Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs

United Kingdom

Desert Island Discs was created by Roy Plomley in 1942, and the format is simple: a guest is invited by Kirsty Young to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island

Episodes

Sir Antony Beevor  

Kirsty Young's castaway is military historian, Sir Antony Beevor. His books about some of the key battles of the Second World War are best-sellers and have been credited with reinvigorating the whole genre. There was little indication of this future success while he was boarder at Winchester public school where he failed to pass either his History or his English A levels. During the five years he spent in the army, including two years at Sandhurst for officer training, he studied history under the great military historian, John Keegan. On deciding he wanted to be a writer, his first three novels had limited success, and he was encouraged by his publishers to draw on his experience of army life and turn his talents to military history. His ground-breaking work Stalingrad was based on what he discovered in the Russian military archives and won him the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize. In his book Berlin: the Downfall 1945, he wrote about the mass rapes of German women committed by the Red Army at the end of the war. He was knighted in the 2017 New Year honours list. He is married to the writer Artemis Cooper. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

June Brown  

June Brown is best known today for her role as the long-suffering chain-smoking Dot Cotton (now Dot Branning) in the BBC TV soap EastEnders. She arrived on a three month contract in 1985 and is still in the show. She was nominated for a BAFTA in 2008. She celebrates her 90th birthday in February 2017 and has no intention of retiring as acting "keeps her alive". June was born in Suffolk and brought up in a music-loving family. Towards the end of World War Two, she joined up, choosing the WRNS where she worked as a cinema operator showing training films and newsreels to the sailors. She did some acting during that time and after a brief and unsuccessful job in an office, she was one of very few chosen to receive a classical training at the Old Vic Theatre School. From there she joined the Old Vic Theatre Company where she worked with such greats as Edith Evans, Laurence Oliver and Albert Finney. Her roles included Lady Macbeth and Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. She had five children in relatively quick succession and continued acting on TV and the London stage, often putting her youngest in a pram and going in the guard's van on the train to the theatre. Throughout her time on EastEnders she has occasionally ventured away to direct or take part in other television series. In 2009 she stripped down to nothing as Jessie in the stage production Calendar Girls. She was 82. She was awarded an MBE for services to drama and charity in 2008. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Nigel Owens  

Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the rugby union referee Nigel Owens. His steely authority and quick wit on the field have won him worldwide praise - he's widely regarded as one of the best referees in the business for the impact he makes on the flow and coherence of a game. In 2015 he became the second Welsh official since 1991 to referee a World Cup Final - in a memorable match between New Zealand and Australia. Born and raised in a small village in Carmarthenshire, he first picked up the whistle aged 16, when it became clear to both his teacher and himself that he wouldn't make much impact as a player. A former school technician and farm worker, he broke through onto the international refereeing circuit in 2005 and took charge of his first Test when Japan hosted Ireland in Osaka that summer. In 2007 he became one of the first high-profile sports professionals to come out as gay - a courageous move in a sport which often defines the word macho. He has spoken about this decision as being the biggest challenge he has ever faced - even more so than officiating an international match under intense scrutiny in front of 95,000 spectators and a global TV audience. The severe depression he experienced coming to terms with his sexuality culminated in an attempt to take his own life in his twenties. He now says the unwavering support he has received from the rugby authorities, the players and the fans has enabled him to be true to himself and carry on working in the game he loves. Producer: Paula McGinley.

David Beckham  

David Beckham is Kirsty Young's guest as Desert Island Discs celebrates its 75th Anniversary. As a professional footballer he's the only Englishman to win the league titles in England, Spain, the US and France. He spent the bulk of his career as a midfielder for Manchester United, winning the Treble - Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League - in 1999, before moving to Real Madrid in 2003. He headed to the US to play for LA Galaxy in 2007, and ended his career at Paris Saint-Germain in 2013, retiring in May that year. Born and raised in East London, the middle child of Ted and Sandra, David Beckham discovered football early and spent hours kicking a ball around at the local park with his father. At the age of seven, he played for his first team, Ridgeway Rovers, before coming to the attention of Manchester United while attending the Bobby Charlton Soccer School. He became a trainee with Manchester United in 1991, and progressed to make 265 first team appearances, winning the Premier League six times, the FA Cup twice and the UEFA Champions League once. He played for England from 1996 to 2009 and captained the side for six years. He has been married to Victoria Adams - known as Posh from the Spice Girls - since 1999 and they have four children. Since retiring from professional football in 2013, David has spent more time on his work with UNICEF which he has supported since 2005. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Desert Island Discs at 75  

Kirsty Young celebrates 75 years of Desert Island Discs with some of the wonderful voices in the archive and chooses some of her favourite interviews from her 10 years as presenter. From Dustin Hoffman to Maya Angelou, Stephen Hawking to Victoria Wood, we have glimpses into the castaways' lives and times. Coronation Street stalwart, Betty Driver explains why she chose a song she hates to take with her to the island, Dawn French recalls the infamous 'puddle' scene in the Vicar of Dibley and legendary broadcaster Richard Dimbleby describes his very early days in broadcasting. Cilla Black, interviewed in 1964, describes how her career began, Ian Fleming talks about the early days of James Bond and Louis Armstrong reveals how he first began playing the trumpet. Extracts from the programmes of all the previous presenters - Roy Plomley, Sue Lawley and Sir Michael Parkinson - include the voices of Baroness Barbara Castle, Alfred Wainwright, Russell Harty, Jacqueline de Pre, Catherine Cookson and Lady Thatcher. Kirsty's favourite moments include Noel Gallagher remembering being forced to dance at his wedding, Sarah Millican explaining why she chose the Frog Chorus and Sir David Attenborough's choice of disc - the Lyre Bird. Castaways also explain their choice of luxury, introduce a diverse selection of their choice of discs and describe what they would do to survive on the desert island. Producer: Cathy Drysdale Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Caitlin Moran  

Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the writer Caitlin Moran. A columnist for The Times newspaper for 25 years, she's published five books and co-wrote the Channel 4 sitcom Raised by Wolves. The eldest of eight children, and raised on benefits on a council estate in Wolverhampton, she was taken out of school by her parents aged eleven and educated herself at the library and by watching television, reading all the classics and learning from popular culture. She started writing early and after winning several writing competitions, her first novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, was published when she was just sixteen. She became a music journalist for Melody Maker and, not long after that, started writing regular columns for The Times covering everything from politics and feminism to musings on her own background. She is currently finishing her sixth book and writing several film scripts. She has been married to the music journalist Peter Paphides since 1999 and they have two daughters. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Wayne McGregor  

Kirsty Young's castaway is the choreographer Wayne McGregor. Despite his background in contemporary dance, he has been resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet - the first from outside the company - for the past ten years. He has brought to Covent Garden a fascination with technology, a passion for collaborative efforts with visual artists and musicians, and he is renowned for drawing inspiration particularly from the field of science. Born in Stockport in 1970 to Scottish parents, he was inspired by the John Travolta films he watched and took ballroom, disco and Latin American dance classes. After studying choreography at the University of Leeds and spending a year at the José Limón dance school in New York, he returned to the UK and at the age of 22, founded his own company. He made his first professional piece in 1993, and choreographed Dame Judi Dench in Sondheim's A Little Night Music at the National Theatre in 1995. He received his first commission from the Royal Ballet in 2000 and it was his 2006 work Chroma which clinched him the job as resident choreographer. He works on a wide range of projects away from the stage, including films, music videos, and opening and awards ceremonies, and continues to choreograph for his own company and others around the world including Paris Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, La Scala Milan, New York City Ballet and the Australian Ballet. He has won numerous prizes for his work, including two Olivier Awards, and was appointed a CBE for Services to Dance in 2011. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Pinky Lilani  

Pinky Lilani, who was awarded a CBE in 2015 for services to women in business, is the founder of the annual Asian Women of Achievement Awards and the Women of the Future Awards. She also runs her own company, which uses Indian food as a means of team-building, and has published two cook books. Pinky was born in Calcutta, now Kolkata, where her parents were affluent and very sociable. They employed one of the best cooks in the city, so Pinky grew up surrounded by people and food. While she enjoyed eating, she had no experience of cooking. When she moved to London with her husband, who she married three weeks after their first meeting, she was unable to cook. After many culinary disasters, she returned to India and the kitchen in her family home, where the household cook shared his expertise. Back in the UK, she started teaching evening cookery classes which in turn led to a role consulting for one of Britain's best-known food companies, who manufacture Asian staples including chutneys, breads and curry pastes. In 2001, she published her first cookery book and set up in business to satisfy the two great loves of her life: food and people. In 1999, she founded the Asian Women of Achievement Awards and seven years later she added the Women of the Future Awards to her portfolio. Both of these have continued to be held annually, drawing high-profile support from, among others, Theresa May, Cherie Blair, the Duchess of York and the Countess of Wessex. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Sir Kenneth Grange  

Sir Kenneth Grange is a designer. He's been designing elements of our everyday lives for the past six decades. Born in London in 1929, he went to Willesden art school aged fourteen and four years later he left and embarked on a remarkable career. He is still working today at 87 years old. "Why would I stop? I mean, if a bloke can play the piano, you don't stop him playing it, do you?" His long career stretches from the early days of modernism to the digital age. One of his first big jobs was working for the Festival of Britain in 1951. He was co-founder of the design studio Pentagram, led a life with strong echoes of TV's "Mad Men" for a while, and his work has infused the texture of the UK. His designs include the first parking meter, the Intercity 125 train, the Kenwood mixer, the Morphy Richards iron, the Wilkinson triple razor, bus shelters, the black cab, the Parker 25 pen and the Anglepoise lamp. He's also the reason we no longer get wet when we fill our cars with petrol: he designed petrol station forecourts with roofs. In 2013 he was knighted for his services to design, and in 2016 an Intercity 125 was named Sir Kenneth Grange. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Gareth Malone  

Gareth Malone is a choirmaster who has coaxed and cajoled people from nervous adults to reluctant teenagers to open their mouths and sing for the pure joy of it - in front of television cameras. Gareth's first two TV series, which charted his attempts to build successful choirs in schools with little or no tradition of singing together, both won major awards, and gripped and inspired viewers. He has since also worked widely on TV with adult groups from a wide range of backgrounds, and his Military Wives Choir even hit the top of the charts at Christmas. Once described as a human tuning fork, Gareth loved music from an early age - and as he recalls, his parents and grandmother took a strong interest in his own youthful performances, from his very first school concerts. As a teenager, he felt an outsider amongst his fellow pupils, because he found his music teacher so inspiring. After time spent as a youth worker, and as a music educator, Gareth's TV series have taken him all over the country becoming - in his words - "an evangelist for music.".

Bruce Springsteen  

Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Bruce Springsteen. His career has brought him 20 Grammys, two Golden Globes, an Academy Award and his albums sell in their millions around the world. He grew up in New Jersey where the Catholic church played a central role in his early life. The family teetered on the brink of poverty, and his first guitar was rented, rather than bought. He spent his apprentice years as a musician and singer with local bands before landing a record deal in 1972. When 'Born to Run' was released in 1975 it turned him into a household name. His first Top Ten single was 'Hungry Heart', ahead of his most successful album 'Born in the USA' which was released in 1984. In spite of having long transcended the environment he grew up in, Springsteen has remained a chronicler of blue-collar lives. His records are frequently a political commentary on the struggles of ordinary Americans. In the Nineties he settled into family life with his wife Patti Scialfa who sings with his E Street Band. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Davina McCall  

Davina McCall is an English television presenter. She began her career on MTV before moving to Channel 4 with the cult hit Streetmate. She was the presenter of Big Brother during its run on Channel 4 between 2000 and 2010 and enjoyed it so much that she planned her family around the transmission schedule. All three of her children were born in September. Davina hosts a variety of prime time and popular programmes including ITV's Long Lost Family which seeks to reunite family members. Her own childhood was complicated. Her French mother was an alcoholic and drug user, and Davina was largely brought up by her father and grandparents. After a difficult childhood, she moved to London with her father and step-mother, and during some wild teenage years, she became a drug user. She has been clean since she was 25. Alongside her television presenting career, she has a large following with her fitness DVDs and healthy food cookbooks. In 2014, she undertook a 500 mile triathlon for Sport Relief raising more than two million pounds. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Sir Philip Craven  

Sir Philip Craven is the President of the International Paralympic Committee and a former wheelchair basketball athlete. Craven represented Great Britain in wheelchair basketball at five editions of the Paralympic Games, from 1972 to 1988. He also competed in track and field athletics and swimming at the 1972 Games. He won gold at the wheelchair basketball World Championships in 1973, and bronze in 1975, as well as two gold medals (1971, 1974) and a silver (1993) at the European Championships. He also won gold at the European Champions Cup in 1994, and gold at the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in 1970. Sir Philip Craven has been passionate about sport all his life. He was born in Bolton and educated at the University of Manchester, where he graduated with a geography degree in 1972. He grew up the younger of two boys to parents Herbert and Hilda who ran a floristry shop. He spent his childhood playing lots of cricket, climbing trees and trainspotting. Then when he was sixteen, he fell whilst rock climbing and broke his back. He was paralysed from the chest down and lost the use of his legs. He became a wheelchair user, went on to university and became a wheelchair basketball player. He met his French wife, Joscelyne when he was working as a sports trainer in Brittany. They have been married for 42 years and have two children and three grandsons. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Emma Bridgewater  

Emma Bridgewater is a British ceramic designer and businesswoman. She set up her pottery business in 1985 in Stoke-on-Trent, when many other manufacturers in the city were either closing down or going overseas. Her pottery is instantly recognizable, decorated with polka dots, stars, hearts or elegant lettering using 19th century sponge-printing techniques. It is an unlikely career for someone who studied English at University. Together with her husband, illustrator Matthew Rice, Emma Bridgewater has played a part in keeping the pottery tradition alive in Stoke-on-Trent. The factory also now hosts an annual literary festival. She was awarded a CBE in 2013 for services to industry. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Nicola Adams  

Kirsty Young's castaway is Nicola Adams. She made history when she won the first ever Olympic gold medal in women's boxing at London 2012, retaining it in Rio 2016. She is the first woman fighter to hold European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic titles. Having watched classic Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard fights on TV as she was growing up, she entered the ring for the first time at a working men's club when she was only 13. When she was 14, her mother contracted meningitis and for several months Nicola looked after herself and her younger brother. She turned to acting in order to help fund her boxing training, appearing as an extra in Coronation Street and Emmerdale. She first represented her country when she was 18. In 2009 it was announced that women's boxing would feature for the first time at the London Olympics, although before her selection for Team GB she fell down stairs and had to recover from a fracture in one of her vertebra. In 2012 she topped The Independent newspaper's Pink List of the most powerful LGBT people in public life, was made an MBE for services to boxing in 2013 and received a 'Paving The Way' award at the 2016 Mobo awards. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Yotam Ottolenghi  

Kirsty Young's castaway is the cookery writer and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi. His food mixes the flavours of the Middle East and the Mediterranean and has been credited with changing the way many eat and cook, fuelling the surge in popularity of cooking ingredients including wakame seaweed, orange blossom, pomegranate seeds and za'atar. Born to a German mother and an Italian father in Jerusalem, he grew up enjoying a wide range of culinary influences and he loved food from an early age. After completing a master's degree at Tel Aviv University, he enrolled in a six-month cookery course at Le Cordon Bleu school in London. While working as a pastry chef he met his future business partner, Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian also from Jerusalem, and they opened their first deli in London's Notting Hill in 2002. He has written a weekly food column for The Guardian since 2006 and has published five cookery books, as well as opening four more delis and a restaurant. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Ali Smith  

Ali Smith is a Scottish writer. Born in Inverness in 1962, the youngest of five children by seven years, she says, "I grew up completely alone but with all the comforts of knowing I had a cushioning family structure around me - and yet I could free myself from it." After reading English at Aberdeen and nearly completing a PhD at Cambridge, she started down an academic path, winning a lectureship at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, but she soon decided that academia wasn't for her. She gave herself three years in which to make it as a writer. By then she had moved from writing poems, for which she had discovered an aptitude aged eight, to short stories. Her first collection, Free Love and Other Stories, was published in 1995. Since then she has written novels, including How to Be Both, and The Accidental, as well as plays. Nominated three times for the Booker Prize, her fiction has won numerous literary awards including the Goldsmiths Award, the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Michael Bublé  

Kirsty Young's castaway is the singer, Michael Bublé. Born in Burnaby, British Columbia, as a young boy he spent hours listening to his grandfather's record collection which featured the stars of the Great American songbook - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald. At sixteen he was singing at venues often in exchange for the free plumbing services his grandad offered to get him on stage. But it took ten years of plugging away at restaurants, clubs, and corporate gigs before he met David Foster, a music producer at Warner Brothers. His released his first eponymous debut album in 2003. Since then he has won four Grammy Awards and sold 55 million records. He is married to Argentinian actress Luisana Lopilato and they have two young sons. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Jackie Kay  

Kirsty Young's castaway is the poet and writer Jackie Kay. Born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father, she was adopted as a baby by a white Scottish couple, Helen and John Kay, and grew up in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow. Her father worked for the Communist Party and her mother was the Scottish secretary for CND. She began to write seriously at the age of 17 when recovering from a moped accident, and while reading English at the University of Stirling she became a feminist and politically active in the arena of gay and lesbian rights and racial equality. Her first book of poetry, the partly autobiographical The Adoption Papers, was published in 1991 and won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award. She won the 1994 Somerset Maugham Award for Other Lovers, the Guardian Fiction Prize for Trumpet and in 2010 published Red Dust Road, an account of her search for her biological parents. She is now Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University and Chancellor of Salford University and was appointed Makar - Scotland's Poet Laureate - in March 2016. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Dr Robert Langer  

Kirsty Young's castaway is the scientist Dr Robert Langer. Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is the most cited engineer in history, and was awarded the prestigious US medals of both Science and of Technology and Innovation. A pioneer of many new technologies including controlled release drug delivery systems and nanotechnology, Langer is also regarded as the founder of tissue engineering in regenerative medicine where synthetic structures are used to provide the scaffolding on which new skin, muscle, bone and potentially entire organs can be grown. Born in Albany, New York, in 1948, Langer's interest in science was kindled by the Gilbert chemistry, microscope and building sets he was given as birthday presents by his parents. He studied chemical engineering at Cornell University before getting his Doctor of Science from MIT in 1974. His enthusiasm wasn't fired up by the many job offers from oil companies he received, preferring to apply to work in the medical sector. After many unsuccessful applications, he was hired by Dr Judah Folkman, a surgeon at Harvard, who tasked Langer with isolating a compound to restrict blood vessel growth in order to stop a tumour from growing. His work at the interface of medicine and engineering led to him being awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering in 2015. He attributes his success to "a combination of stubbornness, risk taking, perhaps being reasonably smart and wanting to do good". Producer: Christine Pawlowsky.

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