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Great Lives

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Tous les épisodes

  • 29.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:19
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    Xuanzang, Chinese monk and traveller

    It was an extraordinary journey, and a life that reads like a fairy tale. Xuanzang was born at the start of the seventh century in China. He studied as a monk and travelled for 16 years - first westwards, and then in a crescent back and down over the Himalayas to India . He returned a famous man, laden with Buddhists texts and artefacts. Historian Michael Wood has followed much of his route; he first discovered Xuanzang at university and became intrigued about his life. "I'm tempted to say this is one of the greatest lives in all the civilisations of the world," says Michael.Joining him in discussion is Frances Wood and the presenter Matthew Parris.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

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  • 22.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:57
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    James Graham on John Maynard Keynes

    James Graham, the award-winning playwright whose work includes the TV dramas "Brexit: The Uncivil War" and "Quiz", tells Matthew Parris why he is inspired by the life and work of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes was not just the revolutionary economist who helped shape the course of post-war history. The programme explores his colourful love life and lifelong passion for the arts. Matthew and James are joined by Linda Yueh, economist and author of "The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today". Producer: Chris Ledgard

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  • 15.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:46
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    Sir David Adjaye on Okwui Enwezor

    “I was astonished by the experience of standing there, where the two oceans met. I knew at that very moment this would be my concept: the meeting of worlds". Okwui Enwezor.For centuries, the art establishment had been defined and dictated by predominantly white, wealthy, western critics and curators. Then in the early 90’s a young man who was born in Nigeria and studied Political Science in New York came onto the scene and said, ‘no more’.With an eye for aesthetic and a burning fire of political concern, curator and educator Okwui Enwezor transformed the art world. He placed non-western art histories on an equal footing with the long-established narrative of European and North American art. He was a man with a mission, utterly confident and determined.Sir David Adjaye, the architect perhaps best known for his largest project to date – the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture - champions the ground-breaking life of Okwui Enwezor, who became both his friend and collaborator. He is joined by Chika Okeke-Agulu, one of the foremost scholars of African Art and Professor of African and African Diaspora Art at Princeton University.Presented by Matthew Parris Produced in Bristol by Nicola Humphries

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:48
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    Tom Allen on Kenneth Williams

    Comedian and presenter Tom Allen first discovered Kenneth Williams as a young boy, watching the Carry On films and listening to Round the Horne with his mum. He joins Matthew Parris and Kenneth's biographer, Christopher Stevens, to explore the life of the famous twentieth century entertainer. Together, they discuss stealing the show, sexuality and living solo. Featuring clips from Kenneth's performances from Parkinson to Just a Minute, Desert Island Discs to Hancock's Half Hour, the trio reflect on Kenneth's dexterity and complexity, as a performer and as a person. Producer: Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:24
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    Ernie Bevin, forgotten political giant

    Ernie Bevin led an extraordinary life. Born in Somerset in 1881, his father is unknown and his mother died when he was eight. He left his job as a farm labourer age 11 and moved to Bristol, where he helped to found the Transport and General Worker's Union. He was Churchill's Labour minister in the wartime cabinet, and heavily involved in postwar reconstruction as Foreign secretary under Clement Attlee. He smoked too much and drank too much, and made a massive impression on everyone he met. So why is he not better known? Nominating him is Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, Matthew Parris presents and also contributing is his biographer, Andrew Adonis, author of Ernest Bevin: Labour's Churchill.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:50
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    Jessie Ware on Donna Summer

    Jessie Ware is a singer, songwriter and podcaster. Her latest, critically acclaimed, album, What's Your Pleasure?, draws inspiration from soul, funk, boogie, and disco - and, notably, the work of the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer. Jessie joins Matthew Parris and Pete Bellotte, co-producer and co-writer of many of Donna Summer's biggest hits - I Feel Love, Love to Love You Baby, and Hot Stuff, among others - to explore the life and work of her musical heroine. Jessie, Pete and Matthew discuss Donna's Protean vocal abilities, her eventful childhood and how post-war Munich provided the perfect environment to create some of disco's most momentous hits. Pete reveals how a three-minute demo of Love to Love You Baby became a seventeen-minute breakout hit and together they explore why disco has endured despite an early backlash. Jessie ponders whether life has changed for a woman in the music industry and reflects on Donna's personal legacy. With additional contributions from Danyel Smith, author of Shine Bright: A Personal History of Black Women in Pop (published Spring 2021). Produced in Bristol by Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:49
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    Peter Frankopan on Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

    Bearded, profoundly deaf and somewhat eccentric, Tsiolkovsky's theoretical work means he is, for many, the "father of space travel". He died in 1935, and so never saw his research come to fruition. To discuss Tsiolkovsky's life and achievements, Matthew Parris is joined by Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History at Oxford and author of the international best-seller, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. Matthew's other guest is Doug Millard, Curator of Space Technology at the Science Museum. Producer: Chris Ledgard

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:40
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    Frida Kahlo nominated by Author Jessie Burton

    “We’re talking here about a woman who was Mexican, dark skinned, disabled and queer, who produced art and didn’t allow her disabilities to define her. She defined who she was on her own terms," says Circe Henestrosa, co curator of Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up. Circe joins Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist in discussion about the Mexican artist known for her self-portraits and her distinctive look - the dresses and flowered hair, the monobrow, the piercing stare. Born in 1907, Kahlo's life was a collage of strength, beauty and pain. She survived polio and a bus crash that should have killed her, as well as a complex, passionate marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera. Nominator Jessie Burton celebrates Frida Kahlo as a remarkable life who triumphed over adversity with true grit, glamour and great wit. The presenter is Matthew Parris. The producer in Bristol is Nicola Humphries.Jessie Burton is author of The Miniaturist, The Muse and The Confession. Circe Henestrosa is a fashion curator and Frida Kahlo scholar.

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  • 08.09.2020
    28 MB
    29:16
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    Mussolini

    September 1943, and German troops have just landed in gliders to rescue Benito Mussolini from the mountain resort where he was being held. “I knew my friend Adolf Hitler would not desert me,” he said later. But Mussolini died before the end of the war, shot and then strung up with his mistress in Milan.Who was this man, and is he still relevant today? Nominating him is Professor Margaret MacMillan, not as her hero but as someone she says must not be dismissed as a buffoon. Mussolini founded and led the fascists in Italy, was a brilliant propagandist, and would have probably died in his bed but for the war. Winston Churchill, speaking in 1927, told him his fascist movement "has rendered a service to the entire world."Only later did he dub him the Italian Miscalculator. Mussolini declared war on Britain just as France was poised to fall.As well as archive of Mussolini, Churchill, and the Italian journalist Luigi Barzini, the programme features Professor John Foot of Bristol University. Margaret MacMillan is the author of Peacemakers and a former BBC Reith lecturer. The programme is presented by Matthew Parris.Future great lives in this series include Frida Kahlo, Donna Summer, Hendrick Witbooi and Kenneth Williams of Carry On fame.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:49
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    Dolly Alderton on Doris Day

    Dolly Alderton's love of Doris Day began when she watched Calamity Jane as a young child. And for Dolly, the incandescent film star was as much of a poster girl as The Spice Girls. But Dolly's view of the legendary actress and singer has changed as she's matured. Dolly joins Matthew Parris and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald, Reader in Film and Head of the School of Arts at the University of Kent, to discuss dancing, divorces and dogs. Together they explore whether the image of Doris Day as a happy-go-lucky girl-next-door is a true reflection of the life and character of one of the twentieth century's most famous stars. Producer: Camellia Sinclair Credit: Love Me or Leave Me (dir. Charles Vidor, MGM); Pillow Talk (dir. Michael Gordon, Arwin Productions).

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:35
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    Sybille Bedford, author of Jigsaw and A Legacy

    Sara Wheeler first read Sybille Bedford in her early twenties, and discovered a dazzling writer. The book she read was called A Visit to Don Otavio. It's set in Mexico, a country Bedford wanted to visit because of its 'long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible.' Born Sybille von Schoenebeck in 1911 in Germany, she lived in Italy, France, California and London, and her book Jigsaw was nominated for the Booker prize. But by her own admission she never sold many books. Sara Wheeler is the author of Terra Incognita - about her travels in Antarctica. Victoria Glendinning adds her thoughts and wit to the programme. There are archive contributions from Hilary Spurling, Sue McGregor and Sybille Bedford too. The presenter is Matthew Parris

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:57
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    Billy Bremner of Leeds United

    Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe, chooses the life of infamous Leeds United Captain, Billy Bremner.Billy Bremner played for Leeds as a midfielder from 1959 until 1976. He scored 115 goals for the team and captained them for 11 years during the most successful period in their history. 5’5”, with a mop of red hair, he was known as “ten stone of barbed wire” "Wee Billy and “Midfield Terrier”.He grew up near Stirling in a working class family, moving to Leeds at 16 to where he returned in the 80s as manager.At the time, Anand was a schoolboy in Wakefield. Before he became a Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, he was first and foremost a Leeds fan.Anand was also at school with Telegraph journalist Rob Bagchi - author of the forthcoming biography of the club.Growing up in West Yorkshire instilled a lifelong devotion to Billy and the club in both of them - in spite of their "Dirty Leeds" reputation and the ups and downs of a team often destined to narrowly miss out on chances. "If being a Leeds fan has taught me anything, it's that anything which can go wrong, will go wrong."But there is another side to this story, both Anand and Rob are children of Indian parents. Elland Road was well known for the presence of the National Front on the terraces as they were growing up, and so Anand only saw Billy in the flesh a few times. But when Billy returned as manager in the 1980s, he went to great lengths to turn the culture of the terraces around.Presented by Matthew ParrisProduced by Polly Weston

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:39
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    Sally Phillips on Hollywood star Myrna Loy

    When Sally Phillips first saw Myrna Loy, she burst into tears. It was in a film called The Best Years of Our Lives, about three veterans returning to their wives after World War Two. Myrna Loy was most famous for the Thin Man series, and she also played voluptuous baddies in flicks like The Mask of Fun Manchu. But it's not just her screen career that inspires Sally, a star herself for work in Smack the Pony and Bridget Jones. Myrna Loy was a hardworking and often fearless person, heavily involved with The Red Cross and UNESCO after the war. The author of Fast Talking Dames, Maria di Battista, joins the discussion from Princeton. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:34
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    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood grew up in a bungalow high up on the moors in Lancashire. The rooms were partitioned off with plywood, and she loved to play the piano on her own. She became the biggest comedy star in the UK, writing, directing, acting, and winning BAFTAS for being funny, and being serious too. Nominating the star of Wood and Walters, Dinnerladies and Housewife, 49 is Daniel Rigby. He won a BAFTA playing Eric Morecambe in 2011, and Victoria Wood played his mum. She also became his landlady. Joining the often joyful discussion is Jasper Rees - author of the upcoming authorised biography of Victoria Wood.The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer in Bristol Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:21
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    The amazing Maya Angelou

    Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in 1928. She was a mother, writer, dancer, director, performer, friend of presidents, and author of seven volumes of memoir. The very first - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - returned to the top of the best-seller lists when she died in 2014. So why were people fascinated by her life? Nominating her is Bristol University's recently appointed professor of slavery, Olivette Otele. "I l love her, I really do." She's joined by Patricia Cumper who has adapted many of Maya Angelou's books for radio. The presenter is Matthew Parris. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:46
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    Ursula Le Guin nominated by Kate Stables

    Ursula le Guin was born in California in 1929. Her books - including A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness - have been described as masterpieces but she battled prejudice all her life from the literary elite. Choosing her because she loves both Ursula's books and who she was is the British musician Kate Stables. She's speaking to Matthew Parris from Paris. On the line from San Francisco is Arwen Curry - she knew the author and made the film The Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin with the strapline, A Wizard's Work is Never Done.The producers in Bristol are Toby Field and Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:32
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    Frank Cottrell Boyce on Tove Jansson

    "One of the best things a children's writer can do is to implant sign posts in childhood to things that are good, and to the small pleasures that will get you through life" Frank Cottrell-BoyceTove Jansson was born in Helsinki in 1914. An artist, illustrator and writer she became best known as the creator of The Moomins, the little white trolls who lived in Moominvalley with other fantastical creatures such as the Hattifatteners, Mymbles and Whompers.Acclaimed screenwriter and children's author Frank Cottrell-Boyce has described Tove Jansson as his 'Guardian Angel' having first discovered Moominvalley one Saturday morning in his local library in Liverpool. He encountered Comets, Great Floods and a little Midsummer Madness all of which were met with the warmth and wisdom of Moomin-Mamma, the gentle observance of Snufkin and the inventiveness of Little My.Fantastical in their adventures but rooted in reality and humanity, Frank Cottrell-Boyce champions the creator of Mooninvalley who poured her fascinating life into her books. Drawing inspiration from childhood disagreements about the philosopher Immanuel Kant, creative ways to survive a war and a forbidden - but wonderful - love story that lasted a life time.Producer in Bristol is Nicola Humphries Presented by Matthew Parris Guest Expert Boel Westin Author of 'Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words'(Pre-recorded earlier this year)

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  • 08.09.2020
    25 MB
    26:40
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    Rick Stein on Jim Morrison

    As a twenty-one year old man travelling the world, a young Rick Stein discovered The Doors and became fascinated by the band's lead singer, Jim Morrison. Over the subsequent fifty years, the life and legend of one of rock and roll's brightest stars had a lasting impact on the restauranteur. Joining Matthew Parris and Rick Stein to uncover the mysteries of Jim's life is the broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, who found The Doors when he was a student radio disc jockey at university. With contributions from Frank Lisciandro, filmmaker and friend of Jim, and Kirsten Norrie, poet and singer. Producer: Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:41
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    Andi Oliver on Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison

    When Andi Oliver first read Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye' she felt as though someone climbed inside her head. Morrison's books saved her life - both emotionally and cerebrally.The author, editor and college professor Toni Morrison chronicled the lives of African-Americans in novels such as 'Beloved', 'Sula' and 'Song of Solomon'. She once said that what drove her to write was "the silence of so many stories untold and unexamined". Born in Ohio, she was granddaughter to a slave, and her work often drew on the legacies of slavery, how it's carried down the generations.Awarded both the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize for Literature, her work was internationally acclaimed. Joining Matthew Parris and Andi Oliver is Morrison's close friend Fran Lebowitz, and Howard University professor Dana Williams.Produced by Eliza Lomas in Bristol.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:43
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    Kurt Vonnegut and Josie Long

    "I am a German American, a pure one, dating back to when German Americans were still marrying each other." Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922, but the most important event in his life happened in Dresden in 1945. He was a POW and underground in a meat locker during the firebombing. When he emerged he found the city totally destroyed. It took him another two decades to work out how to write his book, Slaughterhouse-Five.Nominating Vonnegut is the comedian Josie Long, who says that finding a writer you love is like finding a friend. Because no expert was available for this recording, Kurt Vonnegut will be taking on this role himself. Kurt died in April 2007.The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer in Bristol Miles Warde.

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  • 08.09.2020
    28 MB
    29:43
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    Charlie Parker nominated by Ken Clarke

    From Kansas City to New York, young Charlie Parker conquered the world of jazz.. He was famous during his life, and even more famous after he died aged 34. He's nominated here by former health minister, home secretary and chancellor of the exchequer, Kenneth Clarke. Together with Richard Williams and Val Wilmer, Ken recounts what made Bird great, and why he died so very young."If you look at the street scenes of Harlem in 1940, it was a squalid place. Club life in New York was probably a smart escape." Ken ClarkeThe programme also includes clips by Dizzy Gillespie and Annie Ross. and music such as Koko and Now's the Time. The presenter is Matthew Parris, and the producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:34
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    Bill Bailey on his hero Alfred Russel Wallace

    Bill Bailey has not just travelled in naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace's footsteps, he's crazy about him too. "I love him, I really do." Wallace is best known for what used to be known as the Wallace-Darwin theory of evolution. When he died in 1913, the New York Times called him the last of the 'giants belonging to that wonderful group of intellectuals ... whose daring investigations revolutionised and evolutionised the thought of the century." Born in 1823, Wallace was a collector, a writer, a keen conservationist, and Bill has been to Borneo to see Wallace's famous flying frog. With Sandy Knapp of the Natural History Museum, and presented by Matthew Parris. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:46
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    Novelist Enid Blyton

    Janice Turner recently wrote a sweet, sensitive article about packing up the contents of her parent’s house. “The experience was almost unbearable,” she began. Among the items passed down from the attic, “my entire childhood,” were a heavy sledge, Twinkle and Jackie annuals, “and a heavy trunk of 60 Enid Blytons.”60 Enid Blytons - imagine that!Janice Turner aka @victoriapeckham and winner of press interviewer of the year, is nominating Enid Blyton in a programme filled scandal, racism and lovely archive. Blyton was rejected in 2019 from a commemorative coin because of the controversy that continues to swirl around her work .... which include The Famous Five, the Secret Seven, and 24 books about Noddy. The programme includes the biographer Nadia Cohen, the presenter Matthew Parris, and the producer Miles Warde.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:48
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    Jeremy Paxman nominates Lord Shaftesbury

    What makes a brilliant politician? What should motivate them? Does having a faith help?Broadcaster and writer Jeremy Paxman chooses the seventh earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley-Cooper. a Victorian politician whose numerous and wide-ranging social reforms transformed working and living conditions for impoverished children, miners and chimney-sweeps alike.Joining Matthew Parris and Jeremy Paxman is Lord Shaftesbury's great-great-grandson, the twelfth earl, Nick Ashley-Cooper. The three discover more about the Ashley-Cooper dynasty, ponder what makes a good earl and explore how aristocratic life has changed between then and now.Producer: Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:40
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    War photographer and model Lee Miller proposed by Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 News

    In the early summer of 1945, Lee Miller sent a telegram back to London about what she had seen in the Nazi death camps. “I implore you to believe this is true,” she wrote. Her employers were Vogue magazine. How did a famous beauty like Miller end up covering the war?Her extraordinary life and the images she left, most famously posing in Hitler's bath, are explored here by Lindsey Hilsum of Channel Four News. She is joined by Miller's son, Antony Penrose. Lee Miller was American, born in 1907, but lived in Paris and Cairo and then London during the blitz. Her lovers included Man Ray, she knew Cocteau and Picasso, and was an important surrealist. But it was her work in world war two that leads Lindsey Hilsum to claim her as Marie Colvin's spiritual ancestor. The producer in Bristol is Miles WardePhoto copyright www.leemiller.co.uk

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  • 08.09.2020
    27 MB
    28:39
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    Just William / Richmal Crompton proposed by Peter Oborne with Martin Jarvis

    "It's absolutely joyous, one of the highlights of my career!" Peter Oborne on being joined by Martin Jarvis, the man who brings Just William to life.Journalist Oborne is nominating both William Brown and his creator, Richmal Crompton. She wrote 39 multi-million selling books, and her delight in William is clear to hear in the archive. Other contributors include her biographer, Mary Cadogan, and her niece, Richmal Ashbee. But it's the brilliance of Martin Jarvis's impersonations of William, Ginger and the gang that brings this programme to life. Plus the interplay between Peter Oborne and Matthew Parris."Do you think William would have been Brexit?" "I don't think there's any evidence."The producer in Bristol is Miles WardeFuture programmes in this series include Jeremy Paxman on Lord Shaftesbury, Bill Bailey on Alfred Russel Wallace and Lindsey Hilsum on the brilliant photographer Lee Miller.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:49
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    Constance Agatha Cummings-John

    The author Chibundu Onuzo nominates the first elected female in Africa, Constance Agatha Cummings-John.Chibundu discovered the remarkable story of Constance while studying for her PhD. Born into the Sierra Leonean Krios elite in 1918, Constance was brought up in colonial Freetown, with a lifestyle which most resembled English gentility. But everything changed for her when she travelled to England and America as a teenager. She experienced racism and segregation for the first time, and returned to Sierra Leone determined to fight the colonial rule of the British. At just twenty years old she became the first female elected councillor in Africa, and later the mayor of Freetown. But following independence, she would find herself in exile in London.Matthew Parris is joined in the studio by Chibundu and Constance's grandson, Dennis Cummings-John, to discuss prejudice, class and colonialism, through the inspirational story of a woman ahead of her time.Produced in Bristol by Polly Weston

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  • 08.09.2020
    27 MB
    28:47
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    Comedian Sindhu Vee on Prince

    The comedian Sindhu Vee has loved Prince ever since she was a young girl in India - when her sister gave her illicit cassettes recorded from U.S. radio. Hearing his music changed her life forever, and seeing him perform influenced her career as a comedian.Sindhu is joined by BAFTA-winning investigative journalist Mobeen Azhar (who's seen Prince live 54 times) and presenter Matthew Parris, to discuss the life of Prince Rogers Nelson - a pop polymath and global superstar, who was also a man of extreme contradictions and multiple personas.Produced by Eliza Lomas in Bristol.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:40
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    Fiona Shaw nominates actress Eleonora Duse

    Fiona Shaw, BAFTA award-winning star of Killing Eve, joins Matthew Parris to explore the life of one of history's most remarkable actresses whose name has slipped from public memory. She inspired Stanislavski's 'method', changed Chekhov's mind about acting, and took Chaplin's breath away - the nineteenth-century performer, Eleonora Duse. Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, professor of English and Theatre Studies at St Catherine's College, Oxford, helps Fiona and Matthew uncover the drama of Duse's life, both on and off the stage.Producer: Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    28 MB
    29:24
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    Philippa Perry on the Italian educator Maria Montessori

    Psychotherapist Philippa Perry nominates the Italian educator and doctor Maria Montessori, who revolutionised children's education.Montessori schools exist today in over 170 countries. They are defined by a child-centred approach to learning, nurturing independence and individuality in children as young as three years old. In Philippa Perry’s work as a psychotherapist, she finds deep connections with Montessori’s philosophy, which is about believing the person has the power to develop within them.Philippa is joined by the executive director of Association Montessori International Lynne Lawrence. It’s presented by Matthew Parris.Produced in Bristol by Eliza Lomas.

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  • 08.09.2020
    23 MB
    24:25
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    First Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald

    Ramsay Macdonald, Labour's first Prime Minister, chosen by Shaun Ley.In 1931 Ramsay MacDonald went to see the king in order to resign. George V persuaded him to stay, and a story of party betrayal began. Broadcaster Shaun Ley and journalist Anne Perkins pick though events that have a contemporary ring as the political class of the thirties struggled to cope with fast moving events. MacDonald's own story and background is remarkable too - illegitimate son, born in Lossiemouth in Scotland, he is remembered as one of the early founding fathers of the Labour party, and a man who bravely spoke out against the First World War.The presenter is Mathew Parris, the producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:24
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    Caroline Quentin nominates Sir John Vanbrugh, playwright and architect

    From acting in Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek to restoring dozens of period properties and touring India for TV, the actress Caroline Quentin loves variety. When she discovered the life of the playwright and architect Sir John Vanbrugh, she found a kindred spirit. Jonathan Glancey, architectural critic and broadcaster, joins Caroline and presenter Matthew Parris to explore the full and meandering life of this flamboyant figure, born over 350 years ago.Producer: Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:37
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    Laura Marling on the first woman psychoanalyst, Lou Andreas-Salome

    Laura Marling, folk singer-songwriter, nominates the first female psychoanalyst, Lou Andreas-Salomé.Laura has been unravelling the mysteries of Russian-born Lou Andreas-Salomé ever since she came across her name in the biography of the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. She'd never heard of Salomé's name but discovered she was Rilke's literary mentor for years. As well as this, she was the only woman allowed in Sigmund Freud's Inner Psychoanalytic Circle, and was proposed to by Friedrich Nietzsche, who called her “the cleverest person I ever knew...” Yet today, she's been largely forgotten. Laura makes the case for remembering this enigmatic woman who inspired some of the greatest minds of our time.Laura Marling has been nominated for the Grammy Awards, the Mercury Prize and has won a Brit award for best British Female Solo Artist.Presented by Matthew Parris. Produced by Eliza Lomas in Bristol.

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  • 08.09.2020
    23 MB
    24:47
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    Robinson Crusoe

    Robinson Crusoe is 300 years old this year. Is he real? Well, the book says that it was 'written by himself'. In celebration we have invited two notable desert island survivors to discuss his life and strange surprising adventures, eight and twenty years all alone in an uninhabited island near the mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque.Crusoe's nominator is Lucy Irvine. She spent spent a year on Tuin Island with a man called Gerald, her exploits later made famous by a book and a film called Castaway. Our second guest is journalist Martin Popplewell, who was inspired as a teenager by Brooke Shields in the film The Blue Lagoon to try desert island life for himself. "There's no mention in the entire Crusoe book of coconuts," Martin points out in this entertaining dissection of both Crusoe and his creator, Daniel Defoe.The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:55
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    Ed Balls nominates Herbert Howells

    Ed Balls discusses the influence of the 20th-century composer Herbert Howells with biographer Paul Spicer. Presented by Matthew Parris.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:45
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    Kamila Shamsie chooses Asma Jahangir

    Kamila Shamsie, author of the award-winning novel 'Home Fire' champions the life of the Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir. Kamila says she was only ten years old, growing up in Karachi, when Asma became her hero even before she really knew her name. She remembers her mother and her aunts all talking about this amazing woman lawyer and social activist who was standing up against many of the laws that Pakistan's President General Zia ul Haq had introduced in the 1980s. Jahangir was always making the news headlines or giving radio interviews. Here was a woman who was determined to speak her mind and stand up for women and the human rights of all its citizens - it seemed she feared no-one, recalls Shamsie. In this programme Kamila Shamsie is joined by Asma's daughter Sulema Jahangir, a lawyer now working in London and Pakistan who shares some personal stories and anecdotes about her mother and Saqlain Imam, journalist and broadcaster with BBC World Service Urdu Service. The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer is Perminder Khatkar.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:32
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    Shirley Collins on the American song-hunter Alan Lomax

    The prolific and most significant of American song-hunters - Alan Lomax - has been chosen by English folk singer Shirley Collins. She's joined by singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg.Lomax did whatever was necessary to preserve traditional music and take it to a wider audience. He was the first to record towering figures like Lead Belly, Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie. He was instrumental in the revival of U.S. and UK folk.Shirley Collins met Lomax in 1954, after he'd moved to England to avoid the U.S. McCarthy witch-hunt. She tells the story of how they fell in love and describes their recording trips around Europe and in America's Deep South, on the cusp of the civil rights movement.Lomax's ambition was to give a voice to the voiceless, and that took him from fisherman shacks to prisons, farmyards to cotton mills. His steadfast drive to capture cultures before they disappeared resulted in a staggering amount of recordings we can listen to today, from gospel choirs to Cajun fiddling, country blues to calypsos and Haitian voodoo rituals.Chaired by Matthew Parris.Producer: Eliza Lomas

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:24
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    Jeremy Deller on The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein

    'Brian Epstein Died For You'. This is a phrase the Turner-prize winning artist Jeremy Deller has been vaguely obsessed with for years. He believes the music entrepreneur and The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein has never been properly credited for his role within popular culture, and argues that if Brian hadn't have lived, The Beatles might not have happened.Jeremy is joined by The Beatles' historian Mark Lewisohn, author of 'Tune In’, to discuss the deeply turbulent but highly successful life of Brian Epstein, who died at 32 years old.Chaired by Matthew Parris. Produced by Eliza Lomas.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:46
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    Caroline Criado-Perez nominates Jane Austen

    In 2013, Caroline Criado-Perez successfully campaigned for a woman to be featured on a banknote. The Bank of England chose Jane Austen. Caroline joins Matthew Parris and Dr Paula Byrne, author of three books about the novelist, to challenge some of the myths which surround the life of one of history's most famous writers.Matthew discovers how Jane Austen's teenage writings shocked and entertained her family and learns about her grit and determination to be published. He finds out whether there was ever a Mr Darcy in the author's real life and hears why Caroline thinks Austen might just be the Georgians' answer to Fleabag.Producer: Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:26
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    Conductor and composer Ferruccio Busoni

    Pianist Kirill Gerstein chooses the conductor and composer Ferruccio Busoni. Matthew Parris presents.When Busoni died in Berlin in 1924, his pupil Kurt Weill said, "We did not lose a human being but a value." Unravelling exactly what this means is the pianist Kirill Gerstein, a great admirer of Busoni and also a performer of his work. Busoni was a thinker as well as a composer. His book from 1907, Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music, has influenced generations of musicians.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:43
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    Malcolm Lowry, writer, nominated by Ian McMillan

    Matthew Parris meets the poet Ian McMillan to find out about the life of his literary hero Malcolm Lowry. Ian first discovered this twentieth century writer's work as a young sixth former searching for literary inspiration. He stumbled by chance upon the writer's most famous novel, Under the Volcano, and Lowry's lyrical lines have remained with Ian ever since. Joining Matthew and Ian to discuss the life of this Merseyside writer is the artistic director of Liverpool's Bluecoat Theatre, Bryan Biggs. Together, they discuss the biography of this complex and intense man, a life that was full of sea-voyaging, shack-dwelling and heavy drinking. Producer: Camellia Sinclair

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:50
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    Catherine de Medici nominated by Helen Lewis

    Journalist Helen Lewis rehabilitates the reputation of the “Black Queen” of France, Catherine de Medici. Helen is joined by Dr Estelle Paranque, history lecturer at the New College of Humanities and author of a new book on the relationship between Catherine and Elizabeth I.Catherine’s life is a remarkable story of female resilience in the face of adversity. Born and immediately orphaned in Florence, Catherine’s Medici name meant she was married off to the French King’s second son. When she arrived in France, she was shunned. Her new husband was already completely in love with another far older and more beautiful woman. He showed little interest in her. And no one expected her to come to the throne. But, following a series of unfortunate deaths, Catherine would go on to become one of the most powerful women in Europe – Queen regent, and mother to three kings across decades of a volatile period in French history.Helen became fascinated by her aged ten when she realised with a kind of horror that had she been a medieval princess she was the right age to be shipped off to a strange land to marry some duke she’d never met. Helen Lewis is associate editor at the New Statesman. She argues that Catherine was a savvy political operator, and that her reputation as “the serpent of Paris”was largely due to the fact she was a female in power at a very difficult time. A fascinating insight into a major character little known over here.The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer in Bristol is Polly Weston.

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  • 08.09.2020
    30 MB
    31:58
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    Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, chosen by Tom Holland

    She's the most influential woman that English history forgot, says Tom Holland - Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of Alfred the Great. Living and ruling at a time when the Anglo-Saxons were fighting back against the Vikings, Aethelflaed became a key figure in the construction of what we know today as England. But how much do we actually know?Joining Tom and Matthew Parris in the studio is Sarah Foot, the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical history. Together they pick though the life of an astonishing character recently recreated in Bernard Cornwell's series The Last Kingdom and played by Millie Brady; and who also might have inspired Eowyn in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

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  • 08.09.2020
    27 MB
    28:27
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    Shappi Khorsandi on Emma, Lady Hamilton

    Comedian and author Shappi Khorsandi has been desperate to tell the story of Emma, Lady Hamilton as she’s quite simply one of her greatest fans. Everyone knows Emma Hamilton as simply the seducer of Admiral Horatio Nelson but according to Shappi she was more than that; history has simply palmed her off as a prostitute, a mistress, without looking at the deeper story of what she suffered and endured. In this programme Shappi, with help from Professor Kate Williams, author of ‘England’s Mistress’, makes the case for how this woman born into poverty clawed her way up through London’s sordid underworld and became fantastically famous posing for artist George Romney. She also became an ambassador’s wife and mixed in diplomatic circles and became the confidante of both Marie Antoinette and the Queen of Naples. Will presenter Matthew Parris be convinced and accept Emma, Lady Hamilton as a great life.Producer, Perminder Khatkar

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  • 08.09.2020
    29 MB
    30:54
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    Matt Lucas on Freddie Mercury

    Matt Lucas chooses Freddie Mercury of Queen. The author of Bohemian Rhapsody, Lesley-Ann Jones, joins him to dissect a legend.To what extent can a troubled childhood contribute to an adult's need to perform? Farrokh Bulsara was born in Zanzibar, sent to school in India, and fled revolution in Zanzibar to Feltham, Middlesex, aged 18. His family were Parsees and Freddie, as he became better known, was brought up as a Zoroastrian. He also became one of the greatest singer songwriters in British rock history.Matt Lucas - of Little Britain, Shooting Stars and Doctor Who - was entranced by Freddie from an early age. In this revealing, funny tribute, Matt explains how Freddie inspired him to perform, and unveils his Montserrat Caballe impression on the world. Lesley-Ann Jones knew the band as a 'young scumbag journalist' and provides an eyewitness account of watching Freddie from the wings.The presenter is Matthew Parris, the producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:13
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    Colin Chapman, creator of Lotus Cars, nominated by Rohan Silva

    The arrival of Lotus shook up motor sport in 1960s and 70s. In Formula One, Colin Chapman made his cars lighter and quicker than anyone else, often challenging the rules. But not everything he designed was safe. On the roads, Lotus sports cars are an icon of the era. To discuss this colourful and controversial life, Matthew Parris is joined by the entrepreneur Rohan Silva and the motor racing journalist, Maurice Hamilton. Producer: Chris Ledgard

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:45
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    Oliver Sacks chosen by neurologist Suzanne O'Sullivan

    Matthew Parris meets Suzanne O'Sullivan to discuss her medical and literary hero, Oliver Sacks. She first came across his work on a beach in Thailand, reading his famous collection of case studies, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Joining the discussion is Sacks' partner, the writer and photographer Bill Hayes. Together they discuss the career of a gifted medic and writer who also loved motorbikes and wild swimming. Sacks wrote another extraordinary book, Awakenings, which was made into a film starring Robin Williams and Robert de Niro. Suzanne O'Sullivan is an Irish neurologist and award winning author. The producer in Bristol is Chris Ledgard

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:14
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    Nikesh Shukla on the undefeated Muslim wrestler the Great Gama

    Ghulam Mohammad, or the Great Gama Pehlwan as he was more commonly known, was a Muslim wrestler born into a Kashmir family in India in 1878. When writer Nikesh Shukla first came across him in a book at the airport, he thought he must be a fictional character- the stories seemed so far-fetched. Gama reportedly drank 10 litres of milk and ate six chickens every day. He also grappled with 40 wrestlers a day and did 5000 squats. Surely this was an action hero figure and not a real man? But Gama was real with a career spanning over 50 years, unbeaten not only in India, but also in England and Europe. In 1910 he was dubbed the strongest man in the world. And the press feared his strength might inspire rebellion in India, then under British rule. Joining Nikesh to tell the story of the Great Gama is Dr Majid Sheikh. The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer is Perminder Khatkar.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:43
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    Sathnam Sanghera on Alexander Gardner

    Author and Journalist Sathnam Sanghera nominates a Great Life; a man dismissed as a fantasist and a liar in his own lifetime. Alexander Gardner was a Scottish-American soldier, a traveller, an explorer and adventurer - a white man with a tartan turban, who ended up in India in a Maharaja's Sikh Army in the 19th Century, just before the British Raj took over. Possibly a plagiarist and touted as a scoundrel, yet Sathnam claims he's worthy of a bigger place in history. If just a tiny portion of what we think we know about him is true, he is a genuinely remarkable figure.Joining Sathnam is our expert witness to Gardner's life, the historian John Keay.The presenter is Matthew Parris, and the Producer is Perminder Khatkar.

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  • 08.09.2020
    26 MB
    27:45
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    Charlie Chaplin - not just funny but a political rebel according to Mark Steel

    Mark Steel makes the case for Charlie Chaplin being one of the most radical comedians of his time. He reckons it's sad that most see Chaplin as that bloke who wore a bowler hat, had a funny walk, waved a cane around and wasn’t even that funny. Mark argues that Charlie Chaplin’s silent films and his "Tramp" character make sense if you look at the upheavals in society that were occurring alongside his career.Mark is best known for the Mark Steel Lectures and Mark Steel's in Town. He says that while Chaplin was standing up for the working class, the irony was that he became the richest rebel. Also joining Mark Steel is Simon Louvish author of ‘Chaplin: The Tramps Odyssey’. The presenter is Matthew Parris and the producer is Perminder Khatkar.

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