Part memoir, part travelogue, part history of the foghorn, this is a booming, lonely sound echoing into the vastness of the sea. When the author hears the foghorn's colossal bellow for the first time, it marks the beginning of an obsession and a journey deep into the history of a sound that has carved out the identity and the landscape of coastlines around the world, from Scotland to San Francisco. Within its sound is a maritime history of shipwrecks and lighthouse keepers, the story and science of our industrial past. The book is an odyssey told through the people who battled sea and sound, who lived with it and loathed it, and one woman's intrepid voyage through the howling loneliness of nature.
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.
From the moment she hears Lev's violin for the first time, Helena Attlee is captivated. She is told that it is an Italian instrument, named after its former Russian owner. Eager to discover the stories contained within its delicate wooden frame, she sets out for Cremona, birthplace of the Italian violin. Making its way from dusty workshops, through Alpine forests, Venetian churches, Florentine courts, and far-flung Russian fleamarkets, this book takes us from the heart of Italian culture to its very furthest reaches via luthiers and scientists, princes and orphans, musicians, composers, travellers and raconteurs.
Helena will be joined on stage by composer, conductor and current owner of Lev’s violin, the charismatic, cross-genre classical violinist Greg Lawson.
Rare biographical evidence in the Sierra Leone public archives reveals that tens of thousands of Africans were released from slave ships by Royal Navy patrols. The British Library Endangered Archives Programme has made it possible to digitise hundreds of volumes containing fragmentary information about their lives. Adam, a woman aged 26, was among the enslaved Africans stowed on board the Marie Paul in 1808. Anta, her nine-month-old daughter, was also on board when it set sail from Senegal on 20 August 1808 ‘with a cargo of slaves bound to Cayenne in South America’. This lecture explains how evidence from the archives in Sierra Leone has enabled us to reconstruct the identities of individuals uprooted and displaced by the transatlantic slave trade.
Suzanne Schwarz is Professor of History at University of Worcester.
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.
The final instalment of Levy's 'Living Autobiography' series is a thought-provoking and intimate meditation on home and the spectres that haunt it. With her characteristic wit and acute insights, she crafts a searing examination of womanhood and ownership. Her possessions, real and imagined, push us as readers to question our cultural understanding of belonging and belongings and to consider the value of a woman's intellectual and personal life. Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory, Real Estate is a compulsively readable narrative. Lisa Appignanesi is a writer, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and a former president of English PEN.
Peter, a brilliant scientist, is told he will lose everything he loves – his husband, family, friends. He has Motor Neurone Disease, a condition universally considered to be terminal. He is told it will destroy his nerve cells and that within two years, it will take his life, too. But face-to-face with death, he decides there is another way and using science and technology, he navigates a new path that will enable him not just to survive, but to thrive. This is true story about the first person to combine his very humanity with artificial intelligence and robotics to become a full Cyborg. His discovery means that his terminal diagnosis is negotiable, something that will rewrite the future. By embracing love, life and hope rather than fear, tragedy and despair he will become Peter 2.0.
By knowing the shape of our planet we can create maps, survey the oceans, follow rivers, navigate the skies, and travel the globe. This is the story of how we discovered what no one thought possible: the shape of the earth. In 1735, the good ship Portefaix sailed across the Atlantic carrying the world’s first international team of scientists to a continent of unmapped rainforests and ice-shrouded volcanoes. Beset by egos and disease, storms and earthquakes, mutiny and murder, they struggled for ten years to reach the single figure they sought: the length of one degree of latitude. Twenty-five years after the publication of Longitude, this tells the other side of the story, one of our most important geographical discoveries.
Bonnie Greer, American-British playwright, novelist, critic and broadcaster, talks to trail-blazing Novara Media editor Ash Sarkar about a life in writing and activism. What has changed and what has remained the same? A unique view through the telescope of time from then to now and now to then.
Part of Lemn Sissay's George Floyd: One Year On series.
Whether it’s pastoral care for the bereaved, discussions about the afterlife with parishioners, or being called out to perform the last rites, death is part of a clergyman's routine. But when Reverend Richard Coles’ life partner died unexpectedly just before Christmas 2019, much about death took him by surprise: the volume of ‘sadmin’ you have to do, the simple pain of typing a text message to your partner – then remembering they are gone. In time, things do get better, and the Reverend’s deeply personal account of living through grief – and the lessons he has learnt along the way – resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. He talks to psychotherapist Julia Samuel, author of This Too Shall Pass.
John Keats, who died 200 years ago at just 25, is one of Britain’s most enigmatic poets and this biography by Lucasta Miller, critic and author of The Brontë Myth, excavates the backstories of nine familiar works. The epitaph Keats composed for his own gravestone – Here lies one whose name was writ in water – seemingly damned him to oblivion. He took a battering from the conservative press, yet in 1818 he wrote, "I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death". A lower-middle-class outsider from a dysfunctional family, his energy and love of language enabled him to reach the heart of English literature. A freethinker and a liberal at a time of repression, his work has retained its originality through the generations.
In Bright Star, Green Light, Jonathan Bate interweaves the lives of John Keats and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The latter was profoundly influenced by Keats, using the poet's lines in the title Tender is the Night. These two great writers both died young, loved to drink, were plagued by tuberculosis and haunted by their first love – and were the young Romantic figures of their twinned centuries. They talk to Miranda Seymour, author of Mary Shelley and In Byron's Wake.
The 2017 the #MeToo movement sparked a worldwide conversation about men’s attitudes and behaviour towards women. Meanwhile, male suicides (which comprise 75% of suicides in the UK), poor emotional intelligence and mental health issues continue to blight an entire generation of young men. In an honest, urgent, witty book, Book of Man founder and editor Martin Robinson embarks on a personal quest to explore masculinity in the 21st century, visiting men’s groups, talking to drag artists, sex gurus and feminists, and hanging out with cage fighters and trans men. How do we go about being better dads, partners, brothers, sons? The book maps out new ways for men to be.
Men are strong in the face of fear. But what happens when that strength crumbles?
Unspoken by Guvna B addresses ideas of male identity through his own personal tragedy. Growing up on a council estate in East London, the rapper thought he knew what it means to be a man. But he had to face these assumptions head on when he suffered excruciating grief. They talk to poet and playwright Owen Sheers, who wrote The Men You'll Meet, addressed to his two daughters.
From 1988-1991 war devastated Somaliland, and like hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, Ahmed Dahir Elmi was forced to flee. He lived and worked in the UK for 22 years, discovering a love of libraries, and when he returned home in 2011 he took on the challenge of creating the country’s first national library. Over the next eight years, and with the help of Somali-born British journalist and writer Rageh Omaar, Ahmed's dream became a reality. The two talk to Paul Boateng, chair of Book Aid International and frequent visitor to Somaliland, about their personal struggle to bring books to everyone in Somaliland, and how the library is now at the heart of a thriving literary culture.
As a single woman in her forties, having experienced a sudden early menopause, Margaret Reynolds decided to adopt. There followed a five-year struggle, documented in The Wild Track, before she became mother to a troubled six-year-old daughter, Lucy.
The Panic Years are somewhere between 25 and 40, says Vogue columnist Nell Frizzell. This is when any woman used to making all sorts of decisions with ease, must confront the one big decision with a deadline: whether or not to have a baby. The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas is a novel about love, loss, betrayal, divorce, death, a woman's career and her identity. Rose's husband promised before they got married that he'd never want children, but now he's changed his mind. Their marriage has come to rest on this one question: can Rose find it in herself to become a mother?
The three talk to Emma Gannon, author of Olive, a modern tale about milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.
Say the unsayable? Is memoir a testimony to the truth or a carefully curated lie? Does testimony expose the truth or hide it? What rises to the surface and what stays hidden in the margins? Author of Aftershocks, Nadia Owusu followed her Ghanaian father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Hannah Azieb Pool's memoir, My Fathers' Daughter, tells how in 1974 she was adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea and brought to England by her white adoptive father. She grew up unable to imagine what it must be like to look into the eyes of a blood relative until one day a letter arrived from a brother she never knew she had...
Part of Lemn Sissay's George Floyd: One Year On series.
Both Maaza Mengiste's Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Shadow King and Aida Edemariam's Ondaatje Prize-winning biography of her grandmother, The Wife's Tale, approach the history of 20th-century Ethiopia through female protagonists. How does this change what is seen, what is heard, and what, in the end, lasts?
The great Chilean writer discusses her lifelong feminism and hard-won life lessons – "When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating". Her new book is a wise, warm, defiant manifesto, in which she calls for the need to live one’s old age to the full: "My story is told in every year I have lived and every wrinkle I have”. She talks to translator and editor Sophie Hughes.
It it is estimated that in the UK alone there are tens of thousands of victims of modern slavery. Globally it is 40 million. When an 11-year-old girl from a small town in Wales was groomed into ‘county lines’ drug trafficking, it was the beginning of vicious descent into one abuse after another, involving a huge child-sex trafficking gang. Over several years Emily Vaughn estimates she was raped by 1,500 men. Now in her early thirties, she wants to expose this insidious aspect of modern slavery and help others who have gone through similar experiences. Emily is still in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), and so for her own safety, she will be represented by her ghost writer Veronica Clark. Shaun Sawyer is the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall and the National Police Lead on Slavery and Trafficking. In conversation with Libby Sutcliffe, journalist/broadcaster and founder of www.slaveryfree.org.
Join the actress and working peer as she tells how she travelled from Trinidad, aged 10, to make a new life with her family in Britain. Her experience of moving home and making friends shows you can overcome difficulties if you have the courage to believe in yourself.