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Desert Island Discs

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

Classic Desert Island Discs - Murray Walker

Desert Island Discs

  • 580 views
  • 6 months ago
  • 38:19

Kirsty Young talks to motor racing commentator Murray Walker, in a programme first broadcast in 2014. Murray Walker died in March 2021, at the age of 97.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, psychiatrist

Desert Island Discs

  • 300 views
  • 6 months ago
  • 38:14

Professor Sir Simon Wessely is the first ever psychiatrist to be awarded a Regius professorship – an honour bestowed by the Queen. He is professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, and is also a consultant psychiatrist at King’s College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital. Born in Sheffield to a father who had come to Britain on the Kindertransport, he started his research career working on unexplained symptoms and syndromes, leading progressive and sometimes controversial work on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Disagreement about whether the condition is physical or psychological continues to this day and although Simon’s studies helped develop a treatment programme, there is still no cure. Later he switched his attention to the military, exploring Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD, the risk and benefit of military service, social and psychological outcomes for ex-service personnel and historic aspects of war and psychiatry. In 1996 he established the Gulf War Illness Research Unit which subsequently became the King’s Centre for Military Health Research. He completed a term as president of the Royal Society of Medicine – the first psychiatrist to occupy the post - and in 2017 he led an independent review of the Mental Health Act. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley

Professor Sir Simon Wessely

Desert Island Discs

  • 850 views
  • 6 months ago
  • 38:14

Professor Sir Simon Wessely is the first ever psychiatrist to be awarded a Regius professorship – an honour bestowed by the Queen. He is professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, and is also a consultant psychiatrist at King’s College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital. Born in Sheffield to a father who had come to Britain on the Kindertransport, he started his research career working on unexplained symptoms and syndromes, leading progressive and sometimes controversial work on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Disagreement about whether the condition is physical or psychological continues to this day and although Simon’s studies helped develop a treatment programme, there is still no cure. Later he switched his attention to the military, exploring Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD, the risk and benefit of military service, social and psychological outcomes for ex-service personnel and historic aspects of war and psychiatry. In 1996 he established the Gulf War Illness Research Unit which subsequently became the King’s Centre for Military Health Research. He completed a term as president of the Royal Society of Medicine – the first psychiatrist to occupy the post - and in 2017 he led an independent review of the Mental Health Act. DISC ONE: Think by Aretha Franklin DISC TWO: String Quartet No. 1 (“From My Life”) in E minor (Allegro vivo appassionato) composed by Bedrich Smetana, performed by The Dante Quartet DISC THREE: Soave sia il vento, composed by Mozart, conducted by Karl Bohm, performed by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Walter Berry, Christa Ludwig and Philharmonia Orchestra DISC FOUR: How Long has This Been Going On? by Dexter Gordon and Lonette McKee DISC FIVE: The Room Where it Happens by Leslie Odom, Jr and Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton DISC SIX: France - La Marseillaise - Hymne national francais, composed by Claude Rouget de Lisle, performed by Ensemble du monde DISC SEVEN: Serenade No. 10 in B flat major, K. 361, "Gran Partita": Adagio, composed by Mozart, performed by German Wind Soloists DISC EIGHT: Tuxedo Junction by Jools Holland And His Rhythm And Blues Orchestra BOOK CHOICE: A Teach Yourself Russian book LUXURY ITEM: A Viennese cafe CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: How Long has This Been Going On? by Dexter Gordon and Lonette McKee Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley

Maggie O'Farrell, writer

Desert Island Discs

  • 1.1K views
  • 6 months ago
  • 35:36

Maggie O’Farrell has written eight novels, a memoir and a children’s book. In 2020 her novel Hamnet won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was also named Waterstones Book of the Year. Maggie was born in Norther Ireland. Her parents moved around during her childhood, and she grew up in Wales and Scotland. As a young girl, she was very ill and almost died from encephalitis. She says her lifelong love of reading comes from her long stay in hospital followed by an extended convalescence, when she missed a year of school. Her illness also left her with a stammer, which she believes has profoundly affected her relationship with language. She studied English at Cambridge University, and then looked for work as a journalist, writing poetry in her spare time. When she chanced upon a discarded computer, she decided to write a novel. She attended a creative writing course, where her tutors encouraged her to get her first manuscript published. She lives in Scotland with her husband, the writer William Sutcliffe, and their three children. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Sarah Taylor

Dame Louise Casey, crossbench peer

Desert Island Discs

  • 910 views
  • 6 months ago
  • 37:10

Baroness Casey of Blackstock is a former civil servant specialising in social welfare, who has worked under five prime ministers. She has taken on some of UK society’s most difficult issues, including homelessness, anti-social behaviour and family breakdown, and has become known for her forthright views. She grew up in Portsmouth and her first job was working on reception at a branch of the Department of Health and Social Security in the late 1980s. At 27 she became the deputy director of the housing and homelessness charity, Shelter. In 1999 she was appointed head of Tony Blair’s new Rough Sleepers Unit, prompting the media to call her the ‘homelessness tsar’. She went on to run the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit at the Home Office where she became known as the ASBO Queen. David Cameron appointed her director general of the Troubled Families Programme in 2011. In 2016 she was awarded a DBE for services to families and vulnerable people. During the first COVID-19 lockdown she led the government’s Everyone In campaign which found emergency accommodation for rough sleepers. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley

Mark Strong, actor

Desert Island Discs

  • 600 views
  • 7 months ago
  • 34:59

Mark Strong has appeared in more than 60 films, along with numerous TV dramas and plays. His career took off after he won a leading role in the landmark 1996 BBC series Our Friends in the North, and since then his screen work includes dramas such as Syriana, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Zero Dark Thirty and The Imitation Game, as well as the fantasy and comic book worlds of Stardust, Kick Ass and Shazam. In 2015 he won the Olivier best actor award for his London stage performance in A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, in a production that also won him great acclaim in New York. Mark was born in London, the only child of an Austrian mother and an Italian father. His father left the family when Mark was a baby and has played no part in his life. Thanks to his mother, Mark is fluent in German, and he spent most of his school holidays with his Austrian grandmother. His mother had two jobs to support them both, and Mark attended state boarding schools in the UK from the age of six. His first taste of performing came in a punk rock band at school, but he began his further education by starting a law degree in Germany, before changing course and returning to the UK to study drama. Most recently he has been filming the TV drama Temple, in which he plays a rogue surgeon operating in abandoned tunnels beneath a London underground station. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor

Claire Horton, charity worker

Desert Island Discs

  • 1.5K views
  • 7 months ago
  • 36:34

Claire Horton is the former chief executive of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and is currently director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. She joined Battersea in 2010 during its landmark 150th year, spearheading a campaign which transformed the animal rescue service into a UK top 10 charity brand. During her years in charge, income and volunteer numbers quadrupled; new facilities were developed and the charity successfully campaigned for changes in animal welfare legislation. As a teenager Claire volunteered for a number of organisations including Mencap and the Riding for the Disabled Association. At 18 she joined the police force as a special constable, patrolling the streets of Dudley where she lived. Her first position in the charity sector was at the NSPCC and she later worked for the Cats Protection League and the Variety Club of Great Britain. In 2020 she was appointed CBE for her services to animal welfare. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley

Sophia Loren

Desert Island Discs

  • 680 views
  • 7 months ago
  • 36:37

Sophia Loren is the first performer to win the Best Actress Academy Award for a role in a foreign language film. She won in 1962 for her performance in Vittorio De Sica’s film Two Women in which she played a mother trying to protect her 12-year-old daughter in war-torn Italy. In 1991, she picked up a second Oscar when the Academy presented her with an Honorary Award for her contribution to world cinema. Born Sofia Villani Scicolone in a hospital ward for unmarried mothers, she was brought up by a single mother in Pozzuoli near Naples during the war years. After success in her first beauty pageant at the age of 15 and starring in photo romance stories for popular magazines, she first came to wider attention in 1953 when she played the title role in the Italian film Aida. She played a pizza seller in De Sica’s The Gold of Naples which is regarded as her breakthrough performance and led to her working on Hollywood movies with a who’s who of co-stars including Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck and Paul Newman. Her most enduring on-screen partnership was with the Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni. In 1966 she married the film producer Carlo Ponti and went on to have two children. In her most recent film The Life Ahead, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, she plays a holocaust survivor and ex-prostitute who cares for the children of local sex workers. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley

Malala Yousafzai, activist

Desert Island Discs

  • 530 views
  • 7 months ago
  • 36:07

Malala Yousafzai is an activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when she was 17 - becoming the youngest winner in its history. Today she is known globally for her human rights advocacy and her ongoing campaign to ensure all children have equal access to education. She was born in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan where her father Ziauddin was a prominent activist who believed boys and girls should sit side by side in the classroom and co-founded a school which Malala attended. After the Taliban began to establish its presence in the Valley, day-to-day life became synonymous with danger and fear – people were taken from their homes and killed for speaking out against the regime. Education for girls was forbidden and schools were shut down or bombed. In 2009 Malala began writing an anonymous blog for BBC Urdu in which she spoke out about what was happening in Swat Valley. This made her a target. In 2012 she was shot by a Taliban gunman as she sat on the school bus. Two girls sitting alongside her were also shot. What Malala calls ‘the incident’ generated headlines around the world. Her injuries were severe and she was airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. After a long and painful recovery she settled in Birmingham with her family. Now 23, Malala graduated from the University of Oxford last year and continues to campaign globally for girls’ education through the Malala Fund which she co-founded with her father. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley

George McGavin, entomologist and broadcaster

Desert Island Discs

  • 3.3K views
  • 8 months ago
  • 36:40

George McGavin is an entomologist, explorer and broadcaster, who has spread the word about the importance of insects to audiences in their millions. Born in Glasgow, he grew up in Edinburgh where he studied zoology at university. Following a PhD in entomology, he went on to teach and research at the University of Oxford. He gave up his post as the assistant curator of the university’s Museum of Natural History after 25 years to follow his dream of becoming a television presenter. He has presented documentaries from far-flung locations including Borneo, Guyana and New Guinea. He has made it his life’s work to uncover the mysteries of the largely uncatalogued world of invertebrates which he says makes up close to 80% of life on earth. In 2018 he was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer and the following year he turned the camera on himself to present a very personal programme about his diagnosis and treatment. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley

Monica Galetti, chef and restaurateur

Desert Island Discs

  • 360 views
  • 8 months ago
  • 34:54

Monica Galetti is a chef, restaurateur and cook book writer, who is also known as a judge on the television series MasterChef: the Professionals. Born on the island of Upolu in Western Samoa, she grew up on the family plantation where her earliest food memories are of collecting eggs and mangoes and peeling bananas for special suppers. When she was eight she moved to New Zealand where her mother and stepfather had emigrated a couple of years earlier. After studying hospitality management and enjoying success in numerous cooking competitions, she travelled around Europe before settling in London where she found work as a commis chef at the Roux family’s restaurant, Le Gavroche. Under the watchful eye of Michel Roux Jr, she rose through the ranks to become Le Gavroche’s first female sous chef. She opened her own restaurant in 2017 where she works alongside her husband David who is head sommelier and co-owner. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley

Tim Peake, astronaut

Desert Island Discs

  • 790 views
  • 8 months ago
  • 34:37

Major Tim Peake, is an Army Air Corps officer and a European Space Agency astronaut. He was the first British astronaut to carry out a spacewalk. As a child, he became interested in aviation, visiting air shows with his father and learning to fly as a teenager, although space travel was not yet a passion. He joined the school Cadet Corps and found he was in his element. From there he progressed to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and then into the Army Air Corps in 1992. His military career included service in Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia, and he spent several years based in Germany where he met his wife Rebecca. He qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1992, and later became a helicopter instructor. He spent time in the USA, learning to fly the Apache attack helicopter, before becoming a test pilot in 2005. In 2008, he answered an advert from the European Space Agency looking for astronauts. The following year he became one of six successful candidates, chosen from more than 8000 hopefuls. Years of training followed, involving anything from basic dentistry to underwater 'spacewalking', and in December 2015 he headed to the International Space Station for six months. After his return, Tim moved back to the UK to work with industry and engage in outreach work while he awaits his next space mission. He lives in Hampshire with his wife and two sons. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor

Samantha Power

Desert Island Discs

  • 370 views
  • 8 months ago
  • 35:14

Samantha Power was the USA's youngest ever ambassador to the UN, during President Barack Obama’s second term, and is a writer and academic. She has just been invited to join president-elect Joe Biden's administration. Samantha was born in London but grew up in Ireland. At the age of nine, she moved to the US with her mother and younger brother following the breakdown of her parents’ marriage. Her first ambition was to be a sports broadcaster, but watching live footage of events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 led her to change course and she became a war correspondent instead, reporting on the conflict in Bosnia in the early 1990s. After returning to the US, she wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book in which she examined what she saw as America’s repeated reluctance to confront genocide in the 20th century. In 2013 she was appointed ambassador to the UN. She stepped down in 2017 and became professor of global leadership, public policy and human rights at Harvard. Shortly after this edition of Desert Island Discs was recorded, she accepted the role of Administrator of the US Agency for International Development. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley

David Olusoga, historian and broadcaster

Desert Island Discs

  • 430 views
  • 9 months ago
  • 35:01

David Olusoga is a historian, writer and broadcaster who has presented a range of programmes including the BBC’s A House Through Time and Civilisations. He is currently professor of public history at Manchester University. Born in Lagos, the second child to a Nigerian father and a British mother, David was brought up by his mother in Gateshead after his parents’ marriage broke down. As a child he and his siblings experienced sustained racism and he remembers school as a place of violence and cruelty. He credits his mother’s tenacity and her determination to educate her children for his later success in getting to university and establishing a career in television. His love of history developed from a young age, thanks to one of his teachers who taught him why an understanding of history matters. Watching television documentaries also opened up a world of possibility and David fondly recalls programmes from the 1980s presented by the historian Michael Wood, who made history seem cool in the eyes of the young schoolboy glued to the TV in his Gateshead council house. Last year David delivered the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival in which he talked candidly about his loneliness at being the only black person on a production team and the difficulties he had trying to explain the racial implications of how, for example, people in Africa were often portrayed on screen. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley

Colonel Lucy Giles

Desert Island Discs

  • 440 views
  • 9 months ago
  • 35:51

Colonel Lucy Giles is an officer of the British Army’s Royal Logistic Corps and is currently President of the Army Officer Selection Board - the first woman to take on this role. After attending her local comprehensive school in Wincanton, Somerset, she studied Biological Sciences at Exeter University where she joined the University Officers’ Training Corps, despite having no military background herself. After what she calls a “retrospective year out”, she joined the last female-only company at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Transport in 1992, which became the Royal Logistic Corps the following year. Over a career spanning more than 25 years, she has served in over 20 countries including South Africa, Bosnia, East Timor and Sierra Leone. She was the first female Officer Commanding of 47 Air Despatch Squadron, enabling operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in 2015 became the first woman Commander of New College, Sandhurst. She was promoted to the rank of colonel in 2018. She is married to Brigadier Nick Post, and they have two children, Jess and Alex. In her spare time, she is a marathon runner. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor

Sir Cliff Richard

Desert Island Discs

  • 380 views
  • 9 months ago
  • 35:30

Sir Cliff Richard makes a second trip to the island he first visited 60 years ago, when he had just turned 20, but had already topped the UK charts three times. Over the course of his career, Sir Cliff has released over 100 albums and sold well over 250 million records. His chart success in the UK has been eclipsed only by his hero Elvis Presley and one-time rivals, the Beatles. Born Harry Webb in Lucknow, India, Sir Cliff returned to the UK with his family in 1948: money was tight and the family of six shared a room until they were able to move into a council house. Sir Cliff’s father bought him a guitar for his 16th birthday and he initially performed in a skiffle band until he discovered rock ‘n’ roll and started a new band called the Drifters which later became the Shadows. His first hit single came in 1958 with Move It – often credited as being the first authentic British rock ‘n’ roll track – and he dominated the home-grown music scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s. During his long career Sir Cliff performed on screen in films including Summer Holiday and The Young Ones. He has fronted television shows, twice performed Britain’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest and starred in two stage musicals. Today, at 80, he is still recording new songs and itching to get back on tour to perform his music in a post-Covid world. Sir Cliff's return to Desert Island Discs after 60 years is record-breaking: it's the longest time between appearances in the programme's eight decade history. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley

Minette Batters

Desert Island Discs

  • 250 views
  • 9 months ago
  • 37:14

Minette Batters is the first woman to become President of the National Farmers' Union, representing 47,000 members. She was first elected to the post in 2018 for two years, and was re-elected in March 2020. Minette runs a tenanted family farm in Wiltshire. The mixed farming business includes cattle, sheep and arable, as well as the conversion of a 17th century barn into a wedding and events venue. Her father was a tenant farmer, and Minette adored helping him as a youngster, but the idea of taking on the farm herself seemed out of the question: her father strongly advised against it. Instead she took a Cordon Bleu course, graduated with distinction and ran her own catering business for 20 years. When her father retired, the lure of the land pulled her back and she took on the tenancy in 1998, despite the misgivings of many of her friends. She runs the farm largely on her own, and her husband works in another industry. Her campaigns on behalf of farmers include the initiatives Ladies in Beef and the Great British Beef Week. This year she has represented the views of NFU members during the Covid-19 crisis and the Brexit negotiations. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor

Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar

Desert Island Discs

  • 630 views
  • 10 months ago
  • 37:11

Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar is Director of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation which funds scientific research. He is a member of Sage, the scientific group currently advising the government on Covid-19. He is the youngest of six children and was born in Singapore. His mother was an artist and his father was a teacher, who worked around the world, and the family lived in New Zealand, Cyprus and Libya. After struggling to win a place a medical school, he trained as a doctor in London and then moved to Edinburgh to work as a neurologist. He switched to public health and was for 18 years the Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, where he worked on infectious diseases, including the re-emergence of bird flu in 2004. He was knighted for services to global health in 2019, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of The Royal Society. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor

Helen Oxenbury

Desert Island Discs

  • 430 views
  • 10 months ago
  • 37:26

Helen Oxenbury is an illustrator of children’s books whose work has featured in many very popular titles for younger readers including the award-winning We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen. Helen has won the Kate Greenaway Medal twice and was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Book Trust in 2018. She attended the Ipswich School of Art and later the Central School of Art in London where she met fellow illustrator and her future husband, John Burningham. After the birth of her children she began illustrating children’s books, working at the kitchen table long after they’d gone to bed. Her work for Ivor Cutler’s Meal One, published in 1971, was praised by Spare Rib magazine for its portrayal of a single mother and her relationship with her young son. Helen came up with the idea of her baby board books in the late 1970s after the birth of her third child who suffered with eczema. Discovering that her daughter could be distracted from scratching by looking at baby catalogues, Helen created a series of board books placing babies and toddlers at their heart. Such a concept was unheard of at the time. From the late 1980s, Helen ensured that the babies and children featured in her books came from different ethnic backgrounds and her work in So Much by Trish Cooke has become a children’s classic. In We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, published in 1989, Helen’s pictures celebrated the joy of adventure and the bond between siblings. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley

Arsène Wenger, former football manager

Desert Island Discs

  • 560 views
  • 10 months ago
  • 49:24

Arsène Wenger was the manager of Arsenal FC for 22 years, becoming the longest-serving and most successful manager in the club’s history. He was born in Strasbourg in 1949 and grew up as the youngest of three children in the nearby village of Duttlenheim, where his parents ran a bistro. There he listened in to the daily conversations about football, which preoccupied the men of the village. After playing for his local team and studying for a degree in economics, Arsène made a career as a footballer in France for a decade, before moving into management. He coached in France, Monaco and Japan before joining Arsenal in 1996. At that point he was a complete unknown in English football, but soon proved his doubters wrong. He took a declining mid-table side to Premier League glory within two years, going on to win two further Premierships and a record number of FA Cups. In 2003-4 his so-called Invincibles achieved a record-breaking run of 49 matches without defeat. He also won a reputation as an innovator, changing his players’ diets and contributing to the globalisation of soccer by signing overseas players and scouting young talent from across the world. He was instrumental in building a new home for Arsenal, when the club moved from Highbury to the brand new Emirates Stadium Arsène retired from Arsenal in 2018 and took up a post as FIFA’s head of Global Football Development the following year. He is separated from his partner Annie Brosterhous. They have one grown-up daughter, Léa. Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale