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Ali Smith, Osmo Vänskä, the Nicholas Brothers, Islamic Art & the Supernatural, A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

Ali Smith discusses her new Brexit-era novel, Osmo Vanska undertakes all the symphonies of Sibelius, Islamic art that is figurative, and the brothers who danced Stormy Weather.

Ali Smith discusses her Brexit-era novel, Autumn, with Samira Ahmed. It's the first of a quartet which very much reflects the issues of today.

Osmo Vänskä is about to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing all the symphonies of Sibelius. He speaks about the composer and Sibelius' place in Finnish national identity.

In 1943 two African American brothers from Philadelphia performed a dance routine in the film Stormy Weather, which Fred Astaire would come to refer to as the greatest movie musical sequence he had ever seen. For Fayard and Harold Nicholas - otherwise known as The Nicholas Brothers - entering the Hollywood arena this was no small feat in the 1940's America, a time when racial prejudice was commonplace. Choreographer Stuart Thomas reflects on the achievement of the brothers who were regulars at Harlem's Cotton Club - working with the orchestras of Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington - and one of whom taught Michael Jackson to dance.

There are old saws that depicting figures is prohibited in Islam and that the religion, apart from devotion to the one God, has no truck with the supernatural. Francesca Leoni, curator of a new exhibition at the the Ashmolean Museum, and Professor Tariq Ramadan, discuss with Samira Ahmed how things are a good deal more complicated than that.

And, on the day a spacecraft lands on Mars to send messages back about the planaet, we hear part of a poem that reverses that process.

Available now

30 minutes


  • Ali Smith

    Duration: 08:46

  • Osmo Vanska

    Duration: 07:07

  • Stuart Thomas

    Duration: 03:56

  • Francesca Leoni and Prof Tariq Ramadan

    Duration: 06:36

  • Craig Raine

    Duration: 01:04

Ali Smith

Ali Smith
Ali Smith's book, Autumn is out now

Osmo Vanska

Osmo Vanska
Osmo Vanska conducts the London Philharmonic playing Sibelius Symphonies at the Royal Festival Hall from 19 October

The Nicholas Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers
Bruce Goldstein tours the UK to present a compilation tribute to the Nicholas Brothers 
The new print of the film Stormy Weather is showing at cinemas nationwide

Islamic Art and the Supernatural

Islamic Art and the Supernatural
Islamic Art and the Supernatural at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford until 15 January 2017
Picture credit:Ali at the Gates of Khaybar
From the dispersed Fa’Inama (‘Book of Omens’) of Shah Tahmasp I Safavi (r. 1524 – 76)
From Qazvin, Iran, mid – 1550s to early – 1560s
Opaque watercolour and gold on paper, 59.5 cm x 45 cm
Copyright: The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin



Role Contributor
Presenter Samira Ahmed
Interviewed Guest Ali Smith
Interviewed Guest Osmo Vanska
Interviewed Guest Stuart Thomas
Interviewed Guest Francesca Leoni
Interviewed Guest Tariq Ramadan




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