Melvyn Bragg to celebrate the North of England in new 10-part Radio 4 series

“This is the story of the North, one that has the history of most countries," says Bragg, who speaks to Dame Judi Dench, David Hockney, Maxine Peake and more as he explores the area


Melvyn Bragg is to celebrate the history of the North of England in a brand new Radio 4 show, The Matter of the North. 


The ten-part series, starting Monday 29th August, will see Bragg delve into stories spanning the end of Roman rule to the present day.

Bragg will travel around Northumbria, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Liverpool and Manchester, exploring the pivotal historical moments and cultural contributions from the region, which have helped shape the Britain of today. 

“This is the story of the North, one that has the history of most countries. The area has twice the economy of Scotland, if it were a country in its own right it would be the eighth biggest economy in Europe, and it’s been the scene of the greatest revolution in the world – the industrial revolution – the retreat of one empire – the Roman military – and the advance of another, the Roman church,” Bragg says. “Invasions from the East by the Vikings, and from the South by their cousins the Normans, the former enriching the English language, the latter marching up from London to destroy much of the North and leaving centuries of bloody rebellion and justified resentment.

“It’s here in the North that the original culture of England was founded after the Romans, the dissent and non-conformism bred great inventions, and that a particular sense of humour was developed… I think it’s a wonderful part of the world and like most people who’ve been born and brought up in the North I feel this is as much a country as any more neatly geographically defined place on the planet… And it’s not a bad time to look at the roots of northernness in this referendum year when there’s been much talk of a North-South divide – there’s no doubt that being northern matters greatly to people in 2016.”

Across the 30-minute episodes, Bragg hears from a cast of northern voices including Dame Judi Dench, David Hockney, Lee Hall, Jimmy McGovern, Ian McMillan, Geoffrey Boycott, Maxine Peake, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Chris Bonnington and Joan Bakewell.


The Matter of the North will broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 9am (Monday-Friday) from Monday 29th August – Friday 9th September