Great Lives

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Great Lives
Genre discussion
Running time 28 mins
Country  United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Home station BBC Radio 4
Host(s) Joan Bakewell
Humphrey Carpenter
Francine Stock
Matthew Parris
Producer(s) Chris Ledgard
Air dates since 24 August 2001
No. of series 31
No. of episodes 282
Website Website
Podcast Podcast RSS feed

Great Lives is a BBC Radio 4 biography series, produced in Bristol. It has been presented by Joan Bakewell, Humphrey Carpenter, Francine Stock and currently (since April 2006) Matthew Parris. A distinguished guest is asked to nominate the person they feel is truly deserving of the title "Great Life". The presenter and a recognised expert (a biographer, family member or fellow practitioner) are on hand to discuss the life. The programmes are 28 minutes long, originally broadcast on Fridays at 23:00, more recently at 16:30 on Tuesday with a repeat at 23:00 on Friday.

Table of nominators and subjects[edit]

Series 0, August – November 2001[edit]

(presenter: Joan Bakewell)

  1. Tim Waterstone, bookshop owner, nominated Clement Attlee, Labour politician
  2. Rosie Boycott, journalist, nominated Sir Ernest Shackleton, polar explorer
  3. Terence Conran, food and design entrepreneur, nominated the Michelin brothers (André and Édouard), inventors of the detachable pneumatic tyre and the travel guide
  4. Ralph Steadman, cartoonist and caricaturist, nominated Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher
  5. Barbara Castle, Labour politician, nominated Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette
  6. Frank Delaney, writer and broadcaster, nominated Henri Matisse, artist
  7. Jonathan Miller, theatre and opera director, nominated Marshall McLuhan, communication theorist and philosopher
  8. Fay Weldon, writer, nominated H. G. Wells, visionary author
  9. Rabbi Lionel Blue, journalist and broadcaster, nominated Swami Vivekananda, 19th-century Hindu missionary
  10. Jackie Stewart, racing driver, nominated King Hussein of Jordan
  11. Joan Littlewood, theatre director, nominated Brendan Behan, Irish writer
  12. Lord Tebbit, Conservative politician, nominated King Alfred the Great, 9th-century king of Wessex

Series 1, May – August 2002[edit]

(presenter: Humphrey Carpenter)

  1. Ned Sherrin, broadcaster, author and stage director, nominated Sir Donald Wolfit, actor-manager
  2. Elizabeth Filkin, former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, nominated George Eliot, novelist
  3. Steven Isserlis, cellist, nominated Franz Schubert, composer
  4. Lord Carrington, conservative politician, nominated Field Marshal Viscount Slim, military leader
  5. Frederic Raphael, author and screenwriter, nominated Alexander the Great
  6. Janet Street-Porter, journalist and media executive, nominated the Marquis de Sade, philosopher, revolutionary politician and libertine
  7. Chris Barber, jazz trombonist and bandleader, nominated Louis Armstrong, jazz trumpeter and singer
  8. Sue Limb, writer and broadcaster, nominated Lord Byron, poet
  9. Frank Keating, sports writer, nominated Tom Spring, 19th-century bare-knuckle boxer
  10. Kirsty Young, broadcaster, nominated Katharine Graham, newspaper publisher

Series 2, October – December 2002[edit]

(presenter: Humphrey Carpenter)

  1. Bernard Manning, comedian, nominated Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Roman Catholic nun
  2. Sir Paul Nurse, geneticist and cell biologist, nominated Erasmus Darwin, 18th century physician
  3. Darcus Howe, writer and broadcaster, nominated C. L. R. James, sportsman and revolutionary
  4. Bea Campbell, journalist and author, nominated Rachel Carson, marine biologist and conservationist
  5. Muriel Gray, journalist and broadcaster, nominated M. R. James, writer of ghost stories
  6. Ahdaf Soueif, novelist and cultural commentator, nominated Umm Kulthum, Egyptian singer, songwriter and actress
  7. Professor Sir Harry Kroto, chemist, nominated Spinoza, philosopher
  8. Steve Bell, political cartoonist, nominated James Gillray, 18th-century caricaturist
  9. Tam Dalyell, Labour politician, nominated Richard Crossman, Labour politician
  10. Greg Dyke, media executive, nominated Captain James Cook, explorer

Series 3, April – June 2003[edit]

(presenter: Humphrey Carpenter)

  1. Beryl Bainbridge, novelist, nominated Robert Falcon Scott, polar explorer
  2. Leonard Slatkin, conductor and composer, nominated Sergei Rachmaninoff, composer
  3. John Sergeant, journalist and broadcaster, nominated Arthur Ransome, author and journalist
  4. Benjamin Zephaniah, writer and poet, nominated Bob Marley, reggae musician
  5. Steve Jones, geneticist, nominated James Hogg, poet and novelist
  6. Richard Ingrams, journalist and satirist, nominated G. K. Chesterton, writer
  7. Stacey Kent, jazz singer, nominated Powell and Pressburger, film-makers
  8. Richard Holmes, military historian, nominated the Man in the Iron Mask, mysterious prisoner in the Bastille
  9. Tanni Grey-Thompson, Welsh athlete and broadcaster, nominated David Lloyd George, Welsh politician
  10. Esther Rantzen, journalist and broadcaster, nominated Queen Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland

Series 4, October – December 2003[edit]

(presenter: Humphrey Carpenter)

  1. Peter Bazalgette, television executive, nominated Noël Coward, playwright, composer, director, actor and singer
  2. Kit Wright, writer, nominated Samuel Johnson, author and lexicographer
  3. Kate Adie, war reporter, nominated Flora Sandes, pioneer female soldier
  4. Jenny Eclair, comedian, nominated Sarah Bernhardt, actress
  5. Brian Keenan, writer, nominated Bernardo O'Higgins, Chilean independence leader
  6. Brenda Dean, trade unionist and politician, nominated Octavia Hill, co-founder of the National Trust
  7. Clement Freud, broadcaster, writer, politician and chef, nominated Tommy Cooper, comedian and magician
  8. Armando Iannucci, comedian and writer, nominated Charles Dickens, novelist
  9. Linda Smith, comedian, nominated Ian Dury, singer
  10. Ann Leslie, journalist, nominated Mary Kingsley, writer and explorer

Series 5, April – June 2004[edit]

(presenter: Humphrey Carpenter)

  1. Lord Alistair McAlpine, Conservative politician, nominated Machiavelli
  2. Denis Healey, Labour politician, nominated Ernest Bevin, Labour politician
  3. Ruth Lea, economist, nominated Tchaikovsky, composer
  4. George Monbiot, environmental activist and writer, nominated Tom Paine, author and revolutionary
  5. Benedict Allen, explorer, nominated Horatio Nelson, naval hero
  6. Charles Wheeler, journalist and broadcaster, nominated Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States
  7. Kimberley Fortier nominated Edith Wharton, writer
  8. Richard Eyre, theatre director, nominated Anton Chekhov, dramatist
  9. Kenneth Clarke, Conservative politician, nominated Benjamin Disraeli, 19th century Conservative politician
  10. Lord May, scientist, nominated Joseph Banks, naturalist and botanist

Series 6, October – December 2004[edit]

(presenter: Humphrey Carpenter)

  1. Dillie Keane, actress, singer and comedienne, nominated Gilbert and Sullivan, librettist and composer of comic operettas
    The programme originally scheduled (David Puttnam, film-maker, nominated Michael Collins, Irish nationalist leader) was withdrawn due to "production quality".[1]
  2. Baroness Jay, former Leader of the House of Lords, nominated Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy RN, captain of HMS Beagle
  3. Christina Gorna, barrister, nominated Vivien Leigh, actress
  4. Jilly Goolden, wine expert, nominated Leonard Woolf, writer and political thinker
  5. Gerry Anderson, broadcaster, nominated Burt Lancaster, actor
  6. Tim Marlow, art historian and broadcaster, nominated Marvin Gaye, soul singer
  7. Shami Chakrabarti, civil-rights campaigner, nominated George Orwell, author and journalist
  8. Marjorie Wallace, writer and charity worker, nominated Sir Edward Elgar, composer
  9. David Puttnam, film-maker, nominated Michael Collins, Irish nationalist leader (repeat of Programme 1?)
  10. Lucinda Lambton, writer and broadcaster, nominated Captain Henry Morgan, privateer

Hogmanay Special, 31 December 2004[edit]

(presenter: Humphrey Carpenter)

  1. Eddi Reader, Scottish singer-songwriter, nominated Robert Burns, Scottish poet

Humphrey Carpenter died on 4 January 2005, aged 58.

Series 7, April – June 2005[edit]

(presenter: Francine Stock)

  1. Joe Queenan, humorist, critic and author, nominated Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire
  2. Mary Kenny, author, nominated George Sand, writer
  3. Valerie Grove, journalist, nominated Charles M. Schulz, the Peanuts cartoonist
  4. Douglas Dunn, poet, nominated Robert Louis Stevenson, writer
  5. Michael Morpurgo, Children's Laureate, nominated Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer
  6. Martin Smith, Chairman of English National Opera, nominated John D. Rockefeller, industrialist, investor and philanthropist
  7. Yvonne Brown, lawyer, nominated Marcus Garvey, pan-African Nationalist leader
  8. Amanda Vickery, historian, nominated Elizabeth Gaskell, novelist
  9. Lord Powell nominates Ronald Reagan, former actor and 40th President of the United States
  10. Frederick Forsyth, novelist, nominated the 1st Duke of Wellington, soldier and statesman

Series 8, October 2005 – February 2006[edit]

(presenter: Francine Stock)

  1. Kathy Lette, writer, nominated Mae West, Hollywood actress
  2. Carole Stone, author and broadcaster,nominated R. D. Laing, psychiatrist
  3. Howard Goodall, composer, nominated Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, composer
  4. Antony Beevor, historian, and Gillian Slovo, novelist, nominated Vasily Grossman, Soviet writer
  5. Robert Thomson, journalist, nominated Zhao Ziyang, reforming Chinese premier
  6. Derek Wilson, historian and author, nominated Thomas Cromwell, 16th century politician
  7. Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, nominated Beatrix Potter, writer
  8. Annie Nightingale, radio broadcaster, nominated Marty Feldman, comedian and actor
  9. Adam Hart-Davis, historian and broadcaster, nominated Nevil Shute, novelist and aeronautical engineer
  10. Helen Lederer, writer and actress, nominated Dorothy Parker, writer and poet

Series 9, April – June 2006[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Penelope Keith, actress, nominated Morecambe and Wise, comedy double act
  2. Jeff Randall, journalist, nominated Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and philanthropist
  3. Julian Clary, comedian, nominated Noël Coward, playwright, composer, director, actor and singer; Coward was previously nominated by Peter Bazalgette in Series 4 Progamme 1
  4. Craig Brown, critic and satirist, nominated Sigmund Freud, neurologist and psychotherapist
  5. Ivan Massow, entrepreneur, nominated Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer
  6. Duncan Goodhew, athlete, nominated Johnny Weissmuller, athlete-turned-actor
  7. Frances Cairncross, economist, journalist and academic, nominated Ignaz Semmelweis, physician and pioneer of antiseptic procedures
  8. Anna Raeburn, broadcaster and agony aunt, nominated Tamara Karsavina, ballerina
  9. Piers Morgan, journallist and broadcaster, nominated W. G. Grace, English cricketer
  10. Krishnan Guru-Murthy, journalist and broadcaster, nominated Robin Day, broadcaster and political interviewer

Series 10, August – September 2006[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Christopher Hitchens, author and journalist, nominated Leon Trotsky, Marxist revolutionary
  2. Garry Bushell, newspaper columnist, nominated Max Miller, comedian
  3. Helena Kennedy, civil liberties lawyer, nominated Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945
  4. Jeremy Vine, journalist and broadcaster, nominated W. H. Auden, poet
  5. Elaine Showalter, feminist literary critic, nominated Julia Ward Howe, 19th-century American abolitionist, social activist and poet
  6. Lord John Biffen, Conservative politician, nominated Stanley Baldwin, Conservative Prime Minister
  7. Joanna MacGregor, pianist, nominated Nina Simone, singer and civil rights activist
  8. Adair Turner, businessman and academic, nominated Charles Darwin, naturallist

Series 11, December 2006 – January 2007[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Joe Boyd, record producer, nominated John H. Hammond, record producer
  2. Lesley Abdela, feminist campaigner, nominated Millicent Garrett Fawcett, suffragette
  3. Kathy Sykes, scientist and broadcaster, nominated Albert Einstein, physicist
  4. Victor Spinetti, actor, nominated Joan Littlewood, theatre director
  5. Alan Davies, actor and comedian, nominated Richard Beckinsale, actor
  6. Camilla Wright, journalist, nominated Martha Gellhorn, war reporter
  7. Anne Fine, author, nominated William Beveridge, economist and social reformer
  8. Ann Widdecombe, former Conservative MP, nominated Pope John Paul II

Series 12, April – May 2007[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Phill Jupitus, comedian, nominated Joe Strummer, frontman of The Clash
  2. Nick Danziger, photographer, nominated Tintin, fictional Belgian reporter
  3. William Boyd, author, nominated Anton Chekhov, playwright
  4. Pallab Ghosh, BBC science correspondent, nominated Marie Curie, chemist & physicist
  5. Pauline Black, singer & actor, nominated Billie Holiday, jazz singer
  6. Fiona Bruce, television presenter & newsreader, nominated Mata Hari, accused spy
  7. Yvonne Brewster, theatre director, actress and writer, nominated Claude McKay, poet
  8. Barry Cunliffe, archaeologist, nominated Julius Caesar, Roman leader
  9. Phil Hammond, comedian & broadcaster, nominated George Bernard Shaw, writer & activist

Series 13, August – October 2007[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Jude Kelly, theatre director and producer, nominated Lilian Baylis, theatrical producer and manager
  2. David Trimble, politician, nominated Elvis Presley, singer
  3. Maggi Hambling, painter and sculptor, nominated Rembrandt, artist
  4. The Earl of Snowdon, photographer, and Alex Moulton, engineer, nominated Alec Issigonis, car designer
  5. Michael Craig-Martin, conceptual artist, nominated John Cage, avant-garde composer
  6. David Rowntree, drummer with Blur and political activist, nominated Lord Denning, judge
  7. John Motson, football commentator, nominated Brian Clough, football manager
  8. Prue Leith, restaurateur, nominated Elizabeth David, food writer
  9. General Sir Michael Rose, British Army officer, nominated George Washington, first President of the United States

Series 14, December 2007 – January 2008[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Jan Ravens, impressionist, nominated Thora Hird, actress
  2. Quentin Blake, illustrator, nominated George Cruikshank, caricaturist
  3. Redmond O'Hanlon, travel writer, nominated Alfred Russel Wallace, naturalist
  4. Sir Richard Sykes, biochemist, nominated Howard Florey, pharmacologist and pathologist
  5. Roger Graef, documentary maker, nominated Groucho Marx, comedian and film star
  6. Jacqueline Wilson, author of children's literature, nominated Katherine Mansfield, writer
  7. Joe Simpson, mountaineer, nominated Hermann Buhl, mountaineer

Series 15, April – May 2008[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Mark Gatiss, actor and writer, nominated Peter Cushing, actor
  2. Rhona Cameron, comedian, nominated Charles Bukowski, novelist and poet
  3. Steve Cram, former athlete, nominated "The Flying Finn" Paavo Nurmi, runner
  4. Stirling Moss, racing car driver, nominated Juan Manuel Fangio, racing car driver
  5. Anna Ford, TV newsreader, nominated Paul Robeson, black singer, actor and civil rights activist
  6. Simon Armitage, poet, nominated Ian Curtis, lead singer with Joy Division
  7. Nicholas Parsons, actor and radio & TV presenter, nominated Edward Lear, painter and poet
  8. Arabella Weir, comedian, actress and writer, nominated Joyce Grenfell, actress, comedian and singer-songwriter
  9. Colin Dexter, crime writer, nominated A. E. Housman, scholar and poet

Series 16, August – September 2008[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Jon Snow, journalist and broadcaster, nominated Lord Longford, politician and social reformer
  2. David Lammy, politician, nominated Richard Pryor, comedian
  3. David Attenborough, naturalist and broadcaster, nominated Robert Hooke, 17th century scientist
  4. Bob Harris, radio presenter, nominated Alan Freed, disc jockey
  5. George Osborne, then shadow chancellor, nominated Henry VII, king
  6. Lesley Riddoch, broadcaster, nominated David Ervine, Northern Ireland politician
  7. Mike Jackson, army general, nominated Bill Slim, second world war Field Marshal
  8. Deborah Meaden, businesswoman, nominated Lady Hester Stanhope, traveller, diplomat and spy
  9. Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, nominated William Hogarth, painter and satirist

Series 17, December 2008 – February 2009[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Harvey Goldsmith, performing arts promoter, nominated Luciano Pavarotti, Italian operatic tenor
  2. Michael Grade, broadcasting executive, nominated Billy Marsh, theatrical agent
  3. Raymond Briggs, illustrator and writer, nominated Beachcomber, columnist
  4. David Soul, actor, nominated Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and Resistance figure
  5. Tracy-Ann Oberman, actress, nominated Bette Davis, American film actress
  6. Pam Ayres, poet, nominated Tony Hancock, comedian and actor
  7. Redmond O'Hanlon, travel writer, nominated Alfred Russel Wallace, naturalist (The usual Tuesday slot was pre-empted by coverage of the inauguration of President Obama, and this programme, originally broadcast as Series 14 Programme 3, was repeated in the Friday slot.)
  8. Rachel De Thame, horticulturalist, nominated Margot Fonteyn, ballerina
  9. Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London, nominated Robert Kennedy, American politician

Series 18, April – May 2009[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Stuart Hall, broadcaster, nominated Napoleon Bonaparte, French historical figure
  2. Polly Toynbee, journalist, nominated Roy Jenkins, politician
  3. David Mellor, politician, nominated Thomas Beecham, conductor
  4. Ruby Wax, American comedian, nominated Carl Jung, Swiss founder of analytical psychology
  5. Colin Murray, broadcaster, nominated Frank Sinatra, American singer
  6. Andy Sheppard, saxophonist, nominated John Coltrane, saxophonist
  7. Michael O'Donnell, doctor and broadcaster, nominated Fred Astaire, dancer and actor
  8. Misha Glenny, journalist, nominated Giovanni Falcone, Italian magistrate and anti-Mafia campaigner

Series 19, August – September 2009[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate, nominated Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate
  2. David Miliband, Member of Parliament and Minister, nominated Joe Slovo, South African ANC leader
  3. George Galloway, Member of Parliament, nominated John Cornford, poet and activist
  4. Dervla Murphy, travel writer, nominated Freya Stark, travel writer
  5. Rolf Harris, Australian musician and artist, nominated Kyffin Williams, Welsh artist
  6. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, nominated Samuel Johnson, writer of the great dictionary
  7. Kate Humble, TV presenter, nominated Miriam Makeba, South African singer and anti-apartheid activist
  8. Paul Daniels, magician, nominated Harry Houdini, escapologist
  9. John Major, former British Prime Minister, nominated Rudyard Kipling, author and poet

Series 20, December 2009 – February 2010[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, explorer, nominated Henry V, king of England
  2. Rich Hall, stand-up comedian, nominated Tennessee Williams, playwright
  3. Neil Innes, musician and performer, nominated Vivian Stanshall, musician and comic writer
  4. Munira Mirza, London Mayoral advisor on arts and culture, nominated Hannah Arendt, political philosopher
  5. Christopher Biggins, actor, nominated Nero, Roman emperor
  6. Jenny Agutter, actress, nominated Lise Meitner, Austrian physicist
  7. David Bailey, photographer, nominated Pablo Picasso, artist
  8. John Williams, composer, nominated Agustin Barrios Mangore, Paraguayan guitarist
  9. Richard Dawkins, ethologist and evolutionary biologist, nominated Bill Hamilton, evolutionary theorist

Series 21, April – May 2010[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. John Godber, playwright, nominated Bertolt Brecht, writer and theatre director
  2. Clive Stafford Smith, human rights lawyer, nominated Robin Hood, folklore hero
  3. Peter White, broadcaster, nominated Douglas Jardine, England cricket captain
  4. John Lloyd, comedy writer and television producer, nominated Richard Buckminster Fuller, architect and futurist
  5. Stuart Rose, chairman of Marks and Spencer, nominated Matthew Flinders, cartographer
  6. Baroness Sarah Hogg, economist and journalist, nominated Charlotte Guest, polymath and businesswoman
  7. Brian Cox, physicist, nominated Carl Sagan, astronomer and astrophysicist
  8. Viv Anderson, England footballer, nominated Arthur Wharton, athlete and football player

Series 22, August – September 2010[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. John Harris, journalist and author, nominated John Lennon, musician
  2. Bettany Hughes, historian, nominated Sappho, poet
  3. Dominic Sandbrook, historian, nominated Richard Nixon, American president
  4. Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, nominated Mary Carpenter, educational and social reformer
  5. Eleanor Bron, actress, nominated Simone Weil, French philosopher and mystic
  6. Edwina Currie, former MP, nominated Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel
  7. Digby Jones, former director of the CBI, nominated Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Series 23, November 2010 – January 2011[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Mark Borkowski, PR man, nominated Malcolm McLaren, the rock & roll swindler
  2. John Hegley, poet, nominated DH Lawrence, writer
  3. Gerry Robinson, business guru, nominated Samuel Beckett, Irish playwright
  4. Lionel Blair, dancer & TV celebrity, nominated Sammy Davis Jr, dancer, singer & entertainer
  5. Neil Kinnock, former MP, nominated Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS
  6. Barry Cryer, comedian, nominated J. B. Priestley, novelist & playwright
  7. Jim Al-Khalili, Iraqi-born physicist, nominated Gertrude Bell, writer, traveller, politician & administrator
  8. Katherine Whitehorn, journalist, nominated Mary Stott, campaigning journalist
  9. Kwame Kwei-Armah, playwright & actor, nominated Marcus Garvey, inspirational black leader; Garvey was previously nominated by Yvonne Brown in Series 7 Programme 7

Series 24, April – May 2011[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Clive Sinclair, British inventor, nominated Thomas Edison, American inventor
  2. Charles Hazlewood, conductor, nominated Leonard Bernstein, conductor and composer
  3. Diana Quick, actress, nominated Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher
  4. Sue MacGregor, broadcaster, nominated Kathleen Ferrier, contralto singer
  5. Lynne Truss, writer and journalist, nominated Lewis Carroll, mathematician and author of Alice in Wonderland
  6. Caroline Lucas, British Green MP, nominated Petra Kelly, German Green politician
  7. Matthew Syed, sports journalist, nominated Jack Johnson, "the Galveston Giant", boxer
  8. Diane Abbott, Member of Parliament, nominated Harold Pinter, playwright

Series 25, August – September 2011[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Tim Butcher, journalist, nominated Graham Greene, author, playwright and critic
  2. Janice Long, broadcaster, nominated Kirsty MacColl, singer-songwriter
  3. Gwyneth Lewis, poet, nominated Emily Dickinson, American poet
  4. Antonio Carluccio, Italian restaurateur, nominated Eduardo Paolozzi, artist
  5. Daisy Goodwin, broadcaster and poetry curator, nominated William Shakespeare, poet and playwright
  6. Simon Day, comedian, nominated Hans Fallada, German writer
  7. Simon Jenkins, journalist, nominated Edwin Lutyens, architect
  8. Cerys Matthews, musician, nominated Hildegard of Bingen, German mystic
  9. Graeme le Saux, former England footballer, nominated Gerald Durrell, author and conservationist

Series 26, December 2011 – January 2012[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Michael Sheen, actor, nominated Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer
  2. Raymond Tallis, philosopher, nominated Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher
  3. Steven Pinker, psychologist and cognitive scientist, nominated Thomas Hobbes, philosopher
  4. Brian Sewell, art critic, nominated Ludwig II of Bavaria
  5. Jim Carter, actor, nominated Lonnie Donegan, skiffle musician
  6. Martin Rees, astrophysicist, nominated Joseph Rotblat, physicist and campaigner against nuclear weapons
  7. Emma Kennedy, actress, nominated Gracie Allen, comedienne
  8. Clare Gerada, doctors' leader, nominated Vera Brittain, writer, feminist and pacifist (with expert Shirley Williams, politician, and daughter of Vera Brittain).
  9. Baroness Warsi, Conservative politician, nominated Razia Sultana, 13th-century Indian princess

Series 27, April – May 2012[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Owen Sheers, Welsh poet, nominated Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet
  2. Will Self, journalist and novelist, nominated Oscar Wilde, writer and poet
  3. Erin Pizzey, writer and campaigner, nominated Gertrude Stein, writer and art collector
  4. Tom Robinson, singer and leader of the Tom Robinson Band, nominated George Lyward, educationalist, teacher and psychotherapist who worked at Finchden Manor
  5. Alexei Sayle, comedian, nominated Edward Said, Palestinian-American literary theorist and campaigner for Palestinian rights
  6. Eric Pickles, politician, nominated John Ford, American film director
  7. Diana Athill, British novelist, memoirist and diarist, nominated Francisco Goya, Spanish painter
  8. Lynn Barber, British journalist, nominated Sebastian Walker, founder of Walker Books, a publishing house for children

Series 28, July – September 2012[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Des Lynam, sports commentator, nominated Henry Cooper, English heavyweight boxer
  2. Janine di Giovanni, author and foreign correspondent, nominated Josephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte
  3. Rory Stewart, Tory Member of Parliament, author and adventurer, nominated Sir Walter Scott, distinguished author
  4. Bill Paterson, actor, nominated Leonard Maguire, Scottish actor
  5. Natalie Haynes, comedian, nominated Juvenal, Roman poet
  6. Ken Dodd, comedian, nominated Stan Laurel, film actor and one half of the duo Laurel and Hardy
  7. Stephen Frears, film director, nominated Karel Reisz, film director
  8. Alan Johnson, politician and former home secretary, nominated George Orwell, writer
  9. Naomi Wolf, commentator and author of The Beauty Myth, nominated Edith Wharton, novelist, wit and feminist

Series 29, December 2012 – January 2013[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Martin Broughton, chairman of British Airways and the British Horse Racing Board, nominated Dick Francis, crime novelist and former jockey
  2. Francesca Simon, children's writer and author of the Horrid Henry books, nominated Jean Cocteau, French writer and film director
  3. Lemn Sissay, author and broadcaster, nominated Prince Alemayehu, favourite prince of Queen Victoria
  4. Stuart Maconie, radio presenter and music critic, nominated Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer and folk music collector
  5. Richard Herring, comedian, nominated Rasputin, Russian Orthodox mystic
  6. Max Mosley, former president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), nominated John Stuart Mill, philosopher
  7. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, interior designer, nominated Aubrey Beardsley, artist of the Aesthetic movement
  8. Grace Dent, journalist, nominated Nancy Mitford, novelist and biographer
  9. Carol Klein, gardening expert, nominated William Robinson, Irish-born journalist and gardener

Series 30, April – May 2013[edit]

(presenter: Matthew Parris)

  1. Peter Hitchens, author and columnist, nominated George Bell, Anglican theologian
  2. Bobby Friction, DJ and presenter, nominated Galileo, pioneer astronomer
  3. Chris Tarrant, DJ and former television presenter, nominated Kenny Everett, comedian and former disc jockey
  4. John Blashford-Snell, explorer, nominated David Livingstone, explorer
  5. Gyles Brandreth, writer and broadcaster, nominated Arthur Conan Doyle, author
  6. Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, a website for parents, nominated Bill Shankly, football manager
  7. John Cooper Clarke, poet, nominated Salvador Dalí, surrealist painter
  8. Edmund de Waal, ceramicist and writer, nominated Primo Levi, chemist and Holocaust writer
  9. Dr Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, nominated Florence Nightingale, nurse, health administrator and statistician


  1. ^ Great Lives at

External links[edit]