My Alter Ego

Series in which different presenters tell the story of a character from history that they identify with.

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Episodes

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01Ignatius Sancho2009030220101018

Can you imagine who you might have been if you had lived at a different point in history?

That's exactly what the presenters of My Alter Ego have been asked to do.

Each programme in the series is presented by someone whose life, career, or mind-set shares some similarities with a character from history.

Programme 1: Mobo award winning musician, Soweto Kinch, tells the forgotten story of Ignatius Sancho.

Supposedly born on a slave ship bound for the West Indies in the 1720s, Ignatius was orphaned and brought to London.

There he was given to three spinster sisters and grew up as a child-slave.

However he had a curious mind and a love of learning and these attributes combined with sheer force of personality, meant he broke through into London's literary and artistic circles forging friendships with the actor David Garrick and the author Laurence Sterne.

He became a prolific letter writer, and a gentleman composer, while running a grocery shop which attracted many of his aristocratic and artistic friends.

Soweto Kinch has long been fascinated by the life of Ignatius Sancho, and even though he was born almost two hundred years after Sancho into a very different world, he recognises certain parallels with his own life: his engagement with education, his passion for music and his relationship with his heritage.

Illustrated with readings from Ignatius's letters and musical compositions, Soweto explores the life of Ignatius Sancho in My Alter Ego.

Producer: Karen Gregor.

Jazz musician Soweto Kinch tells the story of black 18th-Century composer Ignatius Sancho.

Jazz musician and rapper Soweto Kinch tells the forgotten story of black 18th-Century composer Ignatius Sancho.

Supposedly born on a slave ship bound for the West Indies in the 1720s, Sancho was orphaned and brought to London, where he was given to three spinster sisters and grew up as a child-slave.

He had a curious mind and a love of learning, attributes that combined with sheer force of personality helped him to break into London's literary and artistic circles and forge friendships with actor David Garrick and author Laurence Sterne.

Sancho became a prolific letter writer and a gentleman composer, while running a grocery shop which attracted many of his aristocratic and artistic friends.

Soweto Kinch has long been fascinated by the life of Ignatius Sancho, and even though he was born almost 200 years after Sancho into a very different world, he recognises certain parallels with his own life - his engagement with education, his passion for music and his relationship with his heritage.

Illustrated with readings from Ignatius' letters and musical compositions.

02Eliza Vestris2009030320101019

Can you imagine who you might have been if you'd lived at a different point in history?

That's exactly what the presenters of My Alter Ego have been asked to do.

Each programme in the series is presented by someone whose life, career, or mind-set shares some similarities with a character from history.

Programme two: Burlesque artiste, Kirsty Allan, chooses Eliza Vestris as her Alter Ego.

Eliza was a trail-blazing theatrical performer who took many risks in 19th century theatre-land.

Not only did she dare to reveal her lower legs, and just a little bit of thigh, but she became the first woman to run her own theatre.

Eliza started off as an opera singer, but made her mark as one of the first stars of burlesque.

As founder of the Ministry of Burlesque, and as a performer herself, Kirsty is keen to point out that burlesque isn't the kind of elaborate striptease made famous by Dita von Teese.

True burlesque should involve sending-up, satirising, or making mockery of something.

and you don't have to take your clothes off to do that (although you can!).

Eliza Vestris's most successful performance was as Don Giovanni in 'Giovanni in London' a burlesque based on Mozart's opera.

This daring breeches part helped make Eliza (and her shapely legs) one of the most famous performers in the country.

Kirsty Allan tells Eliza's story and describes the many parallels between the life of a 21st century burlesquer and her 19th century Alter Ego.

Producer: Karen Gregor.

Burlesque performer Kirsty Allan on Eliza Vestris, Britain's first burlesque star.

Burlesque performer Kirsty Allan tells the story of the 19th-Century theatrical performer Eliza Vestris, a trailblazing artist who took many risks in theatreland.

Eliza Vestris' most successful performance was as Don Giovanni in Giovanni in London, a burlesque based on Mozart's opera.

This daring part helped make Eliza one of the most famous performers in the country.

As founder of the Ministry of Burlesque, Kirsty is keen to point out that burlesque is not the kind of elaborate striptease made famous by Dita von Teese.

03George Augustus Sala2009030420101020

Can you imagine who you might have been if you'd lived at a different point in history?

That's exactly what the presenters of My Alter Ego have been asked to do.

Each programme in the series is presented by someone whose life, career, or mind-set shares some similarities with a character from history.

Programme 3: George Augustus Sala was a Victorian journalist, one of the best known writers of the day, whose career took off when Charles Dickens spotted his talent and published his work in 'Household Words'.

Sala joined the Daily Telegraph shortly after its launch in the mid 1800s becoming a prolific leader writer and an adventurous and well-travelled foreign correspondent.

He reported on the American Civil War (where his southern sympathies made him an unpopular figure) and the Franco-Prussian war (where he was arrested and thrown into jail, accused of being a spy).

He would never travel anywhere without a revolver, a corkscrew, and a 'little huswife full of pins, needles and buttons'.

it doesn't really compare with the Blackberry, mobile phone, and flak jacket needed by today's foreign correspondents, but despite this, Con Coughlin (the Daily Telegraph's Executive Foreign Editor) sees many parallels with his career and Sala's.

In the third programme in this series Con Coughlin explores those parallels, while telling the colourful life-story of his Victorian alter ego.

Producer: Karen Gregor.

Journalist Con Coughlin tells the story of Victorian journalist George Augustus Sala.

Con Coughlin of The Daily Telegraph tells the colourful story of Victorian journalist George Augustus Sala, one of the best known writers of his day, whose career took off when Charles Dickens spotted his talent and published his work in Household Words.

Sala joined The Daily Telegraph shortly after its launch in the mid-19th Century, becoming a prolific leader writer and an adventurous and well-travelled foreign correspondent.

He reported on the American Civil War, where his southern sympathies made him an unpopular figure, and the Franco-Prussian war, where he was arrested and thrown into jail, accused of being a spy.

Coughlin explores the parallels that he sees between Sala's career and his own.

04Kathleen Raine2009030520101021

Can you imagine who you might have been if you'd lived at a different point in history?

That's what the presenters of My Alter Ego have been asked to do.

Each programme in the series is presented by someone whose life, career, or mind-set shares some similarities with a character from history.

Kathleen Raine was one of the outstanding poets of the 20th century.

Born in 1908, and dying at the age of 95 in 2003, she produced a large and critically acclaimed body of work.

Philip Larkin said of her 1956 book of collected poems: 'Her work lacks every quality traditionally associated with the title poetess: there is no domesticity, no cosiness, and love poems of a personal nature, the introduction tells us, have also gone, what remains is the vatic and universal'.

The poet Katrina Porteous can identify with much of Kathleen Raine's life and work: they share Scottish roots, a Cambridge education, and a connection with Northumberland where Kathleen was evacuated during the 1st World War, and where Katrina has chosen to live.

Kathleen had a deep, but ultimately unhappy friendship with the author Gavin Maxwell.

She was devoted to him, and inspired by him, regarding him as a muse, but their chaste friendship broke-down and Kathleen blamed herself for this.

Katrina Porteous was given the autobiographies of Kathleen Raine by a friend who recognised similarities between Kathleen's sources of inspiration and something Katrina herself had experienced.

On today's My Alter Ego, Katrina discusses the connections in life and poetry - between her and Kathleen Raine.

Producer: Karen Gregor.

Katrina Porteous on her fellow poet Kathleen Raine, with whom she shares Scottish roots.

Katrina Porteous tells the story of her fellow poet Kathleen Raine, with whom she shares Scottish roots, a Cambridge education and a connection with Northumberland, where Katrina lives and where Raine Kathleen was evacuated to during the First World War.

05 LASTVaraztad Kazanjian2009030620101022

Can you imagine who you might have been if you'd lived at a different point in history?

That's exactly what the presenters of My Alter Ego have been asked to do.

Each programme in the series is presented by someone whose life, career, or mind-set shares some similarities with a character from history.

Programme 5:

One of the heroes of the First World War was an American surgeon who was posted with the British army.

His name was Varaztad Kazanjian and as an Armenian refugee he had escaped the massacre of his people in Turkey in 1895.

He settled in Worcester, Massachusetts and - along with many other Armenians - took a job in the local wire factory.

There he worked long, hot hours but was determined to make a better life, and dedicated himself to years of evening classes.

Eventually he decided to try for a career as a dentist, and in 1902 was accepted by Harvard Dental School, qualifying in 1905.

He was happily married and successfully running his own dental practice when the First World War broke out, but he volunteered to join the Harvard Medical Corps, posted to a huge tented hospital complex in northern France.

There he began to treat some of the worst injuries suffered in trench war-fare - jaws, noses, cheeks and skulls shattered by bullets and grenades.

Although he wasn't a qualified surgeon, he had become known for treating the kind of facial injuries and disfigurements neglected by the general medical community, and he brought this passion and expertise to bear in France.

Many soldiers, who would otherwise have suffered dreadful scarring and lifelong pain, had their injuries expertly treated by Kazanjian.

It was said that he advanced the field of plastic surgery by 50 years during the four years he served the British army.

He received an honorary knighthood from King George the Vth, and became one of the most respected reconstructive facial surgeons in the world.

(At one stage treating Sigmund Freud, whose jaw had been eaten away by cancer).

Telling the story of Varaztad Kazanjian is Professor Iain Hutchison.

He is founder and Chief Executive of The Facial Surgery Research Foundation and is one of the world's leading reconstructive facial surgeons.

His mother was a Jewish doctor who escaped the Nazis in Austria; his first career was in dentistry, before specialising in oral and maxillo-facial surgery; and - like Kazanjian - he has operated on some of the most difficult cases of facial injury and disfigurement, all the while advancing and developing this particular area of surgery.

Producer: Karen Gregor.

Surgeon Iain Hutchison tells the story of plastic surgery pioneer Varaztad Kazanjian.

Surgeon Iain Hutchison tells the story of Varaztad Kazanjian, an American doctor posted with the British army in the First World War, who became a pioneer in plastic surgery.

As an Armenian refugee, Kazanjian had escaped a massacre of his people in Turkey in 1895.

He was happily married and successfully running his own dental practice when the First World War broke out.

He volunteered to join the Harvard Medical Corps, and was posted to a huge tented hospital complex in northern France.

Although he was not a qualified surgeon, he had become known for treating the kind of facial injuries and disfigurements neglected by the general medical community, and he brought this passion and expertise to bear in France.

He received an honorary knighthood from King George V and became one of the most respected reconstructive facial surgeons in the world, at one stage treating Sigmund Freud, whose jaw had been eaten away by cancer.

Professor Iain Hutchison is founder and chief executive of the Facial Surgery Research Foundation and is one of the world's leading reconstructive facial surgeons.

His first career was in dentistry, before specialising in oral and maxillo-facial surgery, and, like Kazanjian, he has operated on some of the most difficult cases of facial injury and disfigurement, all the while advancing this particular area of surgery.