Episoder

  • Kirsty Young talks to June Brown, in a programme first broadcast in 2017. June died at the age of 95 on 3rd April 2022. June enjoyed a very long acting career, initially on stage, and she was best known for her role as the long-suffering chain-smoking Dot Cotton (later Dot Branning) in the BBC TV soap EastEnders. She joined EastEnders on a three-month contract in 1985 and announced her departure in 2020. Producer: Sarah Taylor

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  • Jens Stoltenberg is the Secretary General of NATO and a former Prime Minister of Norway.

    Although he was born into a political family in Norway, he grew up thinking he would become a statistician, before turning to a career in politics.

    He served as the Prime Minister of Norway twice. During his second term, Norway experienced one of the darkest days in its recent history, when 77 people were murdered in a bomb attack in Oslo and a mass shooting on a nearby island.

    Before becoming the Secretary General of NATO, a post he has held since 2014, he spent time as a UN Special Envoy on climate change. His term in office as Secretary-General has been extended until September 2023.

    DISC ONE: Lift Me by Madrugada and Ane Brun
    DISC TWO: No Harm by Smerz
    DISC THREE: So Long, Marianne by Leonard Cohen
    DISC FOUR: Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen
    DISC FIVE: Make You Feel My Love by Ane Brun
    DISC SIX: Til Ungdommen by Ingebjørg Bratland
    DISC SEVEN: Free Nelson Mandela by The Special A.K.A.
    DISC EIGHT: From Up Here by Ingrid Olava

    BOOK CHOICE: A statistics textbook
    LUXURY ITEM: A pair of skis
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Til Ungdommen by Ingebjørg Bratland

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor
    (First broadcast in 2020)

    Photo credit: NATO

  • Winnie Byanyima is a human rights advocate and executive director of Unaids, the joint UN Programme which was set up to eradicate Aids as a threat to public health by 2030.

    Winnie was born in the village of Ruti, in south west Uganda, where her teacher parents raised her and her siblings to follow their example of doing good things for others. From an early age Winnie adopted the family motto of ‘truth and justice’.

    Winnie fled the country in 1978, during the regime of President Idi Amin, and came to the UK as a refugee. She won a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering at Manchester University, graduating in 1981. She returned home where she found a job as an engineer for Ugandan Airlines while secretly working for Yoweri Museveni’s resistance movement that opposed Amin’s successor, Milton Obote.

    In 1994 Winnie was elected as an MP in the Ugandan Parliament and was instrumental in drawing up a new constitution for the country. In 2013 she was appointed executive director of Oxfam International and became executive director of Unaids in 2019. She currently lives in Geneva.

    DISC ONE: Sanyu Lyange by Juliana Kanyomozi
    DISC TWO: Cantata No. 147: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by New London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, with the Norman Luboff Choir
    DISC THREE: Le Bûcheron by Franklin Boukaka
    DISC FOUR: Heart of Glass by Blondie
    DISC FIVE: Umqombothi by Yvonne Chaka Chaka
    DISC SIX: Steal Away (Remastered) by Nat King Cole
    DISC SEVEN: Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
    DISC EIGHT: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free by Nina Simone

    BOOK CHOICE: The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir
    LUXURY ITEM: A basket weaving needle
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free by Nina Simone

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

  • Alan Cumming's wide-ranging career on stage includes playing Hamlet, starring opposite Daniel Radcliffe in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and – perhaps most notably - taking the role of the Emcee in the musical Cabaret in London and New York to great acclaim: his 1998 Broadway performance won seven awards, including a Tony. He’s also appeared in films including GoldenEye and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and in the TV series The Good Wife.

    Alan was born in Perthshire in 1965. His father was a forester and the family moved to the Panmure estate on the east coast of Scotland. Encouraged by his English teacher, Alan grew up loving drama at school but his childhood was blighted by his violent and abusive father. He worked for the publisher DC Thomson as a sub-editor before going to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. There he launched his performing career with fellow student Forbes Masson: together they were Victor and Barry, a comedy and music double-act. They drew on these characters for their BBC TV sit-com The High Life, based around a fictional Scottish airline.

    Alan has published a novel and three memoirs: his 2014 autobiography Not My Father’s Son detailed his very difficult relationship with his father, both in his early years and later in his life.

    In 2022 Alan is developing a solo dance-theatre work, focusing on the personal history of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, which he will perform in Scotland and New York. He’s now also the co-owner of a bar, Club Cumming, in Manhattan.

    DISC ONE: Dignity by Deacon Blue
    DISC TWO: L’Amour Looks Something Like You by Kate Bush
    DISC THREE: Barcelona by Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé
    DISC FOUR: I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
    DISC FIVE: Whenever Wherever Whatever by Maxwell
    DISC SIX: Give Me Back My Heart by Dollar
    DISC SEVEN: Catalani: La Wally : Ebben? ne andrò lontana Act 1 by Maria Callas and Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Tullio Serafin
    DISC EIGHT: These Are My Mountains by Peter Morrison

    BOOK CHOICE: Desert Gardening for Beginners: How to grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs in an Arid Climate by Cathy Cromell, Linda A. Guy, Lucy K. Bradley
    LUXURY ITEM: Marijuana seeds
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Give Me Back My Heart by Dollar

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

  • Robert Plant is a singer and songwriter who was Led Zeppelin’s frontman from the band’s inception in 1968 until it disbanded in 1980. Led Zeppelin sold hundreds of millions of albums and in their heyday acquired a reputation for unbridled rock ‘n’ roll hedonism. Since 1980 Robert has gone on to achieve success as a solo artist and has collaborated with other musicians, notably the bluegrass singer Alison Krauss. Their 2007 album Raising Sand won five Grammy Awards.

    Robert was born in West Bromwich in 1948. At 15 he appeared on stage for the first time as the lead vocalist for a local band after the regular singer fell ill. In 1965 he started performing with the Crawling King Snakes and it was after one of the band’s gigs that he met his friend, the drummer John Bonham.

    In 1968 Robert and John joined up with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to form Led Zeppelin. Later that year the band embarked on its first US tour and the enthusiastic response from American audiences heralded a new force in British music. Over the next 12 years the band released eight studio albums including Led Zeppelin IV which featured one of their most popular tracks – Stairway to Heaven.

    In 1980 John Bonham died from alcohol poisoning at the age of 32 and Led Zeppelin broke up. Devastated by his friend’s death, Robert took himself off to explore other creative avenues, recording and performing with a wide range of artists.

    Robert and Alison Krauss released their second album, Raising the Roof, in 2021.

    Robert lives in Worcestershire near where he grew up. He is a committed fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Black Country homing pigeons.

    DISC ONE: Pink Peg Slacks by Eddie Cochrane
    DISC TWO: Serenade by Mario Lanza
    DISC THREE: I Ain’t Superstitious by Howlin’ Wolf
    DISC FOUR: Teenage Ska by Baba Brooks
    DISC FIVE: Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
    DISC SIX: Raha Gardishon Mein Hardam by Mohammed Rafi
    DISC SEVEN: Diaraby by Ali Farka Touré with Ry Cooder
    DISC EIGHT: Your Long Journey by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

    BOOK CHOICE: The Earliest English Poems, translated by Michael Alexander
    LUXURY ITEM: A basket containing photos of homing pigeons
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Serenade by Mario Lanza

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

  • Oti Mabuse is a dancer, choreographer and TV talent show judge. She has enjoyed great success on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing and is one of only two professional dancers to win the glitterball trophy twice.

    Oti was born in South Africa in 1990, the year that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and dance was a central part of her life from a very early age: her mother had set up a dance school so that black children could learn ballroom and Latin dancing. Oti followed in the footsteps of her two older sisters, winning dance competitions in South Africa and taking part in international events. She competed in Blackpool when she was just 11 years old, and retains strong memories of the elegant Tower Ballroom and the poor weather.

    Oti's father trained as a lawyer and her mother worked in education, and they felt that their youngest daughter needed the security of a professional qualification, so Oti studied civil engineering at university. Shortly before qualifying, she decided to abandon her degree and become a professional ballroom dancer, joining her sister Motsi in Germany.

    She first appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2015 and has recently announced her departure from the show. She lives in London with her husband, the dancer Marius Lepure.

    DISC ONE: Lose My Breath by Beyoncé (with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams)
    DISC TWO: My Afrikan Dream by Vicky Sampson
    DISC THREE: A Song for Mama by Boyz II Men
    DISC FOUR: Dance With My Father by Luther Vandross
    DISC FIVE: Un-break my Heart by Toni Braxton
    DISC SIX: I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman by Britney Spears
    DISC SEVEN: It’s My Life by Bon Jovi
    DISC EIGHT: Survivor by Destiny’s Child
    BOOK CHOICE: Will by Will Smith
    LUXURY ITEM: A photo of Oti and her Grandma
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: It’s My Life by Bon Jovi

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

  • Looking for the latest episode? New episodes of Desert Island Discs will now be available first on BBC Sounds for four weeks before other podcast apps.

    If you haven’t already, you can download the BBC Sounds app to listen to the Desert Island Discs podcast first.

    BBC Sounds is also available in lots of other places. Find us on your voice device or smart speaker, on your connected TV, in your car, or at bbc.co.uk/sounds.

    The latest episode is available on BBC Sounds right now.

    BBC Sounds – you can find exclusive music mixes, live BBC radio and more podcasts like this one.

  • Professor Nick Webborn has chaired the British Paralympic Association since 2017. He is a world-leading expert on Paralympic sports medicine and the most widely-published author on the subject. He has attended 11 Paralympic and one Olympic Games.

    He was born in Swansea in 1956, trained as a doctor in London and joined the RAF as a junior medical officer. In 1981 he was playing in an RAF rugby match when a mistimed opposition tackle left him with a severe spinal injury. After many months of treatment and rehabilitation, which he now describes as 'long and tortuous,' he wanted to return to work in medicine, but found that there was a reluctance to employ a doctor with a disability.

    He worked as a GP and also pursued an interest in sports medicine, leading to research in this area and an academic role. When he saw the medical support available for Olympic athletes, he felt strongly that para-athletes deserved the same level of specialist help - especially as many also had to deal with underlying problems that their Olympic peers did not face. His pioneering research has made Paralympic sport safer for athletes, and has driven the development of sports medicine in areas such as rehabilitation. He also represented Great Britain in wheelchair tennis in 2005.

    Nick is Professor of Sport and Exercise Medicine at the University of Brighton.

    DISC ONE: Heroes by David Bowie
    DISC TWO: Hallelujah, composed by George Frideric Handel, performed by London Musici Chamber Choir and London Musici Orchestra, conducted by Mark Stephenson
    DISC THREE: Jamaica Farewell by Nina and Frederik
    DISC FOUR: Will Ye Go Lassie Go by The Corries
    DISC FIVE: For Crying out Loud by Meat Loaf
    DISC SIX: This is Me by Keala Settle
    DISC SEVEN: Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
    DISC EIGHT: You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry & the Pacemakers

    BOOK CHOICE: The Complete Works of Charles Dickens
    LUXURY ITEM: Nick’s adapted Segway, with a built-in espresso machine
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: This is Me by Keala Settle

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

  • Anne Tyler is a novelist and short story writer. Her 23 novels include the Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Breathing Lessons.

    Anne was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1941, the oldest of four children. Her parents were Quakers and the family lived in a succession of Quaker communities in the South until they settled in a Quaker commune in Celo, in the mountains of North Carolina in 1948. When she was 11 the family moved to Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, where Anne attended a mainstream school.

    Anne majored in Russian literature at Duke University in North Carolina where she enrolled in a creative writing class run by the author Reynolds Price. After completing her studies she worked as a librarian in the university library.

    Anne’s first novel, If Morning Ever Comes, was published in 1964 when she was just 22-years-old. Her writing is widely praised for the way it chronicles the lives of middle-class America and celebrates endurance and the complexities of family relationships.

    Anne moved to Baltimore with her husband and children in 1967 and the city has been the setting for her books ever since.

    DISC ONE: Darby’s Castle by Kris Kristofferson
    DISC TWO: This is My Father’s World by Cedarmont Kids
    DISC THREE: Hearts Of Stone by The Charms
    DISC FOUR: Darling Dareyne by Shusha
    DISC FIVE: Un Canadien Errant by Ian And Sylvia
    DISC SIX: Heart of Glass by Blondie
    DISC SEVEN: While Sheep May Safely Graze, composed by J.S Bach, performed by Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Richard Hayman
    DISC EIGHT: Baltimore by Nina Simone

    BOOK CHOICE: The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty
    LUXURY ITEM: A supply of pet food

    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: While Sheep May Safely Graze, composed by J.S Bach, performed by Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Richard Hayman

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

  • Leslie Caron is an award-winning actress and dancer who starred in some of the most memorable films of Hollywood’s golden age including An American in Paris and Gigi. Leslie was first cast away on Desert Island Discs in 1956 when she was 25, and her return, nearly 66 years later, marks the greatest gap between appearances in the programme's 80-year history.

    She was born in Paris in 1931 and started ballet lessons at 11 to please her mother, a dancer herself who had performed on Broadway. Her early childhood was marred by the war and growing up in occupied Paris, but when she was 16 she joined Roland Petit’s Ballets des Champs-Elysées which opened up a new world of possibility. A year later she was spotted during a performance by a member of the audience - Gene Kelly. He lobbied MGM to cast her as his leading lady in An American in Paris, which launched her Hollywood career.

    Leslie played the tile role in Gigi both on stage in London in a production directed by Peter Hall, who she married, and in the feature film directed by Vincente Minelli. The film won all nine of its nominations at the 1959 Academy Awards – a record at the time.

    Leslie went on to star in the L-Shaped Room and later played roles in the films Chocolat and Damage. In 2006 she won an Emmy Award for her part in the television series Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. More recently she was on our TV screens playing the Countess Mavrodaki in the drama series The Durrells.

    She was awarded the Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur in 2013 and the JF Kennedy Gold Medal in the Arts two years later.

    Leslie lives in London and describes herself as “almost retired.”

    DISC ONE: L’Accordeoniste by Édith Piaf
    DISC TWO: Sì, Mimì chiamano Mimi, composed by Giacomo Puccini, performed by Maria Callas and Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Tullio Serafin
    DISC THREE: Ne me quite pas by Jacques Brel
    DISC FOUR: Miss Otis Regrets by Ella Fitzgerald
    DISC FIVE: One for My Baby (from The Sky’s The Limit) by Fred Astaire
    DISC SIX: Requiem in D minor (Introitus: Requiem) Composed by Mozart, performed by Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Singverein, conducted by Herbert Von Karajan
    DISC SEVEN: Burn On by Randy Newman
    DISC EIGHT: Les Feuilles Mortes by Yves Montand

    BOOK CHOICE: The Sixth Sense of Animals by Maurice Burton
    LUXURY ITEM: A cutlass
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Sì, Mimì chiamano Mimi, composed by Giacomo Puccini, performed by Maria Callas and Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Tullio Serafin

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

  • Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter specialises in medical statistics. He is the Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, and one of the most frequently cited experts in his field. During the Covid 19 pandemic, he has made regular appearances as a broadcaster and newspaper commentator, analysing and explaining complex data for a general audience.

    David was born in Barnstable, the youngest of three children. After studying maths at Oxford University and University College London, he spent a year teaching at the University of Berkeley, California before returning to the UK. He has also worked in the field of computer-aided diagnosis. His expertise was called upon in the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry and the Harold Shipman Inquiry.

    He was knighted in 2014 for his services to medical statistics.

    DISC ONE: Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen
    DISC TWO: Dragostea Din Tei by O-Zone
    DISC THREE: Oh Well Part 1 by Fleetwood Mac
    DISC FOUR: A Vaca de Fogo by Madredeus
    DISC FIVE: If I Should Fall From Grace With God by The Pogues
    DISC SIX: Four Last Songs: Beim Schlafengehen, composed by Richard Strauss and sung by Jessye Norman
    DISC SEVEN: St Matthew Passion: Erbarme dich, mein Gott! Composed by Bach, sung by Németh, with Hungarian State Orchestra, conducted by Geza Oberfrank
    DISC EIGHT: When Father Papered The Parlour by Billy Williams

    BOOK CHOICE: Ultimate Survival Handbook by Bear Grylls
    LUXURY ITEM: An unlimited supply of printed Killer Sudoku
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Dragostea Din Tei by O-Zone

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

  • Lyse Doucet is the BBC’s award-winning chief international correspondent, reporting from a range of postings including in Kabul, Islamabad, Tehran and Jerusalem for nearly 40 years.

    Lyse was born in Bathhurst, New Brunswick, in eastern Canada and after graduating with a master’s degree from the University of Toronto she set her sights on becoming a journalist. She took her first step by signing up with the volunteer agency Canadian Crossroads International which offered her a placement in Ivory Coast, West Africa.

    In 1982 the BBC set up a West Africa office and Lyse began filing reports as a freelance journalist. After stints working in London and Pakistan she made her first visit to Kabul in 1988 and covered the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. This trip was the beginning of her long association with the country – a country she now calls her ‘second home’.

    In 1989 she became the BBC’s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent and later on in her career she reported from India and Indonesia in the aftermath of the tsunami. In 2011 she played a leading role in the BBC’s coverage of the Arab Spring, reporting from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

    She was appointed an OBE in 2014 for services to British broadcast journalism and in 2019 she was admitted to the Order of Canada.

    DISC ONE: Habibi Nour Al Ain by Amr Diab
    DISC TWO: Passionate Kisses by Mary Chapin Carpenter
    DISC THREE: Searching for Abegweit (Live) by Lenny Gallant
    DISC FOUR: Annie’s Song by John Denver
    DISC FIVE: Bi Lamban by Toumani Diabate and Ballake Sissoko
    DISC SIX: L Einaudi: Elegy For The Arctic, composed and performed by Ludovico Einaudi
    DISC SEVEN: Here and Now by Derek Roche, featuring Kathy Evans
    DISC EIGHT: Dawn by The Orchestra of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music

    BOOK CHOICE: A Persian language book
    LUXURY ITEM: Essential oils
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Searching for Abegweit (Live) by Lenny Gallant

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

  • John Caudwell is a businessman and philanthropist who founded the mobile phone company Phones 4U in 1996. It became the UK’s largest independent mobile phone retailer and made him one of Britain’s most successful businessmen.

    John was born in Birmingham and grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. He came up with his first business venture when he was five – he sold his toys to the other children in his neighbourhood. After he left school he became an apprentice engineer at the Michelin Tyre Factory, but the hunger to have his own business drove him on. In his spare time he set up a variety of enterprises from a grocery store to a mail order business selling motorcycle clothing.

    In 1980 he set up a car dealership with his brother Brian and a few years later spotted a mobile phone in use at a car auction. Although the phone was heavy and cumbersome, John saw the potential of cellular technology and set up his own retail business, starting off with 26 phones which took him almost a year to sell.

    In 2000 he set up Caudwell Children, his charity which helps children with disabilities, and remains its largest single benefactor. He was one of the first people in the UK to sign up to Bill and Melinda Gates’s Giving Pledge, vowing to give away 70% of his wealth during his lifetime. In 2006 John sold the Caudwell Group for £1.5 billion.

    DISC ONE: Bennie and the Jets by Elton John
    DISC TWO: She Loves You by The Beatles
    DISC THREE: Bring Him Home by Alfie Boe and the cast and orchestra of Les Misérables
    DISC FOUR: Maggie May by Rod Stewart
    DISC FIVE: My Way by Frank Sinatra
    DISC SIX: Bat out of Hell by Meat Loaf
    DISC SEVEN: Fix You by Coldplay
    DISC EIGHT: Truly Madly Deeply by Savage Garden

    Book: A Desert Island Survival manual
    Luxury: Sunblock
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Fix You by Coldplay

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

  • Deborah Levy is a writer whose novels Swimming Home and Hot Milk were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Last year she published the final instalment of her ‘living autobiography’ trilogy of memoirs, and her earlier work includes plays for the RSC as well as short story collections and poetry.

    Deborah was born in South Africa in 1959, the eldest child of anti-apartheid activists Norman and Philippa Levy. Her father was arrested when she was five and was imprisoned for four years. During this time, Deborah became an almost silent child, but was encouraged by a teacher to write down her thoughts, sparking her love of creative writing. After her father’s release, the family relocated to the UK and first lived above a menswear shop in London. As a teenager Deborah worked as a cinema usher, and a chance encounter with the film-maker Derek Jarman inspired her to change her plans to take a degree in literature, and instead she headed to Dartington College of Arts, where she studied writing for the stage and performance.

    Her first play, Pax, was commissioned in 1984, and was followed by more than a dozen dramas. Deborah then turned to writing novels in the late 1980s and 1990s. Swimming Home was shortlisted for the 2012 Booker Prize, although it initially struggled to find a publisher. Her trilogy of autobiographies, beginning in 2013 with Things I Don't Want to Know, have enjoyed considerable critical acclaim.

    DISC ONE: Nkosi Sikelel I’Afrika by Sol Plaatje
    DISC TWO: Starman by David Bowie
    DISC THREE: Opening by Phillip Glass
    DISC FOUR: Moritat Vom Mackie Messer (German version of Mack the Knife) by Lotte Lenya
    DISC FIVE: Black is the Color of my True Love’s Hair by Nina Simone
    DISC SIX: Soothing by Laura Marling
    DISC SEVEN: Diamonds and Rust by Joan Baez
    DISC EIGHT: Because the Night by Patti Smith

    BOOK CHOICE: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C. G. Jung)
    LUXURY ITEM: A silk sheet
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Because the Night by Patti Smith

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

  • Simon Reeve is a broadcaster and writer best known for his TV documentaries which combine travel and adventure with investigations into the challenges faced by the places he visits.

    His journeys have taken him across jungles, deserts, mountains and oceans, and to some of the most dangerous and remote regions of the world. He’s dodged bullets on frontlines, dived with seals and sharks, survived malaria, walked through minefields and tracked lions on foot.

    Simon grew up in Acton in west London. He experienced anxiety and depression as a teenager and left school with few qualifications. He eventually found a job in the post room at the Sunday Times and from there progressed to working with the news teams, filing stories on a range of subjects from organised crime to nuclear smuggling.

    In the late 1990s he wrote one of the first books about Al-Qaeda and its links to Osama Bin Laden. His expertise in this area was quickly called upon after the 9/11 attacks in the USA, and he became a regular guest on American television and radio programmes.

    The current pandemic put Simon’s overseas trips into abeyance and he has turned his attention to the UK, recently making programmes about Cornwall and the Lake District.

    DISC ONE: Eskègizéw Bèrtchi by Alèmayèhu Eshèté
    DISC TWO: Vissi d’arte - from Puccini’s Tosca, performed by Kiri Te Kanawa with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Pritchard
    DISC THREE: It Takes Two by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock
    DISC FOUR: We Will Rock You by Queen
    DISC FIVE: Mr Brightside by The Killers
    DISC SIX: Wiley Flow by Stormzy
    DISC SEVEN: You’re Lovely to Me by Lucky Jim
    DISC EIGHT: Rocket Man by Elton John

    BOOK CHOICE: Moonshine for Beginners and Experts by Damian Brown
    LUXURY ITEM: Bird seed
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Rocket Man by Elton John

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

  • Richard Osman is a broadcaster, TV producer and writer who co-presents the quiz show Pointless on BBC One. His first novel, The Thursday Murder Club, was a publishing phenomenon, selling more than a million copies, and the follow-up became one of the fastest-selling titles since records began.

    Richard grew up in Haywards Heath in West Sussex and his early passion for television led to him devising quiz shows and programme formats from a young age. After graduating from university he worked for a number of production companies where he helped to develop and produce shows including Total Wipeout, Deal or No Deal and 8 out of 10 Cats.

    In 2009 Richard became a co-presenter of Pointless alongside Alexander Armstrong. It was not his intention to move in front of the camera, but he was given the job after taking on the role of co-host while the show was being developed.

    In 2020 Richard published his debut novel, the Thursday Murder Club, the story of four friends in a retirement community who band together to solve cold cases. It was an instant hit, selling 45,000 copies in its first three days on sale. Steven Spielberg has bought the film rights.

    Richard lives in London and is writing his third novel featuring his resourceful retirees.

    DISC ONE: Bring Me Sunshine by Morecambe And Wise
    DISC TWO: Metal Mickey by Suede
    DISC THREE: Snooker (Drag Racer) by The Douglas Wood Group
    DISC FOUR: You Can't Stop The Beat by the cast of Hairspray (Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelly, John Travolta and Queen Latifah)
    DISC FIVE: Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple
    DISC SIX: American Boy by Estelle Featuring Kanye West
    DISC SEVEN: Ran by Future Islands
    DISC EIGHT: A Little Respect by Erasure

    BOOK CHOICE: Hercule Poirot: the Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
    LUXURY ITEM: A pad of paper, a pen and dice
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: DISC FOUR: You Can't Stop The Beat by the cast of Hairspray

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

  • Dame Prue Leith is a broadcaster, writer, former restaurateur and a judge on the television show the Great British Bake Off.

    Prue was born in Cape Town, South Africa, during the era of Apartheid. After leaving school she moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, but decided that her future lay in food, and took a Cordon Bleu cookery course in London. She set up her own catering business from her bedsit, where space was so tight that she washed lettuces in the bath.

    In 1969 she opened Leith’s, her own fine dining restaurant, in Notting Hill in west London. Leith’s was awarded a Michelin star in the 1980s. She went on to write columns and cookbooks and became a regular broadcaster about food, on shows including the Great British Menu. In 1975 she opened Leith’s School of Food and Wine which trains professional chefs and amateur cooks.

    Prue replaced Mary Berry as a judge on the Great British Bake Off in 2017. She has written eight novels and lives with her husband in Gloucestershire.

    DISC ONE: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles
    DISC TWO: Ugly Duckling by Danny Kaye
    DISC THREE: Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
    DISC FOUR: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (I) composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and performed by Sir Neville Marriner (violin), Academy Of St Martin-in-the-Fields Orchestra and conducted by David Willcocks
    DISC FIVE: 16 Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford
    DISC SIX: Skylark by Aretha Franklin
    DISC SEVEN: Chopin, Nocturne No. 2, op 9 in E flat major, played by Elisabeth Leonskaja
    DISC EIGHT: Big Spender by Shirley MacLaine

    BOOK CHOICE: Ulysses by James Joyce
    LUXURY ITEM: Writing materials
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

  • Jack Thorne is a writer who has enjoyed great success with his scripts for the stage, cinema and television, winning five BAFTA awards for his TV work.

    His theatre credits include the international hit play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which has won major awards in London and New York. For television, his recent successes include his adaptation of His Dark Materials, from the books by Philip Pullman, and The Virtues, co-written with Shane Meadows, and starring Stephen Graham.

    Jack was born in Bristol in 1978. His mother was a care worker, and her experiences partly inspired his 2021 TV drama Help, set in a care home during the pandemic.

    As a student at Cambridge University, Jack became involved in student drama, but had to halt his studies for a year when he became seriously ill with cholinergic urticaria, which he describes as an extreme form of ‘prickly heat... which feels like you’re burning from the inside.’ While he enjoys better health now, this experience informed his writing, and he has campaigned for more opportunities and better representation for disabled people, on both sides of the camera. In 2021 he gave the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival, in which he argued that TV has failed disabled people.

    DISC ONE: Common People (At Glastonbury 1995) by Pulp
    DISC TWO: Blah Blah Café by Jean-Michel Jarre
    DISC THREE: The Red Flag by Billy Bragg
    DISC FOUR: Spasticus Autisticus by John Kelly and the Graeae Theatre Company
    DISC FIVE: Lippy Kids by Elbow
    DISC SIX: 54-46 That’s My Number by Toots and the Maytals
    DISC SEVEN: Skeleton Key by Audrey Nugent
    DISC EIGHT: End credit music from the film E.T. by John Williams

    BOOK CHOICE: Miller Plays: 1 by Arthur Miller
    LUXURY ITEM: TV with Channel 4 archive only
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Skeleton Key by Audrey Nugent

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

  • Helen Macdonald is a writer and naturalist who is best known as the author of H is for Hawk which won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Book Award, and topped the sales charts. The book chronicles her experiences training a goshawk called Mabel while grieving for her late father.

    Helen’s father was a staff photographer at the Daily Mirror and her mother was a journalist on local newspapers. In 1975, when Helen was five, her parents bought a house in Terkel’s Park, an estate owned by the Theosophical Society. It was here that Helen became a keen bird watcher and developed a love of the natural world, spending her days in fields and meadows where she collected specimens which she brought home to study.

    When she was 12 she helped out at a local falconry centre and trained her first hawk, a kestrel called Amy. After graduating from Cambridge she worked for the National Avian Research Centre in Wales before returning to academia.

    The death of her father in 2007 prompted Helen to buy Mabel and bring her home to live with her. Training Mabel was Helen’s way of dealing with her grief during what she describes as a very dark period of her life. The relationship between her and Mabel became so intense that she says she became more hawk than human.

    Helen continues to write books and essays and present programmes about the natural world. She lives in Suffolk with two parrots she calls the Bugs.

    DISC ONE: Wayfaring Stranger by Rhiannon Giddens With Francesco Turrisi
    DISC TWO: Lully: Le Triomphe de l'Amour: Prélude pour la nuit, composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, performed by Capriccio Stravagante Les 24 Violons, directed by Skip Sempé
    DISC THREE: Michelangelo by The 23rd Turnoff
    DISC FOUR: Ocean by The Velvet Underground
    DISC FIVE: 'Corelli' Variations, Op. 42, composed by Sergei Rachmaninov, performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
    DISC SIX: When We Were Wolves by My Latest Novel
    DISC SEVEN: Point of View Point by Cornelius
    DISC EIGHT: Time by Hans Zimmer

    BOOK CHOICE: The Karla Trilogy by John Le Carré
    LUXURY ITEM: Luxury bedding
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: 'Corelli' Variations, Op. 42, composed by Sergei Rachmaninov, performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley