Season 1, Episode 6 – “Sports”
Clare Balding examine the achievements of four of the 20th century’s most influential sports stars. Clare will be assessing the legacies of Pele, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King and Tanni Grey Thompson. Each of them transcended their sport, and had an impact on the century far beyond their professional record. As the 20th century began, sport largely belonged to those who could afford leisure time, and was often an amateur pursuit. By the year 2000, sport provided some of the most watched moments in human history – often uniting billions. The 20th century also saw records smashed and previously unimaginable sporting feats achieved. Increasingly, the work of our greatest sport stars highlighted urgent social issues. From the democratisation of sport to the battle for equal pay, the talents of these icons helped shape the world we know today. Pele was far more than just the greatest footballer of all time, he showed the world that anyone, from any background, could become the world’s most renowned sports star – if they had the talent. He took the world by storm, helping to secure Brazil’s sporting reputation and football’s place as the sport of the 20th century. Muhammad Ali’s talent and charisma secured the love of his fans, but his attitudes towards race, religion and America’s role in the Vietnam War all challenged society. He boldly took up an anti-war stance that saw him banned from boxing for three years in his prime. Billie Jean King is tennis’ greatest talents, and also a tireless campaigner for equality. She fought for prize-money parity, was instrumental in the first women’s professional tennis tour, founded the Women’s Tennis Association, and beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. Tanni Grey-Thompson was born at a time when the physical and political landscape for disabled people was far from enlightened, she became one of Britain’s most successful paralympians. She secured 16 paralympic medals (11 gold), smashed over 30 world records and won the London Marathon six times. She also played a key part in securing the London 2012 Olympics.
Season 1, Episode 7 – ” Artists & Writers”
This episode sees actress Lily Cole examine four of the 20th century’s greatest artists and writers. Lily explores the lives of Pablo Picasso, Virginia Woolf, Alfred Hitchcock and Andy Warhol – finding out what inspired their most celebrated works, and why they still resonate today. In the 20th century, history unfolded at a rate humanity could barely keep up with. Wars industrialised killing, science radically altered the way we live, and rampant consumerism and mass media swept across the planet. Helping us process these seismic shifts were a group of complex, sometimes dark geniuses: our artists and writers. Art had for a long time belonged largely to the elite, but in the 20th century it burst out of its gilt frame and into every aspect of our lives. These four icons each revolutionised their artform, unafraid to break with generations of convention. They sought to both reflect and change their times. Whether they were shining a light on the most brutal episodes of war, or holding up a mirror to the darkest aspects of post-war society, these four greats were unafraid to create bold and sometimes challenging work – work which forced society to take a long, hard look at itself. Cofounder of the Cubist movement, Pablo Picasso possessed extraordinary talent from an early age. He could have had a brilliant career as a traditional artist but he chose instead to rip up the artistic rule book, creating defiantly sensual and provocative pieces, and one of the most powerful and enduring images of conflict that the world has ever seen. Feminist, pacifist and trailblazer Virginia Woolf subverted expectations, both professionally and personally. She broke new ground in literature, was unafraid to write about mental health, and issued a rallying cry for artistic equality on behalf of women everywhere. Nicknamed the master of suspense, Hitchcock’s career spanned six decades, and he was behind some of the most famous moments in cinema. Not only was Hitchcock a prodigious film-maker but he was a pioneer of the industry, transforming the role of film director into that of an artist. His groundbreaking visual and storytelling techniques are ubiquitous in film today. In an age of postwar prosperity, Andy Warhol’s work – which explored consumerism and mass production – was so revolutionary that while some thought he had redefined art, others believed he had broken it. He turned the everyday into works of art, and began documenting every aspect of life decades before the selfie-obsessed culture we live in today.