Start the Week

Start the Week is a discussion programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 which began in April 1970.[1] The current presenter is the former BBC political editor and the BBC's political Sunday morning presenter Andrew Marr. The previous regular presenters were Richard Baker, Russell Harty, Melvyn Bragg and Jeremy Paxman.

Start the Week
Running timeApprox. 43 minutes
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Home stationBBC Radio 4
Hosted byAndrew Marr (since 2002)
Original releaseApril 1970 – present

It is broadcast (usually) live on Monday mornings between 9:02 am and 9:45 am, and repeated in a shortened, edited version at 9:30 pm the same evening. Its guests typically come from the worlds of politics, journalism, science and the arts. Prior to Marr the programme had a number of regular secondary presenters including Ken Sykora, Kenneth Robinson (who began in 1971 during the Baker era[1]), Rosie Boycott, Catherine Bennett and Lisa Jardine.


Richard Baker (19701987)

The original programme differed from its current form; for the first year or so it was entirely pre-recorded.[2] Produced by Michael Ember,[3] a flamboyant producer from the BBC Hungarian Service, the 1970 show was supposed to be intelligent banter on a weekly theme held together in a jocular fashion by Richard Baker, a well-known television newsreader. If that week contained Valentine's Day, for example, the show would start with some hints as to proper behaviour for that day, a bit of history, then a tape recorded by Doug Crawford, a former pirate radio DJ, consisting of a montage of music, archive recordings, opinions recorded on the street and the like, presenting the public's image of the day in question. After eight minutes or so, the programme returned to the live studio for anecdotes and discussion from a variety of guests. Regulars included Lance Percival, a satirist from TV shows of the time who sang the Start the Week intro theme as a topical calypso, cookery with Zena Skinner.[1] The programme had a regular following but was thought to be too light-hearted and irreverent for 9 am on Monday mornings by a new Director of Programmes.

Russell Harty (19871988)

The programme turned towards being a chat show during Harty's year in the chair; Melvyn Bragg, a friend of Harty's first appeared on the programme as a substitute presenter before illness led to Harty's death in 1988.

Melvyn Bragg (19881998)

After Harty's death, several presenters were tried out, including Kate Adie, Sue Lawley, George Melly and Melvyn Bragg.[1] During Bragg's tenure the programme gained "a new reputation for gravitas";[4] and also a larger audience, which by 1996 was "at one to one and a half million, slightly more than the far more middle-brow programmes such as Midweek, Desert Island Discs and Loose Ends, which occupy the slot on other days."[5]

According to The Independent, "rows, however innocuous some of them seemed at the time, have become a trademark under Bragg: among the most notable have been Ben Elton vs Brenda Maddox, Rosie Boycott and Bragg vs novelist Kathy Lette, Armistead Maupin vs Libby Purves, and Bragg himself vs (separately) Joan Smith, Michael Dobbs, William Cash, Tony Parsons and Jean Aitchison.[1]

The programme's prominence in Radio 4's schedule meant that Bragg's elevation to the House of Lords as a life peer necessitated Bragg's relinquishing of an involvement in the programme.[6]

Jeremy Paxman (19982002)

Paxman's tenure was relatively short for a broadcaster of his stature because his aggressive style of interviewing was not considered compatible with the programme.[citation needed]

Andrew Marr (2002present)

Andrew Marr took over as the programme's presenter in 2002. Occasional stand-in presenters in recent years have included David Baddiel and Sue MacGregor. In January 2013, Marr suffered a stroke and went on sabbatical from the show, though he did chair a one-off episode in November[7] and several episodes in December 2013. He thereafter returned as the presenter of the show, but not on a full-time basis. Since 2013, he has alternated with various presenters, currently Tom Sutcliffe, Kirsty Wark and Amol Rajan.[8]


Start the Week won the Best Radio Programme category in the 1994 and 2005 Voice of the Listener & Viewer Awards, and is only the second programme to win the award twice.


  1. "Career notes: Start the Week". The Independent. 25 March 1996. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  2. Richard Baker on Start the Week (40th anniversary special), 27 December 2010
  3. Hendy, David (2007). Life on Air: A History of Radio Four. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 236.
  4. David Hendy Life on Air: A History of Radio Four, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007, p.309
  5. Popham, Peter (25 March 1996). "Do we need Start the Week?". The Independent. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  6. "Plato or Nietzsche? You choose". The Guardian. 7 June 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  7. Dowell, Ben (4 November 2013). "Andrew Marr to return to Radio 4's Start the Week next week ten months after his stroke". Radio Times. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  8. "Start the Week: Episodes by date". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 27 January 2014.