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Choosing the 2011 Reith lecturer

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Mark Damazer Mark Damazer 09:00, Saturday, 7 August 2010

Antony Gormley in 2000

Choosing the Reith lecturer every year is one of the privileges of the job. It is a rather wonderful piece of patronage (for me, at any rate) and poses numerous challenges.

I look every year for something original - and someone who is a good communicator. Topicality can be an advantage, but with some subjects it doesn't matter.

I moved the Reiths to a different transmission pattern a few years ago - to 0900 with a Saturday evening repeat - to increase the audience and the lecturers' impact. It's a big occasion for Radio 4.

So I'm naturally delighted to have seduced Antony Gormley for 2011. We began talking about it a while ago in his Kings Cross studio/workshop. It's a very large edifice and various sculptures at different stages of preparation are dotted around, being attended to by a small group of craftsmen - and women - who must have been tempted to say "look but don't touch" but with amazing politeness restrained themselves. It was a fascinating experience.

Antony Gormley will be the first sculptor to be a Reith lecturer and, for that matter, the first practising visual artist to do so. He has, of course, broadcast before (quite a bit on Radio 3) and has much to say about art and culture. It is a mouth-watering prospect.

Mark Damazer is Controller of BBC Radio 4


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice idea. But someone will have to tame any tendency to slip into "art cobblers" – not quite the right word, thanks to the profanity filter, but you know what I mean – the incomprehensible gibberish that some artists utter when trying to explain their work.

    Gormley is not immune to this. Just read his notes for the current show at the De La Warr in Bexhill. (This show is, by the way, a rare failure for Gormley.)

    He is a fine artists, whose works we have travelled miles to see. But we wince whenever he puts pen to paper.

    Maybe it is unfair to expect artists to make sense. Then again, he can get it right, as the De La Warr quotes show.

  • Comment number 2.

    If you had to pass Gormley's paraochially named 'Angel of the North' as I had to on a regular basis you would not find the prospect of the lecture 'mouth watering'.
    It is a secular vandalisation of religous iconography and Gormley well knew what was expected of him.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think artists, Gormley included, already get plenty of media coverage and airtime. This is a missed oppurtunity to get someone really influencial and though-provoking. How about getting Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for next years' lecture?


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