06 Aug 2008

Imagine The City, The Countryside and The Suburbs - Radio 4 and The Open University join forces for three special editions of Thinking Allowed on BBC Radio 4

Imagination and The City

Imagination and The City

Writers Will Self, Joanna Trollope and Iain Sinclair join host Laurie Taylor for three special editions of Thinking Allowed to discuss how imagination and reality combine to create the environments in which we live.

The programmes, co-commissioned by BBC Radio 4 and The Open University, ask searching questions on the nature of our shared living environment and the boundaries of thought and practice. How does an artistic interpretation of the city, the countryside or the suburbs reflect the social realities of that environment? And how much is the lived experience of a place affected by the imagination and the associations it brings?

In the first programme, Countryside (tx: Radio 4, Wednesday August 13, 4pm) Laurie is joined by novelist Joanna Trollope, sociologist Howard Newby and rural ethnographer Martin Phillips to discuss the idea and the reality of the ‘rural idyll’.

In the second programme, Suburbia (tx: Radio 4, Wednesday August 20, 4pm), Laurie is joined by writer Iain Sinclair, sociologist Paul Barker and cultural theorist Tim Hubble to explore the dream of suburbia and why it is so often portrayed as anything but.

The final programme, The City (tx: Radio 4, Wednesday August 27, 4pm), recorded in the BBC Radio Theatre, hears of the fear and excitement, violence and speed that a city creates and the role that imagination plays in producing the hard reality of city demographics. The panel discusses points made by the audience about the nature of modern cities and the role that culture plays in creating them.

Thinking Allowed presenter Laurie Taylor said: "I’d take a bet that if sociologists were asked to nominate the one book which had most influenced their thinking, there’d be a clear majority in favour of The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills.

"Mills was anxious to show what was special about sociological thought, how it differed from other types of imagination. So naturally, it was Mills who came to mind when we were devising our special summer series of programmes on imagination and place.

"We were certainly anxious to hear the views of social scientists on the perils and pleasures of life in the countryside, the suburbs and the town, but we also wanted to complement these with the literary versions of such places which had been developed by novelists like Joanna Trollope, Iain Sinclair and Will Self. The result was revelatory."

Sophie Watson, Professor of Sociology with The Open University and academic adviser on the series said: "In the last three programmes of this collaboration between The Open University and Thinking Allowed, themes that have been touched on in the three previous programmes on Berlin, Marseille and New York, will be reflected on in discussions between academics and literary and cultural theorists.

"In these three programmes the focus is on the way in which different environments are imagined and lived. Increasingly as global processes touch every corner of the world, the distinctions between local and global and between the city and the country are increasingly difficult to maintain. Nevertheless at the cultural, social and political levels, some differences do remain which will be explored here.

"So too at the level of people selecting to live in one area or another, choices are made on the basis of imagined possibilities, fears and understandings of particular places, which are themselves constructed in multifarious ways from the media to hearsay. These discussions will unpack in novel ways the complexity of living in different places from the country to the city and in-between."

Editor’s Notes

The three ‘Imagination and the…’ programmes are the final three programmes in a series of six co-commissioned with The Open University.
The first programme ‘Imagination and The Countryside’ will broadcast at 4pm on Wednesday August 13 and after the midnight news on Sunday August 17. The second programme ‘Imagination and The Suburbs’ will broadcast at 4pm on Wednesday August 20 and after the midnight news on Sunday August 24 and the final programme ‘Imagination and The City’ will broadcast at 4pm on Wednesday August 27 and after the midnight news on Sunday August 31.

All programmes will be available on the BBC iPlayer.

The Producer for the BBC is Charlie Taylor. The Editor is Sharon Banoff. Executive Producer for The Open University is Emma De’Ath . The Open University Academic Adviser is Professor Sophie Watson. The Broadcast Learning Executive for The Open University is Dr Caroline Ogilvie.

The Open University and BBC have been in partnership for more than 30 years, providing educational programming to a mass audience. In recent times this partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak time programmes with a broad appeal to encourage wider participation in learning. All broadcast information is correct at time of issue.

Related Courses and programmes from the Open University:-

- DD100 Introduction to the Social Sciences
- DD205 Living in a Globalised World
- DD201 Sociology and Society
- DD308 Making Social Worlds
- DD304 Understanding Cities

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