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45 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 14 February 2011

Andrew Marr talks to David Attenborough as he goes on the trail of the elephant bird. Fifty years ago he was given pieces of its egg on a visit to Madagascar, now he returns to find out what this giant ostrich-like creature can tell us about the balance between survival and extinction. A journey of a different kind for Sheila Hancock who goes in search of the often over-looked artist of the watercolour. The writer David Shields heralds the death of the realist novel, as he advocates blending fiction and non-fiction in a kind of 'lyric essay', but he does it by plagiarising other authors in a form of 'creative sampling'. And poet Andrew Motion meditates on crossing the borders between fact and fiction.

Producer: Katy Hickman.


    In 1960, during a filming trip to Madagascar, David Attenborough was given fragments of egg shell. Pieced together, they formed the giant egg of the elephant bird, an extinct creature which was once common on the island. In Attenborough and the Giant Egg, he returns to Madagascar on a quest to discover why this extraordinary bird died out. What can its demise teach us about the relationship between humans and the natural world? And how can its disappearance help us to understand what is happening to Madagascar's wildlife today?

    Attenborough and the Giant Egg will be shown on BBC2 on Wednesday 2 March at 8.00pm.

    Attenborough and the Giant Egg

    Are you suffering from fiction fatigue? In his new book, Reality Hunger, David Shields argues that novels are irrelevant and that non-fiction has taken over. Living in an artificial and mediated world, he thinks we’ve become obsessed with reality. But do the ‘real’ stories we tell have to be our own and do they have to be true? Where does plagiarism end and creativity begin? Does it matter if some of our facts are other people’s fictions? Storytellers have been reusing ideas and phrases for centuries; is it time to acknowledge that ‘borrowing nobly’ is the way forward?

    Reality Hunger: A Manifesto is published by Penguin.

    David Shields

    Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion talks to Andrew Marr about crossing the borders between poetry and prose and between private and public life. He explains how the Laureateship took its toll on his writing and why poetry, far from being irrelevant, is part of a deep human instinct.

    Andrew Motion will be in conversation with Rebecca Jones in a talk entitled 'Crossing Borders' at the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival in London on Saturday 19 February. His book of war poems, Laurels and Donkeys, is published by Clutag Press.

    Crossing Borders - Andrew Motion

    Watercolours have long been the poor relation of oil paintings, but it is time, argues Sheila Hancock, to restore them to their proper place as a pioneering British art. From Turner’s shimmering Venice to the haunting First World War paintings of Paul Nash, watercolours were the photography of their day - immediate and versatile. As a new exhibition of 800 years of watercolours opens at Tate Britain, Sheila Hancock discusses why watercolours are the ideal medium for capturing the beauty of landscapes, the horrors of war and the full range of human emotions.

    Sheila Hancock Brushes Up: The Art of Watercolours will be broadcast on BBC One on Sunday 20 February.

    Sheila Hancock Brushes Up: The Art of Watercolours


Arts & Culture selection

Damian Lewis on reading A Delicate Truth

A selection of highlights from our arts and culture programmes.

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