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 any writers achieve 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. 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 said:
'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
A new colelction of journalism, essays and diversions Pedro and Ricky Come Again will be published in autumn 2020
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’.