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New Generation Thinkers: a decade of bringing research to radio

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BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) bring together the UK’s brightest minds in celebration of new thinking.

Since 2010, 100 early career researchers have become New Generation Thinkers (NGT). The scheme was created by BBC Radio 3 and AHRC to bring the story of arts and humanities research to new audiences.

To mark this milestone, a selection of NGTs from the scheme will feature across BBC Radio 3, bringing their diverse ideas to life through debate, conversation, music and new writing.

Join us from 23-29 November to celebrate this special anniversary. From the changing role of the bedroom to the birth of celebrity culture and Nigeria’s take on Harry Potter, BBC Radio 3 is bringing together ideas from some of the country’s brightest academics.

Anniversary programme highlights

Highlights during the week include a discussion on Free Thinking on 25 November, looking at how our bedrooms have changed from sleeping spaces to workspaces, with guests including Tiffany Watt Smith and Fern Riddell.

On 24 November, NGT Corin Throsby, who researches romantic literature, will examine the extraordinary fan letters sent to Lord Byron and ask what these tell us about modern-day celebrity culture.

On 26 November on Free Thinking, a debate from Bristol Festival ideas, hosted by Shahidha Bari, looks at leadership throughout history – from Tudor courts to plantations and from the Arab Spring to modern political philosophy.

Over the weekend of 28-29 November, NGTs feature across Radio 3’s music shows, including:

  • Daisy Fancourt talking about her research into arts and health
  • Iain Smith looking at international versions of hit films including the Turkish James Bond and the Nigerian Harry Potter
  • Words and Music exploring the theme of The Body, with new writing from NGTs including Seren Griffiths, Sandeep Parmar and Diarmuid Hester.

One hundred New Generation Thinkers

Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair of the Arts & Humanities Research Council said:

We launched New Generation Thinkers with BBC Radio 3 10 years ago, and we have since worked with some of the brightest academic minds in arts and humanities.

We are delighted that so many of these New Generation Thinkers s will share their ideas across Radio 3 at the end of November – a timely insight into the methodological innovation, diversity and relevance of arts and humanities research.

Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech Programming on BBC Radio 3, comments:

Since 2010 we have worked with 100 New Generation Thinkers, bringing their ideas to life and changing the nature of academic debate on Radio 3.

By featuring their new ideas across our different shows at the end of this month, we are giving our listeners the chance to hear from – and be inspired by – the new generation of researchers.

The NGT scheme is one of the major ways AHRC engages the public and communicates the value of research into the arts and humanities. The support and training provided by AHRC and BBC Radio 3 provides early career arts and humanities researchers with the opportunity to communicate and engage with the public.

Imaginative solutions

Now more than ever we need imaginative solutions to social challenges such as mental health, extreme poverty, climate change and modern slavery.

Enabling the next generation of researchers to reach wider audiences and engage the public with their research is essential to inspire new ways of thinking that will give rise to these solutions.

NGTs have become regulars on BBC Radio 3:

  • presenting TV documentaries on BBC4 and flagship arts programmes on Radio 4
  • discussing their work with the public at the Hay Festival
  • making short films about their expertise
  • taking part in judging panels for leading cultural prizes.

Several have become established BBC presenters, including Shahidha Bari, Daisy Fancourt, Alexandra Harris and Laurence Scott.

To access this extraordinary collection of programmes that promise to challenge the way we think about our history, our future and the world around us tune in to BBC Radio 3 or listen on the BBC Sounds app.

More information about the scheme can be found on the AHRC website.

A playlist of other essays, documentaries and discussions featuring NGTs from across the different years is on the BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking website.

Further information

BBC Radio 3 NGT programme details

Monday 23 November, The Essay, 22:45

Deep diving to the trail of an Indian guru: journalist and writer Martin Goodman gives a talk on the perils of writing the biographies of scientist JS Haldane and Indian mystic Mother Meera.

Tuesday 24 November, Free Thinking: From the most private space to office, 22:00

How have our bedrooms changed from sleeping space to workspace? Matthew Sweet’s guests recording in their bedrooms – are historian of emotions Tiffany Watt Smith; expert on the suffragettes and a history of sex Fern Riddell; Laurence Scott, author of books exploring our digital lives; and Joe Moshenska, who works on the literature and culture of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Tuesday 24 November, The Essay, 22:45

Byron, celebrity and fan mail. Would Byron have embraced twitter? Corin Throsby, who researches Romantic literature and early celebrity culture, considers the extraordinary fan letters fans sent to Byron.

Wednesday 25 November, Free Thinking: Conformity and Rebellion, 22:00

A playwright and British Black Panther member, a Ukrainian film-maker, a Japanese child star and young gang leaders in Glasgow and Chicago: Rana Mitter gathers a panel of NGTs to look at what different lives can tell us about conformity and rebellion.

Wednesday 25 November, The Essay, 22:00

Is man the only political beast? Political theorist and ethicist Alasdair Cochrane re-imagines a political world which takes animal rights seriously.

Thursday 26 November, Free Thinking: Leadership, 22:00

In partnership with the Bristol Festival of ideas, Shahidha Bari hosts a discussion with NGTs Christienna Fryar, Jeffrey Howard, Joanne Paul and Dina Rezk looking at leadership throughout history – from Tudor courts to plantations and from the Arab Spring to modern political philosophy.

Thursday 26 November, The Essay, 22:00

Politician and Pioneer: Writing the Life of Arthur Kavanagh. Clare Walker Gore, whose research focuses on life-writing and fiction in the Victorian period, examines what a 19th century MP without hands and feet tells us about stereotypes.

Friday 27 November, The Essay, 22:45

When Shakespeare Travelled With Me. Literary critic and historian Islam Issa reflects on his own encounters with Shakespearian understanding in the Arab world, from peasant knowledge to pop, and looks back at a debate of poets in 1916 Egypt.

Saturday 28 November

  • Record Review, 09:00: Sibelius specialist Leah Broad talks with Andrew McGregor about recordings of the composer’s work.
  • Music Matters, 11:45: Daisy Fancourt talks about her research into arts and health
  • Sound of Cinema, 15:00: Iain Smith looks at international versions of hit films including the Turkish James Bond and the Nigerian Harry Potter.
  • Music Planet, 16:00: Islam Issa talks about the role of music in Egyptian politics, old and new
  • Opera on 3, 17:00, Handel’s Ariodante: during the interval, Catherine Fletcher, a Renaissance historian and author, will talk about the epic poem which inspired the plot of Handel’s Ariodante.

Sunday 29 November

  • Breakfast, 07:00: Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough explores about the sounds of nature with music linking to her work on forests.
  • Sunday Morning, 09:00: Sarah Walker interviews Tom Smith about his research into German culture and techno music.
  • Private Passions, 12:00  Michael Berkeley’s guest is Alexandra Harris, author of books including Romantic Moderns and Weatherland.
  • The Early Music Show, 14:00 Historian and NGT John Gallagher talks to Lucie Skeaping about music and migration in Tudor and Jacobean England.
  • Words and Music, 17:30: From tattoos to massage, pregnancy to posture devices, and excavations to emotional outbursts, this programme reflects on research into different aspects of the body undertaken by NGTs: Peter Mackay, Preti Taneja, Sarah Jackson, Sandeep Parmar, Alun Withey, Clare Walker Gore, Diarmuid Hester, Elsa Richardson, Fern Riddell, Hetta Howes, Lisa Mullen, Seren Griffiths, Tiffany Watt Smith. Music ranges from Mahler to the Delta Rhythm Boys.
  • Sunday Feature, 18:45:  250 years ago, the brilliant but impoverished Thomas Chatterton died is his cold, bare garret alone. The image of the tragic and neglected young genius, doomed by his art, has rippled through the centuries. NGT Sophie Coulombeau discovers that the myths built up around this tortured poet are as enticing and complex as the poems he is accused of faking.

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