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

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

    Dame Sue Campbell, Director Women's Football at the FA

    Dame Sue Campbell, Director Women's Football at the FA

    Dame Sue Campbell is the Director of Women’s Football at the Football Association. The women’s game has become increasingly popular recently and last year the England team - the Lionesses - made it to the World Cup semi-finals.

    Born in 1948, just outside Nottingham, Sue was sporty from an early age, even changing schools to allow her to play football. She became a PE teacher in Manchester and realised how transformative sport could be, increasing self-esteem, motivation and self-belief.

    In the mid-1980s, after learning about excellence in sport at Loughborough University and playing netball for England as well as dabbling in the pentathlon, Sue became deputy chief executive (and a year later chief executive) of the National Coaching Foundation, which provided education for coaches at both ends of the spectrum, from parent volunteers to elite coaches.

    Ten years later, in 1995, she co-founded the Youth Sport Trust to set up a sports activity programme for every primary school in the country. It was hugely successful: in 2003 only 23% of school children were getting two hours of PE a week. By 2008, this figure had risen to 95%. In 2010, the coalition government cut their funding.

    By this time, back at the elite end of the sporting spectrum, Sue was also in charge of UK Sport, where she presided over Team GB's biggest Olympic medal haul in living memory, at the London 2012 games. In 2016, she took her current job as head of Women’s Football at the FA. She has also been a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords since 2008.

    BOOK CHOICE: The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
    LUXURY ITEM: A photo album
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Music Of My Heart by Gloria Estefan And *N SYNC

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale

    • 52 min
    Michael Lewis, writer

    Michael Lewis, writer

    Michael Lewis is a best-selling non-fiction writer and journalist. He initially worked for an investment bank, and his experiences of Wall Street excess in the 1980s informed his acclaimed first book, Liar’s Poker. Three of his later books – Moneyball, The Blind Side and The Big Short – have been adapted into Hollywood feature films.

    He was born in New Orleans in 1960, where his father was fond of quoting the family motto: 'Do as little as possible, and that unwillingly, for it is better to receive a light reprimand than perform an arduous task.' After studying at Princeton and the LSE, he joined an American bank in London, and wrote articles about the quirks of the industry under a pseudonym. In spite of his father’s opposition, he decided to quit his highly-paid job to become a writer.

    In Moneyball, he examined how a struggling baseball team used intensive data analysis to find undervalued players overlooked by richer clubs. The Big Short focused on the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and his most recent book, The Fifth Risk, is about the Trump administration’s approach to government.

    Michael lives in California with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children.

    BOOK CHOICE: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
    LUXURY ITEM: A photo album
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Old Days by Chicago

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min
    Rupert Everett, actor

    Rupert Everett, actor

    Rupert Everett is an actor, writer and director whose breakthrough came in 1981 when he was cast as a gay schoolboy in Another Country, Julian Mitchell's play and subsequent film.

    Rupert later starred in Dance with a Stranger before making a splash in Hollywood playing Julia Roberts's gay confidante in My Best Friend's Wedding. But his movie career took a dive after The Next Best Thing - in which he played the gay father of Madonna's baby - flopped. After a period out of the limelight he turned his attention to writing and won great acclaim for his witty and illuminating memoirs about his life in showbusiness.

    In 2018 Rupert starred in his directorial debut, The Happy Prince - a film about Oscar Wilde's final years in exile. The film was a decade-long labour of love for Rupert from writing the screenplay to securing the funding and persuading his friends Colin Firth and Emily Watson to join the cast. The film was well-received, with one critic calling it a 'deeply felt, tremendously acted tribute to courage'.

    Later this year Rupert is starring in the Broadway revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    BOOK CHOICE: Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene
    LUXURY ITEM: Vegetables
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Being Boring by Pet Shop Boys

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 37 min
    Stephen Merchant, writer, comedian and actor

    Stephen Merchant, writer, comedian and actor

    Stephen Merchant first came to fame with the TV sitcom The Office, which he co-wrote and co-directed with Ricky Gervais. He continued to work with Gervais on the series Extras, Life is Short and An Idiot Abroad. His comedy hero as a young man was John Cleese and as a fellow tall West Country boy, he felt he would try his hand at a comedy career.

    As a teenager, he worked at Radio Bristol, was a wedding DJ and enjoyed drama at school. While at Warwick University, he created his own radio programme, The Steve Show. Those radio production skills encouraged him to send in his CV to a new London radio station, XFM, where the head of speech was Ricky Gervais. Following a successful interview – conducted in a pub – Stephen became Ricky’s assistant.

    Stephen left XFM to join a BBC training scheme. It was the short film he made with Ricky as part of his course which would eventually lead to the creation of The Office.

    Alongside his successful comedy partnership with Gervais, Stephen has pursued his acting and writing ambitions and this year wrote and directed his first film, Fighting with my Family, based on a family of wrestlers. His performance as a stand-up led to his HBO series Hello Ladies, and he starred in his first stage play, Richard Bean's The Mentalists, in London in 2015.

    His work has earned him two Golden Globe Awards, three BAFTAs, a Primetime Emmy Award, and four British Comedy Awards.

    DISC ONE: Whole of The Moon by The Waterboys
    DISC TWO: Raspberry Beret by Prince
    DISC THREE: Babies by Pulp
    DISC FOUR: Regulate (Jammin' Remix) by Warren G featuring Nate Dogg and Michael McDonald
    DISC FIVE: Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen
    DISC SIX: A Case of You by Joni Mitchell
    DISC SEVEN: Change of the Guard by Kamasi Washington
    DISC EIGHT: Love Letter by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

    BOOK CHOICE: Roger's Profanisaurus by Viz and Roger Mellie
    LUXURY ITEM: A piano
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale

    • 47 min
    Heidi Thomas, screenwriter

    Heidi Thomas, screenwriter

    Heidi Thomas is a screenwriter and playwright best known for Call the Midwife. The BBC TV series, which began in 2012, was originally a six part adaptation of a trilogy of memoirs by Jennifer Worth, recalling her experiences as a midwife in the East End of London. It was an immediate hit, with 10 million viewers a week, becoming one of BBC One’s most popular dramas and a fixture in the Christmas schedules.

    Born in 1962, Heidi Thomas grew up as the eldest of three children in the leafy suburbs of Liverpool. Her father ran a drain cleaning business while her mother looked after the children, including Heidi’s youngest brother David, who was born with Down’s Syndrome.

    Heidi studied English at Liverpool University, supporting herself by selling ladies’ underwear at a department store. During a bout of viral hepatitis, which left her unable to apply for jobs when she graduated, she entered a competition for new plays and won a prize for her debut, All Flesh is Grass. During the production,of her next play, Shamrocks and Crocodiles, she met the actor Stephen McGann. They went on to marry, and many years later Stephen was cast as the GP in Call the Midwife.

    After nearly a decade in the theatre, Heidi made the leap into television, first writing on existing series such as Soldier, Soldier and Doctor Finlay. Her other screenwriting credits include Lilies, based on her grandmother’s recollections, and adaptations of classic novels including Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

    DISC ONE: You Belong to Me by The Duprees
    DISC TWO: Penny Lane by The Beatles
    DISC THREE: Gentle on my Mind by Dean Martin
    DISC FOUR: Who Will Sing Me Lullabies? by Kate Rusby
    DISC FIVE: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack
    DISC SIX: Finishing The Hat by Josh Groban
    DISC SEVEN: Agnus Dei from Requiem, op. 48, conducted by Nigel Short and performed by London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble and Tenebrae
    DISC EIGHT: Both Sides, Now by Joni Mitchell

    BOOK CHOICE: London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew
    LUXURY ITEM: A hot water bottle
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Both Sides, Now by Joni Mitchell

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor

    • 53 min
    Professor Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience

    Professor Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience

    Professor Russell Foster is head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, professor of circadian neuroscience and the director of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology. An expert in sleep, he describes it as 'the single most important health behaviour we have'.

    Born in 1959, as a child he loved his toy microscope and digging up fossils. Despite being labelled “entirely non-academic” by his headmaster and attending remedial classes for some years, he achieved three science A levels which won him a place at the University of Bristol.

    There, he developed an early interest in photo-receptors - cells which convert light into signals that can stimulate biological processes. This eventually led to his post-doctoral discovery, in 1991, of a previously unknown type of cell – photosensitive retinal ganglion cells – in the eyes of mice. His proposition that these ganglion cells – which are not used for vision, but to detect brightness – exist in humans too initially met with scepticism from the ophthalmological community.

    Russell’s research has made a significant impact, proving that our eyes provide us with both our sense of vision and our sense of time, which has changed the clinical definition of blindness and the treatment of eye disease. He has published several popular science books.

    Russell is married to Elizabeth Downes, with whom he has three grown-up children.

    DISC ONE: Ode to Joy from the 4th movement of Symphony No. 9, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, performed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Höngen, Hans Hopf, Otto Edelman and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
    DISC TWO: Die Walkϋre Act 3, Finale, from Der Ring des Nibelungen, sung by Hans Hotter and performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera Chorus
    DISC THREE: Don Giovanni, K. 527: Mi tradi quell'alma ingrata by Kiri Te Kanawa
    DISC FOUR: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics
    DISC FIVE: (Nimrod): Adagio by BBC Symphony Orchestra
    DISC SIX: Title: Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds by The Michael Nyman Band
    DISC SEVEN: The Mikado, Act II: The Sun Whose Rays by The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
    DISC EIGHT: Let’s Misbehave by Irving Aaronson

    BOOK CHOICE: The collected works of Adrian John Desmond
    LUXURY ITEM: A mask, snorkel, flippers and underwater camera
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Die Walkϋre Act 3, Finale, from Der Ring des Nibelungen, sung by Hans Hotter and performed by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera Chorus

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale

    • 41 min

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