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The Culture Show

Specials 2008 - 2015

  • 2008-08-13T18:00:00Z on BBC Two
  • 60 mins
  • 1 day, 11 hours, 0 mins
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • News

Best of the week's arts and culture news, covering books, art, film, architecture and more.

36 episodes

Lauren Laverne presents the first of three shows from Edinburgh covering the highlights from the Festival and Fringe. Miranda Sawyer meets Tracey Emin, who is staging her first ever retrospective exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. We speak to Steven Berkoff about his new staging of On the Waterfront, a project which has the blessing of the movie's screenwriter Budd Schulberg and we talk to multi-tasking comedians David O'Doherty, Simon Munnery and Rich Hall, all of whom are doing at least two shows during the festival. Roving reporter Tim Samuels samples the weird and the wonderful events happening across Edinburgh, from The Aluminum Show and Falsetto Sock Puppets to Jim Rose and Circus Oz. The show comes from the Pleasance Courtyard, right at the heart of all the Edinburgh action, where comedian and musician Tim Minchin joins us to talk about his new show Ready For This? and French band Nouvelle Vague perform a bossa nova version of the Clash's Guns of Brixton.

Lauren Laverne presents the second of three shows from Edinburgh covering the highlights from the Festival and Fringe. On the show tonight is a preview of 365, the new work by The National Theatre of Scotland. The Edinburgh Festival Show has been following the work through rehearsal stages and tonight's programme features scenes from the play, one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the International Festival. Comedian and political activist Mark Thomas looks at some of the political art at this year's festival, concentrating on Richard Hamilton's show Protest Pictures and Sherman Cymru's documentary drama Deep Cut. Tim Samuels allows himself to be drawn into some of the numerous audience participation shows on offer, including Office Party and Faulty Towers the Dining Experience. Lauren is joined in the Pleasance Courtyard by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and Snuff. Another of his novels, Choke, has recently been turned into a movie with Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston and Kelly Macdonald. Virtuoso Hungarian violinist Roby Lakatos plays us out with typical exuberance.

Lauren Laverne presents the last in the series of shows covering the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. Coming from the Pleasance Courtyard, right in the middle of all the Edinburgh action, the programme will be covering the enormous range of shows and performances that hit Edinburgh in August. Joining Lauren at the Pleasance will be the legendary Joan Rivers. Her autobiographical play, a Work in Progress by a Life in Progress, in which she also appears, is set to be one of the most talked about shows on the Fringe and she remains one of the most entertaining, and occassionally shocking, acts on the circuit. Lauren also meets Matthew Bourne, one of the country's most popular choreographers, his new work Dorian Gray, part of the Edinburgh International Festival, is his first new production in three years. One of the most unusual projects on the Fringe, Scavenger Hunt is also featured on this week's show. Scavenger Hunt is a one off event in which teams solve treasure hunt type clues around the city, producing pieces of art work as they go. The programme will be following many of the teams as they race round the Scottish capital and will feature the exhibition produced at the end of the event. In the last of his Festival reports, Tim Samuels will be speaking to some of the acts that haven't quite hit the headlines and will be asking the performers whether it was worth all the blood, sweat, tears and hard cash needed to put on a show in Edinburgh.

Special 4 Michael Jackson Special

  • 2009-12-22T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

Six months on from the death of Michael Jackson, The Culture Show re-evaluates his impact on modern music. Musicians, producers and contemporaries assess Michael Jackson's position within African-American culture, his mainstream appeal and his massive contribution to pop music and culture across the world, as well as telling the stories behind some of Michael's most enduring hits. With contributions from Smokey Robinson, Jermaine Jackson, Martha Reeves and record producer and DJ Questlove.

A special edition of The Culture Show marking the start of a landmark project in which the BBC and the British Museum focus on the span of human history through 100 objects held at the museum. This programme, presented by Mishal Husain from the British Museum, profiles all the elements of the project, which includes one hundred programmes on Radio 4, a massive online factor, as well as programmes on CBBC and coverage from the BBC right across the country.

Presented by Kevin McCloud, this Culture Show Special comes from the Royal Institute of British Architects' annual award ceremony, celebrating the best buildings of 2011. Kicking off with a look at the key trends in new architecture, the programme reveals the winners of three RIBA awards: the Stephen Lawrence Prize, for UK projects costing under £1 million; the Lubetkin Prize, for outstanding buildings outside the EU; and finally the UK's most prestigious prize for architecture, the RIBA Stirling Prize. The six buildings on the Stirling shortlist, explored here by Tom Dyckhoff, range from projects by star architects - including a school by last year's Stirling winner, Zaha Hadid; the Olympic Velodrome by Michael Hopkins; and a museum in Germany by David Chipperfield - through to projects by less well-known names, including an imaginative office building in London, an Irish language cultural centre in Derry and the RSC's newly-revamped theatre in Stratford.

Special 7 Steven Spielberg Special

  • 2006-11-04T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

Mark Kermode interviews Steven Spielberg on his 60th birthday

Special 8 Into Orbit: A Culture Show Special

  • 2012-06-16T18:00:00Z — 60 mins

Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond's Orbit sculpture is the most spectacular artistic creation of 2012 - a gravity-defying, breathtakingly dynamic scribble of crimson steel. Standing twice the height of Nelson's Column, it now towers over the Olympic Park, and has already inspired strong reactions. It is the biggest piece of public sculpture this country has ever seen - a bold statement of artistic ambition and a giant engineering challenge. In this one-off special, The Culture Show goes behind the scenes to follow it from commission to completion, and discovers just how difficult it is to build a tower for the 21st century. Featuring interviews with Boris Johnson and Lakshmi Mittal along with exclusive access to Kapoor and Balmond as they strive to realise their vision in the face of some Olympian challenges.

Special 9 Sigur Ros Special

  • 2008-01-04T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

Verity Sharp meets the four-piece band Sigur Ros in their native Iceland and on their visit to the UK for the 2007 Electric Proms. They have sold two million albums globally and their haunting music has been used as a soundtrack on trailers for the BBC series Planet Earth. They talk about their unique sound and their film Heima, which chronicles a series of unannounced gigs in Iceland in 2006.

Ford Madox Ford is one of the forgotten greats of British fiction. With Tom Stoppard's dramatisation of Ford's unusual First World War love story Parade's End showing on BBC Two, Alan Yentob reveals Ford to be one of the most likeable characters in literature - humorous, overweight and with a deeply complicated love life that lit the fire under his greatest novels. A radical and a modernist, Ford was friend and collaborator to the great experimenters, Conrad, Lawrence, Pound and Joyce, and he wrote over 80 books including the masterpiece The Good Soldier. Yentob follows Ford through scandal, prison, exile and into the army, where he was injured by an explosion while serving in the Somme. He reveals how the shockwaves from this explosion reverberated through the rest of Ford's life, providing the inspiration for his visceral, unique and spectacular wartime epic Parade's End. Contributors include fans John Simpson, the Booker winner Ben Okri and academic Hermione Lee, as well as eminent chef Rowley Leigh, cooking some of Ford's favourite food.

Lee Child, one of Britain's bestselling authors, explores the phenomenal popularity of his character Jack Reacher - the basis of a new blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise. In an insightful interview with Andrew Graham-Dixon, he reveals how being made redundant at age 40 pushed him into a life of writing and led him to New York, where he now lives. But despite the American setting of the highly successful Jack Reacher series, it is poignant elements of his childhood in Birmingham that form the basis of his fiction.

Andrew Graham-Dixon travels to Northern Spain to visit some of the world's oldest works of art, hundreds of meters beneath the surface of the earth. In limestone caves he is astonished to find a series of vivid paintings, some of which are over 33,000 years old, which appear to link modern man to our ice age ancestors. Back in London, the British Museum is staging one of its most ambitious exhibitions yet, Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind. Andrew gets a behind-the-scenes preview of the extraordinary highlights and discovers that the world's first commissioned artists were producing highly sophisticated work tens of thousands of years before he previously imagined. The programme includes contributions from the British Museum's director, Neil MacGregor, and artist Antony Gormley.

Special 13 Your Paintings

  • 2013-03-09T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

For years, thousands of paintings owned by the British public have been hidden away and inaccessible - until now. Thanks to the work of the Your Paintings project, over 200,000 works in our national collections have been painstakingly uncovered, photographed and put online - some for the very first time - allowing art experts and amateur-sleuths alike to make connections and discoveries that wouldn't have been possible before. Alastair Sooke teams up with art detective Dr Bendor Grosvenor to unearth some hidden gems and find out what our paintings say about us.

Special 14 The Magic Tricks of JJ Abrams

  • 2013-05-11T18:00:00Z — 60 mins

One of the hottest talents in Hollywood today, JJ Abrams talks to Mark Kermode about his latest turn at the helm of the Starship Enterprise, his lifelong love of filmmaking and the passion for mystery that lies at the heart of everything he does. New York born Abrams has conquered both television and film, bringing landmark TV series Lost to the small screen while collaborating with film industry royalty Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg for box office hits Mission: Impossible III and Super 8. Self-confessed geek and ultimate fan boy, Jeffrey Jacob Abrams is about to take on the daunting task of directing the new Star Wars film. In this programme JJ takes Mark on an exclusive tour of Bad Robot, the top secret Los Angeles hub of his production company and provides a rare glimpse into where the magic happens.

A topical series featuring the best arts and culture stories of the week. One of the hottest talents in Hollywood today, JJ Abrams talks to Mark Kermode about his latest turn at the helm of the Starship Enterprise, his lifelong love of filmmaking and the passion for mystery that lies at the heart of everything he does. New York born Abrams has conquered both television and film, bringing landmark TV series Lost to the small screen while collaborating with film industry royalty Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg for box office hits Mission: Impossible III and Super 8. Self-confessed geek and ultimate fan boy, Jeffrey Jacob Abrams is about to take on the daunting task of directing the new Star Wars film. In this programme JJ takes Mark on an exclusive tour of Bad Robot, the top secret Los Angeles hub of his production company and provides a rare glimpse into where the magic happens.

Special 16 Swinging into the Blitz

  • 2013-02-16T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

When a handful of musical immigrants from the Caribbean islands came to Britain in the 1920s and 30s, it was the beginning of both musical and political change. Leslie Thompson, an innovative musician and trumpeter, and Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson, a brilliant dancer and charismatic band leader, pooled their talents to start the first black British swing band. Clemency Burton-Hill reveals the untold story of the black British swing musicians of the 1930s, whose meteoric rise to fame on London's high society dance floors was cut short by unexpected tragedy at the height of the Blitz.

Special 17 The Mormons Are Here!

  • 2013-02-27T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

Alan Yentob talks to South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone about their comedy stage musical The Book of Mormon. Already a huge hit in the US, this irreverent religious satire is now opening in London's West End. Like the rest of Parker and Stone's work, the show is a master class in subversive comedy. In their eyes nothing is off limits and nobody safe from ridicule. This Culture Show Special reflects on the duos extraordinary career and reveals how music has always played a crucial role in their creative output - from early student films through to South Park and Team America: World Police. Alan visits South Park Studios in LA, encounters some real life Mormon missionaries in San Diego, and catches up with Matt and Trey in London as they oversee final rehearsals for the West End run of The Book of Mormon. Along the way he discovers what inspires this relentlessly provocative partnership and how they ended up making a Broadway musical in the first place.

It's 30 years since Manchester four-piece The Smiths changed the face of British pop with their debut single Hand In Glove. In this half-hour Culture Show special, fellow Mancunian and lifelong fan Tim Samuels sets out to find out why The Smiths have such a special place in the hearts of a generation of Brits. The Smiths were only around for five years in the mid-eighties, but to this day the sentiment their music evokes is strong. Samuels pays visits to a variety of dedicated fans including fashion designer Wayne Hemingway, poet Simon Armitage, Labour MP Kerry McCarthy and Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher to analyse the look, the lyrics, the issues and the riffs that made The Smiths Britain's first, and arguably best ever, indie rock band.

It's a hundred years since DH Lawrence's revolutionary novel, Sons and Lovers, first hit the bookshops - and to celebrate, the writer Geoff Dyer, accompanied by Lawrence scholar, Catherine Brown, retread the Alpine journey that the love-struck Lawrence made when he eloped from England with the sexually liberated Frieda Weekley, in 1912. It was an extraordinary trip that enabled him to complete his first masterpiece and also marked the moment when he decided to risk everything for his writing. As Geoff and Catherine head into the mountains, the film ranges over the globetrotting story of Lawrence's life and work and takes the opportunity to fight back against Lawrence's many critics. With assistance from a clutch of Lawrence admirers - including poet Simon Armitage, novelist Rachel Cusk and the biographer John Worthen - the hikers peel back the stereotype of Lawrence as that earnest, one-track-mind novelist to reveal one of the most adventurous, humane and influential figures of the 20th century.

There are more images of Elizabeth II than any other historical figure, but how to paint a queen is one of the trickiest of artistic challenges. Alastair Sooke looks at the depiction of Britain's female rulers, from Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I to Queen Victoria and our current monarch, and discovers how queenly portraits reveal Britain's changing ideas about women and power.

In 2009, art detective Dr Bendor Grosvenor caused a national scandal by proving that the Scottish National Portrait Gallery's iconic portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the rebel Stuart who almost seized power in 1745, was not in fact him. Keen to make amends, and suspecting that a long-lost portrait of the prince by one of Scotland's greatest artists, Allan Ramsay, might still survive, Bendor decides to retrace Charles' journey in the hope of unravelling one of the greatest mysteries in British art.

The story of pop art has been culturally canonised as the preserve of a ground-breaking gang of boys, focusing on the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton, or Tom Wesselman. Just like Andy Warhol's soup cans or Lichtenstein's comics, women were simply commodified objects. However back in the day, pop art was not just a boys' club. The scene was full of female artists, tussling with sexuality, violence and consumer culture every bit as much as their male counterparts. Strangely, their work has been consigned to the margins of history - they started out together, shared the same art dealers and were shown in the same exhibitions, but as the boys' prices skyrocketed, the girls' stayed put. By the end of the sixties they had pretty much been erased from the pop narrative. In this Culture Show special, Alistair Sooke tracks down the forgotten women artists of pop, finding many of them are still alive and working, their art and their stories ripe for rediscovery. Artists include Pauline Boty, Marisol, Rosalyn Drexler, Idelle Weber, Letty Lou Eisenhauer and Jann Haworth.

Stonehenge is our most famous prehistoric monument; a powerful symbol of Britain across the globe. But all is not well with the sacred stones. MPs have described the surrounding site as a 'national disgrace' and 'shameful shambles'. Now, after decades of disputes over what should be done, English Heritage has just 12 months to create a setting that this unique monument deserves. But Stonehenge is more than a tourist attraction; it is also a temple. In this hour-long Culture Show special, Alastair Sooke shows that Stonehenge has long been a place of conflict and controversy, and that passions still run high at the monument where druids, archaeologists and scientists all battle for the soul of Stonehenge.

In a major new BBC commission, acclaimed poet Simon Armitage has written seven new poems about World War I that form the centre of his latest television documentary. Armitage visits French beaches, German prison camps, so-called 'thankful' villages and remote corners of the Scottish Highlands as he considers the death of over 700,000 British soldiers in the conflict and tells seven real-life war stories. He learns of those who lived and died through it, those who worked and grieved and cried through it, and even those who tunnelled to freedom beneath its very soil. Each story culminates in a poem inspired by Armitage's research. Featuring readings by both the poet himself and the surviving relatives of those whose stories he tells, this film offers an opportunity to reflect again on that catastrophic loss of life, and to think about how we commemorate the dead for the next 100 years.

The Vikings are famous for their violent raids on Anglo-Saxon monasteries, incredible shipbuilding skills and general brutality. They are less famous, perhaps, for their artistic talents. Yet the precious fragments of art that survive from the Viking Age portray a far more mysterious side to Viking culture. From the so-called 'gripping beast' motif of the Oseberg wood carvings to the abstract animal ornamentation that adorns Viking jewellery, Viking art is defined by beautiful and intricate artistic styles that are distinctly Scandinavian, yet also show the Vikings' interaction with other cultures, culminating in their conversion from paganism to Christianity. To coincide with the first major exhibition on Vikings at the British Museum for over 30 years, Andrew Graham-Dixon invites viewers to explore and admire the splendours of Viking art.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of London Underground, Alastair Sooke presents a cultural history of the oldest tube network in the world.

To mark the publication of Keith Richards' autobiography, Life, this Culture Show special looks at the life of the man with five strings and nine lives. In a candid interview he chats to Andrew Graham-Dixon about his childhood in Dartford, his passion for music and the decade that catapulted the Rolling Stones from back-room blues boys to one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands in the world.

Special 31 Henry Moore: A Culture Show Special

  • 2010-03-18T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

A one-hour special on one of the most important and popular British sculptors of the twentieth century, Henry Moore. Presented by Alan Yentob, the programme takes a unique approach to Moore by examining his life on film.

Harry Potter is one of the most successful publishing phenomena of our time, selling 450 million copies. Its success has transformed author JK Rowling from an impoverished single mother into one of Britain's richest women. Since The Deathly Hallows was published in 2007, Rowling's fans have been desperate to know what she was going to do next. The answer is The Casual Vacancy, a novel for adults with some very grown-up themes. The expectation and pressure are enormous. Although most details are shrouded in secrecy, it is known to be set in the idyllic fictional English town of Pagford, where tensions gather around a local election which follows the death of a parish councillor. James Runcie meets the notoriously private writer in her hometown of Edinburgh, where she finally reveals the exact nature of the novel, with exclusive readings and in-depth discussion about its ideas, characters and inspiration. Rowling also discusses the pressure and pitfalls of following up the biggest literary phenomenon of a generation, describing how she finally moved on from Potter and the challenges of making the leap to writing fiction for adults.

Special 33 Living Icons

  • 2006-12-16T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

David Attenborough is the winner of Living Icons, a quest to establish the greatest cultural icon in Britain today. Nominations began on 14th October 2006, followed by voting from a Top 10 shortlist which opened on 11th November 2006. The winner was announced on 16th December 2006.

China's antique trade is booming, with records being smashed at auction every week. But why is this market exploding now, and what makes a piece of pottery into a million pound masterpiece? Andrew Graham-Dixon travels to Hong Kong to see how China's super-rich are spending their new-found wealth on purchasing relics from their country's imperial history.

Special 35 U2 Special - No Line On the Horizon

  • 2009-02-27T19:00:00Z — 60 mins

The show focuses on one of the world's biggest bands as Lauren visits them in Dublin to talk about the new album and hear some of the songs live. We also speak to Radio 1 DJ Nemone and writer and critic David Quantick for a frank appraisal of U2's musical career.

As Henry VIII's court painter, Hans Holbein witnessed and recorded the most notorious era in English history. He painted most of the major characters of the age and created the famous image of the king himself that everyone still recognises today. But who really was Holbein? Where did he come from? And what were the dark and unsettling secrets hidden in his art? Waldemar Januszczak looks at the life and work of an artist who became famous for bringing the Tudor age to life, but who could have been so many other things.