|Born||Mark Gerard Lawson|
Hendon, London, England
|Occupation||Journalist, broadcaster, author|
Mark Gerard Lawson is an English journalist, broadcaster and author. Specialising in culture and the arts, he is best known for presenting the flagship BBC Radio 4 arts programme Front Row between 1998 and 2014. He is also a Guardian columnist, and presented Mark Lawson Talks To... on BBC Four from 2006 to 2015.
Life and career
Born in Hendon, north London, Lawson was raised in Leeds, where his father was a marketing director for the Civil Service and British Telecom. Both of his parents originated from the northeast of England.
He was brought up a Catholic, and was educated at the independent Catholic school St Columba's College in St Albans. He then took a degree in English at University College London, where his lecturers included John Sutherland and A. S. Byatt.
Lawson became a freelance contributor to numerous publications in 1984, beginning on The Universe in that year, and for The Times from 1984 to 1986. He has written a column for The Guardian since 1995, having previously written for The Independent (1986–95), and has twice been TV Critic of the Year, as well as winning many other journalism awards. However, Richard Gott, a former colleague, commented in 2002 that the "prevalence of the bland and the obsequious" on The Guardian is typified by Lawson's "embedded presence".
Lawson presented The Late Show on BBC2 in the 1990s and presented its offshoot The Late Review (later Sunday Review and from 2000 Newsnight Review) until the 2005 "review of the year" edition of Newsnight Review, broadcast on 16 December, which marked the end of his association with the format. In 2004, Lawson made a documentary for BBC Four called The Truth About Sixties TV, criticising what he called "golden ageists" who, he said, have a rose-tinted view of television's past.
Lawson became the main presenter of BBC Radio 4's daily arts programme, Front Row, in 1998. He has written several radio plays for the network, including St Graham and St Evelyn (2003) on the friendship between the Catholic novelists Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh and The Third Soldier Holds His Thighs (2005) on Mary Whitehouse's unsuccessful litigation against the National Theatre production of Howard Brenton's play The Romans in Britain. He has also written episodes of the television version of the BBC sitcom Absolute Power appearing as himself in the series 1 episode 2, "Pope Idol", and is one of many celebrities impersonated by the Dead Ringers team, referred to as "Britain's brainiest potato" and "the thinking woman's potato" because of his baldness. In 2002, Viz ran a spoof of his Newsnight Review programme, featuring Lawson engaged in a desperate search for hard-core pornography, entitled "The Artful Podger". His in-depth, one-to-one interviews for BBC Four, entitled Mark Lawson Talks to …, ran from 2006 to 2015.
In addition to his work in print journalism and the broadcast media, Lawson has written five books, both fiction and non-fiction. His first, Bloody Margaret (1991), is a collection of novellas on late 20th-century politics in the UK, including an eponymous satire concerning Margaret Thatcher. This was followed by The Battle for Room Service (1993), a travelogue of people, politics and culture encountered by Lawson as a journalist. His 1995 book Idlewild is an alternative history novel in which both John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe survived the 1960s. Going Out Live (2001) focused on contemporary celebrity culture and the media, and Enough is Enough (2005) is a satire set in the government of Harold Wilson during the late 1960s. Lawson chaired the judges for the 2011 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.
In 2006, Lawson witnessed, and reported to the BBC, a sexual assault on a BBC staff member by Jimmy Savile, later found to have been a prolific sex offender. This was recorded in the Dame Janet Smith Review report of 2016. In 2022, Lawson wrote about this encounter and his personal experience of Savile in British society.
Lawson's connection with Front Row ended in March 2014 for "personal reasons" in a joint agreement with the BBC. An internal report completed in January investigated claims of bullying within the BBC Radio Arts, which produces Front Row, and identified one producer and presenter as responsible. The Daily Telegraph reported on 5 March that Lawson was the presenter involved and he had been accused of "browbeating junior staff" who are often young freelancers. Lawson denied bullying. In his 2016 novel The Allegations, a lecturer at a fictional English university faces disciplinary action and dismissal for "B&H" (bullying and harassment). Dr Tom Pimm is accused of sighing during departmental meetings, "divisive social invitations" and "visual Insubordination (sic) towards senior management". Pimm attends a hearing during which he is told that "if someone felt you were being insensitive then, to all intents and purposes, you were". In the book's afterword, Lawson writes
It is the case that during a long, generally privileged and happy career in the media, I suffered one devastating experience of institutional group-think, baffling and contradictory management, false accusation and surreally sub-legal process; and have personal knowledge of the damage to reputation, employability and health that can result from such an ordeal.
- Bloody Margaret: Three Political Fantasies (Picador, 1991) ISBN 0-330-32386-5
- The Battle for Room Service: Journeys to All the Safe Places (Picador, 1993) ISBN 0-330-32384-9
- Idlewild (Picador, 1995) ISBN 0-330-34111-1
- Going Out Live (Picador, 2001) ISBN 0-330-48860-0
- Enough Is Enough: or, The Emergency Government (Picador, 2005) ISBN 0-330-43803-4
- The Deaths (Picador, 2013)
- The Allegations. London: Picador. 2016. ISBN 978-1-5098-2088-7. OCLC 953332571.
- "Mark Lawson". Debrett's - People of Today. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012.
- Padraic Flanagan "Mark Lawson to leave BBC show 'for personal reasons'", The Daily Telegraph, 5 March 2014
- "Mark Lawson to leave BBC's Front Row", BBC News, 5 March 2014
- Mark Lawson (7 February 2010). "They're playing our show". The Guardian.
- Mark Lawson (24 March 2006). "Mark Lawson: My life as a Catholic Jew". The Guardian.
- Richard Gott "The lost magic of Manchester": Book Review of "The Bedside Years: The Best Writing from The Guardian, 1951–2000", New Statesman, 28 January 2002 Archived 12 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Lawson, Mark (7 August 2021). "Jimmy Savile: The People Who Knew review – devastating and damning". The Guardian.
- Lawson, Mark (1 April 2022). "The day I thwarted Jimmy Savile: Mark Lawson on trying to stop Britain's worst sex offender". The Guardian.
- John Plunkett "Mark Lawson to leave BBC Radio 4's Front Row amid claims of bullying", The Guardian, 5 March 2014
- Padraig Flanagan "Mark Lawson quits Radio 4 'Front Row' amid bullying furore", The Daily Telegraph, 5 March 2014
- Lawson, Mark (2016). The allegations. London: Picador. ISBN 978-1-5098-2088-7. OCLC 953332571.
- ""Steve Riches: Lawson makes the effort – but draws with Leeds are best!" Northampton Chronicle 25 June 2011". Archived from the original on 31 January 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
- Guardian columns by Mark Lawson
- BBC Radio 4 profile
- Mark Lawson at Curlie
- Mark Lawson interview techniques, BBC Academy