Occupation: Writer, filmmaker
"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." Henry Hitchings, TLS,
"For the last thirty years Britain's most consistently surprising and informative writer on the built environment." Owen Hatherley, LRB
Meades 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 resting for a couple of decades he began writing. Many years later Crutwell said "I was right - what I didn't know was that the character would be called Jonathan Meades."
His books include three works of fiction –
FILTHY ENGLISH, "Dense with the imagery of evisceration...A marvellously potent vision." Nicholas Shakespeare, The Times
"A highly original imagination...it is also undeniably horrible." Robert Nye, The Guardian
"Reaches into parts of society more sensitive black comedians might well retch away from." Valentine Cunningham, The Observer
POMPEY "If Meades was a racehorse you'd be calling for a steward's enquiry. There's something in his feed which definitely gives him the lot." Iain Sinclair, Kaleidoscope.
"Disgusting and brilliant" Paul Spike, Vogue
"Any page comes crammed with more freewheeling invention than ,amy writers acheive in a lifetime." Tom Shone, Sunday Times
"There is more invention in a single page of Pompey than many British writers manage in fifty." Richard Preston, Daily Telegraph
THE FOWLER FAMILY BUSINESS " A brilliant novel...Meades is a genius at provoking horrid laughter." Mark Sanderson Evening Standard
"This comedy is not so much black as draped in sackcloth and ashes." Bel Mooney, The Times
His non fiction includes
PETER KNOWS WHAT DICK LIKES
"The pieces selected here prove his gift for reaching sideways out of aesthetics and bringing in the sociology and the politics as well, with no care for who gets offended." Clive James
INCEST AND MORRIS DANCING.
MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS which comprises essays, scripts and squibs on urbanistic, topographical and architectural subjects. It was chosen as a book of the year by thirteen writers, among them:
Nigel Jones in the Sunday Telegraph: "Meades is a national treasure - original, quirky, fearless and often quite right."
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 his "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."
AN ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF MYSELF
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.
'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.
His most recent book is The Plagiarist In The Kitchen, (Unbound 2017)
'This year's best cookbook.' Rowley Leigh, Financial Times
'Hilariously Grumpy ' David Hare, Guardian
'The final joke, of course, is that Meades has made a cookbook that is itself a work of literary art. Chapeau.' Steven Poole, Guardian
'Meades is just the right sort of elitist; one who despairs of cant and therefore of fashion, but who is wise enough to leave the door to his mind ajar. The Plagiarist in the Kitchen is the anti-cookbook of the year. ' Alex Massie CapX
Since the mid 80s 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.
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."
His most recent films are The Joy of Essex, Bunkers Brutalism and Bloodymindedness and Benbuilding, on the architecture of Mussolini, the third part of a trio that includes Jerry Building (1994) and Joe Building (2004), on the architecture of Hitler and Stalin.
He has just completed a film for BBC4 Jargon:
Matrix Hubbing Performative Pain Badgers and is about to start shooting a film about Spanish architecture during Franco's regime.
His photographs have been published in postcard form as Pidgin Snaps and his 'art' or treyfs and artknacks have been exhibited at the Londonewcastle Space in a show entitled Ape Forgets Medication. He recently exhibited at the 108 Gallery in Harrogate and a further exhibition is planned for Rise Gallery in Croydon
See also meadesshrine.blogspot.com
Jonathan Meades is a writer, journalist, essayist, film-maker. He is the author of Filthy English, Peter Knows What Dick Like, Pompey, The Fowler Family Business, Incest and Morris Dancing, Museum Without Walls, An Encyclopaedia of Myself. From 1986-2001 he wrote a weekly column approximately about restaurants in The Times.
He has written and performed in many television films, among them Jerry Building, Joe Building, Ben Building, Magnetic North, Off Kilter, The Joy of Essex, Father To The Man and Meades Eats, a three part series about what the English really consume.
Unbound published Pidgin Snaps, a boxette of a hundred of his photos in postcard form. In the spring of 2016 his exhibition Ape Forgets Medication comprised thirty artknacks and treyfs. In 2017 he published The Plagiarist In The Kitchen - the only cookbook he will ever write.
All of his telly work can be found at:
Other stuff is at: