Broadcasts and articles
Here is a selection of broadcasts and articles by Alison Light.
Englishness and history of the working classes
Discussion on BBC Radio 3 'The Strange Case of the Huge Country Pile' - why are we so obsessed with country houses?
Listen to Alison discuss with Matthew Sweet and others on BBC Radio 3
Discussion: From Flat Caps to Benefit Caps: Do We Still Need Working-Class Heroes
Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival, 2014, at Sage Gateshead.
With Alison Light, David Almond and folk singer, Eliza Carthy
Listen to Alison at the Free Thinking Festival
Discussion of E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. Fifty Years On
Radio 3 Nightwaves, 8th April 2013
Listen to Alison on Radio 3 Nightwaves
City of Lost Children
Guardian, August 2003
Alison Light on the trail of 1890s orphans.
Read City of Lost Children in the Guardian
Rereading Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations
Alison Light, Guardian, September 2002
Read Alison Light on Great Expectations
Virginia Woolf/ Bloomsbury and the history of domestic service:
Discussion of Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway
Radio 3 Landmark. With Alison, Hermione Lee and Margaret Drabble
Listen to Landmark discussion on Woolf
Bloomsbury Forever? - can Bloomsbury continue to enthral us and why?
Royal Society of Literature discussion with Anne Chisholm, Michael Holroyd and Alison Light
Broadcast in March 2012
Listen to Bloomsbury Forever with Alison Light
Behind the Green Baize Door
Alison Light, Guardian, November 2003
Article on servants in art and fiction
Read Behind the Green Baize Door by Alison
Flush - introduction and notes to Woolf's biography of a spaniel
Alison Light, Penguin Classics, 2000
Readers might also enjoy Flush, Virginia Woolf's spoof-biography of the spaniel who belonged to the Victorian poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. One of Woolf's most playful works, it's - among other things - a fantasy of liberation from class and society. A pedigree dog discovers the pleasures of being a mongrel!
Life-writing and autobiography
BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize - Common People: Why I wrote it
Broadcast in October 2014
View Alison on Common People on the BBC
Radio 4 Woman’s Hour: Alison talks about Common People
Listen to Alison on BBC Woman's Hour:
Discussion of Common People at the Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities. With Alison Light, historian Dr Selina Todd and Professor of Literature, Laura Marcus
Watch discussion of Common People
In defence of family history
Alison Light, Guardian, October 2014
Read In defence of family history
My Book for Life: John McGahern’s That They May Face the Rising Sun
Alison Light, Independent, 23 October 2014
Read Alison Light on John McGahern
From Alison's review of Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes by Judith Mackrell
"Why does she want the red shoes? She wants to be special and she wants to be looked at. In Hans Christian Andersen’s famous tale, Karen, a peasant girl, goes barefoot in summer and in winter wears wooden clogs that rub her feet raw, but the mirror tells her she’s lovely and she thinks that wearing the red shoes will make her feel like a princess. Like selfish Heidi and tomboy Katy, Karen is a mid-19th century girl crippled by egotism. The shoes force her to dance non-stop and to display herself ‘wherever proud and vain children live’. Though it seems simply a punitive response to female narcissism, this is a Christian morality tale intended to warn against the sin of self-love. Karen is cast out of her community and her church; she has her feet hacked off, and the story ends with her repentance. What we remember, though, is not the final image of her blissful reunion with God but the red shoes, with the little feet still in them, going on dancing. Shoes were a homely and powerful symbol of status for Andersen, the son of a cobbler, a lonely, ungainly outsider. He was greedy for fame yet tormented by guilt at his success; ‘The Red Shoes’ inflicts a cruel comeuppance on exhibitionists and social climbers like himself.
Judith Mackrell suspects that Lydia Lopokova was being mischievous when she chose to read ‘The Red Shoes’ on the wireless for the BBC in 1935. Lopokova was a born show-off but she never sold her soul to the dance..."
Read the article in its entirety, for free, at the London Review of Books, and find Alison’s other LRB pieces in their archive:
Read Alison's review of Bloomsbury Ballerina at the London Review of Books
© Alison Light 2023