates as a Great Life. Producer: Christine Hall

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 23 Sept 14 Joseph Bazalgette

                Thu, 2 Oct 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris talks to Lord Adonis about the life of Sir Joseph Bazalgette and is joined by his great-great-grandson Peter. Producer: Christine Hall

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 10 Sept 14 Dorothy L Sayers

                Wed, 10 Sep 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 09 Sept 14 Arthur Ransome

                Tue, 9 Sep 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Singer-songwriter and poet Labi Siffre chooses the life of children's author Arthur Ransome whose work he says has taught him more about moral responsibility than any holy book.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 02 Sept 14 Gramsci

                Tue, 2 Sep 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 26 Aug 14 Rommel

                Tue, 26 Aug 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, for a time Hitler's favourite general is nominated by Ray Mears. Matthew Parris hears why this German soldier was a "great life".

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: 19 Aug 14 Ida B Wells

                Tue, 19 Aug 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris leads a discussion on Ida B. Wells an African American civil rights and women's rights activist who was a political trailblazer and the choice of Baroness Oona King.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 12 Aug 14 James Brown

                Tue, 12 Aug 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris invites his guests to nominate the person whom they feel is a great life. Music producer and DJ Jazzie B of Soul II Soul chooses James Brown.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: 05 Aug 14 Edward Burra

                Tue, 5 Aug 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Writer Jonathan Meades nominates the English artist Edward Burra, who died in 1976, arguing that he deserves to be better known. With Matthew Parris and biographer Jane Stevenson.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Michael Palin nominates Ernest Hemingway

                Tue, 27 May 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Michael Palin first came across his Great Life when he was studying for school exams, his love of Ernest Hemingway has never gone away. He along with expert Naomi Wood tell Matthew Parris why this twentieth century legend is a Great Life. Producer :Perminder Khatkar

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • John Craven on Brunel

                Tue, 13 May 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                John Craven proposes engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Should this creator of great machines be considered a great man or is his finest feat the engineering of his own reputation?

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Isy Suttie on Jake Thackray

                Tue, 6 May 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Emma Kirkby on Henry Purcell

                Tue, 6 May 14

                Duration:
                25 mins

                Soprano Emma Kirkby discusses the life of English composer Henry Purcell with Matthew Parris. Despite dying at the age of 36, Purcell was arguably the first composer to become a national figure, as shown by his funeral at Westminster Abbey. Living through turbulent times, and through the reign of three monarchs, Purcell had to cope with shifting Catholic and Protestant regimes while producing a steady output of religious music. But he also did some of his most memorable and enduring work for the commercial theatre. Few composers have set the English language to music so felicitously. After his death, Britain produced few world class composers for 200 years. To discuss his legacy, Emma and Matthew are joined by Purcell scholar Michael Burden

                Download 12MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Arnold Bennett

                Tue, 29 Apr 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Writer Deborah Moggach nominates the author Arnold Bennett whose work she thinks has been wrongly overlooked. Matthew Parris presents and Gyles Brandethn brings his enthusiasm and expertise.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Borges

                Tue, 22 Apr 14

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Mathematician Marcus de Sautoy chooses the blind Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges for Great Lives. He is fascinated by the connection between the creator of 'The Library of Babel' and science - did Borges really understand notions of infinity and space ? Biographer Jason Wilson adds colourful detail to the life of a great writer whom he insists was just being impish when it came to the weighty matters that have excited more than one mathematician over the years. The programme includes beautiful recordings of Borges in conversation in 1971. Marcus du Sautoy is the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Understanding of Science. The presenter is Matthew Parris, and the producer is Miles Warde

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: Hans Sloane

                Tue, 15 Apr 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Sir Mark Walport, the government's Chief Scientific Advisor champions the life of Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum. Along with expert Marjorie Caygill they tell Matthew Parris why they think Sloane is the mother and father of all collectors. Producer : Perminder Khatkar.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Dante

                Tue, 8 Apr 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                "Whenever I have too much to drink, I bang on about Dante ...." Sarah Vine makes a choice from the heart - the great Italian writer Dante Alighieri, father of the Italian language and author of the Divine Comedy. Matthew Parris presents, the producer is Miles Warde.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: Jacqueline Du Pre

                Tue, 1 Apr 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Evelyn Glennie, solo percussionist talks about her admiration for the cellist Jacqueline Du Pre with presenter Matthew Parris. Producer: Perminder Khatkar

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

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

                Tue, 28 Jan 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Sara Cox nominates Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes, a hip hop artist and rapper, the first on Great Lives. The presenter is Matthew Parris. Producer: Perminder Khatkar. Assistant Producer: Milly Chowles.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: Kahlil Gibran chosen by Mark Constantine

                Thu, 23 Jan 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Businessman Mark Constantine champions the life of Kahlil Gibran, telling Matthew Parris how the poet has inspired him both at work and throughout his personal life.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: Meg Rosoff on Isabella Bird

                Thu, 23 Jan 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: Dave Allen

                Tue, 14 Jan 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Comedian Dave Allen is chosen by Adil Ray, creator and star of Citizen Kahn. He explains to Matthew Parris how the legendary Irish comic helped shape his own career.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • David Baddiel on John Updike

                Wed, 8 Jan 14

                Duration:
                28 mins

                The writer and comedian David Baddiel and the novelist Justin Cartwright explain their fascination with one of the great figures of American literature, John Updike

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives:Sir David Chipperfield on Le Corbusier

                Tue, 31 Dec 13

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Pioneer of Modern architecture, Le Corbusier, chosen by award winning architect Sir David Chipperfield. Le Corbusier aimed to build a better world through radical buildings and the controversial reshaping of whole cities. Flora Samuel, Professor of Architecture at the University of Sheffield, joins Matthew Parris to unpick the life of a man who considered himself a herioc figure, fighting battles to improve the world. Presenter: Matthew Parris. Producer: Melvin Rickarby

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Great Lives: Michael Horovitz on Allen Ginsberg

                Tue, 17 Dec 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris is joined by Michael Horovitz who nominates fellow poet and founder of the Beat generation Allen Ginsberg as his Great Life. Ginsberg's friend and biographer Barry Miles provides biographical detail of this colourful and controversial writer, who through his battle for free expression inspired American counter culture. Producer: Melvin Rickarby

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Hank Williams 11 Dec 2013

                Tue, 10 Dec 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Nancy Mitford 22 Jan 13

                Wed, 2 Oct 13

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Grace Dent loves Nancy Mitford for her wit, and for the way in which she showed women that it was possible to live your life. Grace Dent is a TV critic, newspaper columnist, author, and broadcaster - and a feared presence on Twitter. Nancy Mitford's greatest success came with the novels The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949). Matthew Parris asks what it is about Nancy that so inspires Grace, with the aid of biographer Lisa Hilton. Producer Beth O'Dea

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Bernard Montgomery 01 Oct 13

                Tue, 1 Oct 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable" – so said Winston Churchill on this week's Great Live, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. Many would argue that he was Britain's greatest field commander since Wellington - arrogant, hard to like but undeniably successful – one of the most, perhaps the most, conspicuously successful British commander of the Second World War. He was a national celebrity. In this edition of Great Lives - Al Murray - comedian and TV personality best known for his character of 'The Pub Landlord' champions Monty – and Al starts off by showing presenter Matthew Parris his action figure doll of the man. Producer : Perminder Khatkar

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • John Steinbeck 24 Sept 13

                Tue, 24 Sep 13

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Matthew Parris is joined by trade unionist Sir Brendan Barber who nominates American author John Steinbeck as his Great Life. The author of The Grapes of Wrath aimed to fight the cause of the common man, was derided by the right as a Communist and by the left as a sell-out for supporting the Vietnam war. Brendan Barber picks through the politics and explains how Steinbeck influenced him as a teenager to look towards joining the trade union movement. Producer: Melvin Rickarby

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Ada Lovelace

                Tue, 17 Sep 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's only legitimate daughter is championed by TV presenter Konnie Huq , who along with Suw Charman Anderson tell Matthew Parris why she is a Great Life.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • George Devine

                Tue, 10 Sep 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris is joined by actor Peter Bowles who nominates George Devine, groundbreaking artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre. Devine battled against repressive censorship, enhanced the careers of actors like Lawrence Olivier and Peggy Ashcroft, and by discovering writers like John Osborne and other Angry Young Men changed British theatre forever. Helping guide us through the landscape of Devine's life is Philip Roberts, Emeritus Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds. Produced in Bristol by Melvin Rickarby

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Louise Michel 03 Sept 13

                Tue, 3 Sep 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                TV journalist and writer Paul Mason talks to Matthew Parris about the 19th Century French anarchist, Louise Michel, heroine of the Paris Commune. They're joined by historian Carolyn Eichner who says that Michel "expounded action and aggression with a theatrical, infectious elegance." Producer: Peter Everett

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Ava Gardner

                Tue, 27 Aug 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                The writer Julie Burchill talks to Matthew Parris about the Hollywood star Ava Gardner. They're joined by Ava's biographer Lee Server. Often described as "the most beautiful woman in the world", Ava Gardner made 65 movies, ranging from ‘Mogambo' (for which she won an Oscar nomination) to ‘Maisie Goes To Reno' (for which she didn't). She had three husbands (Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra) and hundreds of lovers including Howard Hughes, David Niven, Robert Mitchum, John F.Kennedy and various playboys, beach-boys and bullfighters. She was, says Matthew Parris, a "hard-drinking, wisecracking, libidinous vamp – a liberated woman before the phrase was invented.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Rabindranath Tagore

                Tue, 20 Aug 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Playwright Tanika Gupta chooses as her Great Life, a man who is a hero to Bengali speakers across the World, Rabindranath Tagore. Born in 1861, to a wealthy family in Calcutta, Tagore would be the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, his work spanning every genre. He was also a humanist, philanthropist, and thinker, whose friends included Yeats and Gandhi. The producer is Lizz Pearson

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Fela Kuti

                Tue, 13 Aug 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Poet, playwright, and critic Gabriel Gbadamosi chooses as his Great Life the political maverick and inventor of Afrobeat, musician Fela Kuti, and tells Matthew Parris why his work deserves to be better known. Whether withstanding ferocious beatings from the Nigerian police, insulting his audiences, or demanding a million pounds in cash upfront from Motown records, his strength and stubbornness were legendary, and his gift for controversy unmatched. Fela had more than 25 wives, some of whom he beat, and was President of his own self proclaimed Republic. He smoked dope and was the scourge of the rulers of a corrupt Nigerian state and was acclaimed as having the best live band on earth. Gabriel Gbadamosi is joined by Stephen Chan, professor of International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, to discuss the musical and political life of this outspoken force of nature. Presenter: Matthew Parris Producer: Melvin Rickarby

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Ivor Novello

                Tue, 6 Aug 13

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Astrologer and performer Russell Grant chooses one of the greatest screen legends of cinema's early years – Ivor Novello. Born in 1893 in Cardiff, he was also a talented writer and composer, and would dominate both screen and stage with his epic romantic fantasies, until his death in 1951. Produced by Lizz Pearson

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Florence Nightingale 28 May 13

                Wed, 5 Jun 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Dr Lucy Worsley, historian and Chief Curator at the independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, chooses 'The Lady with the Lamp', Florence Nightingale. She's joined by biographer Mark Bostridge. Matthew Parris chairs. Producer: Lizz Pearson

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Primo Levi 21 May 13

                Tue, 21 May 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Edmund de Waal chooses a writer he believes is one of the greatest of the modern age - Primo Levi, author of the Periodic Table. Born in 1919 in Turin, Levi was an Italian Jew, one of the few deported to Auschwitz who would escape alive. Ceramicist and author Edmund de Waal joins Matthew Parris to discuss how Levi's work inspired The Hare With Amber Eyes - his own memoir of his family's history as Jews in 19th and 20th century Europe. And biographer Ian Thomson, one of the last to interview Levi, explains why we shouldn't confuse Levi the writer with Levi the man. Producer: Lizz Pearson

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Salvador Dali 14 May 13

                Tue, 14 May 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                John Cooper Clarke, poetry's Punk Laureate and the Bard of Salford, nominates Salvador Dali for great life status - melting clocks, Mae West lip sofas, lobster telephones and all. Producer: Mark Smalley

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Bill Shankly 7 May 13

                Tue, 7 May 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts champions the football manager Bill Shankly, who nurtured Liverpool to become one of the world's greatest sides. Matthew Parris chairs. Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Arthur Conan Doyle 30 Apr 13

                Tue, 30 Apr 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth nominates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as his "Great Life". Matthew Parris chairs, assisted by biographer Andrew Lycett. Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • David Livingstone 23 Apr 13

                Tue, 23 Apr 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Dr David Livingstone was the Victorian equivalent of an astronaut - a man who ventured into the interior of Africa to report on territory that was wholly unknown to Europeans. In this programme, the explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell explains why he admires his predecessor. Matthew Parris chairs the discussion, assisted by Dr Sarah Worden of the National Museum of Scotland. Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Kenny Everett 16 Apr 13

                Tue, 16 Apr 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Chris Tarrant nominates Kenny Everett, mad little geezer and genius deejay. Matthew Parris presents with help from biographer James Hogg and Captain Kremmen of the Star Corps.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Galileo 09 Apr 13

                Tue, 9 Apr 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Bobby Friction - DJ and broadcaster better known for his Bhangra music remixes - champions Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist and astronomer. For Bobby Galileo is almost 'God like' - If he didn't recant it would have been the ultimate two-fingered salute". Expert contributions come from Dr David Berman from Queen Mary, University of London. Producer : Perminder Khatkar.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • George Bell 02 Apr 13

                Tue, 2 Apr 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • William Robinson 29 Jan 13

                Tue, 29 Jan 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Aubrey Beardsley

                Tue, 15 Jan 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on the Victorian artist Aubrey Beardsley, whose shocking originality he compares to that of Alexander McQueen. Laurence's first foray into art was copying Beardsley drawings to sell at his school - with the more erotic ones fetching a premium price... Biographer Matthew Sturgis fills in the detail of Beardsley's short but extraordinary life, and Matthew Parris presents. Producer Beth O'Dea

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • JS Mill

                Tue, 8 Jan 13

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Rasputin

                Tue, 1 Jan 13

                Duration:
                27 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Vaughan Williams 25 Dec 12

                Tue, 25 Dec 12

                Duration:
                25 mins

                Classical composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is the hero of 6Music presenter Stuart Maconie. Matthew Parris is intrigued, and brings along the Chair of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society to tell us more.

                Download 12MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Jean Cocteau

                Tue, 11 Dec 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 04 Dec 12 Dick Francis

                Tue, 4 Dec 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • George Orwell

                Fri, 28 Sep 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                In conversation with Matthew Parris, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson explains why Orwell was crucial to his education and political development. He's surprised to learn that Orwell is not on the National Curriculum, and insists that Orwell would have hated I.D. cards. They're joined by Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster and Chair of the Orwell Prize. Orwell was in the news recently when the outgoing Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, turned down a proposal to erect a statue of George Orwell outside BBC Broadcasting House, reportedly telling Joan Bakewell that it was 'far too Left-wing an idea.' Producer: Toby Field

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Edith Wharton

                Tue, 25 Sep 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                "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 for her novels. Born in 1862, she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, for The Age of Innocence in 1921. She is nominated by Naomi Wolf, the provocative American commentator and author of The Beauty Myth. Presenter Matthew Parris is also joined in the studio by Janet Beer and Avril Horner. The producer is Jolyon Jenkins.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Karel Reisz

                Tue, 11 Sep 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Film director Stephen Frears discusses the life of his mentor, Czech-born director, Karel Reisz, with the help of critic and Reisz's friend, John Lahr. Frears is one of Britain's most successful directors, responsible for "My Beautiful Laundrette", "Dangerous Liaisons", and "Dirty Pretty Things", among many others. Reisz is probably best known for "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", and "The French Lieutenant's Woman". "Karel took me into his life and into his family and he took on the business of turning me into whatever it is I've become," Frears has said. "Without him, I wouldn't have become a film director". Matthew Parris chairs the discussion.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Stan Laurel

                Tue, 4 Sep 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Juvenal

                Wed, 29 Aug 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris invites writer and comic Natalie Haynes to explain why her nomination for a Great Life is a Roman poet about whose life we know very little.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Leonard Maguire

                Tue, 21 Aug 12

                Duration:
                27 mins

                Matthew Parris finds out why the actor Bill Paterson nominates the Scottish actor Leonard Maguire for Great Life status. The expert witness is Leonard Maguire's writer daughter, Susie.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Sir Walter Scott

                Tue, 14 Aug 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Tory MP, author and adventurer Rory Stewart champions the life of Sir Walter Scott. Matthew Parris is joined by biographer Stuart Kelly. Did Scott invent the idea of Scottishness?

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Josephine Bonaparte

                Tue, 7 Aug 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Jospehine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon and first empress of France, nominated by Janine di Giovanni. Matthew Parris presents and expert advice from Andrea Stuart.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Henry Cooper

                Tue, 31 Jul 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Sebastian Walker

                Tue, 22 May 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Lynn Barber talks to Matthew Parris about why Sebastian Walker remains such a memorable friend. They're joined by Walker's sister and biographer Mirabel Cecil.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Goya

                Tue, 15 May 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Diana Athill joins Matthew Parris to explore the life of the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya with the help of art historian Dr Sarah Symmons and reader Javier Marzan.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • John Ford

                Tue, 8 May 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Edward Said

                Thu, 26 Apr 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • George Lyward

                Tue, 24 Apr 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Gertrude Stein

                Tue, 17 Apr 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Activist and best-selling novelist Erin Pizzey chooses the American poet and writer Gertrude Stein. Joining presenter Matthew Parris in the studio is Diana Souhami, author of "Gertrude and Alice".

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Oscar Wilde

                Tue, 10 Apr 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Will Self chooses Oscar Wilde, author of The Importance of Being Earnest. Matthew Parris presents with expert contribution from Franny Moyle, biographer of Mrs Oscar Wilde.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Dylan Thomas

                Tue, 3 Apr 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Dylan Thomas proposed by another Welsh poet Owen Sheers in a specially recorded edition at Bristol's More Than Words Listening Festival. Includes Richard Burton reading Under Milk Wood. Matthew Parris presents.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Razia Sultana 31 Jan 12

                Tue, 31 Jan 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Co-chairman of the Conservative party Sayeeda Warsi tells Matthew Parris why she's fascinated by the much mythologized thirteenth century Indian princess Razia Sultana, who ruled for less than four years in the 1230s but has long been celebrated as the first female Indian Muslim leader. They are joined by writer and expert on India, William Dalrymple.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Vera Brittain 23 Jan 12

                Tue, 24 Jan 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                The pacifist Vera Brittain - who bore witness to the toll of the First World War on her generation - is discussed by her daughter Baroness Shirley Williams and Dr Clare Gerada. Presented by Matthew Parris.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Gracie Allen 1 Jan 12

                Tue, 17 Jan 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Joseph Rotblat 10 Jan 12

                Tue, 10 Jan 12

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees tells Matthew Parris why his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat, lived a "great life". Rotblat was a brilliant physicist who was the only scientist to resign from the Manhattan Project once it became clear that Germany would not make an atomic bomb. Joining them in the studio is Rotblat's friend and colleague Kit Hill.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Lonnie Donegan 3 Jan 12

                Tue, 3 Jan 12

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter tells Matthew Parris why skiffle king Lonnie Donegan is his hero. Lonnie Donegan is probably best remembered for the novelty hits "My Old Man's a Dustman" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour? " However, early hits like "Rock Island Line" were instrumental in inspiring the likes of John Lennon, Brian May and Roger Daltrey to perform.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Ludwig II of Bavaria 27 Dec 11

                Tue, 27 Dec 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Brian Sewell on his long-standing love of "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the ultimate fantasy castle at Neuschwanstein. Presenter Matthew Parris and contributor Simon Winder find out more...

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Thomas Hobbes 20 Dec 11

                Tue, 20 Dec 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Thomas Hobbes: the writer and psychologist Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great English philosopher. Noel Malcolm from All Souls College, Oxford provides the expert analyis. Power and violence are themes of the discussion of Hobbes who, Steven Pinker argues, was "perhaps the first cognitive psychologist."

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Ludwig Wittgenstein 13 Dec 11

                Tue, 13 Dec 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Ludwig Wittgenstein, the fascinating and misunderstood genius who changed the course of philosophy, is chosen by writer Raymond Tallis. With biographer Ray Monk, he brings alive this most enigmatic of men and his singular life. And to make sure that they don't get lost in Wittgensteinian thought, presenter Matthew Parris brings along a whistle to blow whenever he feels in danger..

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Philip K Dick 06 Dec 11

                Tue, 6 Dec 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Actor Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon; The Queen; Midnight in Paris) explores the life of Philip K Dick, and explains how this enigmatic science-fiction writer has influenced his recent production of Hamlet.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Shakespeare 30 Aug 11

                Fri, 7 Oct 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                The bard himself, William Shakespeare, is nominated for great life status by poetry curator, Daisy Goodwin. Dominic Dromgoole of the Globe Theatre joins Matthew Parris.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • 27.09.11: Gerald Durrell

                Tue, 27 Sep 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Great Lives. Former England footballer Graeme le Saux champions the life of conservationist Gerald Durrell. Also joining presenter Matthew Parris is Geralds widow Lee Durrell.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Hildegard von Bingen 20 Sept 11

                Tue, 20 Sep 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                The singer and broadcaster Cerys Matthews tells Matthew Parris why she thinks the life of the 12th century nun, Hildegard von Bingen qualifies as great.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Lutyens 13 Sept 11

                Tue, 13 Sep 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Edwin Lutyens, architect of New Delhi and the Cenotaph, chosen for Great Lives by Simon Jenkins. Expert advice from Lutyens great grand daughter Jane Ridley and presented by Matthew Parris.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Hans Fallada 06 Sept 11

                Tue, 6 Sep 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Fast Show comedian Simon Day tells Matthew Parris why he's fascinated by the life of German author Hans Fallada. Matthew is also joined by Fallada's biographer Jenny Williams.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Eduardo Paolozzi 23 Aug 11

                Tue, 23 Aug 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates his friend the sculptor and forefather of Pop Art Eduardo Paolozzi as a Great Life. Joining Antonio and presenter Matthew Parris in the studio is cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Kirsty MacColl 09 Aug 11

                Tue, 9 Aug 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Broadcaster Janice Long tells Matthew Parris why her friend singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl led a "great life" despite her tragically early death in a boating accident in 2000.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Graham Greene 02 Aug 11

                Tue, 2 Aug 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Graham Greene, author of Brighton Rock and The Third Man, proposed by Tim Butcher. Matthew Parris presents and David Pearce battles bravely to defend the reputation of a writer who played Russian Roulette when bored.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Harold Pinter 24 May 11

                Tue, 24 May 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Jack Johnson 17 May 11

                Tue, 17 May 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, was the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. Chosen by Matthew Syed both for his boxing skills and for what he came to represent. Matthew Parris presents.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Petra Kelly 10 May 11

                Tue, 10 May 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who's inspired their lives. Green MP Caroline Lucas nominates German Green politician Petra Kelly.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Lewis Carroll 03 May 11

                Tue, 3 May 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Matthew Parris and writer Lynne Truss discuss the life of author Lewis Carroll. Famous for the Alice books, Carroll was also a brilliant mathematician and early photographer.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Kathleen Ferrier 27 Apr 11

                Tue, 26 Apr 11

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Broadcaster Sue MacGregor nominates singer Kathleen Ferrer, who died tragically young. Matthew Parris presents, with the help of Christopher Fifield who edited Ferrier's letters.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Simone de Beauvoir

                Tue, 19 Apr 11

                Duration:
                26 mins

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

                Download 12MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Bernstein 12 Apr 10

                Tue, 12 Apr 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Leonard Bernstein, composer of West Side Story, was one of the greatest musical figures of the twentieth century. He's chosen by conductor Charles Hazlewood. Presenter Matthew Parris asks Bernstein's colleague and friend, Humphrey Burton, blunt questions about the great man's sexuality.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Thomas Edison 05 April 11

                Tue, 5 Apr 11

                Duration:
                27 mins

                Sir Clive Sinclair nominates fellow inventor Thomas Edison. Edison invented sound recording, the electric light bulb and moving pictures, but also had his fair share of duds along the way. Sir Clive invented the first electronic calculator but also the ill-fated C5 electric car. Separated by a century, do the two men have anything in common? Joining the discussion is Edison's biographer Neil Baldwin.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Marcus Garvey 01 Feb 11

                Tue, 1 Feb 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Kwame Kwei-Armah chooses Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader of the early twentieth century. With biographer Colin Grant and presenter Matthew Parris.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Mary Stott 25 Jan 2011

                Tue, 25 Jan 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Katharine Whitehorn nominates Mary Stott, the great campaigning journalist and the first editor of the Guardian women's page. Dame Liz Forgan shares her memories of working with Mary, and Matthew Parris presents.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Gertrude Bell 18 Jan 11

                Tue, 18 Jan 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

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

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Aneurin Bevan 04 Jan 11

                Tue, 4 Jan 11

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Matthew Parris explores the life of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS, chosen by the former leader of the Labour Party, Lord Kinnock. John Campbell adds biographical detail.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Sammy Davis Jr 28 Dec 10

                Tue, 28 Dec 10

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Lionel Blair chooses his friend and dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr - Puerto Rican, Jewish, and possessing only one eye, but a great all round performer. Paul Gambaccini offers expert advice and Matthew Parris presents.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Beckett 21 Dec 10

                Tue, 21 Dec 10

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Sir Gerry Robinson chooses fellow Irishman Samuel Beckett. Matthew Parris presents and Jim Knowlson, a personal friend of the playwright, offers the expert's view.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • DH Lawrence 14 Dec 10

                Tue, 14 Dec 10

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Matthew Parris is joined by John Hegley and Geoff Dyer to discuss the life of DH Lawrence, author, poet, painter, who died aged just 44 but made a giant contribution to literature.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Malcolm McLaren 07 Dec 10

                Tue, 7 Dec 10

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Was Malcolm McLaren a musical great, or the great rock n' roll swindler ? Mark Borkowski joins Matthew Parris and Chris Salewicz in a discussion centred around compelling archive.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Walt Disney 28 Sept 10

                Tue, 28 Sep 10

                Duration:
                29 mins

                Gerald Scarfe, creator of some of the most savage cartoon images of the last forty years, chooses Walt Disney for Great Lives. Brian Sibley and Roger Rabbit creator Richard Williams join presenter Matthew Parris in the studio debate.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Montaigne 21 Sept 10

                Tue, 21 Sep 10

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Robert Winston chooses Michel de Montaigne, one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. Adding their help are biographer Sarah Bakewell and presenter Matthew Parris.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Winston Churchill 14 Sept 10

                Tue, 14 Sep 10

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Winston Churchill's is the Great Life chosen by Lord Digby Jones, former Director General of the CBI. Expert contribution comes from Professor David Reynolds. Both men have vivid memories of the day in 1965 when, as children, they heard that Churchill had died. Surprisingly this is the first time that Churchill has been nominated in the series.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              • Golda Meir 07 Sept 10

                Tue, 7 Sep 10

                Duration:
                28 mins

                Golda Meir was the Iron Lady of Israeli politics, a straight-talking, intransigent leader who once said, "There is a type of woman who does not let her husband narrow her horizons". She is the choice of former Conservative government minister Edwina Currie. Matthew Parris presents and historian Ahron Bregman joins as expert witness.

                Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

              Terms of Use

              The BBC Podcasts are for your personal non-commercial use only.

              All title, ownership rights and intellectual property rights in and to the BBC Podcasts shall remain the property of the BBC or third parties. You may not edit, alter, adapt or add to the BBC Podcast in any way. The BBC Podcasts are made available by the BBC on an "as is" and "as available" basis and the BBC gives no warranty of any kind in relation to the BBC Podcast. To the maximum extent permitted by law the BBC will not be liable for any loss or damage which you may suffer as a result of, or connected to, the download or use of the BBC Podcasts.

               

              See the full Standard Licence Terms here.

              Play episodes

              You need Javascript enabled and Flash version 10 installed to access this audio. Please view our BBC Webwise guide.

              You may also like

              A Point of View: Clive James

              • Factual > Arts, Culture & the Media
              • Factual > Life Stories

              Clive James presents reflections on topical issues ranging from politics to pop culture in this award-winning series of BBC Radio 4's A Point of View. These programmes were first broadcast between

              Fri, 25 Dec 09

              10 minutes

              Four Thought

              • Factual > Politics
              • Factual > Life Stories
              • Factual > Arts, Culture & the Media

              Four Thought talks include stories and ideas which will affect our future, in politics, society, the economy, business, science, technology or the arts. Recorded live, the talks are given by a range

              Wed, 20 May 15

              19 minutes

              Stations
              Categories
              Schedules