300 episodes

Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives

Private Passions BBC Radio 3

    • Music
    • 4.1 • 20 Ratings

Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives

    Roma Agrawal

    Roma Agrawal

    The structural engineer and author Roma Agrawal tells Michael Berkeley about her passions for tall buildings, bridges, concrete and Indian classical dance.

    Roma Agrawal is a highly successful woman operating in what is still very much a man’s world. Her job is, essentially, to make sure that the buildings, bridges, roads and tunnels we use every day don’t collapse. She spent six years working out the incredibly complex structure of the spire and foundations of the Shard in London, the tallest building in western Europe.

    As well as engineering, Roma has another passion: she tells Michael about her lifelong love of the ancient Bharata Natyam form of Indian Classical Dance, and we hear the first piece of music she danced to as a child in Mumbai. She chooses songs by Abida Parveen, Anoushka Shankar and Nitin Sawhney as well as pieces by Tchaikovsky and by Carl Davis which drew her to Western music.

    Roma tells Michael about her campaign to encourage more women to become engineers, why she decided to speak out about the emotional and physical strain of IVF and how working on the Shard helped her overcome her fear of heights.

    Producer: Jane Greenwood
    A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

    • 36 min
    Adam Rutherford

    Adam Rutherford

    The geneticist and broadcaster Adam Rutherford tells Michael Berkeley how his passion for music allows him to escape the rigours of science and enjoy the emotional side of life.

    Adam Rutherford’s career in science has taken him from a PhD on the role of genetics in eye development to becoming a well-known broadcaster who campaigns against pseudoscience and racism.

    Presenter of Radio 4’s Start the Week and The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, he’s also the author of six bestselling books; a lecturer at University College London; and the recipient of the Royal Society David Attenborough Award for outstanding public engagement with science.

    Adam shares some astonishing facts about our genes and our common ancestry: everyone of European descent is definitely directly descended from the eighth-century Emperor Charlemagne – and from the person who cleaned his boots.

    Adam was a music scholar at school and his passion for the violin started with lessons at the age of four and culminated in playing with his teacher in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. We also hear his favourite piece of violin music, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Adam is the President of Humanists UK but asks for music from his two musical gods, Bach and Radiohead.

    Producer: Jane Greenwood
    A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

    • 39 min
    Simon Warrack

    Simon Warrack

    Simon Warrack travels the world restoring the most sacred and beautiful buildings. As a stonemason he’s worked on the Rose Window of Canterbury Cathedral, the Trevi fountain in Rome, and the Temple of Angkor Watt in Cambodia. Coming from a professionally musical family - his father is the music writer John Warrack, his grandfather was the composer and conductor Guy Warrack – it’s no surprise that classical music is very important to him. But after taking a degree in Renaissance History at Warwick, Simon discovered his own personal vocation, and he’s now pre-eminent as a stone carver and advisor on the restoration of temples and religious statues. He lives in Rome but is currently in Britain with a delegation from Cambodia who are examining the treasures of British museums to see how many of them were looted illegally and should go back.

    In conversation with Michael Berkeley, Simon Warrack talks about the joy and difficulty of cutting stone, and about how finding a pair of stone feet in the Cambodian jungle led him on a detective trail to discover how many religious artworks had been looted during the 1970s.
    Music choices include Mozart, Verdi, Elgar, Britten, Tippett and Vivaldi.

    Produced by Elizabeth Burke
    A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

    • 39 min
    Julia Blackburn

    Julia Blackburn

    The writer Julia Blackburn talks to Michael Berkeley about how music helped her through her traumatic childhood and about the joy of late-flowering love.

    Julia Blackburn is the author of novels, poetry, plays and books about historical figures including Napoleon, Billie Holiday, Goya, and the Norfolk artist John Craske, as well as books about grief, her love of animals, and the natural world. She’s also published memoirs, including an astonishing book about her childhood, The Three of Us.

    Julia shares her love of Beethoven, Pergolesi, English folk song, music from central Africa, and the songs of Billie Holiday, which helped her through her a childhood marked by chaos and neglect.

    And she tells Michael Berkeley about the happiness she has found in bringing up her own children, and the delight she has found in love later in life.

    Producer: Jane Greenwood
    A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

    • 36 min
    Stuart MacBride

    Stuart MacBride

    Stuart MacBride was born in Dumbarton and raised in Aberdeen; abandoning his studies to become an architect, he went to work on the oil rigs, scrubbing toilets. He then tried out careers as an actor, a web designer, and a computer programmer, all the while writing away after work – he wrote four novels before his first, Cold Granite, was published in 2005. Since then, he’s become one of our most successful and prolific crime writers, with twenty-four titles in all, sometimes labelled as “tartan noir”. His latest, about the hunt for a serial killer, is called No Less the Devil. Reviewers say things like “this isn’t a novel to read over dinner”, or “slick, gruesome and brutally intelligent.” Gruesome crime-writing apart, Stuart MacBride’s other notable achievements include winning Celebrity Mastermind (his subject was A.A. Milne) and coming first in the World Stovies Championship.

    In conversation with Michael Berkeley, Stuart MacBride reveals how his “very dull” childhood developed his imagination as a writer, and how he first discovered crime fiction in the Aberdeen public library. He went to the library every day, read under the covers at night, and borrowed new books the following morning, moving on from the Hardy Boys to Dashiell Hammett.

    For Stuart MacBride, music is essential; he listens continually when he works, and his latest novel was written entirely to the soundtrack of Wagner’s Ring. Alongside Wagner, choices include Beethoven, Purcell, Bruch and Holst. He also introduces music by the Australian composer Sean O’Boyle, a concerto for didgeridoo, which he loves because it’s so dark.

    Produced by Elizabeth Burke
    A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

    • 38 min
    Arifa Akbar

    Arifa Akbar

    Arifa Akbar tells Michael Berkeley about her nocturnal life as a theatre critic and her desire to tell the story of her sister's death from tuberculosis.

    Arifa Akbar almost never has a quiet night in; as chief theatre critic of the Guardian she is out reviewing a production almost every evening. She also sits on the boards of the Orwell Foundation and of English PEN, and judges prizes including the UK Theatre Awards and the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

    In conversation with Michael Berkeley, she discusses the book she wrote about the death of her older sister, Fauzia, from tuberculosis, in which she explores Fauzia’s troubled life and why the medical profession failed to diagnose her illness until it was too late.

    Arifa chooses music from Bollywood films which remind her of her childhood, which was split between a prosperous and lively extended family in Lahore and poverty and social isolation in London. And she reveals how, after the death of her sister, she began to explore the tubercular heroines of nineteenth-century opera. Initially repelled by the glamorization of these women dying awful deaths, she has now come to love the music of Verdi and Puccini.

    Producer: Jane Greenwood
    A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3

    • 40 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

BMaryMcGraw ,

Private Passions

This is a superb podcast! I am usually left wanting a few more minutes with the guests, which is so much better than become tired of one's voice in the midst of a long interview.

LCSD ,

What a wonderful discovery

Intimate, interesting, a special and delightful interview process unlike any other I've experienced. Not your average one-on-one: the interviewer actually listens to his guest and allows them to complete an entire thought! Highly recommended.

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