The Third Act - a new podcast
Over lunch in Culfords Restaurant, writer and journalist Catherine Fairweather chats to guests such as actresses Stefanie Powers and Dame Harriet Walter, designer Nicky Haslam, couturier Bruce Oldfield, supermodel Marie Helvin and photographer Sir Don McCullin. The first series of 12 episodes is full of tales of triumphs and setbacks, exploring the secrets of a life well lived and unpacking tricks for ageing gracefully (or otherwise). Warm, witty and invariably wise, this series will leave you with the strong belief that the best is yet to come.
Ahead of the series' launch later in February, we chatted with Catherine to learn more about The Third Act.
Tell us a little bit about this podcast and what makes it different?
We live in fast-paced, youth-focussed times. Incipient ageism in our society and culture leaves those over 65 - a fifth of the UK's population - effectively without enough of a voice or a platform to be heard. The Third Act hopefully addresses the imbalance and blows apart stereotypes about older age. Talking to extraordinary people about their well-spent or misspent lives, their hopes and their dreams, certainly inspired me to believe that despite increased creakiness, aches and pains, later life can be a rewarding and dynamic time. The format for this podcast is intimate and conversational with interviews conducted over lunch in the civilised environs of Culfords Restaurant at Auriens Chelsea.
Do you think this podcast will help change people’s attitudes to ageing?
I hope it shows that it is never too late to try something new. The podcast also shines a light on the problems and potential for loneliness in older age. It hovers like a shadow in the lives of some of my unmarried subjects.
How were the interviews and who are some of the people you’ve spoken with?
I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking to all of them - their directness, wit, candour and their strong sense of themselves. They are relaxed company, as they no longer have anything to prove. The sense of irony and enjoyment in everything makes them good company. The over 65s are generally not scared to speak out on issues they find absurd, but similarly are not prone to outrage and don't easily take offence.
In fact I am most impressed by the dignity and courage of these indefatigable giants - Stefanie Powers' energy in managing her conservation charity in the name of William Holden and her physical mettle in still playing polo in her late 70's. She is a total dynamo .
I love the idea that Marie Helvin would seriously contemplate upping sticks in London and going to work at Wholefoods in Hawaii at the age of early 70. She isn't phased by having to reinvent herself. Nor is Bruce Oldfield who in the face of bankruptcy as the pandemic hit, had to leave his studio and home of many decades in Beauchamp Place. He has found a whole new lease of life and a healthy new business from an apartment in Battersea.
I love Brigid Keenan's flourishing career as a funny memoirist in her 70's and John Blashford Snell's work galvanising young and old alike with his expeditions into difficult environments such as Bolivia or Mongolia .
Any favourite moments from your interviews with all these interesting people?
Falling down the stairs onto my knees at Bruce Oldfield's feet was a moment I probably would prefer to forget. But I greatly appreciated being able to ask my husband, Don McCullin, questions I've never had answered in 20 years of married life.
Any insights that you’ve picked up from hosting these podcasts? Have your own thoughts about ageing changed?
I realise, more than ever, what a fight it is for women after a certain age not to rendered invisible by society. How important and immortal friendship is and the energising and anti-aging effects of a sense of community. Plus how resilient and philosophical the older generations are about everything including the pandemic. It makes we wish that government would listen to them more rather than merely trying to shape policy to protect them .
The Third Act will launch later this month and will be available to listen on the Auriens website or on multiple streaming platforms including Apple and Spotify.