Desert Island Discs

By BBC Radio 4

SHOW DESCRIPTION

Eight tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.


4.7

717 ratings


EPISODES LIST

Ann Cleeves, writer

Ann Cleeves is a crime writer best known for two series of novels, both of which have been adapted for television. Vera, for ITV, features her detective Vera Stanhope, and Shetland, for the BBC, focuses on DI Jimmy Perez, who works for the Shetland police. Born in 1954, Ann grew up in Herefordshire and Devon. After secondary school she spent a year providing childcare for a family in London before reading English at the University of Sussex. She dropped out of her degree course, and by chance, was offered a job as assistant cook at the bird observatory in Fair Isle, despite not knowing how to cook, nor anything about birds. She met her husband Tim there, who came as a visiting bird watcher. They spent four years on the tiny tidal island of Hilbre off the Wirral peninsula, where Ann started to write. Her debut novel was published in 1986 and she has published a book a year since then. Her first Shetland novel, Raven Black, appeared in 2006 and won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger, at the time the richest crime-writing prize in the world. Her second breakthrough came when a TV producer picked up a second-hand copy of one her novels featuring her dishevelled detective Vera Stanhope and decided it would make perfect prime-time viewing. In October 2017, Ann received the Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers’ Association, the highest honour in British crime writing, awarded by fellow crime authors. In 2018, she published the final of eight Shetland novels, and this autumn will see the publication of the first of a new Vera series set in Devon. Her husband Tim died in December 2017. Ann lives in Whitley Bay, with her two daughters and six grandchildren nearby. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Cathy Drysdale

02.17.2019

Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

Cressida Dick is Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. She was born in 1960, the youngest child of two university professors. Her parents divorced when she was still at primary school and she and her older siblings grew up in Oxford. Their father died when Cressida was just 11. She read Agriculture and Forest Sciences at Oxford University before spending a year in accountancy. She joined the Metropolitan Police in 1983 where her first beat was on the streets of Soho. After a decade in London, she transferred to Thames Valley Police where she worked her way up to become area commander in Oxford. In 2001 she completed a master’s degree in Criminology, re-joining the Met to head its diversity directorate and, from 2003, Operation Trident, the Met’s gun crime unit. It was in this capacity that she came to wider public attention when, in the wake of the 2005 London transport bombings, an innocent man was shot dead by police at Stockwell tube station. The Met was severely criticised in the aftermath of Jean Charles de Menezes’s death. Cressida Dick was the commander in charge of the operation, but a 2007 trial found that she bore no personal culpability. In 2011, she became Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations responsible for counter-terrorism work, but in 2015 she left the Met to work at the Foreign Office. In February 2017, she made her return to policing when she was the successful candidate in the search for a new Commissioner. She took up the post in April 2017 for a five-year term, the first woman and the first openly gay person to hold the job. BOOK CHOICE: The Complete works of Thomas Hardy LUXURY ITEM: Endless supply of floral scented soaps CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale

02.10.2019
02.03.2019

Wendy Cope, poet

Wendy Cope is one of England’s most popular and widely-read contemporary poets. Wendy was born in Erith, Kent. Her father was 29 years older than her mother and she was sent to boarding school at the age of seven. Although English was her favourite subject at school, in a bid to defy her English teacher’s expectations, she read history at Oxford. Following graduation she became a primary school teacher. After the death of her father in 1971, Wendy entered psychoanalysis in 1973 and turned to writing poetry. Having attended evening classes in creative writing, one of her poems was published in a collection which brought her to the attention of Faber and Faber. Her first volume of poetry, Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis, was published in 1986, and became an instant success, and she gave up teaching to become a full time writer. She has since published four volumes of a poetry: Serious Concerns (1992), If I Don’t Know (2001), Family Values (2011) and Anecdotal Evidence (2018) as well as two volumes for children, Twiddling Your Thumbs (1988) and The River Girl (1991). In 2011, Wendy sold her entire personal archive to the British Library, which consisted of 15 boxes of manuscript, including several unpublished early works. Wendy lives in Ely and is married to fellow poet, Lachlan Mackinnon. BOOK CHOICE: Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans LUXURY ITEM: Pen and paper CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D minor Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale

01.27.2019
01.20.2019

Ruth Jones, actor and writer

Ruth Jones is an actor and writer. She co-created and starred in the award-winning TV comedy series Gavin and Stacey, and also wrote and took the title role in the comedy drama Stella, which ran for six series. She grew up in Porthcawl, in South Wales, where the local secondary school nurtured her love of performance. She took to the stage in numerous school musicals, along with fellow pupil Rob Brydon. After studying drama at Warwick University, she struggled at first to find work as an actor. She briefly considered becoming a solicitor, before she won the role of a ninja turtle in Dick Whittington at the Porthcawl Pavilion and gained an Equity card. Her TV work ranges from costume dramas to comedies including Little Britain and Nighty Night. She developed the idea for Gavin and Stacey with James Corden when they were both filming the ITV series Fat Friends. The story of a boy from Billericay who falls for a girl from Barry, Gavin and Stacey began on BBC Three, with Ruth’s role as straight-talking, leather-wearing Nessa winning people’s hearts. She and James wrote every episode, and the finale, on BBC One, reached more than 10 million viewers. Last year Ruth published her first novel, Never Greener, which topped the bestseller lists, and she returned to the stage in the musical play The Nightingales. BOOK CHOICE: Halliwell's Film Guide LUXURY: The back catalogue of The Archers CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Smooth by Santana feat. Rob Thomas Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Sarah Taylor

01.13.2019
01.06.2019
12.23.2018
12.19.2018
12.16.2018

Gary Barlow, singer-songwriter

Gary Barlow, musician and Take That lead singer, has written more than a dozen chart-topping songs, and has received six Ivor Novello awards including the award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Born in Cheshire in 1971, his interest in music was sparked at an early age by a child’s keyboard. At the age of 10, he saw Depeche Mode on Top of the Pops, prompting the desire to take to the stage himself. He wrote A Million Love Songs, which later became a Top 10 hit for Take That, in his bedroom when he was 15. By this time he was a regular performer in a Labour club just across the Welsh border, where he cut his teeth playing the organ and singing. By the time he was 18, he was so good at writing songs that he successfully auditioned for a place in the group which became Take That. They went on to be one of the most successful bands of all time, winning a devoted audience with tracks such as Back For Good, Everything Changes and Pray. When they broke up in early 1996, helplines were set up to assuage their fans’ feelings of loss and grief. In 2005, Take That reformed, with Robbie Williams rejoining them for a spell in 2010, and – in some form or other – the band has kept going and will tour again in 2019. Gary was put in charge of organising the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert and performed at the closing ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012. He was a judge on the X-Factor for three series and his talent show, Let It Shine, was broadcast on BBC One in 2017. Earlier this year he published a second autobiography. BOOK CHOICE: Recording the Beatles by by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew. LUXURY ITEM: Piano CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Nimrod by Elgar Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale

12.09.2018
12.02.2018
11.25.2018
11.18.2018

Vanley Burke, photographer

Vanley Burke is a Jamaican-born photographer often described as the Godfather of Black British Photography. His body of work is regarded as the greatest photographic record of African Caribbean people in post-war Britain. He is motivated by a desire to document culture and history. Vanley was born in 1951 in St Thomas, Jamaica. When he was four, his mother emigrated to Britain to train as a nurse, leaving him in his grandparents’ care. His mother sent him a Box Brownie camera as a present when he was ten, and his interest in photography was born. When he was 14 he left Jamaica to join his mother and her husband and their children, in Handsworth, Birmingham, where they ran a shop. Vanley’s fascination with photography continued and he began taking photographs of every aspect of the life of his local community. He also started collecting relevant objects to provide more context for his photographs, gathering everything from pamphlets, records and clothes to hurricane lamps. His archive became so substantial that it is largely housed in Birmingham’s Central Library. In 1977 he photographed African Liberation Day in Handsworth Park, documenting what is thought to be the largest all-black crowd ever to assemble in Britain. In 1983 he held his first exhibition, Handsworth from the Inside, at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and in 2015 the entire contents of his flat was relocated to the gallery for the exhibition At Home with Vanley Burke. His images have appeared in galleries around the UK and abroad. Earlier this year, he was commissioned to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, creating the installation 5000 Miles and 70 Years at the MAC in Birmingham. CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Blue in Green by Miles Davis BOOK CHOICE: Encyclopedia of Tropical Plants by Ahmed Fayaz LUXURY ITEM: A Machete and a Crocus bag Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale

11.04.2018
10.28.2018
10.21.2018

Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers is a Grammy-winning composer, musician, and producer. With his own band, Chic, he's been enticing people on to the dance floor since the mid-1970s with hits like Le Freak and Good Times. With over 200 production credits to his name, he has worked on many highly successful albums from Sister Sledge’s We Are Family to David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Madonna’s Like a Virgin. Born in New York City in 1952 to a teenage mother, he spent his early life immersed in his parents’ bohemian, beatnik, and drug-dominated lifestyle. Drugs played a part in Nile's life too from an early age, and he took his first acid trip with Timothy Leary at the age of 15. After learning to play the guitar, he got his musical break touring with the Sesame Street stage show and playing in the house band of Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, where he met bassist Bernard Edwards with whom he developed a productive musical partnership and went on to found Chic. Following the Disco Sucks movement of the late 1970s, Nile and Bernard turned to production, and sprinkled their magic dust on Sister Sledge and Diana Ross. When Nile and Bernard went their separate ways in the early 1980s, Nile forged ahead on his own, working with, among others, Madonna, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Duran Duran. Nile went into rehab in 1994 and has been clean and sober for the past 24 years and has received successful treatment for cancer twice. He won three Grammys for his 2013 collaboration with the French electronic music duo Daft Punk, and has recently released the first Chic album in 26 years. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale

10.14.2018
10.07.2018
09.30.2018
09.23.2018
09.16.2018
09.09.2018
09.02.2018
08.26.2018
08.19.2018
08.12.2018
08.05.2018
07.29.2018
07.22.2018

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King won 39 Grand Slams and a total of 20 Wimbledon titles and is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Born in California in 1943, she was the eldest daughter of Bill and Betty Moffitt. She discovered tennis at the age of ten: at 15 she won in her age bracket at the Southern California championships, and in 1961, she won the women's doubles at Wimbledon with Karen Hantze, the youngest pair to achieve such a victory. In 1968, when professional competitors were admitted to Grand Slam tournaments, she won Wimbledon for the third time and was paid just £750 while Rod Laver, the Men's champion, took home £2,000. So began her campaign for gender equality, which involved boycotting tournaments and setting up their own professional women's circuit. In 1973, then aged 29, she beat the 55-year-old former tennis champion Bobby Riggs in a match which became known as 'The Battle of the Sexes': it remains the most-watched tennis match ever. That year the US Open awarded the same financial reward to men and women and in 2007 Wimbledon followed suit. Billie Jean also founded the Women's Tennis Association and the Women's Sports Foundation in the 1970s. She married her husband, Larry, in 1965 but by the late 1960s, she had realised that she was gay. She was outed by a former lover who sued her for palimony in 1981, and although she won the case, she lost almost all her commercial endorsements. She has been with her partner, Ilana Kloss, for nearly 40 years and retired from singles matches in 1983 and doubles in 1990. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2009 and has continued to be an ambassador for her sport and for gender equality. Presenter: Kirsty Young Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

07.15.2018
07.08.2018
07.01.2018
06.24.2018

John Motson

John Walker Motson, OBE, also known as Motty, has been commentating on football since 1971. He covered more than 2000 games on television and radio, including all the major football championships, 29 FA Cup finals (with an additional five replays), 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 200 England games. At the age of 72 he's just retired. Known not only for his footballing knowledge and his voice, he is often recognised by his knee-length sheepskin coat. His passion for football was ignited by his father, a Methodist minister for 40 years, who on his one day off each week would take his only son to watch football. The first game John attended was at Charlton Athletic when he was seven, and the excitement of it inspired him to create scrapbooks of footballing facts and collect match programmes. After five years at boarding school, where he wasn't allowed to play football, he left at 16 after one term doing A levels. He joined the Barnet Press as a trainee reporter and then moved onto the Sheffield Telegraph. When BBC Radio Sheffield, one of the first six local radio stations, came on air, he was one of the reporters pulled in to give match summaries. He then moved to the BBC as a sports assistant in radio, before joining the Match of the Day team on television. He has been supported in his career by his solicitor wife, Annie, who meticulously kept details of every match in thick A4 books which John used for his preparation. He was awarded an OBE for services to football and in May 2018 he was honoured by BAFTA with a Special Award for his lifetime's work. Presenter: Kirsty Young Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

06.17.2018
06.10.2018
06.03.2018

David Baddiel

David Baddiel is a comedian and writer. Known both for his solo work and for his comedic collaborations with, among others, Rob Newman and Frank Skinner, he has also written a screenplay, a musical and several books. Born in 1964 to Jewish parents, the second of three boys, he was brought up in Dollis Hill, London. His father was a scientist from Swansea and his mother was a refugee, whose family had to flee from Nazi Germany. When David was 13, his older brother Ivor played him sketches by Derek and Clive which kindled his appetite to become a comedian. He read English at Cambridge and became vice-president of the Footlights before starting out on the London comedy circuit. Together with Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis and Rob Newman, he was part of The Mary Whitehouse Experience for Radio 1 and later BBC 2. Rob and David went on to create Newman and Baddiel in Pieces, and were the first comedians to sell out Wembley Arena with a gig in 1993, prompting newspapers to declare comedy "the new rock 'n' roll". David then formed a comedy partnership with Frank Skinner and they hosted Fantasy Football League and later Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned. They co-wrote the lyrics to one of the best-known football songs, Three Lions. In 2005, David took a break from performance and concentrated on writing novels for adults and children's books as well as the script for a film, which became a musical, The Infidel. He returned to stand-up in 2013 with a show about fame. He recently mined his parents' idiosyncrasies and the rare form of dementia from which his father suffers for a stand-up show entitled My Family: Not the Sitcom. His partner is fellow comedian and writer Morwenna Banks. They have two teenage children. Presenter: Kirsty Young Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

05.27.2018
05.20.2018
05.13.2018
05.06.2018
04.29.2018
04.22.2018
04.15.2018
04.08.2018
04.01.2018
03.25.2018
03.18.2018

John Gray

John Gray is a philosopher. His academic career included professorships at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, and visiting professorships at Harvard and Yale in the USA. He retired from academia in 2008, and has dedicated himself to writing full time since then. He is the lead book reviewer of the New Statesman and a regular contributor to the Guardian. Born in 1948 in South Shields, his father was a Tyneside dock worker, his mother a homemaker. A voracious reader as a child, and encouraged by his history teacher at his grammar school, he won a scholarship to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford. Initially of the political Left, he became an advocate of the policies of the Right before the advent of Thatcherism. He then moved again to the Left. He supported the Leave cause in the Brexit referendum. John contends that history is not progressive, but cyclical, and that any improvements other than certain scientific discoveries can be easily lost or reversed. He cites the use of torture against terror suspects as an example. John has written several influential books, including False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998), which predicted the global financial crisis; Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2002), which attacked philosophical humanism; and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007), a critique of Utopian thinking in the modern world. Presenter: Kirsty Young Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

03.11.2018
03.04.2018
Desert Island Discs Podcast

LAST EPISODE

Ann Cleeves, writer

02.17.2019

Ann Cleeves is a crime writer best known for two series of novels, both of which have been adapted for television. Vera, for ITV, features her detective Vera Stanhope, and Shetland, for the BBC, focuses on DI Jimmy Perez, who ...