Greg Jenner and his guests examine the life of Sake Dean Mahomed who introduced curry, shampooing and therapeutic massage to 19th-century England. He grew up under colonial rule, but Sake Dean Mahomed ended up living in Brighton until the age of 92 and counted members of the Royal Family among his many clients. Greg’s guests in this episode are Dr Arunima Datta from Idaho State University and the comedian and podcast host Eshaan Akbar.
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Marking the 50th anniversary of the release of Joni Mitchell’s seminal album Blue, Laura Marling tells the story behind the writing and recording of the album, and explains why Blue is regarded by critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece was conceived and created with raw emotion at its heart and she poured everything she had into the writing and recording of her music. As Joni said at the time, "I couldn’t look at people without weeping, I was just dripping in earnestness and sincerity. I realised a lot of people were listening to me, so they better find out who they’re worshipping, let’s see if they can take it, let’s get real - so I wrote Blue, which horrified a lot of people. I just revealed human traits. When people see themselves in it the communication is complete."
Laura explains how she first became aware of Blue and describes the enormous impact the album had on her - artistically and personally. Laura will also include contributions from other fans of Joni’s iconic work - including Emeli Sande, Beth Orton, Ellie Goulding, James Taylor, Graham Nash and Seal.
Six months before Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step’ came humanity’s giant leap. It was December 1968. Faced with President Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the Moon before the end of the decade, NASA made the bold decision to send three astronauts beyond Earth orbit for the first time. Those three astronauts spent Christmas Eve orbiting the moon. Their legendary photograph, "Earthrise" showed our planet as seen from across the lunar horizon - and was believed to have been a major influence on the nascent environmental movement. Through extraordinary NASA archive, the first British astronaut Helen Sharman goes inside the capsule to tell the story of the first time man went to another world.
On 12 April 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became an explorer like none other before him, going faster and further than any human in history, into what had always been the impenetrable and infinite unknown. Raised in poverty during the World War Two, the one-time foundry worker and a citizen of the Soviet Union became the first human to fly above the Earth. Dr Kevin Fong tells the story of how 27-year-old Yuri Gagarin came to launch a new chapter in the history of exploration and follows the cosmonaut’s one hour flight around the Earth.
On the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landings, Beatriz De La Pava researches how real life events are reflected in the lyrics of popular songs, and shows how music can paint a vivid picture of the social, political, economic, and cultural landscape. She plays the music that chronicles the history of the space race, and speaks to the people who knew it, made it and loved it.
Since November 2000, humans have been living in space on the International Space Station (ISS). Although the ISS is a remarkable engineering achievement, human space exploration has proven dangerous and costly. There is no air, gravity or food, and water has to be recycled from sweat, stale breath and urine. As we return to the Moon and aim for Mars, some argue that space colonisation is also immoral, psychologically and socially damaging and unnecessarily expensive. Beatriz De La Pava talks to astronauts, anthropologists, scientists, doctors and philosophers to investigate if it is time to abandon the dream of human space travel and come back down to Earth.
With migration, integration and assimilation dominating much public debate, Fergal Keane explores the profound influence, over many centuries, of the Irish in Britain. Whether it is 19th Century theatre or verse, or today’s pop culture, Irish migrants and their descendants have deeply influenced and steered the UK’s literature and arts. Fergal Keane examines the impact of the longest and biggest immigrant story in the history of the United Kingdom.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most famous museum objects in the world, shown in the image above in replica, and dating from around 196 BC. It is a damaged, dark granite block on which you can faintly see three scripts engraved: Greek at the bottom, Demotic in the middle and Hieroglyphs at the top. Napoleon’s soldiers found it in a Mamluk fort at Rosetta on the Egyptian coast, and soon realised the Greek words could be used to unlock the hieroglyphs. It was another 20 years before Champollion deciphered them, becoming the first to understand the hieroglyphs since they fell out of use 1500 years before and so opening up the written culture of ancient Egypt to the modern age.
How fermented foods might be the key to a healthy brain, body and mind.
In this episode, Michael speaks to expert Kirsten Berding Harold, University College Cork, for all the latest science on all things good bacteria. Our willing human guinea pig Clare has a go making her own kefir at home and Michael has a go at cultivating some healthy bacteria in the form of sauerkraut - which he claims is far simpler to make at home than you might think!
Audrey Niffenegger discusses her bestselling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife with James Naughtie.
It’s a romantic story about a man - Henry - with a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel, and the complications it creates for his marriage to Clare.
The book opens when they meet in a Chicago library, and they both understand that he is a time traveller. But Clare knows much more than this about him as he has not yet been to the times and places where they have met before, and she remembers him from when she was just six years old.
He falls in love with her, as she has already with him, but his continuing unavoidable absences time travelling - and then returning with increasing knowledge of their future - makes things ever more difficult for Clare.
Audrey Niffenegger explains how she created a set of rules for the book, such as there would be no sex between the couple before Clare reaches 18; and how Henry’s disorder is genetic rather than magical, meaning that when he time travels he arrives naked and with no money or useful possessions.
She also talks about the morality of her tale - the consequences of Henry’s criminal behaviour, and how she dealt with a male character who effectively moulds the character of Clare as she grows up.
Recorded at BBC Broadcasting House in London, Bookclub with Audrey Niffenegger includes questions from the studio audience.
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