A new episode every two weeks.
Episode 66 | Ferdinand Addis, historian
Simon speaks with Ferdinand Addis, the author of Rome: Eternal City, a narrative history of Rome which spans 3,000 years over some 650 pages. Ferdinand read Classics at university before embarking on a career as a journalist and author. His wrote three short books for the publisher Michael O'Mara before moving on to his epic biography of Rome, which was published last year. He is now working on a history of Roman Britain. Ferdinand spoke about the origins of his interest in Rome, gave a robust defence of the classics, and discussed whether ‘popular historian’ is a useful term.
Episode 65 | May Jeong
Simon speaks with Canadian magazine writer May Jeong, who spent five years reporting on Afghanistan, and is best known for her months-long investigation in to the bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz for The Intercept. This story won her the 2017 South Asian Journalists Association’s Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Report on South Asia, as well as the Prix Bayeux Calvados Award for War Correspondents in the Young Reporter category. May's work has also appeared in other publications including the New York Times, Harper's and the London Review of Books. In this episode, May talked about why she decided to cover conflict, her preference for magazine over newspaper journalism, and her latest venture into writing fiction.
Episode 64 | Jeffrey Archer
Simon speaks with Jeffrey Archer, a novelist whose books have sold more than 275 million copies worldwide. Archer wrote his first novel aged 34, when a failed business deal left him heavy in debt. His third novel, Kane and Abel, sold over a million copies in its first week of release in 1979. He has now written more than 20 novels, alongside short stories, a play and non-fiction, and is published in 97 countries and more than 33 languages. Archer was deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in the 1980s and in 1999 stood as the Conservative candidate for mayor of London. In November that year, he withdrew his candidacy, having been charged with perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He served two years in prison. Archer spoke about the experience of life as a best-selling author, how he combines a rigorous writing routine with lack of pre-planning of plot, and his relationships with publishers and editors.
Episode 63 | Zahra Hankir
Eleanor and Simon speak with Zahra Hankir, journalist and editor of Our Women on the Ground, an anthology of essays from Arab women reporting from the Arab world, published this month by Penguin. Zahra spoke about her personal connection as an Arab woman to these journalists, their stories and their work. She discussed the difficulties of compiling and editing an anthology broaching delicate political topics that could prove dangerous to their writers. She also talked about whether she ever worries about feeling professionally pigeonholed by her heritage and "specialist subject".
Episode 62 | Jamie Glazebrook
Eleanor speaks with Jamie Glazebrook, the executive producer of hit BBC series Peaky Blinders, whose fifth series will air later this year. Peaky Blinders, which has won a slew of television awards, follows the exploits of the eponymous Birmingham-based gang in the years after the First World War. Jamie discussed whether we have reached peak TV, the influence of the streaming giants and whether the TV and film industry still has a class problem. Jamie himself has developed and produced television in the UK since the nineties – working for many leading production companies including Talkback, Tiger Aspect and HatTrick. His credits include The 11'O Clock Show, High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman, and BAFTA-nominated The IT Crowd.
EPISODE 61 | RUTH PADEL
In this episode, Eleanor and Simon spoke with Ruth Padel, who is a poet, novelist, critic and Professor of Poetry at King’s College London. Ruth spoke about her verse biography of her great-great-grandfather Charles Darwin, as well as her upcoming verse biography of Beethoven, Beethoven Variations. Ruth also discussed her brief tenure as Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 2009, and her view on the new generation of Instagram poets.
Episode 60 | James Graham
Simon speaks to James Graham, one of Britain's best known contemporary playwrights who has also written widely for film and television. James' first award was the Pearson Playwriting Bursary in 2006. His big break came when his 2012 play This House, written for the National Theatre and set in the British parliament in the 1970s, enjoyed a sell out run and garnered widespread critical acclaim. His subsequent work includes the 2017 play Ink, about the early days of Rupert Murdoch, and this year's film Brexit: An Uncivil War, which was broadcast on Channel 4 and HBO and starred Benedict Cumberbatch. James spoke about how he broke into writing for the theatre and later television, his methods for researching and creating drama based on both recent and historical political events, and the economics of the business.
EPISODE 59 | Christina Lamb
In this episode Simon speaks to Christina Lamb, one of Britain’s leading foreign correspondents who has documented conflict across the world, from Afghanistan to Rwanda. Currently chief foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times, Christina discussed balancing her war reporting duties with her work as an author, including writing I Am Malala and her most recent book Our Bodies, Their Battlefields, about women in war. She also talked about getting arrested and deported in Pakistan while reporting for the Financial Times, and the impact her work has had on her mental health.
episode 58 | Jon Lee Anderson
Simon and Eleanor speak to Jon Lee Anderson, a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine and veteran war correspondent. Jon Lee began his career in the early 1980s, reporting on Central America. As a New Yorker staff writer since 1998, he has reported from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Liberia and many other countries. Jon Lee spoke about the myths and realities of conflict journalism, the time he discovered the hidden grave of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and the experience of profiling Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Episode 57 | Anna Codrea-Rado
Simon speaks with Anna Codrea-Rado, a freelance journalist who has written for titles including the New York Times and Wired, and who now advocates for better conditions for freelancers, through her #FairPayForFreelancers campaign, her popular newsletter The Professional Freelancer, and FJ&Co, a platform that provides tools and resources and organises events. Alongside discussing her campaigning, Anna, who studied journalism at Columbia in New York, talks about the potential pitfalls of journalism degrees, including the way they can contribute to elitism within the industry. She also discusses the pressure she felt to become a "real journalist" while working on an alumni magazine, before she became staff at the Guardian and then VICE, and her own later moves to establish herself as a freelancer.
EPISODE 56 | ED CAESAR
Simon and Eleanor speak to British magazine writer Ed Caesar, who was recently made a contributing writer at the New Yorker and whose work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, Wired, GQ and numerous other publications. Ed talked about his early career at the Independent, his decision to go freelance, breaking into the American market and the challenges of balancing his writing work and travel with his domestic commitments. He also discussed why he chooses not to live in London.
EPISODE 55 | ANN GOLDSTEIN
Simon and Eleanor speak to Ann Goldstein, who translated Elena Ferrante's phenomenally successful Neapolitan novels (My Brilliant Friend and its three sequels) out of Italian and into English. Ann also had a long and distinguished career as an editor at the New Yorker, where she rose to become head of the copy department. Ann spoke about the process of literary translation, the challenges of working with a writer whose identity she did not know, and also how the world of magazines has changed since she began her working life in the 1970s.
EPISODE 54 | KAMAL AHMED
Eleanor speaks to Kamal Ahmed, editorial director of BBC News and one of Britain’s most prominent journalists. He joined the BBC in April 2014 as business editor after a 20-year career in newspapers, including the Guardian, the Observer and the Sunday and Daily Telegraph. Kamal spoke about reshaping the BBC for a younger, more-open minded generation, and about the difficulties of maintaining a publicly apolitical stance.
EPISODE 53 | Pandora Sykes
Simon and Eleanor speak to Pandora Sykes, journalist and co-host of the hugely successful podcast the High Low. Pandora began her journalistic career at the Sunday Times, where she held the position of fashion features editor and wrote the Wardrobe Mistress column for the paper's Style magazine. She has written for numerous other titles including Elle, the Telegraph, the Guardian, Marie Claire, and the Spectator, and consults widely for a range of brands from Topshop to Cartier.
EPISODE 52 | Andrew Hankinson
In an episode recorded live at the Well Told longform journalism conference in London, Simon and Eleanor speak with author and journalist Andrew Hankinson. Hankinson has written magazine features for the Observer, Wired and Cosmo, and is author of literary nonfiction book You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life, a retelling of the last eight days of killer Raoul Moat and his stand off with the Northumbrian police in 2010. Hankinson spoke about why he chose to write in the rarely used second person and how he got the idea for his book, as well as how, as a result of bad editing and pay, he has stopped pitching to magazines.
EPISODE 51 | Jennifer Croft
Simon and Eleanor speak to Jennifer Croft, who won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s Polish novel Flights. Jennifer, currently based in New York, has received a slew of other plaudits for her work, including NEA, Cullman, PEN, Fulbright and MacDowell awards, as well as the inaugural Michael Henry Heim Prize for Translation. Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Granta, Vice, n+1 and the Guardian. We spoke to Jennifer about her entry into translation, her longstanding relationship with Tokarczuk, the potential role of artificial intelligence in translation and her own upcoming memoir Homesick, which she first wrote in Spanish.
Episode 50 | Alex Perry
This episode features Alex Perry, who is a reporter, author and writer for film and television. His books include The Good Mothers, about the women who exposed the true might of the Calabrian mafia, which was excerpted in the New Yorker. His journalism has additionally appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times magazine, TIME, Newsweek, and other publications. Alex spoke to Simon about his first overseas assignment, what it's like reporting from danger zones including Afghanistan in 2001, working as a bureau chief in India and Africa, and how The Good Mothers is currently being developed into a television project.