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Professor Stuart Hall and Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien has an imagined chat with former collaborator Professor Stuart Hall, discussing the future of British identity, Brexit and the immigrant influence on British art.

Isaac Julien has an imagined chat with former collaborator Professor Stuart Hall. The artist and sociologist discuss the future of British identity and the immigrant influence on British art.

As Stuart Hall approached the end of his academic career as director of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham and Professor of Sociology at the Open University, he turned what he terms his "baggage" about diaspora, identity, culture and history towards the Arts. Isaac Julien, a filmmaker and installation artist who worked with him on projects such as Looking for Langston, credits Hall for giving black British artists a language with which to break the narrow definitions of what constitutes British art.

He thanks Hall for "putting black art in the frame from which it had been excluded and marginalised."

Hall, a figurehead of the intellectual Left, and a pioneer in the study of multiculturalism, sounds remarkably prescient in his discussion with Julien about British identity and culture, though Brexit did not begin to dominate the political agenda until after his death. He recognises how globalisation and the internationalisation of culture challenge national identities.

Sharing a West Indian heritage, Hall and Julien appeal for understanding that Britishness is not one thing and wonder how Britain might draw on its diverse strands to re-imagine itself and "to learn to love mixture".

Series Background:
In 1991, Natalie Cole sang a duet with her long dead father, Nat King Cole. The result was Unforgettable. This is the radio equivalent. In each edition of the series, a different guest is invited to interact with someone, now dead, with whom they have or have wanted to have a connection. The guest has no advance knowledge of the excerpts, and the conversation can take unexpected turns, occasionally leading to some emotionally charged exchanges, as living voices engage with those preserved in the archive.

Archive material used with permission from Mike Dibb.

Assistant Producer: Philippa Geering
Producer: Adam Fowler
An Overtone production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

14 minutes