Occupation: Journalist, Author, Broadcasters
According to the Henry Hitchings in the TLS, "Jonathan Meades has been compared favourably to Rabelais and flatteringly to Swift. The truth is that he outstrips both in the gaudiness of his imagination."
He was born in Salisbury and educated there and in the west of England. He subsequently went to RADA. When he left, the Principal, Hugh Crutwell, told him: "You'll be a very successful character actor - when you're middle aged." Expecting to be out of work for a couple of decades he began writing. Many years later Crutwell said "I was right - all I didn't know was that the character would be called Jonathan Meades."
He is the author of several books including three works of fiction – FILTHY ENGLISH, POMPEY and THE FOWLER FAMILY BUSINESS - and two anthologies of journalism PETER KNOWS WHAT DICK LIKES and INCEST AND MORRIS DANCING. His next book, published by Unbound, is a collection of essays entitled MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS. He is currently working on a book entitled AN ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF MYSELF.
He has written and performed in some sixty television shows on predominantly topographical subjects such as self-built shacks, the utopian avoidance of right angles, the lure of vertigo, the deleterious effects of garden cities, the buildings occasioned by beer, Birmingham’s appeal, megastructures, Worcestershire, the everyday surrealism of Belgium: certain of these are available on The Jonathan Meades Collection DVD.
Magnetic North (2008) - a journey from Flanders to Helsinki - was described by Robert Hanks in the Independent as having ‘a sweep, an intellectual confidence and a sense of mischief you won’t find anywhere else on TV. Meades is an artist of television.’
The 2009 series Off Kilter was described by Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph as ‘a masterpiece’. He has been described by Will Buckley in The Observer as ‘by furlongs the most erudite broadcaster of the age’ and by Time Out as ‘a heavily sedated Sir Geoffrey Howe.’
Meades On France (BBC4, 2012) comprised three shows on: French nationalism; France's debt to the USA; the francophone imperium.
More recent documentaries include The Joy of Essex in 2013 and Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness in 2014.
Clive James wrote in the Daily Telegraph that "It became evident that this would be a landmark series from the moment Meades began to speak...Quite the most attractively written commentary I have heard on television in years."
Tom Sutcliffe in the Independent described Meades as "One of the few really distinctive stylists we have left on television."
Leo Robson in the FT described it as "A remarkable piece of television." He also chose MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS as a book of the year in the New Statesman.
Paul Lay, editor of History Today, wrote in the Literary Review that " Meades's documentaries have for years been the best history programmes on television...a marriage of Borges, Betjeman and Bronowski."
MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS (Unbound 2012) is a collection of essays, scripts and squibs on urbanistic, topographical and architectural subjects. It was chosen as a book of the year by...
Nigel Jones in the Sunday Telegraph: "Meades is a national treasure - original, quirky, fearless and often quite right."
...And by Anthony Quinn in Metro "Sceptical, forthright, unbiddable and seriously droll." In the RIBA Journal Douglas Murphy described Meades as "One of the best writers on architecture this island has produced."
Jonathan Glancey in Architectural Review praised its "Highly charged rants underpinned by a dazzling display of wordplay."
Rowan Moore wrote in the Observer that "The idea is not just to describe actual places, but to invent, to create out of observed reality imagined realms that did not previously exist."
In the Guardian Andy Beckett wrote:"The sentences zigzag between the lordly and the thuggish, between high culture and low, between grand assertion and intricate description." He lives in Marseille.
An Encyclopaedia Of Myself (Fourth Estate, 2014)
Winner of Best Memoir in the Spear's Book Awards 2014 'Nothing wilfully invented. Memory invents unbidden.' The 1950s were not grey. In Jonathan Meades’s detailed, petit-point memoir they are luridly polychromatic. They were peopled by embittered grotesques, bogus majors, vicious spinsters, reckless bohos, pompous boors, suicides. Death went dogging everywhere. Salisbury, where he was brought up, had two industries: God and the Cold War, both of which provided a cast of adults for the child to scrutinise – desiccated God-botherers on the one hand, gung-ho chemical warriors on the other. The title is grossly inaccurate. This book is, rather, a portrait of a disappeared provincial England, a time and place unpeeled with gruesome relish. Buy it here. Read extracts here and here. What the reviewers say: 'I loved this book. Meades is a very great prose stylist, with a dandy's delight in the sound and feel of words, and we are lucky to have him.' Ian Thomson, Spectator 'Pathologically observant, his memoir is quite the most brilliant, bracing but hairshirtless social history of mid-20th century provincial England that I have yet and, likely, will ever read.' Caroline Jackson, Country Life 'The richness of the vocabulary is as pleasurable as his honesty is bald... what can appear as isolated jottings in the end come together in a pointillist canvas to form by far the best picture of the 1950s I have read.' George Walden, The Times
'A symphonic poem about post-war England and Englishness...a masterpiece.' Roger Lewis, Financial Times 'Sulphurously opinionated... a dazzling confection of grown-up sophistication and schoolboy intensity of feeling.' Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph
'Meades has an endless curiosity about people and what becomes of them; his writing gives the everyday world of 1950s Britain a full colour, respiring immediacy... It's a true literary achievement.' Simon Heffer, Literary Review.
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