Proms Literary Festival



A discussion recorded in front of a Proms audience at the Royal College of Music in which critic and biographer Professor Hermione Lee discusses English Romantic poetry, from Wordsworth to Thomas Hardy.

With contributions from Romantic literature expert Professor Duncan Wu as well as Kate Kennedy and poet Paul Farley.

The programme draws on excerpts of music and poetry to illustrate the influence of William Wordsworth and other Romantic poets on their Victorian and Edwardian successors such as Thomas Hardy.

It includes reflections on how Hardy's poems in particular pays homage to Wordsworth and on some of the musical settings of their poems by English composers such as Finzi.

Ian Mcmillan and his orchestra present a cabaret of words and music, and with the help of the audience explore the connections between folk music, poetry and the art of storytelling.


Matthew Sweet revisists the cultural events of 1958 with historian Dominic Sandbrook and two of the most prominent writers at that time - Alan Sillitoe and Anthony Thwaite.


As part of this year's Proms Literary Festival, Ian Mcmillan and Professor Christopher Ricks discuss the life and poetry of AE Housman.

Best known now for A Shropshire Lad, Housman was one of the most widely read poets of his time and was praised by Ts Eliot for his 'masterful, witty, controversial talent'.


Susan Hitch discusses nature, wilderness and gardens with two poets for whom the pastoral is an important source of inspiration: Kathleen Jamie and Sarah Maguire.


Matthew Sweet is joined by writer and critic John Sutherland and TV dramatist Andrew Davies to examine image we have of the Victorians at play in novels, films and television.


Matthew Sweet goes on urban safari with travel writers Iain Sinclair and Robert Macfarlance.

Iain is a chronicler of London and south east England, while Robert sought out the UK's remaining wildernesses for his latest book.

They discuss their favourite passages of writing about the urban landscape and how they try to evoke in their writing the wilderness and nature that they say can be found even in our most crowded cities.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, joins Susan Hitch to consider conflicting ideas about spiritual regeneration and existentialism as embodied in the characters of his literary hero, the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, on whom he has written a study.


Ian Mcmillan and guests explore the portrayal of classical music in fiction.

Ian is joined by novelist Conrad Williams, who has written a book about the competitive, selfish world of the concert pianist where emotional and personal lives have to take second place to the demands of endless rehearsals and spectacular performances.


A bank holiday treat for families, with Michael Morpurgo, author of Private Peaceful, and Julia Donaldson, creator of The Gruffalo joining Ian Mcmillan to read from their work as well as discussing storytelling and the role of music in children's fiction.


Ian Mcmillan is joined on stage by nature writer Mark Cocker, author of Crow Country and editor of Birds Britannica, as well as poet Katrina Porteous, whose work is firmly rooted in the natural history of her home county of Northumberland.

They discuss the rich vein of literature which has been inspired by birds and select some of their favourite passages of avian writing.


Susan Hitch is joined by the BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent Bridget Kendall to discuss how classic and contemporary Russian literature relates to issues and themes in the country's current affairs, focusing on writer Lermontov's views about what changes and what remains the same in Russian life and Russian attitudes.

A former BBC Moscow Correspondent, Bridget kept abreast not merely of the political situation in Russia but also the literary scene.

She was an enthusiastic reader of the Russian classics and also has an enthusiasm for the more feisty contemporary literature, dipping briefly into the lighter end of the market with a very Russian take on chick lit.


Robert Chandler, who has edited a new fairytale anthology, and Russian-born writer Zinovy Zinik discuss the tradition of Russian fairytales and their influence on music and literature.

They take a glimpse at some of the extraordinary characters - from Baba Yaga, the old witch who lives in a house on chicken legs and eats children, to Koschey the Deathless, who rides naked through mountains on his magic steed in search of prey.


Winner of the 2007 Costa Poetry Award, Jean Sprackland sees water as the guiding 'elemental force' in her work, while Julie Myserson was inspired by the sea off the coast of East Anglia for her recent thriller Something Might Happen.

They discuss writing about the sea with Ian Mcmillan


To accompany this evening's Proms performance of Holst's Planets Suite, poet Lavinia Greenlaw and astronomer Paul Murdin join Ian Mcmillan to contemplate the various ways in which writers have responded to astronomical ideas.