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Hillary Clinton interviewed on Inside Culture as it returns to BBC Two and iPlayer this September

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The five programmes will explore a wide range of ideas and themes including laughter, the art that takes us ‘back to school’ and the cultural life of Australia and its relationship with Britain, as well as an interview with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On 24 September in the first episode of the new series, Mary asks why we laugh, and explores what laughter can tell us about ourselves, our relationships and the world we live in. She visits British artist Maggi Hambling whose work has tried to capture laughter, and meets stars from the world of stand-up including David Baddiel, Deborah Frances-White and Shaparak Khorsandi to explore the many meanings of laughter, from friendship and joy to cruelty and transgression. She turns to Sophie Scott, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London (and part-time stand-up), to ask what happens when we laugh, and whether we should all be taking laughter a bit more seriously.

Mary meets former US Secretary of State, First Lady, senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. In a wide ranging discussion Mary asks Secretary Clinton about women and power and her long career at the heart of American politics. She also asks Secretary Clinton about the culture that has inspired, sustained or challenged her throughout her life, and the surprising role that the arts can play in politics and in the lives of political leaders. A best-selling author herself, Secretary Clinton will also talk to Mary about her own creative process.

Later in the series Mary Beard asks why we keep returning to literature, plays, television and film that take us ‘back to school’. Mary hears from contemporary authors, writers and teachers, including former teacher and author Philip Pullman, bestselling children’s author Liz Pichon and maths teacher and writer Bobby Seagull, and she wonders about how school stories have changed through the generations and why we go on reading books about schools that many of us don’t go to.

Shahidha Bari takes the reins in episode four, exploring books and reading and asks whether audiobooks are changing the writing process. With only a few weeks to go before the announcement of the 2021 Booker Prize, Shahidha will bring together some previous winners to discuss why we read and how they write.

In the final episode of the series Mary investigates the ongoing history of creative connection and cultural exchange between Britain and Australia, and asks what that relationship looks like today. She visits The Box in Plymouth where the National Museum of Australia’s ground-breaking exhibition Songlines: Tracking The Seven Sisters is being installed, taking visitors on a journey across the Australian desert and telling the foundation stories of the country’s Indigenous Australians through the work of over 100 Indigenous artists. Mary will also meet creatives and leaders, including former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who have lived and worked in both Britain and ‘Down Under, to ask how our perceptions of one another compare to reality.

Mary Beard says: “It is great to be trusted with another series of Inside Culture, and to be joined again by the brilliant Shahidha Bari. We are enjoying going out and about and looking at bits of culture in the eye. Who could not be interested in why we laugh?”

Previous episodes of Inside Culture are available on BBC iPlayer now. Inside Culture in a BBC Studios production. It was commissioned for BBC Arts and BBC Two by Mark Bell . The Executive Producer is Tanya Hudson and the Series Producer is Catherine Abbott.