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 Radio 4

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.7 • 49 Ratings

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

    Sonia Boyce, artist

    Sonia Boyce, artist

    In 2022 Sonia Boyce became the first Black British woman to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale exhibition. She also took home the coveted Golden Lion Award for her installation Feeling Her Way, which combined video and collage with improvised performances by five female musicians.

    Sonia was born in London and grew up near the renowned Whitechapel Art Gallery. As a very young child she would visit the gallery, often alone, relishing the light and space inside the building. In 1985, two years after graduating from Stourbridge College of Art, she completed her drawing Missionary Position II, which was acquired by the Tate two years later. She was just 25 and was one of the youngest artists and the first Black woman to enter its permanent collection.

    In 1999 Sonia started work on the Devotional Collection, an archive of sound, ephemera and wallpaper relating to black British women in music, ranging from Shirley Bassey to Neneh Cherry, and celebrating their contribution to international culture.

    Sonia lives in London with her partner, the curator David A. Bailey. She has taught Fine Art studio practice for more than 30 years in several art colleges across the UK. She was awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to art.

    DISC ONE: Meet Me On The Corner - Lindisfarne
    DISC TWO: Help Me Make It Through the Night - John Holt
    DISC THREE: Caught You In A Lie - Louisa Mark
    DISC FOUR: Psycho Killer -Talking Heads
    DISC FIVE: Wolf & Leopards - Dennis Brown
    DISC SIX: Is That Jazz - Gil Scott Heron
    DISC SEVEN: Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae
    DISC EIGHT: Love and Affection - Joan Armatrading

    BOOK CHOICE: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
    LUXURY ITEM: Champagne
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Is That Jazz by Gil Scott Heron

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 35 min
    Jenny Beavan, costume designer

    Jenny Beavan, costume designer

    Jenny Beavan has won three Oscars for her costumes for the films Room with a View, Mad Max: Fury Road and Cruella, and has received nine further Academy Award nominations.

    She was born in London, and her parents were both professional musicians who encouraged her to paint, draw and learn a musical instrument. After studying theatre design, she was invited at the age of just 21 to create the sets for a production of Carmen at the Royal Opera House, conducted by Sir Georg Solti. She also worked on the costumes, which eventually led to her current career.

    Her credits now include more than 60 films and television series, including a long collaboration with the Merchant Ivory team, on titles such as Howards End and Remains of the Day, as well as Room with a View. Her costumes range from precise period recreations, in films such as The King’s Speech, to the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max and the extravagant 1970s-inspired gowns for Emma Stone and Emma Thompson in Cruella. Along with her Oscars, Jenny has also won four Baftas and two Primetime Emmy awards.

    She was appointed a OBE in 2017.

    DISC ONE: Endure from Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Performed by Hans Peter Blochwitz and the Chapelle Royale Orchestra, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe
    DISC TWO: The Stately Homes of England - Noël Coward
    DISC THREE: Bizet: Carmen / Act 2 - "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" (The flower you threw at me) Performed by Plácido Domingo and London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Georg Solti
    DISC FOUR: O Mio Babbino Caro. Composed by Giacomo Puccini and performed by Kiri Te Kanawa and The London Philharmonic Orchestra
    DISC FIVE: Scream - Caitlin Albery Beavan and Jim Bell
    DISC SIX: Parking Fines - Joe Lycett from his That’s the Way, A-Ha, A-Ha tour
    DISC SEVEN: I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
    DISC EIGHT: Radamisto, HWV 12, Act 2: "Ombra cara di mia sposa" (Radamisto) (Beloved shadow of my bride) Composed by George Frideric Handel, performed by Emöke Baráth and Ensemble Artaserse, conducted by Philippe Jaroussky

    BOOK CHOICE: The Complete Novels of Jane Austen
    LUXURY ITEM: A cello
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Endure from Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Performed by Hans Peter Blochwitz and the Chapelle Royale Orchestra, conducted by Philippe Herreweghe

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 38 min
    David Sedaris, writer

    David Sedaris, writer

    David Sedaris is a writer whose humorous stories and wry takes on everyday encounters have led to 13 bestselling books and many radio programmes including Meet David Sedaris on BBC Radio 4. His work is based on his own life and, although very funny, does not shy away from the bleaker aspects of his experiences.

    David was born in New York State and grew up in Raleigh in North Carolina. He dropped out of university and became a performance artist for a while, but says he lacked artistic talent and chose not to pursue art as a career. In 1990 he moved to New York City where he supported himself by working as a Christmas elf called Crumpet at Macy’s department store. He wrote an essay about this experience called Santaland Diaries which he read on National Public Radio. His performance attracted an enthusiastic response from listeners and led to his first major break as a writer and broadcaster.

    David’s later collections of stories and essays have won non-fiction awards and in 2002 he gave a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. The recording of this event was later nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. David’s most recent collection of essays addresses a range of subjects including the end of Donald Trump’s administration, the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of his father.

    David lives with his boyfriend Hugh and they divide their time between New York and West Sussex. David is a committed litter-picker which prompted his local Sussex council to name a refuse vehicle after him - Pig Pen Sedaris.

    DISC ONE: I Don’t Wanna Play House by Tammy Wynette
    DISC TWO: Where is Love, composed by Lionel Bart and performed by Keith Hamshere and Original London Cast of Oliver!
    DISC THREE: Dindi by Maria Bethânia
    DISC FOUR: Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do) by Aretha Franklin
    DISC FIVE: I Got A Right to Praise The Lord by The Georgia Mass Choir
    DISC SIX: Manhattan by Blossom Dearie
    DISC SEVEN: You and I by Abbey Lincoln
    DISC EIGHT: They Say It’s Wonderful by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

    BOOK CHOICE: A German dictionary
    LUXURY ITEM: Pencils and paper
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: You and I by Abbey Lincoln

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 36 min
    Lesley Manville, actor

    Lesley Manville, actor

    Lesley Manville made her debut on the West End stage as a teenager in 1972, and since then has taken on a wide range of roles on stage and screen, including an Oscar-nominated performance in the film Phantom Thread.

    She was born in Brighton and first enjoyed performing as a singer, winning competitions with her sister. When she was 15, she commuted daily to the Italia Conti stage school in London. Her first professional role was in a West End musical, and in 1974 she joined the cast of the ITV soap opera Emmerdale Farm. After two years she decided to leave, even though the work was well paid, and return to the stage.

    At the Royal Court in London she appeared in some of the most critically acclaimed new plays of the 1980s including Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, and Andrea Dunbar’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too. She has also enjoyed a long collaboration with the film director Mike Leigh, memorably playing the alcoholic Mary in Another Year.

    Her recent TV roles include starring as Cathy in the popular BBC Two sitcom Mum, for which she won a Royal Television Society Award in 2019. She has also played Princess Margaret in The Crown, including a scene in which Margaret shares her favourite records on a BBC radio progamme.

    She was appointed a CBE in 2021.

    DISC ONE: Over The Rainbow - Eva Cassidy
    DISC TWO: My Brother Jake - Free
    DISC THREE: O Soave Fanciulla, composed by Giacomo Puccini, performed by
    Jose Carreras, Richard Stilwell and Teresa Stratas and Metropolitan Opera Chorus, conducted by James Levine
    DISC FOUR: Sugar on the Floor - Etta James
    DISC FIVE: You Don't Have To Say You Love Me - Dusty Springfield
    DISC SIX: Not While I’m Around - Barbra Streisand
    DISC SEVEN: Make You Feel My Love - Adele
    DISC EIGHT: Phantom Thread III - Jonny Greenwood

    BOOK CHOICE: A Botanical Encyclopedia
    LUXURY ITEM: A bed with linen, duvet and pillows
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Over The Rainbow - Eva Cassidy

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min
    Professor Corinne Le Quéré, climate scientist

    Professor Corinne Le Quéré, climate scientist

    Corinne Le Quéré is the Royal Society Research Professor of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia where she studies the way marine ecosystems respond to climate change. She uses computer simulators of the ocean to assess how the carbon cycle functions and her climate models have resulted in significant findings about how warmer temperatures have affected the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon.

    Corinne was born in Quebec and as a child spent camping holidays in the national parks of Eastern Canada which fostered her interest in the natural world. She studied physics at the University of Montréal and then took a Masters in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Her love of oceanography began with a desire to uncover the mysteries that lie beneath the waves.

    In 2007, while she was working with UEA and the British Antarctic Survey, she published her landmark paper which demonstrated that human activity reduced the Southern Ocean’s capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Corinne advises the UK Committee on Climate Change and served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when it won the Nobel Prize in 2007. She was appointed a CBE in 2019.

    Corinne lives with her husband in Norfolk where she hopes one day to buy a piece of land and plant a forest which will play a central part in her personal plan to achieve carbon neutrality.

    DISC ONE: La Vida Es Un Carnaval by Celia Cruz
    DISC TWO: Les copains d’abord by Georges Brassens
    DISC THREE: We are the Champions by Queen
    DISC FOUR: Harmonie du soir à Chateauguay by Beau Dommage
    DISC FIVE: Proud Mary (Live) by Tina Turner
    DISC SIX: Die Zauberflöte, K. 620, Act 2: "Der Hölle Rache (Konigin der Nacht)" (Queen of Night) composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Bernard Haitink, Edita Gruberová, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
    DISC SEVEN: LDN by Lily Allen
    DISC EIGHT: Three-Part Inventions: Sinfonia 15 BWV 801, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Martin Stadtfeld

    BOOK CHOICE: World Atlas of the Oceans by Dave Monahan
    LUXURY ITEM: A mask and snorkel
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: La Vida Es Un Carnaval by Celia Cruz

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 37 min
    Michael Pollan, writer

    Michael Pollan, writer

    Michael Pollan’s award-winning writing about plants, nature and food combines anthropology and philosophy with culture, health and natural history. Time Magazine has named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world and his maxim to ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.’ is a central tenet of the sustainable food movement.

    Michael grew up in suburban Long Island, USA, and planted his first garden when he was eight-years-old. He was an intern at the Village Voice newspaper in New York while he was a student and after he graduated he joined Harper’s Magazine as an editor where he worked with the writer Tom Wolfe among others.

    Michael’s first book Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education is a collection of essays about gardening and his later titles, including the Botany of Desire and the Omnivore’s Dilemma, addressed modern methods of food production and argued that in an era of fast and processed food, basic cooking skills were being lost. Recently, Michael has written about the use of psychedelic drugs as a potential treatment for some mental health conditions, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Michael is professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2020 he co-founded the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics. Michael is married to the artist Judith Belzer and they live in California.

    DISC ONE: Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) by Harry Belafonte
    DISC TWO: The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
    DISC THREE: Going Up the Country by Canned Heat
    DISC FOUR: Cheek to Cheek by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald
    DISC FIVE: Shady Grove by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman
    DISC SIX: California by Joni Mitchell
    DISC SEVEN: Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles
    DISC EIGHT: Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1008: I. Prélude, composed by J.S Bach and performed by Yo-Yo Ma

    BOOK CHOICE: Ulysses by James Joyce
    LUXURY ITEM: Dark chocolate
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1008: I. Prélude, composed by J.S Bach and performed by Yo-Yo Ma

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 35 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
49 Ratings

49 Ratings

Harleyadam ,

Decades of DID’s

I have been listening to Desert Island Discs since the 1970’s I have followed all the presenters. I am not at all negative towards Lauren’s presenting, she’s taken over from my all time favourite presenter, Kirsty Young. I love her style and her questioning content. She really does manage to keep the outstanding tradition of excellence forward. Congratulations Lauren and BBC producers.

.JA.AJ. ,

Pales in comparison

Pales in comparison to Kirsty Young who was masterful at interviews. Here is but a shadow of the predecessor.

Top Podcasts In Society & Culture

Shera Kerienski
Radio 1
Radio 1
France Inter

You Might Also Like

BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4

More by BBC

BBC World Service
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC World Service