Lord Melvyn Bragg
PUBLISHED: 16:17 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:35 20 February 2013
Tomorrow's journalists meet today's big names in our series of interviews conducted by students from the region's schools. This month Ellesmere College pupils Freddie Herzog and Catherine Wignall talk to Lord Melvyn Bragg
The location was fixed. Our questions were written and rehearsed. But would we make it on time? Thankfully we did, with seconds to spare. The Houses of Parliament was the venue for our interview with Lord Bragg. After we passed through the airport-style security at the Peers entrance, Lord Bragg appeared.
He welcomed us warmly with a firm handshake and took us to watch a live debate in the Chamber of the House of Lords. The debate was on the Good Childhood Enquiry and it was a real privilege to watch it taking place. After this we were taken down to the Content Lobby and then into the Royal Gallery, which The Queen walks through when opening parliament. We sat down in the awe-inspiring room on the leather, embossed chairs and felt surprisingly relaxed. Lord Bragg made us feel completely welcome.
We made a short speech thanking him for giving up his valuable time to speak to us and then kicked off straight away with our first question, which was: How do you feel that the Arts are represented in schools?
Lord Bragg talked about how the Arts were handled in his own schooldays and it was interesting to see how education has changed even in the relatively short period of 50 years (Lord Bragg will be 71 this year). He believes that: There is much more awareness of the Arts in schools today working in the Arts in school sharpens concentration and teamwork.
When Lord Bragg answered our next question: If you could choose one aspect of the Arts as your favourite what would it be and why? he started by saying: I hate doing lists of favourite this, that or the other, and then there was a pause. His overall response was that he thought: Music might well have a claim to be the greatest art form but the most expressive and important for me is literature. It is worth mentioning at this point that while the interview was taking place other Lords were walking through the Royal Gallery.
It seemed to us to be almost like a professional and large family where everyone knows everyone, or at least everyone knows Lord Bragg. That morning an episode of his programme In Our Time had been broadcast on Radio 4 and everyone who went past complimented him on the production. We asked Lord Bragg what being a Lord meant to him. His answer was surprising but it illustrated just how down to earth he is. He said it was an embarrassment for him and then proceeded to tell us a story about booking a table in a restaurant. His secretary rang up to book a table for Lord Bragg and the restaurant said they were full. However she rang back asking for a table for Melvyn Bragg and they said: OK, thats fine.
He said he would rather members were just called members and just got on with it. Despite this he is very proud to be here in the dying of its days and likened himself to a boxer who can take a punch, that punch being the slow death of the House of Lords. We were initially worried about asking our final question because it was about a very difficult and delicate subject. However Lord Bragg made us feel completely at ease and that we could ask him anything.
Recently he spoke out about his views on assisted suicide and is on record as saying he would consider ending his life if he was terminally incapacitated. He told us: You would only want to take your life when you realise the rest of your life is not going to be the kind of life you want to live, but by the time you get to that stage you might not have the resolution or clarity to make that decision.
The interview seemed to be over almost before it had begun. One of the things that left a lasting impression on us was the way that Lord Bragg answered the questions so succinctly and precisely. The questions had not been sent to him in advance so he had absolutely no idea what we were going to ask him. However, all of his replies were thoughtful and carefully considered. We would say he was the perfect interviewee.
If your school would like to take part in this series contact Tim Quinn, tel: 01704 512741, email: firstname.lastname@example.org