Cover image of Start the Week
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Society & Culture

Start the Week

Updated 7 days ago

Society & Culture
Read more

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

Read more

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

iTunes Ratings

78 Ratings
Average Ratings
61
11
4
1
1

iTunes Ratings

78 Ratings
Average Ratings
61
11
4
1
1

Listen to:

Cover image of Start the Week

Start the Week

Updated 7 days ago

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Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

Rank #1: Jonathan Franzen

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On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe talks to the American writer Jonathan Franzen about his latest novel, Purity. One of Franzen's characters compares the internet with the East German Republic and he satirises the utopian ideas of the apparatchik web-users. The head of the Oxford Internet Institute Helen Margetts counters with her research on the success and failure of political action via social media. The artist Tacita Dean laments the ubiquity of digital at the expense of film, and the financial journalist Gillian Tett roots out tunnel vision - both personal and business - in her new book on silos.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Oct 05 2015

41mins

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Rank #2: India's Rise?

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On Start the Week Andrew Marr discusses India. The Indian MP Shashi Tharoor looks back at the history of the Raj in Inglorious Empire, a searing indictment of the British and the impact on his country. The journalist Adam Roberts travels from Kerala to the Himalayas to find out whether a resurgent, vibrant India is about to realise its potential, and whether the belief in future prosperity will cover over the cracks which have divided the nation in the past. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is at the centre of India's reinvention, and has galvanised Hindu nationalists, but the academic Kate Sullivan de Estrada argues that he's a controversial figure both at home and abroad. And the writer Preti Taneja retells Shakespeare's great tragedy, King Lear, set in Delhi and Kashmir, in her exploration of contemporary Indian society.
Producer: Katy Hickman

Image: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participates in a mass yoga session to mark the International Day of Yoga on 21st June, 2016 in Chandigarh, India. Credit: Getty Images.

May 22 2017

41mins

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Rank #3: Shakespeare's Late Plays - recorded at the Globe's Playhouse

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Andrew Marr presents a special edition of Start the Week, celebrating the later life and works of William Shakespeare. Recorded at the Globe's candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the actor Simon Russell Beale and Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole discuss the late romances. The writer Jeanette Winterson explores her personal connection to The Winter's Tale, and the academic Katherine Duncan-Jones questions whether Shakespeare ever gave up on life in London to retire to Stratford-upon-Avon, and the relevance of his will that left his wife their 'second-best bed'.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Dec 28 2015

49mins

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Rank #4: Decision-making with Daniel Kahneman and Michael Ignatieff

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Tom Sutcliffe discusses how we make decisions with the Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Moral choices in politics can be a complicated business, according to the academic and former politician Michael Ignatieff, who explores whether the age of international intervention is over. Doctors work under the oath 'do no harm', but the neurosurgeon Henry Marsh says the decision whether to operate on a brain is rarely that simple. High emotion can cloud your judgement and the writer Lisa Appignanesi looks back at sensational crimes of passion to ask how far the perpetrators were responsible for their actions.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Mar 17 2014

41mins

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Rank #5: Reforming Saudi Arabia

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On Start the Week Andrew Marr looks at the fortunes of Saudi Arabia. The academic Madawi Al-Rasheed challenges pre-conceived ideas about divine politics and uncovers the religious leaders, intellectuals and activists who are looking at modernising the country. William Patey is the former UK ambassador in the region and argues that although the House of Saud is resilient, strains are starting to appear. The American economist Deirdre McCloskey sees fault lines elsewhere in the country's failure to promote and encourage innovation; she believes that although Saudi Arabia has capital accumulation and oil, without creativity and ideas it will not flourish. The historian Ian Morris takes the long view as he studies 20,000 years of international relations and argues that each age and region gets the great powers it needs, and what that means for Saudi Arabia.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Dec 07 2015

43mins

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Rank #6: Social Class and Cultural Capital

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On Start the Week Andrew Marr talks to the playwright Ben Power whose latest work interweaves three of DH Lawrence's dramas to evoke a lost world of manual labour and working class pride. The sociologist Mike Savage proposes a new way to think about class in Britain which not only looks at economic and social issues, but cultural preferences. Meanwhile the American writer Siri Hustvedt questions the cultural misogyny at play in the world of art, and Peter Davies celebrates the artists inspired by the northern industrial landscape.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Oct 26 2015

41mins

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Rank #7: Power and Corruption with Stephen Frears and Mary Beard

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On Start the Week the classicist Mary Beard tells Tom Sutcliffe that Ancient Rome matters: its debates about citizenship, security and the rights of the individual still influence our own debates on civil liberty. The Magna Carta is the starting point for the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker's latest play which draws parallels between the King's abuse of power in 1215 and the global business elite today. The film director Stephen Frears tells the story of the meteoric rise and fall of one of the most celebrated and controversial sportsmen in recent history, Lance Armstrong, and of the journalist who was vilified when he tried to expose him. Lurid headlines take centre stage in the play Clarion, directed by Mehmet Ergen, which takes a satirical look at nationalism and the state of the British media.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Oct 19 2015

41mins

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Rank #8: Yuval Noah Harari

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Yuval Noah Harari offers his 21 lessons for the 21st century. In a wide ranging discussion with Andrew Marr, Harari looks back to his best-selling history of the world, Sapiens, and forward to a possible post-human future.

Technological disruption, ecological cataclysms, fake news and threats of terrorism make the 21st century a frightening prospect. Harari argues against sheltering in nostalgic political fantasies. He calls for a clear-sighted view of the unprecedented challenges that lie ahead.

Producer: Katy Hickman

Oct 01 2018

42mins

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Rank #9: Play and Creativity

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On Start the Week, Tom Sutcliffe considers the relationship between play and creativity. Steven Johnson examines how the human appetite for amusement has driven innovation throughout history. Writer and theatre maker Stella Duffy has revived Joan Littlewood's 1960s concept of The Fun Palace- a 'laboratory of fun' for all. The economist Tim Harford advocates embracing disorder in every area of our lives, from messy desks to messy dating. Journalist and former cricketer Ed Smith believes that creativity in sport is a combination of skill and luck.

Producer: Kirsty McQuire.

Feb 13 2017

44mins

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Rank #10: British culture and European influence

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Britain has imported its culture from Europe for generations. Andrew Marr presents a special edition from Hatchlands Park in Surrey, home to the Cobbe Collection of musical instruments including pianos owned by Chopin, Mahler and Marie Antoinette.

Frederic Chopin had a pan-European career. He swapped his native Poland for Paris, fled to Mallorca in search of sunshine and inspiration, and toured Britain twice, complaining bitterly about the 'crafty' locals and 'dreadful' British weather. But he had a huge impact on the musical scenes he left behind. Paul Kildea charts Chopin's journey across Europe. Sitting at the keys of Chopin's own piano, Kildea explains how this visionary composer shaped Romanticism.

European composers and performers in Britain faced a tougher reception in the wake of two world wars. In her new book, Singing in the Age of Anxiety, Laura Tunbridge depicts the contradictions of a generation that viewed Wagner as a cultural high-point - but decried all things German as enemy propaganda. At the same time radio and gramophones dramatically altered the way people heard and responded to music.

The digital world offers vast new audiences, but also brings new challenges to those in the arts. Munira Mirza is Director of HENI Talks, an online platform that aims to share cultural information and understanding with much wider audiences. By combining leading experts and world-famous works such as the Mona Lisa, she wants to take art outside the gallery. As former Deputy Mayor for Culture in London, Mirza envisages a future in which we have a truly international cultural scene.

Producer: Hannah Sander.

Jul 02 2018

42mins

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Rank #11: Existentialism and Ways of Seeing

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On Start the Week Kirsty Wark asks how we make choices about freedom and authenticity - questions that preoccupied Paris intellectuals in the 1930s. Sarah Bakewell looks back at one of the twentieth century's major philosophical movements - existentialism - and the revolutionary thinkers who came to shape it. Sartre and de Beauvoir may have spent their days drinking apricot cocktails in café's but Bakewell believes their ideas are more relevant than ever. The historian Sunil Khilnani reveals the Indian thinkers who didn't just talk about philosophy but lived it, and the photographer Stuart Franklin, famous for the pictures of the man in Tiananmen Square who stopped the tanks, discusses the impulse to record and preserve these moments of action. The art historian Frances Borzello looks at the female artists who chose the freedom to present themselves to the world in self-portraits.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Mar 28 2016

41mins

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Rank #12: Life Is a Dream

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Tom Sutcliffe discusses free will and fate; dreams and reality. Jesmyn Ward's prize-winning novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, set in the American South, is haunted by the ghosts of the past. Ward writes of incarceration and freedom, and the strength - and weakness - of family bonds.

For his latest ballet, choreographer Kim Brandstrup has taken inspiration from Calderon's 17th century Spanish play Life is a Dream, in which a dire prophecy leads a King to imprison his son. Brandstrup uses contemporary dance to explore where dreams end and reality begins, but also to express wonder at life itself.

How to live well is at the centre of Edith Hall's self-help book based on the teachings of Aristotle. She examines the ancient Greek philosopher's ideas on how self-knowledge, responsibility and love could help us forge a more meaningful life.

And the philosopher John Gray continues his exploration of what it is to be human in his new work, Seven Types of Atheism.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Apr 23 2018

42mins

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Rank #13: AL Kennedy and David Sedaris on matters of the heart

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Tom Sutcliffe talks to AL Kennedy about her latest collection of short stories of love and hurt. The poet Lavinia Greenlaw retells the tragic love story of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. The philosopher Simon Blackburn unpicks the idea of self-love from the myth of Narcissus to today's tv hair adverts: 'because you're worth it', while the humorist David Sedaris uses his own life and loves as the focus of his writing.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Mar 31 2014

42mins

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Rank #14: The Death of Democracy

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Will we recognise the signs that democracy has ended? Cambridge professor David Runciman worries that we spend far too much time comparing today's politics with the 1930s, and that this blinds us to the frailties of democracy today. He tells Amol Rajan why he thinks our current political system will come to an end - and why we may not even notice this happening.

Professor Nic Cheeseman is all too aware that democracy can become an empty shell. His new book How To Rig An Election, co-written with Brian Klaas, looks at the myriad ways autocrats use elections for their own ends, from buying votes and bribing electors to issuing fake pens in the ballot box. And it is not only the developing world in which corruption takes place. He addresses the role of outside states in the 2016 US presidential election, and asks how western democracy can be kept healthy.

Anne Applebaum has studied the ways in which democracy can arise like a phoenix from the ashes of authoritarianism. As the author of Red Famine: Stalin's War On Ukraine, and a professor at the LSE, she has analysed the reasons why democracy flourished in Poland and Ukraine after 1989, and suggests reasons why the 2012 Arab Spring has not yet had the same results. But as a journalist for the Washington Post she is all too aware of attacks on democracy today, both in the former Soviet bloc and in America. She argues that the onus is on us to save our own systems.

Producer: Hannah Sander.

May 07 2018

41mins

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Rank #15: 1968: Radicals and Riots

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Fifty years after radicals took to the streets of Paris and stormed campuses across the Western World, Andrew Marr unpicks the legacy of 1968.

Historian Richard Vinen finds waves of protest across the western world in his book The Long '68: Radical Protest and Its Enemies. Some movements were genuinely revolutionary, such as the ten million French workers whose strike nearly toppled the government. But on American university campuses and in British art schools, protests took the forms of civil rights marches and feminist collectives, whose narratives changed the way we think today.

In Paris, left-wing students armed with works of philosophy took on the police and the state. But Paris was still coming to terms with its Nazi occupation, explains Agnès Poirier. Her new book follows the artists and writers of the 40s and 50s, from Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre to Miles Davis and James Baldwin, as a new generation helped France regain its reputation for art, passion and political action.

Not only left-wing radicals were inspired by the events of that year. In 1968 philosopher Roger Scruton was holed up in a Paris bedroom studying while rioters smashed windows outside. Scruton was horrified by the chaos and destruction, and turned his back on the left-wing politics of his childhood. He became part of a generation of new conservatives who sought to preserve the past rather than fight for an unknown future.

Today France is facing new waves of strikes, with railway workers bringing the transport system to a halt and Emmanuel Macron pushing through sweeping reforms to social security. Sophie Pedder, Paris bureau chief for The Economist and author or a new biography of Macron, asks what France in 2018 owes to the events of 1968.

Producer: Hannah Sander.

Apr 16 2018

42mins

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Rank #16: Jordan Peterson: Rules for Life

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Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and YouTube sensation, professes to bring order to chaos in his 12 Rules for Life. He tells Tom Sutcliffe about the importance of individual responsibility, using lessons from humanity's oldest myths and stories. But his home truths are not without controversy: acclaimed by many, his critics accuse him of reinforcing traditional gender and family roles and attacking liberal values.

Hashi Mohamed is the living embodiment of many of Peterson's life rules: he came to Britain when he was 9 years old with little English and through a combination of skill, luck and hard work is now a barrister. But he is critical of the lack of social mobility and his own rags to riches story is one he thinks is increasingly difficult to realise.

The Irish author Louise O'Neill has made her name challenging the roles given to women. In her books for young adults she has tackled small town hypocrisy and sexism, rape culture and victim-blaming. She too has looked to the stories of the past and her latest book is a radical retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright turns his focus on his home state Texas, to see what it can teach us about America. A 'superstate' with a GDP larger than most industrialised countries, and with a population on track to double by 2050, Texas both confirms and challenges its stereotype. Wright is confronted by cowboy individualism, gun-loving patriotism and nostalgia for an ersatz past, but also finds pockets of liberal progressiveness and entrepreneurial drive.

Producer: Katy Hickman
Picture: Jonathan Castellino for Penguin.

May 14 2018

41mins

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Rank #17: 'Home' and cultural identity with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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On Start the Week Stephanie Flanders talks to the award-winning novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, about the notion of 'home' in today's globalised world. It's a theme taken up on stage in 'Paper Dolls' directed by Indhu Rubasingham, which follows a Filipino drag act working in Tel Aviv. David Goodhart explores the British Dream and the successes and failures of post war immigration. And from the movement of people, to the trade in powders, salts, paints and cures, the poet Michael Symmons Roberts's latest collection is called Drysalter.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Apr 08 2013

41mins

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Rank #18: A Theory of Everything?

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On Start the Week Tom Sutcliffe asks if one day we might know everything. The mathematician Marcus du Sautoy and the physicist Roger Penrose explore the far reaches of knowledge, questioning whether certain fields of research will always lie beyond human comprehension. They ask how much fashion and faith shape scientific theories. The experimental physicist Suzie Sheehy attempts to build machines to test the latest theories, while Joanna Kavenna plays with a philosophical Theory of Everything in her latest novel A Field Guide to Reality.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Jun 20 2016

41mins

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Rank #19: Claudia Rankine at the Free Thinking Festival

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Anne McElvoy presents a special edition of Start the Week at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage, Gateshead, exploring injustice, myth and the role of the poet 'to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides'. The American poet Claudia Rankine exposes the ever-present racial tensions in contemporary society, while the Syrian poet Amir Darwish, having arrived in the UK hanging underneath a lorry on a cross-channel ferry, writes of love, loss, exile and demonisation. The historian Catherine Fletcher looks at the stories told about Alessandro de'Medici, the 16th century duke of Florence who was believed to be mixed-race, and what those stories tell us about attitudes to race, while the philosopher Jules Holroyd tackles the thorny issue of implicit and unconscious bias.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Nov 09 2015

50mins

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Rank #20: The Tudors

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Tom Sutcliffe discusses the connection between the Tudors and modern times with author Lady Antonia Fraser, composer Claire van Kampen, director Peter Kosminsky and historian Dan Jones.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jan 12 2015

42mins

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