iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Lunch Is for Wimps

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Lunch Is for Wimps

58 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 28 April 2012

Remember the lunch hour? You could leave your desk, meet friends in the pub, eat a three course meal, have a lunchtime affair even...That hour was your own: it didn't belong to your employer. No more. Now, one in five people in the UK never eat lunch. Only one in one hundred regularly take a full hour's break. How has such a huge social change happened? Why on earth did we let the lunch hour go so easily?

Matthew Sweet draws on archive recordings to explore what we have lost, and what the hidden costs might be. Wall Street's Gordon Gekko once said "lunch is for wimps" - why do we seem to have accepted his conclusion? When Churchill enjoyed several courses, washed down with wine and brandy, at midday in Downing Street it was thought to help, rather than hinder, his leadership of the country. Matthew talks to social historian Juliet Gardiner, and to historian Sir David Cannadine about Churchill's heroic dining. Sociologist Harriet Bradley offers insights into the rise of presenteeism and the impact of recession on our lunch time habits. Writers Tim Parks implores us to take a break for the sake of our health.

Matthew goes back to Hull, where he grew up, and remembers ham sandwiches at home with his mum, and factory whistles sounding out around the city, signalling the start of the lunch hour. He meets factory and office workers and asks why have we allowed ourselves to become so overwhelmed with the pressures of the working day that we don't have time to stop for a break?

Includes archive recordings from 1937 describing workers flocking to corner houses for lunch, Ernest Bevin urging wartime factory owners to give their workers proper meals and revelations from the 1980s about liquid lunches and office affairs.

Produced by Hannah Marshall
A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 4.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss