Episodes

TitleFirst
Broadcast
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Hiding In Plain Sight20180828

Ian Hislop celebrates the enduring evidence of mankind's desire to express dissent.

Ian Hislop celebrates artefacts that show mankind's enduring desire to dissent.

Ian Hislop, editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye, has been invited by the British Museum to curate an exhibition celebrating the variety, ingenuity and extent of dissent around the world. With the help of museum curators he's collected artefacts that tell a story of the way people have made a stand, however humble or grand, against the constraints of the society in which they find themselves living from ancient Babylon to modern Washington DC. In a three part series in conjunction with the exhibition Ian goes beyond the objects to find dissent in other media and to tell the story of our seemingly unquenchable desire to kick against whatever system frustrates or oppresses them at the time.
In the first programme Ian looks at dissenting objects 'Hiding in Plain Sight', from a coded teapot with a deliberately provocative number under the spout to items of clothing that sent a message to observers without ever actual breaking any laws. There are also the everyday sedition of popular music but with a look at Indian protest songs rather than their more familiar and celebrated western counterparts, and there's the religious object masquerading as a condiment container, allowing dangerous sedition in the guise of providing for extra flavouring in food.

Producer: Tom Alban.

The Awkward Squad20180829

Ian Hislop continues his celebration of sedition with the work of professional dissenters.

Ian Hislop celebrates artefacts that show mankind's enduring desire to dissent.

Ian Hislop's companion series to his exhibition at the British Museum celebrating sedition through the ages turns from dissent in the form of familiar items and objects to the works of dissenting professionals. There are some figures familiar to British audiences like cartoonist James Gillray and Richard Newton and we also hear from a modern day member of what Ian refers to as 'The Awkward Squad', Roger Law, part of the team that shook up the political world of the 1980s with the ITV series Spitting Images. But we also meet the Yoruba carving satirist Ar'owugun and his doors with their gentle mockery of British colonial rule and the shadow puppets from Turkey, Karagoz and Hacivat that were used to make fun of authority figures. There's also the work of a representative of the professional tomb painters of ancient Egypt who took time out to produce a tongue in cheek counter image to the familiar funerary images on which their employment depended.
Ian takes the opportunity of chatting with a living dissenter, Roger Law, to find out what it was that inspired his work and what satisfaction he gained from a TV series watched by millions.

Producer: Tom Alban.

Why Object?20180830

The last programme in Ian Hislop's series celebrating great works of sedition and dissent.

Ian Hislop celebrates artefacts that show mankind's enduring desire to dissent.

Ian Hislop's series celebrating dissent and dissenters through the ages, made in partnership with the British Museum who are hosting an exhibition on the subject, turns to the question of what drives sedition. Is it a natural human desire to claim a space for ourselves, to be heard? Or is dissent inevitably a crusading desire to see right prevail? He talks to fellow contemporary dissenter Armando Iannucci, author and director of 'The Thick of It' and the recent film 'Death of Stalin' about what makes him continue to kick at authority figures and the systems that support them. They talk about the limited but necessary power of anger which also underpins one of Ian's favourite pieces from his British Museum exhibition, a forged banknote from 1819 by the artist Cruikshank. It pours bitter scorn on the government of the day and their policy of punishing forgery and handling with execution. But there's also gentler frustration that provoked an altogether more gentle dissent from composer Joseph Haydn in the form of his Farewell Symphony, intended to prompt his boss to release his fellow musicians from their protracted summer season.
But at the heart of it all is the desire to leave a mark, however lowly one might be, and it is epitomised by the name scrawled on a Babylonian brick, placing the builder alongside the other name stamped on the brick, that of his king, Nebuchadnezzar. Ian is joined by Irving Finkel of the BM's Babylonian collection to celebrate the first version of the modern advertising mantra - 'Because I'm [You're] worth it!'.