In a time of uncertainty, Rethink offers a guide to a much-needed global 'reset moment', with leading international figures giving us glimpses of a better future post-pandemic. Each contribution explores a different aspect of public and private life that can be re-examined. Collectively, they offer a roadmap for positive change after a year of hardship. Broadcaster Amol Rajan is joined by Prof. Jude Browne, Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, who will be Rethinking Responsibility.
Quick Reads are short books and great stories by bestselling authors. To mark its 15th anniversary, two of its writers discuss the importance of reading, how it changed their lives and how books have the power to support all of us in a time of crisis.
Writer/performer Michael Rosen shares his experience from the edge of life, as he battled Covid-19, in a life-affirming collection of poetry and words: Many Different Kinds of Love: A Story of Life, Death and the NHS. He reflects on the trauma and identity shift of being critically ill, the caring community of neighbours, loved ones, and NHS staff, who brought him back.
Jim Down, in his book, Life Support:Diary of an ICU Doctor on the Frontline of the Covid Crisis, says that life and death decisions are an everyday occurrence for a doctor running an intensive care unit, but nothing had prepared him for the events of spring 2020. He recounts how he and his colleagues transformed their hospital and ultimately faced down the biggest challenge in the history of the NHS. Told with warmth, honesty and humour, it is a moving testament to the everyday heroism of the NHS staff in a global crisis.
Rachel Clarke is a palliative care doctor who witnessed the courage of patients and NHS staff and, for all the bleakness and fear, found that people rose to their best, upon facing the worst, as a microbe laid waste to the population. Her book, Breathtaking, draws on testimony from nursing acute and intensive care colleagues, as well as patients. She concludes that this age of contagion has inspired a profound attentiveness to, and gratitude for, what matters most in life.
With lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, Robert Jones Jr tells an unflinching story of a forbidden union between two enslaved men in the Deep South of America. Isaiah and Samuel are lovers. The barn is their home on the plantation, the one place they can go to be alone together. It becomes a place of refuge where their love can flourish, blurring the horrors of the vicious world around them. The others know that there are many ways to shelter from the most evil of regimes, and keeping the community’s tender secrets is one of them.
A masterful debut novel of the pain of inheritance, the power of hope, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity.
Nature and travel writer Horatio Clare was committed to hospital under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act after suffering hypomania in the Alps while on a family holiday, and locked in a psychiatric ward. His book is a gripping account of how the mind can lose touch with reality, how we can fall apart and how we can be healed – or not – by treatment. It vividly describes the intensity of a manic experience, as well as its perils and strangeness, shot through with the love, kindness, humour and care of those who looked after him, and it is partly an investigation into how we understand and treat acute crises of mental health. Horatio Clare talks to Beth Underdown, novelist and Lecturer in Creative Writing.
Mary McConnell grew up longing for information about the mother she never knew, because she died suddenly when Mary was a baby. Her brother Sean was barely old enough to remember, and their father numbed his pain with drink.Now 35, Mary has lived in the same house in Belfast all her life. She has a son, TJ, about to turn 18, who is itching to see more of the world. One morning, he wakes up to find his mother gone. He doesn't know where, or why, but he's the only one who can find her. This is a powerful coming-of-age novel and an intimate family study, examining the cost of unconditional love.
The author talks to Clover Stroud, mother of five children aged one to 17 and author of The Wild Other and My Wild and Sleepless Nights.
Two great young writers discuss their novels that explore the roots of racism around the world. In 1960s Uganda, Hasan is struggling to run his family business after the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.
In present-day London, Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by tragedy, he begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew. We Are all Birds of Uganda, co-winner of the Merky Books New Writers' Prize, moves between two continents to explore racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong.
Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of fiction that wrestles with the history of racism in America. Vern, a black woman with albinism, is hunted after escaping a religious compound. She discovers that her body is changing and she is developing extra-sensory powers. Alone in the woods, she gives birth to twins and raises them away from outside influences. But something is wrong – not with them, but with her own body. To understand this, she must investigate not just the secluded religious compound she fled but the violent history of dehumanization, medical experimentation, and the genocide that produced it.
They talk to Sameer Rahim of Prospect.
Two great thinkers discuss liberalism, intellectual blindness and the dangers facing democracy today. Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer and 2010 Nobel Prizewinner, promotes liberal thought and pays tribute to seven authors who embrace it, in The Call of the Tribe. He talks to Michael Ignatieff, rector and president of Central European University in Budapest, author of The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World.
Discussing the experience of, and society's attitude to women and motherhood, the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project talks to Caitlin Moran, author of More Than a Woman – 'a celebration of middle-aged women who keep the world turning' –with Joeli Brearley, who founded Pregnant Then Screwed after being fired at four months pregnant, and Pragya Agarwal, whose book (M)otherhood is part memoir and part analysis of motherhood fertility, and how these affect all our lives.
Why is it that often the things we value most, from frontline nurses to the natural world, to caring for children, seem unimportant to economic markets? During his time as a G7 central banker and seven years as Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney witnessed the collapse of public trust in élites, globalisation, and technology, the challenges of the fourth Industrial Revolution and the growing climate emergency. Dharshini David, economist and broadcaster, examines how economic value and social values became blurred, and how to rethink and rebuild before it’s too late.
When Pete’s parents moved from Cyprus to Birmingham in the 1960s, hoping for a better life, they had no money and only a little English. They opened a fish-and-chip shop called The Great Western Fish Bar. That's where Pete learned about coin-operated machines, male banter and Britishness. Shy and introverted, he stopped speaking from age 4 to 7, and found refuge in songs from Top of the Pops and Dial-a-Disc. As time passed, he was horrified by his guilty secret: his parents were Greek, but all the things that excited him were British, sparked by Don’t go Breaking my Heart, Going Underground, Come On Eileen and every other chart hit blaring out of the chip-shop radio.
In a one-off musical event, Cardiff virtuoso guitarist and singer-songwriter Gareth Bonello, best known as The Gentle Good, will join Pete as the (Broken) Greek chorus, performing interpretations of songs that feature in Broken Greek, and will enact key scenes as Pete reads an extract from the book.
A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence revolving around the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal'. Who are we serving, the portal asks itself. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother appear: "Something has gone wrong" and "How soon can you get here?" As real life and the portal collide, she confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of goodness, empathy and justice, and evidence that proves the opposite. This is a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection, the first novel from the author of the memoir Priestdaddy. Nina Stibbe is the author of Love, Nina: Dispatches From Family Life. Her third autobiographical novel is Reasons to Be Cheerful.
On turning 80, David Hockney sought out rustic tranquillity for the first time: a place to watch the sunset and the changing seasons; a place to enjoy simple pleasures, undisturbed and undistracted: "We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it". So when Covid-19 and lockdown struck, it made little difference to life at the centuries-old Normandy farmhouse where he had set up a studio the previous year, in time to paint the arrival of spring. In fact, he relished the enforced isolation. His book affirms the capacity of art to divert and inspire, based on a wealth of conversations and correspondence with Martin Gayford, his long-time collaborator. Their exchanges are illustrated by a selection of Hockney’s new Normandy drawings and paintings, many previously unpublished. Martin Gayford is art critic of The Spectator. His books include A History of Pictures (with David Hockney) and Shaping the World: Sculpture from Pre-History to Now (with Antony Gormley).
Would the world be different – and better – if more women occupied leadership positions? This controversial question is re-examined in the context of the global pandemic. Gender is part of the explanation for the stark contrast between the Covid experience of Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand and that of Donald Trump’s America. Some have argued that the 2008 Global Financial Crisis might have been mitigated if more women had been seated at he top tables of key financial institutions. But female leadership is still relatively rare, and the women who lead governments and organisations through crises are treated more harshly than their male counterparts.
Jennifer Mathers is a Senior Lecturer and former Head of the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University.
Instead of civic organizations, we join internet mobs. Instead of reasoned conversation, the voices of the angriest, most divisive participants are amplified. Rational voices are hard to hear; radicalization spreads quickly. Unsurprisingly, an internet controlled by a tiny number of secretive companies in Silicon Valley does not reflect democratic values of openness, accountability and respect for human rights. Instead, the current rules of online conversation are undermining our democracies. Why don’t we change them?
Pulitzer Prizewinning historian Anne Applebaum is author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University, New York.
To avoid global collapse, we need to re-think everything we do and take for granted, from growing and cooking food, to the economy and methods of governance. It demands a Renaissance, a re-birth, and it must be driven and led by us, because the governments, corporations and financiers dominating the world have lost touch with the moral and ecological realities of life. The good news is, millions of grassroots initiatives the world over are already moving in the right direction.
This Renaissance needs to have at its heart, people who have traditionally been on the margins of business and politics – women. From New Orleans to Bangladesh, women, especially poor women of colour, are suffering most from a crisis they have done nothing to cause. Yet where, in environmental policy, are the voices of elderly European women dying in heatwaves? Of African girls dropping out of school due to drought? Our highest-profile climate activists are women and girls; but, at the top table, it’s men deciding the Earth’s future.
We’re not all in it together – but we could be. Anne Karpf makes the case for visionary, global climate policies that are gender-inclusive and promote gender equality.
Anne Karpf, sociologist, journalist and author of How Women can Save the Planet and Colin Tudge, biologist, broadcaster and author of The Great Re-Think: A 21st Century Renaissance talk to journalist Rosie Boycott.
This arts teacher was always a rule-breaker. At her school where more than 30 languages were spoken, she sensed urgent needs: mending uniforms, calling social services, shielding vulnerable teens from gangs. And she tailored each class to its pupils, fiercely believing in the power of art to unlock trauma, or give a mute child the confidence to speak. Time and again, she would be proved right. In 2018, when Andria won the million-dollar Global Teacher Prize, she knew exactly where the money would go: back into arts education for all, because she believes the UK government's cuts and curriculum changes are destroying the arts, while its refusal to tackle the threats of cyber-bullying, gang violence, hunger and deprivation puts teachers on the safeguarding frontline.
Have you ever felt as if you’re losing your grip? Then you'll love Sally Parker, who's struggling to find the hero inside herself, when all she really wants to do is lie down. Her husband Frank has lost his business, their home and their savings. Their bank cards have been declined. The children have gone feral. And now the bailiffs are at the door. What does an ordinary woman do when the bottom falls out of her world? This is a life-affirming tale of failing, falling, and finding a way back up, from the comedian, actress and TV presenter.
Andy Bush is a writer, illustrator and broadcaster on Absolute Radio.
Two young people meet at a pub in south-east London. Both are black British and won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong. Both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence. Both a love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, the book asks what it means to be seen only as a black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength. Caleb talks to the author of I Am Not Your Baby Mother. Candice's new book Sista Sister is published in July.
Actor and activist Michael Sheen will join the professor Daniel G. Williams and politician Leanne Wood, to discuss the life, work, and continued relevance of Raymond Williams, as a new centenary edition of his collected writings on Wales are published. Michael Sheen says, "Who Speaks for Wales is a truly landmark publication. It has had a profound effect on me and on countless others. The new afterword to this expanded centenary edition shows how Raymond Williams’ thinking is as important and relevant today as it has ever been." Williams noted that Welsh history testifies to a "quite extraordinary process of self-generation and regeneration, from what seemed impossible conditions." This discussion, ranging from 1920s Pandy to wartime Paris, from Extinction Rebellion to Yes Cymru, will be conducted with his words in mind.