Jonathan Meades

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For the footballer, see Jonathan Meades (footballer).
Jonathan Meades
Jonathan Meades reading on Sterne's grave 2012.jpg
Meades reading on the grave of Laurence Sterne
Born (1947-01-21) 21 January 1947 (age 70)
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Education King's College, Taunton
Alma mater Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
  • Writer
  • Broadcast presenter
Television See TV works

Jonathan Turner Meades (born 21 January 1947) is a writer, food journalist, essayist and film-maker. Meades has written and performed in more than 50 television shows on predominantly topographical subjects. His books include three works of fiction and several anthologies.

Meades is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society[1] and a Patron of the British Humanist Association.[2]


Meades was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and educated at King's College, Taunton, which he described as "a dim, muscular Christian boot camp".[3] He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 1968.[4]


Meades wrote reviews and articles for The Times for many years, and was specifically its restaurant critic from 1986 to 2001.[5] He was voted Best Food Journalist in the 1999 Glenfiddich Awards.[6] Having given up writing about English cuisine in 2001 after being The Times' restaurant critic for fifteen years, Meades estimated, in an interview with Restaurant magazine, that he had put on 5 lb a year during his reviewing period, which works out around an ounce per restaurant. By his own statement in the series Meades Eats, after being pronounced 'morbidly obese' he subsequently managed to lose a third of his body weight over the course of a year.

His first collection of stories Filthy English was followed by Pompey (1993), which was widely praised and compared to Sterne, Scarfe, Steadman, Dickens and Joyce amongst other great stylists.[7][8][9]

Meades' An Encyclopaedia of Myself was published in May 2014 by Fourth Estate. It was long-listed for that year's Samuel Johnson Prize and won Best Memoir in the Spear's Book Awards 2014. Roger Lewis of the Financial Times said of the work that "If this book is thought of less as a memoir than as a symphonic poem about post-war England and Englishness – well, then it is a masterpiece."

Meades's book Museum Without Walls was published on the Unbound crowd-funding site, in both print and e-book editions.[10]

Television work[edit]

He is well known to British television audiences for his series about architecture Abroad in Britain and its sequels Further Abroad with Jonathan Meades, Even Further Abroad With Jonathan Meades, Abroad Again in Britain and Abroad Again.[11] These innovative, "slightly bonkers" documentaries[12] look at neglected forms of British architecture such as caravan parks and golf courses, and at the place that famous buildings hold in the British popular imagination. Meades's television work also includes three separate one-off documentaries about the architectural legacy of the Third Reich, Jerry Building, Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, Joe Building, and Benito Mussolini's Italy, Ben Building.

Meades also wrote and presented a documentary called Surreal Film (2001) for BBC Two,[13] which sought to expound on surrealism in a manner that fitted the subject.

Jonathan Meades: Abroad Again in Britain was shown on BBC Two in May 2007.[14] It is a sequel to his 1990s series exploring British architecture. The film examines Salisbury Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Cragside, Brighton Pavilion and Portsmouth Dockyard. It uses his familiar style of jaunty camera angles often showing him from behind, going down escalators, sitting on walls or even not at all as he is walking away from the camera. He talks directly to the camera and often his speeches are split up from different angles or positions. There are times of silence or with only music where shots of the building he is talking about are shown. Equally he often uses scathing remarks to criticise other buildings such as an occasion when he refers to the Millennium Dome as a "Museum of Toxic Waste".[15]

In 2008 a two-part documentary, Magnetic North, was screened by BBC Four. In the programme, Meades celebrates the culture of Northern Europe, and wonders why the North suffers in the English popular imagination compared to the South. Meades travelled through the slag heaps of northern France, Belgian cities and to the redlight district of Hamburg, musing on the architecture, food and art of the places in which he finds himself.[16] The programme features the expected stylistic flourishes and quirks of presentation now associated with him. It was subsequently re-edited into four half-hour episodes and shown on BBC Two. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, James Walton praised the programme as "Sparkling, thought-provoking, constantly challenging the accepted view, Meades seemed at times inspired, at others deranged. The only thing he never was, thank heaven, was obvious."[16]

A 9-DVD box set collecting his various Abroad... series was due for release in April 2008 but was then reduced to a 3-Disc "Best of..." due to licensing problems and the expense of the music used in the programmes.[17]

In 2009, Meades toured Scotland in a three part BBC Scotland series Off Kilter. He visited the Granite City (Aberdeen), the Isle of Rust (Lewis and Harris) and a number of less-renowned Scottish footballing towns, guided by his "Scotnav".

In 2012, BBC4 screened Jonathan Meades on France, a series in which Meades visits what he calls his "second country". The first episode ("Fragments of an Arbitrary Encyclopaedia") focuses on the Lorraine region which is evoked through a miscellany of words starting with the letter V. The aim is to "explain why, although close to its eastern border, it has become the symbolic, or even mystical, heart of France and a stronghold of a romantic nationalism that is also expressed by such diverse means as typography, music, engineering, exquisite urbanism and, above all, a sensitivity to Germany's proximity." The second episode was entitled "A Biased Anthology of Parisian Peripheries" and focuses on Frenchness and its major traits. "Just a Few Debts France Owes to America" is the title of the third episode.

A one-off documentary, The Joy of Essex, examining the county's little-known history of utopian communities, aired in 2013.

Published works[edit]

TV works[edit]

  • The Victorian House (1986) Channel 4
  • Abroad in Britain with Jonathan Meades (1990) BBC Two
  • Further Abroad with Jonathan Meades (1994) BBC Two
  • Jerry Building – Unholy Relics of the Third Reich (1994) BBC Two
  • Without Walls: J'Accuse – Vegetarians (1995) Channel 4
  • Even Further Abroad with Jonathan Meades (1996) BBC Two
  • Heart By-Pass, Jonathan Meades in Birmingham (1998) BBC Two
  • Travels with Pevsner (1998) BBC Two
  • Victoria Died in 1901 and Is Still Alive Today (2001) BBC Two
  • tvSSFBM EHKL (2001) BBC Knowledge
  • Pevsner Revisited (2001) BBC Four
  • Meades Eats (2003) BBC Four
  • Abroad Again in Britain (2005) BBC Four
  • Joe Building: The Stalin Memorial Lecture (2006) BBC Four
  • Abroad Again (2007) BBC Two
  • Jonathan Meades: Magnetic North (2008) BBC Four
  • Jonathan Meades: Off Kilter (2009) BBC Four
  • Jonathan Meades On France (2011) BBC Four
  • Jonathan Meades: The Joy of Essex (2013) BBC Four[18]
  • Bunkers, Brutalism, Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry (2014) BBC Four[19]
  • Ben Building: Mussolini, Monuments and Modernism (2016) BBC Four[20]

DVD releases[edit]

  • The Jonathan Meades Collection DVD (2009) BBC


  1. ^ "National Secular Society – Jonathan Meades". Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "British Humanist Association". Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Sunday Times Culture, 27 April 2014
  4. ^ "You ask the questions: Jonathan Meades – Profiles, People – The Independent". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "Meades bites". The Times. London. 5 February 2004. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "Wine&Dine : Winners of the Glenfiddich Awards 1999". Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "A bugging device in boy form: Jonathan Meades, the early years". The New Statesman. UK. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  8. ^ "Pyrotechnics of loathing: Pompey - Jonathan Meades". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  9. ^ "Pompey by Jonathan Meades: Book review - a startlingly filthy read that shows Meades on top form". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "Museum Without Walls". 
  11. ^ Abroad Again in Britain
  12. ^ Teeman, Tim (10 September 2009). "The Last Days of Lehman Brothers Jonathan Meades Off Kilter". The Times. London. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  13. ^ OFF THE TELLY: Reviews/2001/tvSSFBM EHKL Archived 16 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Abroad Again in Britain BBC 2 Website Retrieved 14 December 2010
  15. ^ "Four Documentaries – Abroad Again in Britain". BBC. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  16. ^ a b Last Night on Television The Daily Telegraph, 16 May 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2010
  17. ^ "Interview on the Little Atoms show on Resonance FM". 11 May 2007. 
  18. ^ "Jonathan Meades: The Joy of Essex". BBC. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  19. ^ Beanland, Christopher (14 January 2014). "Concrete buildings: Brutalist beauty". The Independent. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  20. ^ "Ben Building: Mussolini, Monuments and Modernism - BBC Four". BBC. Retrieved 1 June 2016. 

External links[edit]