Episodes

  • Dr Kevin Fong

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is Dr. Kevin Fong. He is a consultant anaesthetist at University College Hospital London, and an expert on space medicine. He is a senior lecturer in Physiology at UCL and the co-director of the Centre for Aviation, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine. Born to parents who had come to the UK from Mauritius, he grew up in London. His parents put great emphasis on education - which they had both missed out on in their youth. Kevin's first degree was in astrophysics and he went on to study medicine. He has combined his love of space with medicine and has spent time working at the Johnson Space Centre in the US. He has been a consultant anaesthetist since 2010, but has kept pursuing his interests in extreme environments from space to altitude and depth. He has made many television documentaries about his field of interest and gave the 2015 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

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  • Sheryl Sandberg

    · Desert Island Discs

    Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, is Kirsty Young's castaway. She worked for Google at the beginning of the tech boom before joining Facebook in 2008. Raised in Miami Beach, Florida, she studied economics at Harvard. She became chief of staff for Larry Summers, Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, before moving to Silicon Valley. Sheryl published her first book called Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead in 2013 which tried to answer the question why so few women reach the top echelons of their professions. In 2015, her husband of eleven years and father of their two children, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly while they were on holiday. In her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, she describes her struggles in dealing with this sudden loss. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Jayne-Anne Gadhia

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Chief Executive of Virgin Money. She is currently the government's Women in Finance Champion. She worked for Fred Goodwin at RBS just prior to the financial crisis before returning to Virgin Money in 2007. A mother of one, she endured many miscarriages and has written about her experience of post-natal depression following her daughter's birth. An only child, she was brought up first in the Midlands, then in East Anglia. She was one of very few girls to attend a newly co-educational boys' school where she was bullied. Following a year spent working in an unemployment office she went to Royal Holloway College in London where she met her future husband, Ash, to whom she's been married for 33 years. Earlier this year she published her autobiography. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • John McEnroe

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the tennis player and commentator, John McEnroe. He won three singles and five doubles Wimbledon titles, four singles and four doubles at the US Open and was ranked number one in the world for four consecutive years in the 1980s. John McEnroe grew up in New York and didn't pick up a tennis racquet until the age of eight, but his talent was quickly spotted and he began to compete in junior tournaments. In 1977, aged 18 and between high school and university, he qualified for the main draw at Wimbledon and reached the semi-finals where he lost to Jimmy Connors. By the end of the tournament his on-court behaviour - shouting, haranguing umpires and abusing his racquet - earned him the nickname 'Superbrat'. He made his first Wimbledon final against Bjorn Borg in 1980. In one of the finest matches in history, despite winning a tiebreak 18-16 to win the fourth set, he lost the match. He beat Borg the following year to win his first Wimbledon singles title. 1984 was the best year in John's career: he won 82 out of 85 matches he played, but it was also the year when he was beaten at the French Open by Ivan Lendl, who replaced him as number one. John married the actress Tatum O'Neal in 1986. They divorced in the mid-1990s and he has been married to the singer Patty Smyth since 1997. Since retiring in 1992, in addition to his role as tennis commentator, he has been a coach and runs his own tennis academy. He still plays in tennis tournaments. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Sue Perkins

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the comedian and TV presenter Sue Perkins. She and her friend Mel Giedroyc first appeared as a comedy duo at the Edinburgh Fringe over 20 years ago and together they presented the first seven series of The Great British Bake Off. Born at the end of the 1960s, Sue grew up in Croydon, the eldest of three siblings. By her own description a "shy and awkward" child, she nonetheless made it to Cambridge University to study English. She and Mel met at a Footlights open mic gig soon after she'd arrived. Their first joint high-profile success was landing a new live daytime programme on Channel 4 called Light Lunch, which turned them into household names. Sue also formed a second presenting partnership, making historical food programmes with Giles Coren. When she was 38 she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour which left her unable to have children. Sue has been in a relationship with the TV presenter Anna Richardson since 2013. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Professor Carlo Rovelli

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the theoretical physicist, Professor Carlo Rovelli. His book 'Seven Brief Lessons on Physics' became one of the fastest-selling science titles of all time, catapulting him from the world of academia into the global spotlight. Committed to bridging the gap between science and art and making complex scientific issues comprehensible for the lay person, he is currently Professor of Physics at Aix-Marseille University. Born in Verona, and an only child, he was encouraged to learn, to be independent and dreamed of travelling through space. By the age of 12 his long-standing rebellious streak was visible and he would later interrupt his university career to travel. Now in his early sixties, his academic career has seen him work in Europe and America and among the scientific community he is best known as one of the founders of Loop Quantum Gravity theory. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Stella McCartney

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the fashion designer Stella McCartney. Born the middle child of Paul and Linda McCartney, Stella's early years were a paradox: she would either spend her days riding ponies, sharing one of two bedrooms with her sisters in a farmhouse, and generally mucking around in the countryside - or touring the world with her parents' band Wings and spending time in the company of stars such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Amid the tours and travelling, she believes her parents offered her a vital childhood gift: normality. Stella attended the local school and went on to win a place at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design to study fashion design. Two years after a graduation show that made the headlines because the clothes were modelled by Stella's friends Kate Moss, Yasmin Le Bon and Naomi Campbell, she landed the job of Creative Director at the French fashion house Chloé. During her four years there, she transformed its fortunes. In 2001, she set up her own label in a joint venture with Gucci. Throughout her career, she has never used leather, fur, feathers or animal skins. She now operates 51 freestanding stores in locations including Manhattan, Mayfair, and Milan, and her collections are distributed through shops in over 70 countries. Her signature style is described as combining sharp tailoring - learned in Savile Row where she would spend her evenings whilst at Saint Martins - with a sexy femininity. She has also designed all the outfits for Team GB for the past two Olympics. She has four children with her husband, Alasdhair Willis. Stella has won numerous awards including the British Fashion Council's Designer of the Year and Brand of the Year as well as Designer of the Year and Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. She received an OBE in 2013. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

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  • Jed Mercurio

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is Jed Mercurio. Creator of Line of Duty, and an award-winning TV writer, producer, director and novelist, he is one of the few British script-writers to work as an American-style show-runner. A former hospital doctor and RAF officer, he has been ranked among UK television's leading writers by TV industry magazine Broadcast. His Italian parents moved to the UK after the Second World War and he was brought up in Cannock in the Midlands. Keen on science as a child, with dreams of becoming an astronaut, he studied medicine at Birmingham University. While there, he applied for the RAF medical doctor programme and learned to fly. While he was working as a hospital doctor, he answered an advertisement in the British Medical Journal seeking advisors for a medical TV drama. Despite negligible writing experience, he went on to script the BBC medical drama Cardiac Arrest. Its continuing success led him to leave medicine and embark on a successful career as a scriptwriter. His chief works for TV are the series Line of Duty, Bodies, The Grimleys and Cardiac Arrest. He's also written books: Bodies; Ascent; American Adulterer, and for children, The Penguin Expedition. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Sonia Friedman

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the theatre producer, Sonia Friedman. Acclaimed as the most influential producer in British theatre today, she has produced over 160 new shows. They include Funny Girl with Sheridan Smith, Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance, Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet, the record-breaking Book of Mormon and the musicals Legally Blonde, and Dreamgirls. Her productions both here and on Broadway have won numerous awards, including a record-breaking 14 Olivier Awards in 2014, and nine this year for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Brought up in a creative, if unconventional, household, she left school at 16. After a stage management course at Central School of Speech and Drama, she cut her teeth at the National Theatre, worked with Harold Pinter, Richard Eyre and Tom Stoppard and then co-founded Out of Joint, a leading touring theatre company, with Max Stafford-Clark. She was named Producer of the Year for the third year in a row at The Stage Awards, and this year she also claimed number one spot in The Stage 100, a chart of the most influential people in British theatre, overtaking Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Elif Shafak

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the Turkish writer Elif Shafak. Elif Shafak has published ten novels and several volumes of non-fiction and her work is translated into 47 languages. She is the most widely read female novelist in Turkey today. Born in 1971, she was raised by a single working mother and also, for the first ten years of her life, by her grandmother in Ankara. Her mother's job as a diplomat led to a move to Madrid when Elif was ten years old - and so began a peripatetic life which has taken her to places as diverse as Jordan and Germany, the United States and finally to London where she has lived for the past seven years. Elif wrote her first novels in Turkish, but began writing in English shortly after the start of the new millennium. English, she says, has given her a new freedom to write about sensitive issues in Turkey. Her books draw on diverse cultures and reflect her interest in history, philosophy, spiritualism and Sufism. One commentator has said of her work: "Stepping into the writing of this Turkish-born author for the first time is like breaking through the back of a children's wardrobe and walking into a whole new multicultural world of lives and histories - and, above all, fabulous stories." She is a regular columnist both for English as well as Turkish papers and also writes lyrics for rock musicians. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

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  • Demis Hassabis

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is Dr Demis Hassabis. An artificial intelligence researcher and co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, he is also a neuroscientist, a computer games designer, an entrepreneur, and in his youth, a world-class chess player. Born in 1976, he was introduced to chess aged four and, by the age of twelve, was the world's second-highest ranked player for his age. With his winnings, he bought himself a PC and taught himself to code. After taking his A Levels two years early, before going to university he worked on one of the most successful computer games of the 1990s, Theme Park. He graduated from Cambridge with a double first, and returned to the computer games industry, founding his own company in his early twenties. His passion had long been artificial intelligence and he says everything he's done has been part of a long-term plan to "solve intelligence" and then use intelligence "to solve everything else". He gained a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience where he deliberately chose to study topics where AI had failed so far: memory and imagination. After stints at MIT and Harvard, he co-founded his company in 2010, which was then acquired by Google in January 2014. In March 2016 their computer programme, AlphaGo, beat a world champion Go player at the game having taught itself how to play through a combination of two techniques - deep learning and reinforcement learning. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Liz Lochhead

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the writer and poet Liz Lochhead. She was the Makar, the Scottish national poet, between 2011 and 2016. Liz was born in Motherwell, not far from Glasgow, in 1947. She was always drawing at school and so decided to study at the Glasgow School of Art, where she didn't enjoy the drawing, but did start writing. After winning a poetry competition, she started performing her poems at readings in Scotland. She published her first pamphlet of poetry, Memo for Spring, in 1972, after a publisher heard her at a reading. After her second volume of poetry was published in 1978 and she won the first Scottish/Canadian Writers' Exchange Fellowship which took her to Toronto for a year, she was able to give up her job as an art teacher and start writing full time. From the early 1980s, she started writing plays as well as poetry, and has also adapted classic Greek and French plays for the stage. She was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2015. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

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  • Ed Sheeran

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Ed Sheeran. His songs have brought him two Grammys, four Brit awards and global success. Shortly after the release of his latest album, Divide, tracks from it occupied nine of the top 10 places in the UK singles chart. Born into a creative family, Ed had piano and cello lessons as a youngster and briefly sang in a local church choir. At the age of 11, seeing Eric Clapton play Layla on TV at the Queen's Golden Jubilee concert inspired him to take up the guitar. Ten years later, Ed himself was performing at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert. Ed left school and home at 16 to focus on playing gigs in London. Despite relentless performing he failed to secure a recording contract and decided to try his luck in America. During a successful stint performing in Los Angeles, he came to the attention of the Academy Award-winning actor and musician Jamie Foxx, and within months of returning to the UK he'd signed a record deal. His first single, The A Team, became a top ten hit around the world and won him an Ivor Novello award, and his second and third albums topped the UK and US charts. In 2015 he performed at Wembley Stadium as a solo artist for three nights to capacity crowds, and this year he is headlining the Pyramid stage on the final night of Glastonbury. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Arundhati Roy

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the writer, Arundhati Roy. She won the Booker Prize for her first novel, The God Of Small Things, which has been translated into 40 languages and became the best-selling book ever by a non-expatriate Indian. After a gap of 20 years, her second novel will be published in June. Brought up in Kerala, her Syrian Christian mother left her marriage when her children were young and set up a small school where Arundhati and her brother were educated. Raised to be independent, aged 16, Arundhati left home to study architecture in Delhi before being introduced to the film world by her second husband. Since the publication of The God of Small Things in 1997, she has continued to write non-fiction, using her influence her to focus on tackling injustice. She has campaigned against India's nuclear programme, dam-building, globalisation, religious intolerance and the inequality of Indian society. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Amanda Levete

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the architect Amanda Levete. She won the Stirling prize in 1998 for the Media Centre at Lord's Cricket Ground which she designed with then husband, the late Jan Kaplicky. Later this year the Victoria and Albert Museum in London will open her extension, featuring a new entrance, courtyard and gallery. Brought up in Richmond, the oldest of three children, she showed her independent spirit early on, and left school at 16. She discovered architecture while on a Foundation year at art school and was offered a place at the Architectural Association, even though her portfolio didn't feature a single drawing of a building. Since setting up her own practice in 2009, her creative endeavours have included the Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon, a retail and hotel complex in Bangkok, and the MPavilion Queen Victoria Gardens in Melbourne. In 2016 her practice won competitions to transform the Galleries Lafayette building in Paris and create a new mosque in Abu Dhabi. She has also designed furniture, stackable football pitches and set up a pop-up restaurant serving nothing but tinned fish. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Marian Keyes

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the writer Marian Keyes. Her twelve novels to date have sold 35 million copies and are published in 33 languages. Some of her novels have been adapted for the screen. She has also published three volumes of journalism. Marian was born the eldest of five children in Ireland in 1963. While she was academically successful at school, she says she wasn't taught to think for herself, which left her ill prepared for university where she studied law. After completing her degree, but failing to get apprenticed to a law firm in Dublin, she moved to London. She spent her twenties working as a waitress, and began drinking heavily. She went into rehab for her alcoholism when she was 30. Her fortunes changed once she was sober: she sent some short stories she had written the previous year off to a publisher and had her debut novel published in 1995. Marian has described each of her books as "a comedy about something serious" and says they are a reflection of who she is: "I'm very bleak, really melancholic. But I've always used humour as a survival mechanism. I write for me and I need to feel hopeful about the human condition. So no way I'm going to write a downbeat ending. And it isn't entirely ludicrous to suggest that sometimes things might work out for the best." Producer: Sarah Taylor.

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  • Jimmy Carr

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the comedian and television presenter Jimmy Carr. He is the son of Irish immigrant parents and grew up in Berkshire. Despite being dyslexic, he got good enough A levels to study at Cambridge University. After graduating with a degree in Political Science, and working for a major multinational company in London, Jimmy had what he calls an 'early midlife crisis', during which he lost his Catholic faith and was generally unhappy. He attended lots of therapy courses in an attempt to find out what would make him happier and eventually set out on the road to becoming a comedian. He quickly got a reputation for his fierce work ethic, heading up annually to the Edinburgh Fringe, touring with a new show virtually every year, and hosting many a Channel 4 panel show including 8 Out of 10 Cats and the Big Fat Quiz of the Year. He has also made a name for himself by becoming what he has called "the king of the inappropriate", drawing criticism for making jokes about sensitive subjects. Producer: Sarah Taylor.

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  • Dame Katherine Grainger

    · Desert Island Discs

    Kirsty Young's castaway is the Olympian and rower, Dame Katherine Grainger. A six-time rowing World Champion across a variety of classes, her silver medal at Rio in 2016 made her the most successful female British Olympic athlete ever, having won medals in five consecutive games. Born in Glasgow in 1975, her parents were teachers. At school she earned a black belt in karate, and it wasn't until she went to Edinburgh University that her passion for rowing was truly ignited. Winning silver medals at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics, Katherine finally ceased to be the sport's eternal bridesmaid when, with her partner Anna Watkins, she won gold in the Double Sculls at the 2012 London Olympics. After two years away from the sport, Katherine returned in 2014, to win her fourth silver and fifth overall Olympic medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with her new partner, Vicky Thornley. Alongside her sporting achievements, she gained an Honours degree in Law from Edinburgh, a Masters in Medical Law from Glasgow University and was awarded a PhD in Homicide Sentencing from King's College London in 2013. She was made the fourth Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University in 2015 and became a Dame in the 2017 New Year Honours. Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

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  • Sir Antony Beevor

    · Desert Island Discs

    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.

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