Matthew Parris

Matthew Parris discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Matthew Parris is a columnist for The Times and presents Great Lives on BBC Radio Four. He was a Conservative MP from 1979 to 1986 and was a Parliamentary Sketchwriter for the Times for nearly fourteen years. He has been Columnist of the year at the British Press Awards. His books include Fracture: stories of how great lives take root in trauma, which discusses geniuses who have suffered childhood trauma, and Scorn: The Wittest and Wickedest Insults in Human History.  His autobiography Chance Witness: An Outsider’s Life in Politics won the Orwell Prize. He was an awarded an RSPCA medal for jumping into the River Thames and rescuing a dog.

1. Britain did not win the Second World War

2. A dessert spoon of vinegar in a glass of cold water

3. The Boer War was a small British disgrace 

4. Calvados

5. The English treatment of the Irish

6. How to empty a bottle of ketchup

Catherine Whistler

British Academy Awards 2018

Professor Catherine Whistler discusses with Ivan six things which she thinks should be better known.

An art historian and curator, Catherine Whistler is Keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum, Fellow of St John’s College, and a Professor of the History of European Art, University of Oxford. 

Born in Dublin, where she studied History of Art at UCD, she maintains strong links with Ireland and with Italy – especially Venice where she lived in the early 1980s.  She has researched and written about Italian art, and has curated exhibitions at the Ashmolean on a variety of topics from Brazilian Baroque art to Raphael.  She enjoyed working with artist Jenny Saville on exhibitions in 2015, especially in thinking about the expressive power of drawing. At St John’s College, Catherine has been involved with the artist-in-residence programme since it started in 2000.  She is delighted to have spent most of her career at Britain’s first public museum – the Ashmolean opened in 1683 – which is also a leading University museum with endlessly intriguing collections. 

1. John McCormack singing The Meeting of the Waters

2. Chioggia

3. Diana Mantuano

4. Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past by Richard White

5. Painted foot

6. Aston’s Eyot

Charles Arthur

Technology writer Charles Arthur discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Charles Arthur’s latest book, his third, is Social Warming, which looks at how and why social media has such a dramatically polarising effect on politics, journalism and societies around the world, even in countries where usage is low. His previous two books were on hacking (Cyber Wars, 2016) and the three-way tussle between Apple, Google and Microsoft in search, music and smartphones (Digital Wars, 2012). He was technology editor at The Guardian from 2005-2014, and before that had roles as the technology and science editor at The Independent from 1995-2013. 

He writes The Overspill, a daily list of links and brief commentary about technology, science and whatever seems interesting (such as the wholesale moving of buildings from one place to another). The daily list is also available as an email. He is on Twitter at @charlesarthur, and The Overspill is @theoverspill. His work at The Guardian is at

1. Go board game

2. Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

3. Josh Homme’s work as a music producer

4. DuckDuckGo


6. Little Fish

Paul Willetts

Non-fiction writer Paul Willetts discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Paul Willetts is the author of five much-praised nonfiction books: Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia; North Soho 999; Members Only; Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms; and King Con. The third of these was turned into a big-budget British movie. Entitled The Look of Love (2013), it starred Steve Coogan, who described Members Only as “a thoroughly entertaining story, told by a writer with a vivid and amusing turn of phrase.” Paul has also written occasional journalism for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement, BBC History Magazine, History Today, and contributed to The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

1. Julian Maclaren-Ross

2. The House on the Hill Toy Museum at Stansted Mountfichet

3. The paintings of David Willetts

4. Bakelite

5. Six Degrees of Separation

6. What Makes Sammy Run?

Barb Jungr

Musician Barb Jungr discusses with Ivan six things which she thinks should be better known.

Barb Jungr is an award-winning international performer, recording artist and writer. She is best known for her interpretations and recordings of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Jacques Brel. With performances across four continents and fifteen solo album recordings she appeared on Talking Bob Dylan Blues: A Tribute to Bob Dylan for BBC TV and has appeared on programmes about Dylan’s work and on singing Dylan and Cohen. Will Friedwald’s The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums (2017) has a chapter devoted to her 2002 CD Every Grain Of Sand (Linn Records). Alongside her performance work she writes music, songs and adapts for children’s and musical theatre; We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, The Fabulous Flutterbys, The Singing Mermaid, The Pixie and The Pudding, How To Hide A Lion, Chocolate Cake, There May Be A Castle, Liver Birds Flying Home. She has contributed to The Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel, Dylan at 80: It used to go like that, and now it goes like this, Woman: The Incredible Life of Yoko Ono and John Lydon: Stories of Johnny, and has appeared as a commentator on culture and the voice on radio and television. After spending many years in Pimlico she now lives in West Sussex. 

1. Cheese and onion pie

2. Stockport

3. Wolfen

4. The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

5. Bosch

6. The Rorys – Rory Block, Rory Gallagher and Rory McCleod

Alexandra Pringle

Alexandra Pringle discusses with Ivan six things which she thinks should be better known.

Alexandra Pringle was Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury Publishing for 20 years and she is now Executive Publisher. Her authors include Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Esther Freud, Elizabeth Gilbert, Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colum McCann, Ann Patchett, George Saunders, Kamila Shamsie, Patti Smith and Barbara Trapido. She is a Patron of Index on Censorship, a Trustee of the charity Reprieve, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  She has been awarded Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Letters from Anglia Ruskin University and Warwick University.

1. Gillian Ayres

2. Serrabone Priory, Languedoc

3. Barbara Trapido

4. Restaurant Captain Bob, Tyre, Lebanon

5. My Funny Valentine sung by Chet Baker

6. Steve Ali

Rory Cellan-Jones

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Rory Cellan-Jones has been a reporter for the BBC for thirty years, covering business and technology stories for much of that time.

He joined the BBC as a researcher on Look North in 1981, moving to London to work as a producer in the TV Newsroom and on Newsnight. His on-screen career began as reporter for Wales Today in Cardiff, from where he moved to London as a reporter on Breakfast Time. He quickly transferred to business coverage, working across the BBC’s output from the Money Programme to Newsnight, from the Today programme to the Ten O Clock News. The stories he has covered range from Black Wednesday and the Maxwell trial to the dot com bubble and the rise of Google.

At the beginning of 2007 he was appointed Technology Correspondent with a brief to expand the BBC’s coverage of the impact of the internet on business and society. His first big story was the unveiling of the iPhone by Steve Jobs in San Francisco. In 2014, he began presenting a new weekly programme Tech Tent on the BBC World Service.

In 2001 his first book Dot Bomb, a critically acclaimed account of Britain’s dot com bubble, was published. In 2021 Always On: Hope and Fear in the Social Smartphone Era documented his experiences reporting on the smartphone era. It was described by Stephen Fry as “delightfully insightful and intensely readable.”

In recent years he has investigated the role technology can play in improving the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, having been diagnosed with the condition in 2019. He recently announced that after 40 years he would be leaving the BBC at the end of October 2021.

You can find out more at

1. Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

2. The Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford

3. Eben Upton

4. BBC Radio 4 Six’o’Clock News

5. Acquired

6. The Cardigan Show

James Plunkett

James Plunkett discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

James Plunkett has spent his career thinking laterally about the complicated relationships between individuals and the state. First as an advisor to Gordon Brown, then a leading economic researcher and writer, and then in the charity sector, helping people struggling at the front-line of economic change. James combines a deep understanding of social issues with an appreciation of how change is playing out not in the ivory tower, but in the reality of people’s lives.

James’ first book is End State.

  1. The gauge wars
  2. Blue Sky Maiden
  3. The World’s Fair fringe festivals on social reform
  4. Analog Sea Review
  5. Chengdu
  6. Malian music

Kehinde Andrews

Kehinde Andrews discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Kehinde Andrews is Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University. Kehinde is an academic, activist and author whose books include The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World (2021), Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century (2018) and Resisting Racism: Race, Inequality and the Black Supplementary School Movement (2013). Kehinde is founder of the Harambee Organisation of Black Unity.

1. Birmingham

2. Universal Negro Improvement Association

3. British Empire

4. Race Relations Act 1965

5. Nanny of the Maroons

6. Makoko

Kerry Shale

Kerry Shale discusses with Ivan six things which he thinks should be better known.

Kerry Shale’s theatre appearances include Frost/Nixon, His Girl Friday, The Normal Heart and six self-written solo shows. Television work includes The Sandman (Netflix: 2022), Dr. Who and The Trip. Films include Angel Has Fallen, Little Shop of Horrors and Yentl. For BBC radio, he has recently read Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang and has won three Sony Awards for acting and writing. He co-hosts Is It Rolling, Bob? Talking Dylan, one of the UK’s leading music podcasts. He wrote The Kubrick Test for BBC Radio 4.

1. Today! by Mississippi John Hurt

2. Swimming To Cambodia

3. Vietnamese Coffee (Premium Blend)

4. BrainDead

5. Canadian Football

6. The Parker novels