Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

How To Be Bohemian

Friday, 5 June 2015

I spent the last few months making a three-part documentary series for BBC Four about Bohemians – who they are, what society loves and hates about them, what it learns from them… It’s a quirky series in that we’re talking and arguing about what the subject matter is and means, as much as we’re documenting it. There are some terrific guests (Grayson Perry, Maggi Hambling, Stephen Fry and John Cooper Clarke, among others) and I do think it’s a very good fun watch, full of interesting ideas, and I’m very pleased with it. I’ll also be amused to see myself getting increasingly large over the series, under increasingly baggy clothes, since I was three months pregnant when we started filming and eight months when we finished.

How To Be Bohemian starts this Monday night (June 8th) on BBC Four at 9pm, and continues on Mondays for the next two weeks after that. Hope you enjoy it if you watch.

The trailer is here:

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Jade-louise Smith at 11:01 am on June 5th, 2015

Looks brilliant I can’t wait to watch it :)

rob at 8:32 am on June 6th, 2015

The ‘aesthete’ is crystallised in the old Punch cartoon of the youth who informs his aunt that he intends to ‘write’.
“And what will you write about, dear?”
“My dear aunt. One does not write about anything. One just writes”.

Mark at 5:45 am on June 8th, 2015

Looks like a great deal of my list of alternative “national treasures” are on. (Molly Parkin: wow!) Slight misgivings about the title though - it’s not really a “How To…” guide, is it? Surely anyone “trying” to be bohemian has already failed? Though watching them try could be fun! I think you’ve made another “must watch”, Victoria.

Brian Robins at 4:41 pm on June 8th, 2015

Sadly, much as I admire you anything with Stephen Fry in it is a no-no

nina milton at 9:17 pm on June 8th, 2015

great programme, just finished watching #1 and loved your presentation style, but really, you should have got rid of the coat. Nice though it was, it hid the most Bohemian aspect of the prog; your pregnancy. How great, to perplex the viewers with your constantly growing and receding tummy. Being pregnant is truth, beauty and love and…well, perhaps not freedom, but I think you missed a trick by allowing the director to insist you hid it under camel tailoring.

jim carr at 10:12 am on June 9th, 2015

it would appear that 90% of Bohemianism is actually pretentiousness.

Richard Clemence at 11:16 am on June 10th, 2015

I loved the programme , thank you. I remember a quote from somewhere defining a bohemian as ” someone who washes up before they cook… ”

Mary Frances Richards at 9:58 pm on June 15th, 2015

I just watched the second installment with my husband and our 19 year old son.  Tonight’s dreams shall entail naked children riding wild boars through the Ardennes while I try desperately to hide Eric Gill’s daughters from their father.  No doubt the images of those girls haunt you, as well.  How can they not?        Ok, that’s enough darkness.  The show is top-notch and I enjoy having my boundaries pushed…most of the time.                              May these first few months with your daughter give frequent moments of joy and fascinating observation.  Brace yourself, as such moments often arise from utter exhaustion.  That being said, you will get enough sleep, just not every day.  I was 41 when our daughter was born.  Being an older parent does have benefits. 

col at 10:34 pm on June 15th, 2015

Really enjoying it.  Made me laugh, intelligent and informative. Not often you get all that. Cheers

Peter Maggs at 9:04 am on June 16th, 2015

Very entertaining and informative Victoria, delivered with your usual sparkling and cheeky wit. You may be scandalized to learn that you introduced me to Eric Gill, whose art is as excellent as his private life was execrable. But I can’t agree with you about Wagner. He was a thoroughly self-obsessed, unpleasant man and serial adulterer, who was not just an intolerant bigot but intellectualized anti-Semitism. His music though is sublime and feted by many Jews. It seems to me that the art of Wagner, Gill and many others whose political views and personal habits may disgust us, must transcend the artist. After all, T S Eliot was a documented anti-Semite; are we not to read Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats or go and see the musical?

michael weinblatt at 10:39 am on June 16th, 2015

enjoyed the program last evening. if you want to see wagner for all its pretension, may I recommend the version by bugs bunny, it’s worth it,

Ian constable at 1:10 pm on June 16th, 2015

A brief note to commend you on a great job with the Bohemian series. You’re achieved a perfect balance of information, wit and tongue in cheek observation. Last nights’s episode educated me a fair amount and made me laugh out loud several times. Thank you

Eileen Godfrey at 1:53 pm on June 16th, 2015

Thank you Victoria for standing up for fidelity to one marriage partner.  Congratulations on an informative and entertaining series.

Vanessa Smith at 7:57 pm on June 16th, 2015

Absolutely loving your series on Bohemians. I was brought up in a family of Bohemians,(confirmed by your programmes!) musicians and painters and the series is helping make sense of it all! Also really enjoying your balanced and grounded view of the whole thing. I am agreeing with a lot of your opinions about it so far.

chris rudeau at 6:51 pm on June 17th, 2015

I enjoyed the first 2 episodes of ’ Bohemian’ and look forward to the third. My summary so far is: Episode one - true bohemians, artistic and poor; Episode two - wannabes and rich frauds.
Analysis so far - not all bohemians have artistic talent. In the same vein, Perhaps Victoria Coren Mitchell might consider another series tackling individuals showing in galleries like the Tate Modern. Are they artists or are their sponsors wishing to gain a reputation by making a publicity splash? (You probably can guess the rest)

TO_Ont at 8:03 pm on June 17th, 2015

Gill’s art (which I wasn’t aware of before) disturbs me more and differently than most art made by people who did horrible things, because some of it really doesn’t feel separate at all.

That erotic picture of his abused daughter… If someone today made a very ‘arty’, beautiful naked photo of a child they’d raped, would we say the photo should be shown in art galleries, because it was beautiful???  We’d say that would be a crime, and further abuse of the victim.  Yet when it’s a sketch instead of a photo, we excuse it and say the sketch (did he make her sit and pose for that sketch?) is separate from the abuse. 

I feel like some of those pieces of art, including that one, are so intimately tied up in the crimes he committed as to be part of them.

Paulmott at 9:54 am on June 18th, 2015

what a fantastic informative brilliant programme - wake up BBC it should be shown on BBC2 at least- more please.

Gary - Chester at 10:29 am on June 21st, 2015

Breath of fresh air . Loving your programme on How to be Bohemian. Your style / delivery is superb. So unstuffy and intellectual but not highbrow. Your insights are superb and hope you may bring a book out on this. Will now look at your other work. Thanks so much for an enthralling series. You’re great

ian powell at 8:55 pm on June 22nd, 2015

Everything today is main stream.How can anyone be Bohemian any more.If someone does anything over the top they are pretentious and deserved to be labelled so.I have come up against many flowery people over the years and I just give them the negative look of contempt which they deserve.Utter fucking cliques

Dave Gerrard at 11:57 pm on June 22nd, 2015

Just watched the final episode of “How to be a Bohemian”.

Was it just a coincidence that you had, at 2 mins 13 seconds in, a shot of the neon sign “Peep Show”?

David WILL be pleased!

Mark at 5:50 am on June 23rd, 2015

An excellent series, thank you: in particular for bringing the wonderful Molly Parkin to our screens again. “Age shall not wither her”, indeed - she’s virtually the definition of bohemianism and it was lovely to see her looking so well.

Anthony in Newcastle at 10:37 am on June 23rd, 2015

I just wanted to say I enjoyed the series, not least because of Victoria’s knack for delivering thought-provoking content in a style that’s highly engaging and non-patronising. I bet she’d be great company on a night out!
May she get to do many more such documentaries. 

Carole Hynam at 3:34 pm on June 23rd, 2015

Oh how I loved these three programmes.The content was fabulous I was totally glued to the TV,it also took me back to the sixties, my black PVC Mac and white lipstick. Thanks Victoria with all my heart,more programmes from you PLEASE.

Mike Piggott at 10:29 am on June 24th, 2015

Best TV for ages - really enjoyed the interviews with well-chosen people - liked your listening expressions - and the coat.
Looking forward to next project…

Neil Platt at 5:58 pm on June 24th, 2015

Thank you for the great series, perfect reithian balance and why the licence fee must be protected at all costs. You handled the issues around Gill’s abuse and the value monogamy with enough challenge to received wisdom, without putting the interviewee’s hackles up. Congrats, more please Vic on any subject xxx

Rob at 1:59 pm on June 25th, 2015

The first episode talks about the original parisian bohemians. Victoria misses the point that if you are living on an unstable income surrounded by often unstable and unscrupulous colleagues and landlords, its not possible to save money. Where do you hide it when the dodgy landlord makes an illegal entry or you are surrounded by thieving flat mates? And when you’re half starved waiting for your next paycheque, you fantasise about blowing the cash once the it arrives - because the fantasy and the goal are what keeps you going in the hard times.

Unstable work/housing/colleagues leads to unstable minds.

NickQ at 3:22 pm on June 25th, 2015

Excellent series - thank you.

It left me wondering where Viv Stanshall fitted into the bohemian pantheon. He seemed to tick all the boxes. A real and talented artist with a pretty unconventional lifestyle which I think he remained true to.

Sam at 6:54 am on June 26th, 2015

I watched the last of the three programmes last night. Hm, so what do you think? I think that there might be a psychopath element to being a bohemian - that disconnect and not caring.  That’s why “love” could be shared without the gypsy type rage that you had in mind

Amanda L at 10:23 am on July 23rd, 2015


One of my favourite bits of the Bohemian programme, and perhaps one of my favourite bits of tv so far this year, was when the so-called expert asked if Victoria would switch off Wagner because he was an anti-Semite and she said YES! 

Good for her, it really took the lady by surprise and it was great to see someone take a moral stance and comment that great art can be tainted when you know something like that about the artist.  It’s a shame more people aren’t willing to take such a stance - a politician would be sacked immediately but an artist seems somehow off limits.  I think similar things when Roman Polanski films are shown.

Anyway, it was great to see someone with a backbone take such a stance!


Edmund Punch at 12:36 am on November 24th, 2016

Bohemians are people who do the washing up before they eat.

Paul Nutley at 8:10 am on December 13th, 2016

The first two paragraphs of chapter 7 of Dead as Doornails by Anthony Cronin are an interesting brief analysis/summary of what is or is not bohemianism in the context of original artists or more self-cultivated “eccentricity”.

Victoria Coren

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