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

    • Personal Journals
    • 4.0 • 1 Rating

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

    Richard E Grant, actor

    Richard E Grant, actor

    Richard E Grant was born in Swaziland, now Eswatini, one of the smallest countries in Africa, and took his first steps as an actor as a teenager in the local amateur theatre company.

    He studied Drama and English at Cape Town University in South Africa, and moved to London in 1982, hoping to find work as an actor, with - in his words - 'nothing more than a couple of suitcases, a boxful of music cassettes and blind ambition.' He worked as a waiter to pay the bills, until his very first film role, in Withnail and I, launched his acting career.

    Since then, he has appeared in a very wide range of films, with roles in How to Get Ahead in Advertising, The Player, Jack and Sarah, Logan and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, as well as the Star Wars series. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2019 for his role in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

    Richard has been a lifelong diarist and has published three collections of memoirs. His most recent book chronicles his long and happy marriage to his wife, the dialect coach Joan Washington, who died from cancer in 2021.

    DISC ONE: I'm The Greatest Star by Barbra Streisand
    DISC TWO: When I Fall in Love by Nat King Cole
    DISC THREE: When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge
    DISC FOUR: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics
    DISC FIVE: Chopin: 24 Préludes, Op. 28 - 4. Largo in E Minor by Ivo Pogorelich
    DISC SIX: Please Forgive Me by Patrick Doyle
    DISC SEVEN: Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy
    DISC EIGHT: Don't Rain on My Parade by Barbra Streisand

    BOOK CHOICE: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
    LUXURY ITEM: A piano
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: When I Fall in Love by Nat King Cole

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 35 min
    Professor Angela Gallop, forensic scientist

    Professor Angela Gallop, forensic scientist

    Professor Angela Gallop is a forensic scientist who has helped solve some of the most notorious violent crimes in recent British history including the killings of Stephen Lawrence, Damilola Taylor and Rachel Nickell.

    After completing a degree in botany and a doctorate on the biochemistry of sea slugs, Angela joined the Home Office’s Forensic Science Service in 1974, and four years later attended her first crime scene, where 18-year-old Helen Rytka was killed by Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

    Over the years cold cases became her speciality and in 1992 she investigated the death of the Italian banker Roberto Calvi. He was found hanging from scaffolding under Blackfriars Bridge, London, in a suspected suicide ten years before. Angela’s work established that suicide was unlikely and that, in all probability, he’d been murdered. His killers were never found.

    In 1999 Angela and her team investigated the murder of Lynette White who was killed in her flat in Cardiff in 1988. Five men had been tried for her death and three - known as the ‘the Cardiff Three’ - were sent to prison although their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal two years later. Angela’s investigation made history when the murderer was identified and convicted through his familial DNA.

    Angela first worked on the Stephen Lawrence case in 1995 – two years after his murder - and returned to it in 2006. The forensic evidence that was found during this investigation helped to convict his killers in 2012.

    Angela has written a book about her career in forensics and another which outlines the challenges the discipline faces today.

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 38 min
    Rick Rubin, music producer

    Rick Rubin, music producer

    Rick Rubin is a multiple Grammy-winning record producer who has worked with a wide range of artists including Adele, the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also reinvigorated the career of Johnny Cash in the 1990s, with a series of acclaimed stripped-back albums, introducing the legendary Man in Black to a new audience.

    Rick was born on Long Island in New York in 1963. As a teenager, his first love was punk, but he soon became entranced by New York’s emerging rap scene and started hanging out in hip hop clubs to discover more about what was then considered to be an underground form of music. In 1984 he co-founded Def Jam Recordings from his dorm room at university and produced rap records for T La Rock and LL Cool J.

    Together with his business partner, promoter Russell Simmons, Rick took rap into the mainstream by putting rappers Run-DMC and rock band Aerosmith together to cover Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. It enjoyed international success and became hip hop’s first crossover hit.

    In 1993 Rick approached the country singer Johnny Cash about working together. By that time Johnny, who was in his sixties, had been dropped by his record label and was performing at dinner theatres to small audiences. In his mind his career was over. Rick persuaded him to record again and released the album American Recordings in 1994. Lauded by the critics, the album led to a creative collaboration that lasted until Johnny’s death in 2003.

    Rick's more recent work includes the album The New Abnormal by the Strokes, which won the band their first ever Grammy last year.

    DISC ONE: Across the Universe by The Beatles
    DISC TWO: …And at the Hour of Death by Víkingur Ólafsson
    DISC THREE: Rockaway Beach by The Ramones
    DISC FOUR: Us V Them by LCD Sound System
    DISC FIVE: I Believe in You by Neil Young
    DISC SIX: Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, Holy Reconciling by Thomas De Hartmann
    DISC SEVEN: The Dangling Conversation by Simon & Garfunkel
    DISC EIGHT: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack

    BOOK CHOICE: The Red Book by Carl Jung
    LUXURY ITEM: Tarot cards
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, Holy Reconciling by Thomas De Hartmann

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 36 min
    Maxine Peake, actor

    Maxine Peake, actor

    Maxine Peake is an actor and writer who first came to public attention in 1998 as Twinkle in the Victoria Wood sitcom Dinnerladies. She went on to play Veronica in Paul Abbott’s series Shameless and later became known for playing real people, including the Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams, and Sara Rowbotham, the former health worker who exposed the sexual abuse scandal in Rochdale in 2012.

    Maxine was born in Bolton and after a rocky start at college – she was asked to leave her performing arts course after just two weeks but stuck it out – she won a scholarship to study at RADA. Three months before she was due to graduate she auditioned for Victoria Wood and won her first television role starring alongside Wood, Julie Walters and Anne Reid.

    Victoria Wood advised her to take on a diverse range of roles in order to avoid being typecast as what Maxine calls the “fat, funny northerner”. She took the advice to heart and extended her range playing Myra Hindley, Martha Costello QC in the legal drama Silk and Hamlet in a critically acclaimed production at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester.

    Maxine has also written plays including Beryl: A Love Story on Two Wheels about Beryl Burton, a Yorkshire woman who dominated 1960s cycling and held the record for the men’s 12-hour time trial for two years.

    DISC ONE: Mersey Paradise by The Stone Roses
    DISC TWO: Puff the Magic Dragon by Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Red
    DISC THREE: Joe Hill by Paul Robeson
    DISC FOUR: The Four Horsemen by Aphrodite’s Child
    DISC FIVE: Evening of Light by Nico
    DISC SIX: Promised Land by Joe Smooth
    DISC SEVEN: A Whistling Woman by The Unthanks
    DISC EIGHT: I Saw the Light by Todd Rundgren

    BOOK CHOICE: One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard
    LUXURY ITEM: A solar-powered epilator
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Joe Hill by Paul Robeson

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 34 min
    Kevin Sinfield, rugby player

    Kevin Sinfield, rugby player

    Kevin Sinfield OBE is one of the most decorated players in the history of English rugby league. He captained Leeds Rhinos and the England team, and was runner-up in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year poll in 2015. He holds records as the highest points-scorer in Super League history, the third-highest points-scorer in British rugby league history and the record points-scorer for Leeds.

    After retiring from playing, he switched codes and is currently part of the coaching staff at Leicester Tigers rugby union team. Off the pitch he has made headlines as a fundraiser. After his former team-mate Rob Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019, Kevin began a series of epic fundraising challenges. He completed seven marathons in seven days in 2020, and then in 2021 he ran 101 miles in 24 hours, raising millions for MND research and support.

    He lives in Oldham with his wife, Jane and his two sons.

    DISC ONE: Parry: Jerusalem by The Honley Male Voice Choir & The Band of HM Royal Marines
    DISC TWO: Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners
    DISC THREE: Someone Like You by Van Morrison
    DISC FOUR: 7 Days by Craig David
    DISC FIVE: I Think We're Alone Now by Tiffany
    DISC SIX: Baker Street by Undercover
    DISC SEVEN: Last Request by Paolo Nutini
    DISC EIGHT: Fix You by Coldplay

    BOOK CHOICE: The Edge: The Guide to Fulfilling Dreams, Maximizing Success and Enjoying a Lifetime of Achievement by Howard E. Ferguson
    LUXURY ITEM: A Self-propelled treadmill
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Last Request by Paolo Nutini

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min
    Dr Waheed Arian, doctor

    Dr Waheed Arian, doctor

    Dr Waheed Arian is a radiologist who set up a charity called Arian Teleheal in 2015. The charity enables volunteer doctors in the west to advise colleagues in conflict zones using smartphone technology. The charity has helped save many lives in countries including Syria, Uganda and Afghanistan where Waheed was born.

    In 1988, at the height of the Soviet-Afghan conflict, Waheed and his family fled Kabul for Pakistan where they lived in a refugee camp for the next few years. Waheed was just five when they arrived there and contracted tuberculosis. The doctor who saved his life planted a dream and Waheed decided that one day he would study medicine.

    When he was 15 Afghanistan was in the grip of the Taliban and Waheed and his parents knew it was only a matter of time before he would be recruited to join their fight. Waheed's family found someone who, for a fee, offered to help him leave the country and claim refugee status in the UK. He arrived in the UK in 1999, studied A levels while working in a number of jobs and then in 2003 took up a place to read medicine at Cambridge University.

    In 2014 he began training as a radiologist and currently works in the A&E department at a busy NHS hospital. In 2017 he won a UN Global Hero Award for his charity work.

    DISC ONE: Lose Yourself by Eminem
    DISC TWO: Gule Sori by Farhad Darya
    DISC THREE: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
    DISC FOUR: Never Enough by Loren Allred
    DISC FIVE: Home by Michael Bublé
    DISC SIX: Fly by Celine Dion
    DISC SEVEN: Are You Ready for Love by Elton John
    DISC EIGHT: Everything I Wanted by Billie Eilish

    BOOK CHOICE: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba
    LUXURY ITEM: Pen and paper
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Fly by Celine Dion

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 34 min

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