In the 19th century, Thomas Carlyle came up with the Great Man theory - a view that history is formed by the impact of certain charismatic and powerful men. For Artsnight, David Baddiel travels to New York to see if there are any great men left, and whether the idea, embodied by huge priapic figures like Picasso, Saul Bellow or Norman Mailer, is untenable now. David talks to writers Martin Amis, Nick Laird, Katie Roiphe and Meg Wolitzer, to ask whether anyone can be called great in a culture where so many voices and opinions exist that anyone with a claim on greatness is easily shot down. Even those who might be considered great, he argues, can't be that absurdly masculine anymore, so can only achieve greatness with an ironic nod and a wink. So what has been gained and lost by the death of the Great Man idea?
Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, makes a personal journey to one of the most economically deprived areas of the UK, as he dares to ask why contemporary art matters? In the former steel town of Middlesbrough, Serota encounters a radical experiment by the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, as it creatively redefines its mission to better serve the community of Teesside, including its large population of asylum seekers. In New York, Serota meets artist Mark Bradford, who will represent the US at the Venice Biennale next year. Bradford, an abstract painter, is determined to use his success in the art world to help foster teenagers in the deprived neighbourhood of Los Angeles where he grew up. In London, Serota meets international artist Mona Hatoum, whose diverse body of work has long explored the interface between the personal and the political, and between self-expression and social conscience.
After detailing the impact of a financial meltdown in her new novel The Mandibles, Lionel Shriver asks why economics, once seen as a difficult subject for fiction, has become one of the most exciting and apocalyptic subjects for writers, artists and filmmakers. Lionel speaks to Damian Lewis, star of Sky Atlantic's Billions, about the realities of playing a hedge-fund manager, talks to writers John Lanchester and Paul Murray about the challenges of turning economics into literary fiction, and meets the makers of a new documentary presented by Terry Jones, Boom Bust Boom. Playwright Lucy Prebble makes the case that theatre is the best medium for exploring the subject, profiling current productions Boy and The Invisible Hand.
Charlotte Church meets musicians using the power of singing to push the boundaries of what a voice can do. June 2016 sees the launch of the Festival of the Voice, a new international music festival in Cardiff. For her edition of Artsnight, life-long Cardiff resident Charlotte Church explains why she believes the festival perfectly reflects the diverse, forward-looking and creative city she calls home. Charlotte meets singers taking part who use the human voice as a tool for experimentation, social cohesion and self-expression, including Laura Mvula, Meilyr Jones, Gwenno, 9Bach and a new musical project on dementia choirs from the National Theatre of Wales.
At the Hay Festival, Paul Mason talks to six writers engaged with the most urgent issues of our time, from documenting the horrors of the war in Syria to how AI will determine our future, and from the fall of past empires to the possibility of a war with Russia. In the face of these momentous challenges to the global order, Paul Mason asks if the west can survive. With Simon Sebag Montefiore, Margaret Boden, Gaia Vince, Janine di Giovanni, Ruth Dudley Edwards and General Sir Richard Shirreff.
The V&A's architecture curator Kieran Long explores the future of the home in Britain. In an era of rising prices and housing shortages across much of the UK, Long talks to British architects who are designing homes for the future. He visits a new RIBA exhibition that re-imagines the staples of British housing: the terraced house, the cottage and the flat. And he travels to the Venice Architecture Biennale to see the British entry entitled Home Economics, where new types of living spaces have been constructed from scratch. In London he visits the first privately funded social housing scheme in the capital - the William Street Quarter in Barking - and talks to the residents who really love living there.
In a rare interview, Mumford & Sons talk to Lynn Barber about becoming an international super group, their varied influences and tastes and their ongoing collaborations with musical giants.
In 2016 they have toured three continents, will headline at London's Hyde Park, and in June release a new album, Johannesburg, recorded with Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal.
Ahead of the announcement of the 2016 Museum of the Year award, Maria Balshaw visits each of the five museums shortlisted for this year's prize for BBC Artsnight. As director of the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, Maria won the award herself last year and knows what the judges are looking for as they make their final selection.
This year's shortlist features a range of institutions up and down the country, from the sprawling Victorian temple to art and design that is the V&A to Jupiter Artland, a sculpture park hidden away in acres of Scottish woodland. We also see museums which have undergone radical transformations in the past year, including Bethlem's Museum of the Mind, the York Art Gallery and Bristol's Arnolfini, and hear from their pioneering directors. And as the shortlist is announced, we see delegations from each museum gathering in Rankin's north London photography studio.
Carla Lane redefined British comedy drama in the 1960s with her unique brand of 'situation tragedy'. At a time when television writing was the preserve of middle-class men, she brought a convincing cast of working-class female characters to British screens. The daring honesty with which she told the stories of ordinary women revolutionised the roles available to actresses on TV and blazed a trail for the screenwriters following in her footsteps.
This special edition of Artsnight delves into the BBC's archive and brings together rarely seen interviews in which writer Carla Lane discusses her life and work, while Carla's son Carl offers personal insights into his mother's career and legacy. With contributions from the Liver Birds - Polly James and Nerys Hughes - and Geoffrey Palmer, the long-suffering husband to Ria in Butterflies.
Magazine arts show. Is fiction the best way to access the truth? Award-winning Scottish crime writer Val McDermid explores the relationship between fiction, video games and real-life crime documentary. She talks to Ken MacLeod and Richard K Morgan, whose science fiction novels offer a commentary on current political events. She meets Malath Abbas, the designer of Killbox, a new game about the ethics of drone warfare, and Lucas Pope, whose Bafta-winning Papers Please examines the moral and political decisions faced by an immigration officer. McDermid discusses the importance and the pitfalls of covering real-life crime with veteran documentary maker and criminologist Roger Graef.
Magazine arts show. Lynn Barber meets up with the self-ordained king of punk John Lydon, who turned 60 this year. Fresh from a European tour with his group PIL (Public Image Ltd.) and with a new album out, What the World Needs Now, Lydon discusses his life, legacy and songs. Reflecting on the death of his father, the Sex Pistols, the loss of Sid Vicious and the role of music in his life, he speaks with candour and honesty about how 40 years of life on the road has changed him and his music.
Meg Rosoff is an award-winning novelist and author of the international bestsellers How I live Now, Just in Case and Jonathan Unleashed. For Artsnight, she explores the relationship between art and the unconscious mind. Meg meets Irish novelist Eimear McBride, author of the Baileys Prize-winning A Girl is A Half Formed Thing to discuss translating the mysteries of the brain to the page. She talks to actors Anne Marie Duff and Denise Gough about how performers tap into their unconscious on stage, and questions psychotherapist Susie Orbach and neuroscientist Lewis Hou, as she attempts to unlock the secrets of the creative brain. With contributions from renowned cellist Steven Isserlis, and principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, Edward Watson.