Alex Wheatle

Novelist Alex Wheatle discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Alex Wheatle was born in London of Jamaican parents. His first book,Brixton Rock (1999), tells the story of a 16-year old boy of mixed race, in 1980s Brixton. 

His most recent novels, Liccle Bit (2015), Crongton Knights (2016) – winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize – and Straight Outta Crongton (2017), are novels for young adult readers, focusing on the lives of teenagers and families on the fictional South Crongton council estate.

In 2010, he wrote and toured the one-man autobiographical performance, Uprising. His play, Shame & Scandal, had its debut at the Albany Theatre, Deptford in October 2015. He was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008.

1. Right Time by the Mighty Diamonds

2. The Black Jacobins by CLR James

3. Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers

4. Babylon

5. Huckleberry Finn

6. Moss Side Massive by Karline Smith

Tom Chivers

Science writer Tom Chivers discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Tom Chivers is science editor at His second book, How To Read Numbers: A Guide to Statistics in the News (and Knowing When to Trust Them), will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in March 2021. He is a two-time winner of the Royal Statistical Society’s Statistical Excellence in Journalism award, and was once told by Terry Pratchett that he was “far too nice to be a journalist”.

1. Goodhart’s Law

2. Kill Team and

3. Selection bias

4. Red kite

5. Coordination games

6. Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series

Emma Bridgewater

Emma Bridgewater discusses with Ivan six things which she thinks should be better known.

Emma Bridgewater grew up in Oxford, the eldest of a large family. After studying English at London University, she joined a small knitwear firm, but soon realised that what she really wanted to do was start her own company. Her ‘eureka moment’ came in 1985, when she was searching for a pretty cup and saucer for her mother’s birthday. Discovering that everything in the shops was either delicate and formal, or heavy and clunky, she realised there was a gap in the market for pottery that was both beautiful and practical, and that reflected the relaxed, colourful, mismatched home she’d grown up in.

Emma sketched out a mug, bowl and jug, and found a pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of British ceramics to make them up. She then set about decorating them using cut-out sponges – a traditional technique that was to become her signature style. The designs were snapped up by Liberty, Harrods, and The General Trading Co, and Emma Bridgewater Ltd was born. The company now has a turnover of over £20m a year, and Emma Bridgewater products are sold worldwide.

As the company grew, Emma was determined to keep production of the pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, and in 1996, bought a Victorian factory there. Emma Bridgewater Ltd is now one of the largest employers of potters in the area. In recognition of her work championing manufacturing in Stoke-on-Trent, Emma has honorary degrees from the University of Staffordshire and Keele University, and in 2013, she was awarded a CBE for Services to Industry.

1. Country Music

2. Holy Wells

3. Neglected English towns

4. Winter Savoury and Lovage

5. Chimomanthus

6. Lardy cake

Andrew Lownie

Andrew Lownie discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Andrew Lownie was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was Dunster History Prizeman and President of the Union, before taking his Master’s and doctorate at Edinburgh University. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he later returned to Cambridge as a visiting fellow at Churchill College.

He has been a bookseller, publisher and journalist, writing for the Times, Telegraph, Wall Street Journal , Spectator and Guardian, and since 1988 has run his own literary agency specialising in history and biography.

He is President of the Biographers Club, sits on the advisory board of Biographers International Organisation and is a Trustee of the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

1. The author John Buchan and his writing

2. Ave Maria

3. Haggis

4. The Campaign for Freedom of Information

5. The Writers Museum in Edinburgh

6. House histories 

Viv Groskop

Viv Groskop discusses with Ivan six things which she thinks should be better known.

Viv Groskop is a writer, critic, broadcaster and stand-up comedian. She is the author of How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking, also a Top 10 iTunes podcast, now in its 8th series, featuring guests like Hillary Clinton, Margaret Atwood, Nigella Lawson, Julie Andrews, Sarah Hurwitz (Michelle Obama’s speechwriter). Her latest book is Au Revoir Tristesse: Lessons in Happiness from French Literature. She has presented Front Row and Saturday Review on BBC Radio 4, is a regular on BBC1’s This Week and has hosted book tours for Graham Norton, Jo Brand and Jennifer Saunders.

1. Saturday Night Live’s The Californians

2. The poetry of Anna Akhmatova

3. Lipcote   

4. The music of Janis Ian

5. Vermouth and vermuterias

6. “Yes and” as a verb — the improv concept,_and

Tom Barber

Tom Barber discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Tom Barber was a journalist for many years, writing for GQ, the Evening Standard and Tatleramong others before founding the award-winning travel company Original Travel with two friends in 2003. Original Travel has gone on to win a number of industry awards, and specialises in tailormade trips to original destinations around the world, with particular expertise in adventurous and educational family holidays, sabbaticals and sustainable travel, including a new portfolio of train-only trips from the UK. He is currently also Travel Contributing Editor for Esquire, Conde Nast Traveller’s only recognised family travel expert, and Glorious Leader of the No Fruit Out of Context Party. Tom lives in Norfolk with his wife and four children.

1. Paddy Leigh Fermor books A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water and

2. Transylvania

3. Chateau Musar

4. Philantourism

5. Picture This app

6. Sabbaticals

Madeleine Bunting

Madeleine Bunting discusses with Ivan six things which should be better known.

Madeleine was a journalist on the Guardian and held a number of positions including columnist 1999-2012. She wrote on a wide range of subjects including politics, social affairs, faith and global development.

Her book Love of Country was shortlisted for the Wainright and the Saltire Prizes 2017, and she won the Portico Prize for The Plot in 2010 which was also shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize.Her first novel, Island Song, won the Waverton Good Read Award in 2020.

Her new book is Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care.

1. Mindfulness

2. Care

3. Ana Silvera

4. Scarborough

5. How to do nothing by Jenny Odell

6. Alison Crowther

Marty Jopson

Scientist Marty Jopson discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Marty Jopson has been making science television for over twenty years. He has worked behind the camera as a researcher, prop builder, director, producer, executive and company manager. His career as a presenter spans over ten years as the science reporter on the BBC1 flagship programme, The One Show. He has written The Science of Everyday Life, The Science of Food and The Science of Being Human. Find out more about Marty at

1. Jane Marcet

2. The Kirkaldy Testing Works

3. The origin and manufacture of marmite

4. The best limestone pavement in the Yorkshire Dales

5. Small things down a microscope   

6. Denis Papin

Kavita Puri

Journalist Kavita Puri discusses with Ivan six things which she thinks should be better known.

Kavita Puri is an award-winning journalist, executive producer and broadcaster for the BBC. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed book Partition Voices: Untold British Stories.

Kavita is a regular presenter of The Inquiry on the BBC World Service and Radio 4. Her landmark three-part series, Partition Voices, on Radio 4 marked the 70th anniversary of the partition of India. It was awarded The Royal Historical Society’s Best Radio and Podcast prize and its overall Public History Prize. Partition Voices: Untold British Stories, based on the series, was published in 2019 by Bloomsbury. She presents Three Pounds in My Pocket, a social history of South Asians in post-war Britain, on Radio 4. For more information about Kavita, please go to

  1. Partition
  2. Southern Spain
  3. Letter-writing
  4. Cast Courts
  5. Dance
  6. Recording your family history

Johnnie Boden

Johnnie Boden, the founder of Boden, discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Johnnie Boden founded Boden in 1991 with eight menswear products, sold through a catalogue hand-drawn on his kitchen table. As ambitious as he was, he couldn’t have imagined that the fashion line bearing his name would become a multi-million-pound global business producing a huge range of clothes for every member of the family.

The success of the business – which last year chalked up 2.5 million customers worldwide and sales of over £350 million – is all the more impressive given that Johnnie started out with no fashion training. He had, however, spent much of his teens hunting down vintage tweed overcoats and Converse high-tops in Portobello Road, and cut his teeth as Men s Fashion Editor of Harpers & Queen s teenage edition in August 1977.

After graduating from Oxford, Johnnie fell into a job as stockbroker. An overseas posting to New York in 1988 opened his eyes to how well Americans operated in the mail-order market for top-quality basics – and, more importantly, how the UK was failing to compete.

In 2017, Boden opened its first central London flagship shop on the King’s Road. Boden’s stylish range of clothing and accessories are available to buy via catalogue in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Australia and Austria, and online – trading in over 60 countries with more than 1000 employees across all markets.

1. Greek wine

2. Fashion illustration

3. Antique buying in regional sale rooms

4. Lemon juice and olive oil

5. Choral music

6. Majella national park in Italy