The British Library Podcast

Series 2: Unfinished Business

The fight for women’s rights is unfinished business. But where do we begin? The British Library’s Curator of Contemporary Archives, Polly Russell, is joined by guests including actor and activist Jameela Jamil, Sex Education writer Laurie Nunn, Olympic gold medal winner Victoria Pendleton, Nubian Skin founder Ade Hassan, and psychoanalyst and feminist writer Susie Orbach, to talk all things sexual liberation, intersectionality, mental health and more.

Find out about the long history of women fighting for justice, discover remarkable characters from the past and hear from women today who are challenging and changing the world for the better.

Creating a space for in-depth conversations on issues that matter across the world, this brand new podcast accompanies the British Library’s major new exhibition, opening 23 October 2020, Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights open now. Book your tickets.

Learn more about the fight for women’s rights, our online resources are a great place to start with articles and videos on everything from women’s work during the war to disability activism and a suffrage map of Britain detailing the true breadth of the movement across the country.

Listen on Apple Podcasts    Listen on Google Podcasts     

 or wherever you get your podcasts.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. Unfinished Business is generously supported by Joanna and Graham Barker.

Find other audio content from the British Library on SoundCloud.

Women holding up placards

S2 E2 The politics of pleasure

Does pleasure exist outside of politics? Can we have feminist sex? And how has the online realm affected young people’s views on the subject?

Professor Amia Srinivasan, a philosopher at The University of Oxford, is delving into these thorny questions with British Library curator Polly Russell. They’re laying things bare with Laurie Nunn, the creator of TV drama Sex Education, examining some unusual objects from the past with historian Zoe Strimpel and heading to a school to hear from a group of 16 year old students.

Unfinished Business podcast series is generously supported by Joanna and Graham Barker and The Eccles Centre for American Studies.

A Pixiu Production.

S2 E1 Pants, pageants and protest

For generations women of colour were unable to buy nude lingerie to suit their skin tone. In 2014 entrepreneur Ade Hassan decided to fix this by setting up Nubian Skin, an underwear company catering to people of colour. Three years on Nubian Skin is going strong but Ade still has unfinished business. In this episode she’s joining British Library curator Polly Russell to explore the relationship between race, beauty and feminism with Jennifer Hosten, the first black winner of Miss World and academic Dr Rochelle Rowe.

Unfinished Business podcast series is generously supported by Joanna and Graham Barker and The Eccles Centre for American Studies.

A Pixiu Production.

Trailer: Introducing Unfinished Business

Curator Polly Russell introduces Unfinished Business, a series exploring the fight for women’s rights, from the British Library.

Series 1: Anything But Silent

Buzzing, creative, brave. Places of sanctuary, freedom, and the unexpected. Libraries don’t just keep our stories safe; they’re where new stories begin. Meet the people around the world making amazing things happen in them. Hosted by Cleo Laskarin from our exhibitions team. 

Books are only the beginning. Libraries are alive, and they’re anything but silent.

Listen on Apple Podcasts    Listen on Google Podcasts     

 or wherever you get your podcasts.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.

Find other audio content from the British Library on SoundCloud.

Anything But Silent

S1 E23 Libraries under lockdown
Amid the pandemic, we hear from the British Library team ensuring crucial documents are delivered to public health services, a library that has exchanged books for food parcels, and a bridal studio, supported by our Business & IP Centre, that pivoted to ‘something new’ when the crisis hit.

S1 E22 Joining the library: Steve Berry
New York Times best-selling author Steve Berry joins us to talk about one of his favourite books, The Twisted Claw, No. 18 in the Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon.

S1 E21 Uncovering mysteries and secrets
Hear how a librarian solved a 33-year cold case, why the British Library is currently researching some mysterious toilet paper and how a library in Manchester is helping its patrons uncover the secrets of their own past.

S1 E20 Joining the library: Anne Fine
The award-winning writer of Madame Doubtfire and Goggle-Eyes, Anne Fine OBE, joins us to discuss The Man Who Loved Children (1940) by Christina Stead.

S1 E19 Choose your own adventure
Hear how Minecraft is opening up literary worlds, meet the young writers powering up their imaginations at Plymouth’s Plymstock library, and settle down for a read with the library that comes to you.

S1 E18 Joining the library: Anab Jain
The designer, futurist, filmmaker and educator tells us about one of her favourite books: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (1974).

S1 E17 Do librarians dream of electric cranes?
To start the new year, we take a look into the future. Meet the British Library’s robot assistants, get coding at Oxfordshire County Library and take the long view with Norway’s Future Library. Plus we visit our Flashback Project in Boston Spa, which ensures digital content is preserved and accessible even after the original technology has become obsolete.

S1 E16 Joining the library: Blindboy
‘He was writing in the way that I speak. He was talking about country roads that I know….it was me.’ Author and podcaster Blindboy tells us about the writing that made him: The Third Policeman (written in 1939 and published in 1967) by Brian O'Nolan, writing under the pseudonym Flann O'Brien. Contains plot spoilers and some profanity.

S1 E15 Libraries of the unexpected
Encounter Willard Library’s Lady in Grey, be spellbound by the British Library’s collection and meet a druid from a library in the heart of spiritual south-west England. Who you gonna call? A librarian, obviously.

S1 E14 Joining the library: Damian Le Bas
‘It’s interesting when something which isn’t of your realm of experience causes you to look at your own domain differently.’ Writer Damian Le Bas tells us about The Son by Philipp Meyer (2013).

S1 E13 ‘An embassy for humanity’
Libraries are good company. This month we borrow some people from the Human Library, join the Little Free Library book-sharing movement and visit a sports academy working with young people which received support from our Business & IP Centre.

S1 E12 Joining the library: Billy Childish
Punk painter and writer Billy Childish discusses the writing that made him: Lust for Life by Irving Stone (1934).

S1 E11 Rebel rebel
Playwright Joe Orton’s ‘malicious damage’, salvaged cardboard and roller derby. This month we hear stories of libraries as sites of creative rebellion. Contains some explicit language and imagery. 

S1 E10 Joining the library: Simon Doonan
'I defy you not to get lost in it.' Writer, Creative Ambassador and editor Simon Doonan tells us about his love of The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch (1956).

S1 E9 ‘The soul needs books’
Libraries can be places of creative and intellectual sanctuary, refuge, hope and companionship. We step into the British Library’s Reading Rooms, visit a hidden library in Syria and meet people in Swansea forming connections through reading.

S1 E8 Joining the library: Megan Hine
‘It just opened up this whole new world to me.’ Adventurer and survival expert Megan Hine tells us about a book that influenced her: Land of the Long White Cloud: Maori Myths, Tales and Legends by Kiri Te Kanawa (1989).

S1 E7 Have library, will travel
Don’t be a numpty: have a skeg at our latest episode and get your lugholes around some UK accents and dialects, join bookmobile Booky McBookface on the Scottish islands of Orkney, and discover the library boldly going where no library has gone before.


S1 E6 Joining the library: Joe Dunthorne
‘The first time you see something you’ve experienced captured in a way that feels accurate, it’s really memorable and changing.’ The novelist and poet Joe Dunthorne discusses Politics by Adam Thirlwell (2003) and writing about sex. Contains some profanity and sexual content.

S1 E5 [Redacted]
We open up ‘the world’s best collection of forbidden books’ and consider current restrictions on free expression, plus two librarians talk weeding and Awful Library Books.

S1 E4 Joining the library: Samra Habib
Writer and photographer Samra Habib discusses the writing that made her: James Baldwin’s 1956 novel Giovanni's Room. Contains plot spoilers.

S1 E3 Love is love
Journey to New York for a milestone 50th anniversary, hear stories of love and identity in wartime Britain as we dip into the British Library’s oral history collection, and meet the drag queens and kings making library story hours fabulous.


S1 E2 Joining the library: Laurie Penny
The sentence that set you on a new path. The library book you struggled to take back. The writing that made you. Author, journalist and screenwriter Laurie Penny join us to discuss what Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre means to her. Contains spoilers…

S1 E1 The library is open
‘The freedom to dream. That’s the most beautiful thing about a library. No matter who you are, there’s a book for you.’ We take a look at a world-famous document that’s a powerful symbol of liberty, hear how the prison library at HMP Nottingham is working with those who’ve lost their freedom, and travel to Nepal where a library in a remote village is helping women vulnerable to human trafficking.

Trailer Introducing the British Library's new podcast