Colin Marshall sits down in London’s West End with Melvyn Bragg, Lord Bragg of Wigton, host of Sky Arts 1’s The South Bank Show and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time as well as the writer of many works of fiction and nonfiction including, most recently, The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible and his latest novel Grace and Mary. They discuss when he began seeing culture as a whole, unstratified entity; what he learned in his working-class northern upbringing; his brief days with his own pop group; his first getting an arts program on BB2 “almost by accident,” and the opportunities he realized it gave him to showcase a “rainbow” of arts, rather than a “pyramid” with opera, no matter how lousy, ever at the top; when he began as a writer at Oxford, the institution that gave him his first “proper free time”; his enjoyment of not just the act but the discipline of putting pen to paper; how he gives In Our Time an edge by doing it live, with a minimum of beforehand interaction with his invited experts on the topic of the week; how his writing feeds ideas into his radio work; why, despite losing belief in “the finer points of Christianity,” he felt nonetheless compelled to write a study of the importance of the King James Bible; his love of television and radio as “scatter media,” offering an education at the push of a button; how he realized culture seemed to have displaced class as a means of identification; the benefits of not worrying about what you personally like or dislike, believe in or don’t believe in, but the “why” of it, understanding making for a much more interesting experience than condemnation; what he found in the stratified London in which he first arrived in the early 1960s making thirteen pounds a week; how, subsequently, “people became the culture” there; and how London, in its current cultural moment, retains its status as “quite a city.”
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