300 episodes

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

Desert Island Discs BBC

    • Personal Journals
    • 5.0 • 13 Ratings

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

    Professor Averil Mansfield, retired surgeon

    Professor Averil Mansfield, retired surgeon

    Averil Mansfield is a retired vascular surgeon and was the first female Professor of Surgery in the UK when she was appointed in 1993.

    She was born in 1937 in Blackpool, where her father worked as a welder on the attractions at the Pleasure Beach. She was an only child and an avid reader when young. After perusing a library book on early advances in surgery, she decided, at the age of eight, that she wanted to become a surgeon. She studied at the University of Liverpool and spent her early working life in the city. Appointed a consultant surgeon in 1972, she moved to London eight years later with her second husband. She became a consultant vascular surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital in 1982 and remained there until her retirement in 2002.

    One of the leading vascular surgeons in the country in the 1990s, she was a key figure in proving the safety of vital life-saving vascular operations: the stroke-preventing carotid endarterectomy, an intricate procedure to unblock the carotid artery, and surgery to repair a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm. These surgeries have helped save thousands of lives by reducing the risk of strokes by 50%.

    In the early 1990s, she set up an initiative called Women in Surgical Training to encourage more women to take up the profession. In addition to becoming the first female Professor of Surgery in Britain, she was also the first elected Chairman of the Court of Examiners at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, served as Chair of the Stroke Association for five years following her retirement, and as President of the British Medical Association.

    She lives in London and has three step-children and six grandchildren from her late husband.

    DISC ONE: II. Waltz by Dmitri Shostakovich, conducted by Steven Sloane, performed by Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin
    DISC TWO: A Transport of Delight by Donald Swann & Michael Flanders
    DISC THREE: Piano Concerto No. 2in B Flat. Op.83 – 3. Andante – Piu adagio by Johannes Brahms, conducted by Andris Nelsons, performed by Hélène Grimaud (piano) and The Vienna Philharmonic
    DISC FOUR: Farewell to Stromness by Peter Maxwell Davies
    DISC FIVE: Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello No. 1 in G minor K478: Allegro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Daniel Barenboim (piano) Kian Soltani (cello) Michael Barenboim (violin) Yulia Deyneka (viola)
    DISC SIX: Pavane, Op. 50 by Gabriel Fauré, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier, performed by BBC Philharmonic and City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
    DISC SEVEN: Dancing Queen by Abba, performed by Christine Baranski, Julie Walters and Meryl Streep
    DISC EIGHT: "Schwanengesang", Ständchen by Franz Schubert, performed by Peter Schreier (tenor) and András Schiff (piano)

    BOOK CHOICE: A book of poetry
    LUXURY ITEM: A grand piano
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Piano Concerto No. 2in B Flat. Op.83 – 3. Andante – Piu adagio by Johannes Brahms, conducted by Andris Nelsons. Performed by Hélène Grimaud (piano) and The Vienna Philharmonic

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale

    • 37 min
    Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE

    Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE

    Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE is a Trinidadian-British broadcaster, writer and politician. She became a familiar face to millions of viewers through her work on children's television, most notably on Play School, which she first presented in 1976.

    She was born in Trinidad in 1949, the second of six children. When her parents emigrated to the UK, she and her siblings were initially left behind with foster parents. After 16 months, the family was able to reunite, when the children travelled to England by sea. At first they all lived in one room in south London. Eventually her parents were able to buy a house in Beckenham, where they lived for 40 years - which is why Floella decided on the title Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham when she entered the House of Lords in 2010 as a Liberal Democrat peer.

    There was no hint of her later high public profile when she left school at 16 to work in a bank, until she dared to audition for a West End musical during her lunch break. She was successful, going on to appear in numerous London shows, before her move into television. Along with her work in front of the camera, she set up her own TV production company, as well as publishing books and working closely with charities for children and young people. She has also campaigned for high standards in children's broadcasting and more diversity in the creative industries.

    She was the Chancellor of Exeter University for a decade, starting in 2006, and earlier this year she received a Damehood for her services to charity.

    DISC ONE: The Greatest Love of All by George Benson
    DISC TWO: Waiting in Vain by Bob Marley and the Wailers
    DISC THREE: Puttin’ on the Ritz by Ella Fitzgerald
    DISC FOUR: Once by Stan Getz
    DISC FIVE: Begin the Beguine by Julio Iglesius
    DISC SIX: The Prince of Denmark’s March by Jeremiah Clarke, performed by the London Gabrieli Brass Ensemble
    DISC SEVEN: Are You Gonna Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz
    DISC EIGHT: Smile by Nat King Cole

    BOOK CHOICE: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
    LUXURY ITEM: A neck rest
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: The Greatest Love of All by George Benson

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min
    Samantha Morton, actor

    Samantha Morton, actor

    Samantha Morton is an actor and director. She has appeared in films directed by Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg, and is also known for her work on independent productions, often with serious themes such as prostitution and bereavement. She has been nominated for two Academy Awards and won many accolades including a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.

    Born in Nottingham in 1977, she had a difficult childhood. She was first taken into care as a baby, then spent the next decade between foster parents and her father’s home before being taken into care permanently at the age of 11. She was sexually abused in one of the homes, and left school at the age of 13.

    She discovered acting when a teacher recommended she apply to the Central Junior Television Workshop which lead to her appearing in TV series including Soldier Soldier, Cracker, and Band of Gold. She went onto appear in the films, Emma and Jane Eyre and received her first Academy Award nomination for her role as a mute laundress in Woody Allen’s 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown. Her second was for her portrayal of a grieving mother in the 2003 film In America.

    Other roles have ranged from Mary, Queen of Scots, in Elizabeth: The Golden Age to a war widow in The Messenger and the wife of a serial killer in Rillington Place. She made her directorial debut with The Unloved in 2009, a film based on her own experience of the care system. It won the BAFTA Award for Best Single Drama.

    Sam lives in Sussex with her husband, Harry Holm. They have two children together, Edie and Teddy. Sam also has a daughter, Esme, from her relationship with Charlie Creed-Miles.

    DISC ONE: Burden of Shame by UB40
    DISC TWO: Flower by The Charlatans
    DISC THREE: The Town I Loved So Well (Live) by Luke Kelly And The Dubliners
    DISC FOUR: Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) by Talking Heads
    DISC FIVE: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized
    DISC SIX: Blume (French version) by Einstürzende Neubauten
    DISC SEVEN: Dream Baby Dream by Suicide
    DISC EIGHT: I Remember by Molly Drake

    BOOK CHOICE: Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar
    LUXURY ITEM: A photograph of Samantha's children
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale

    • 45 min
    Yusuf Cat Stevens, musician

    Yusuf Cat Stevens, musician

    Yusuf Cat Stevens is a singer-songwriter who first enjoyed success more than 50 years ago.

    He was born Steven Demetre Georgiou in July 1948. His Greek Cypriot father and his Swedish mother ran a restaurant in the West End of London, and he helped out there from an early age. He also became interested in music, writing and singing his own songs, partly inspired by the success of The Beatles.

    Under the name Cat Stevens, he was just 18 when he had his first hit, and soon found himself on tour with Engelbert Humperdinck and Jimi Hendrix. His career came to a sudden halt in 1969, when he contracted tuberculosis and was forced out of the limelight for a year of recuperation. It was also a time of reflection. He emerged a changed man in 1970 - a sensitive singer-songwriter whose albums, including Tea for the Tillerman, and Teaser and the Firecat, sold millions of copies around the world.

    While enjoying fame and success, he also thought more deeply about religious faith, an interest which increased after he nearly drowned while swimming in the Pacific. He became a Muslim in 1977, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and walked away from music. He soon became one of the UK's most high-profile Muslims, and was often asked to comment about aspects of Islam. For two decades, he didn’t touch his guitar, but in 2006 he made a comeback with an album entitled An Other Cup. He has released three more albums since then and has recently recorded a new version of perhaps his best-known work, Tea for the Tillerman.

    Yusuf lives in Dubai with his wife Fawziah. They have four daughters and one son who has followed in his father's musical footsteps.

    DISC ONE: America from West Side Story by Anita (Rita Moreno), Bernado (George Chakiris), The Sharks And Girls
    DISC TWO: Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
    DISC THREE: Twist and Shout by The Beatles
    DISC FOUR: March From A Clockwork Orange (Beethoven: Ninth Symphony: Fourth Movement, abridged) by Wendy Carlos
    DISC FIVE: The Wind by Cat Stevens
    DISC SIX: Allah Uya by Ali Farka Touré
    DISC SEVEN: Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone
    DISC EIGHT: As by Stevie Wonder

    BOOK CHOICE: The Masnavi I Ma'navi of Rumi: Complete by Maulana Jalalu-'d-din Muhammad Rumi (Author), E. H. Whinfield (Translator)
    LUXURY ITEM: Bendicks Bittermints
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: As by Stevie Wonder

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor

    • 35 min
    Bernardine Evaristo, writer

    Bernardine Evaristo, writer

    Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize in 2019 for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.

    Bernardine was born in May 1959, the fourth of eight children, to an English mother and a Nigerian father. She grew up in Woolwich in south London, and was educated at Eltham Hill Girls’ Grammar School. She spent her teenage years at the Greenwich Young People’s Theatre and, after deciding that she wanted to be a professional actor at the age of 14, did a Community Theatre Arts course at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama.

    After graduation she founded the Theatre of Black Women with two fellow students in the early 1980s and they began to write roles for themselves. By the late 1980s, she had decided that it was the writing she enjoyed most.

    Her first poetry collection was published in 1994, followed by a semi-autobiographical verse novel called Lara three years later. More books followed, experimenting with form and narrative perspective, often merging the past with the present, prose with poetry, the factual with the speculative, and reality with alternate realities. Girl, Woman, Other is her eighth book.

    A longstanding activist and advocate, Bernardine has initiated several successful schemes to ensure increased representation of artists and writers of colour in the creative industries.

    She is married to David, who she met in 2006, and lives in London.

    DISC ONE: Malaika by Angélique Kidjo
    DISC TWO: Zombie by Fela Kuti
    DISC THREE: Breaths by Sweet Honey in the Rock
    DISC FOUR: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free by Nina Simone
    DISC FIVE: Woyaya by Osibisa
    DISC SIX: Köln, January 24, 1975, part I by Keith Jarrett
    DISC SEVEN: Things Have Changed by Bob Dylan
    DISC EIGHT: Fight The Power by Public Enemy

    BOOK CHOICE: The Norton Anthology of Poetry by Margaret Ferguson), Tim Kendall and Mary Jo Salter
    LUXURY ITEM: A hologram of Bernardine's husband
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Köln, January 24, 1975, part I by Keith Jarrett

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale

    • 36 min
    Classic Desert Island Discs - Jack Charlton

    Classic Desert Island Discs - Jack Charlton

    The ball rolled past the gap between him and Gordon Banks and into the back of the net. The Germans were one goal up.

    Jack Charlton, Sue Lawley's castaway, recalls the match which was to bring him to his knees in relief and joy as England went on to win the 1966 World Cup - just one of the crowning moments of a career that could so easily have ended down the pit, except for his talent with the ball. Nicknamed The Boss because of his straight talking, Jack describes his relationship with his brother 'Our Kid' Bobby Charlton and his success as manager of Ireland.

    Jack died in July 2020, at the age of 85.

    • 36 min

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