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It's a Long Story

A new podcast uncovering the fascinating stories behind the ideas of some of the world's leading thinkers

What galvanised African American activist Alicia Garza to co-found #BlackLivesMatter? How did Henry Rollins make the jump from shift manager at Häagen-Dazs to lead singer of US punk rock band Black Flag? How does NSW Australian of the Year Deng Thiak Adut’s former life as a Sudanese refugee and child soldier inform his practice of the law?

Find the answer to these questions and more in a new Opera House podcast-first series launched today. With its first season hosted by award-winning Australian broadcast journalist Hamish Macdonald, It’s A Long Story unpacks the influences and eureka moments that formed some of its most acclaimed and influential guests.

It's A Long Story - Priyamvada Gopal

Priyamvada Gopal

Once described as an obscure Cambridge lecturer after a high-level academic spat on live British radio in truth Priyamvada Gopal is anything but. There are few public intellectuals who think and write on the subjects of India and colonialism with as much influence and insight.

A reader with the University of Cambridge in Anglophone and related literature she has a Ph.D. from Cornell and specialises in colonial and post-colonial literature. Priya Gopal has said that "since dictators, war criminals and bankers also read Shakespeare we can't claim that literature will inevitably make society more humane and imaginative. But it does engage most people's ethical capacities."

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Alok Jha

Alok Jha is a self-described water obsessive, a scientist and communicator; he's made an art form of unpicking and unpacking some of the most complex questions of our age. A fascination with water has taken him literally to the ends of the earth.

A journey to Antarctica in 2013 came close to an unfortunate end. Thankfully, still with us, he joins a long list of remarkable science communicators, who try to make the incomprehensible sound simple. “All of human civilisation is in some sense” he says, “a struggle for the control of water”.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Sheila Watt-Cloutier is an independent advocate on Inuit human rights.

When she was growing up, she wanted to be a nurse and then a doctor, but that didn't pan out very well because she wasn't very good at chemistry, physics, or mathematics. Watt-Cloutier lives in Iqaluit on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. If the Arctic is the world's barometer, says Sheila, then the Inuit are the mercury, and she has campaigned tirelessly to get this message out, to explain to the world that climate change is not just an environmental concern, but very much a human one too. It is work that has made a mark globally and saw her nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jesse Bering

Jesse Bering

From a very early age, Jesse Bering has been asking questions of himself. Growing up amid AIDS hysteria in Reagan's America, Bering knew that he was attracted to other boys but was terrified into a guilty silence. In high school he took up wrestling in a bid to fight back sexual desire but found only deeper consciousness of his homosexuality.

As an adult he has continued asking questions with frankness and with humour, handling sensitive topics like sex, evolution, religion, and morality. His books Perv and Why is the Penis Shaped Like That? Have elevated him to cult hero status. "If I had to put a label on myself," hey says, "it would be a sexual libertarian."

Deng Thiak Adut

Deng Thiak Adut

There are people with interesting life stories, and then there are people whose lives read like a screenplay.

From being conscripted as a child solider in Sudan to finding a new home in suburban Australia as a refugee where he taught himself to read and to write. Deng Thiak Adut is today a lawyer representing those who, just like him, struggle to find a voice. He's even been at the centre of one of those most modern phenomena, a viral video sensation. Like millions of children who grow up within the geography of conflict his childhood was taken away. "I didn't understand what freedoms I had lost", he says. "I didn't understand how fearful I should have been."

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Alicia Garza

Shaken by a court's decision to acquit George Zimmerman over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Alicia Garza wrote, "Black people, I love you. I love us. Our lives matter." From there, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was born and then a social movement.

It is a world away from the life she had growing up with her mother, stepfather, and brother, where they ran an antique shop in Marin County in San Francisco. Standing firmly in the national spotlight today in a divided America, she is a leading voice in what's widely viewed as America's new civil rights movement.

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Henry Rollins

In our debut episode, Henry Rollins discusses his tumultuous childhood growing up in Washington DC, and how he transitioned from scooping ice cream at Haagen Dazs to fronting punk rock band Black Flag.

A turning point came for Henry Rollins about a decade ago, marked by a departure from music into activism and spoken word performance, "For me, music was a time and a place. I never really enjoyed being in a band", says Henry Rollins. "It was in me, and it needed to come out. Like a 25-year exorcism. One day I woke up and I didn't have any more lyrics.".

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