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 • 1.3K Ratings

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

    Classic Desert Island Discs - Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu

    Classic Desert Island Discs - Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu

    Elizabeth Anionwu is a retired nurse, campaigner and Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London. A fellow of the Royal College of Nursing, she spent 40 years in the profession and has been named one of the most influential nurses in the history of the NHS. Her career was distinguished by her pioneering work in the understanding of sickle cell disease - bringing better treatment and support to the thousands living with it. She was the first sickle cell and thalassaemia nurse counsellor in the UK.

    Her decades of dedication, care and service are a contrast to her own disrupted childhood as a mixed race child born out of wedlock in the 1940s, though it was the kindness of a nurse when she was just five that sparked a nascent interest in what would become her life’s work. After leaving school at 16, with seven O-levels, Elizabeth was made a Professor of Nursing in 1998.

    She left her day job behind in 2007, but as she puts it “it has not turned out to be a quiet retirement”. She spent nine years fundraising and campaigning for a statue to British-Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole. Unveiled in 2016 in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, London, the statue is the first in the UK to represent a named black woman. Elizabeth received the DBE in 2017 for services to nursing and the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal.

    DISC ONE: Faith’s Song by Amy Wadge
    DISC TWO: The Rakes of Mallow, Girl I Left Behind by The Gallowglass Ceili Band
    DISC THREE: Manman by Leyla McCalla
    DISC FOUR: A Te,O Cara by Andrea Bocelli
    DISC FIVE: Missa Bilban by The Jamaican Folk Singers
    DISC SIX: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free by Nina Simone
    DISC SEVEN: Nnekata by Flavour N'abania
    DISC EIGHT: My Girl by Otis Redding

    BOOK CHOICE: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
    LUXURY ITEM: A trampoline
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free by Nina Simone

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale

    • 35 min
    Classic Desert Island Discs - Elton John

    Classic Desert Island Discs - Elton John

    Michael Parkinson's castaway is singer Elton John in a programme first broadcast in 1986.

    • 32 min
    Classic Desert Island Discs - Ann Leslie

    Classic Desert Island Discs - Ann Leslie

    Sue Lawley's castaway is foreign correspondent Ann Leslie in a programme first broadcast in 2004. Ann Leslie died in June 2023, aged 82.

    The distinguished foreign correspondent Ann Leslie has witnessed and reported on some of the most significant events of the past 30 years including the fall of the Berlin wall; the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela's final walk to freedom. She has reported on uprisings, massacres and wars, collecting numerous awards as she has done so.

    She grew up in India and Pakistan and loved India and its culture. When she was around 10 years old she was sent to a boarding school in England. From school she went to Oxford and from there she joined the Daily Express. She was brought to London and was given her own column at the age of twenty-two. But she resigned, saying she wanted to do proper reporting, and it was David English's support for her that saw her start writing foreign news stories and set the course for her distinguished career.

    • 34 min
    Classic Desert Island Discs - Christopher Nolan

    Classic Desert Island Discs - Christopher Nolan

    Christopher Nolan is best known for reviving the Batman film franchise and for directing the blockbusters Inception and Dunkirk. His films have taken nearly $5 billion at the box office. Born in London in 1970 to an English father and an American mother, he discovered film-making at the age of seven. In what he describes as "a leap of faith", his father lent him his Super 8 camera - and he's not stopped making films since. From youthful experiments, manipulating his action figures and shooting stop motion animations, he progressed to making short films at university where he read English - although he spent more time at University College London's Bloomsbury Theatre, home to the film society, than the lecture theatre.

    His first feature film, Following, had enough festival exposure and critical success to secure him his first official budget of $4.5 million to make his next film, Memento. In 2005 he was hailed for reinventing the Caped Crusader in the dark and gritty Batman Begins. He regularly works with the same actors and production team including his long-time producer, his wife, Emma Thomas.

    Presenter: Kirsty Young
    Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

    • 35 min
    Shirley Collins, folk singer

    Shirley Collins, folk singer

    Shirley Collins first enjoyed success as one of the leading figures in the British folk revival of the 1960s. She initially performed with her sister, Dolly Collins, and also collaborated with other folk luminaries to create some of the era’s most beloved albums. In the past decade she has made an acclaimed return to the concert stage and the recording studio.

    Shirley was born in Sussex in 1935. She can still recall how her grandfather used to sing folk songs to comfort her while they were sheltering during German air raids in the early 1940s.

    Alongside her career as a singer, in the 1950s she travelled to the American South with Alan Lomax, where they made field recordings of blues and folk musicians, helping to create a significant archive.

    Later in her performing career, Shirley found that she could no longer sing, following a distressing betrayal in her private life. She stepped away from music and was silent for many years, taking on other work, including a stint in a job centre Then, in her 80s, she found her voice again. In 2016 she released her first new album after a gap of almost four decades, and she has since released two more albums.

    Shirley lives in Sussex, not far from her childhood home.

    DISC ONE: Chiling O Guiry - Concerto Caledonia
    DISC TWO: The Birds in the Spring - The Copper Family
    DISC THREE: Who Would True Valour See - Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band
    DISC FOUR: Dear Father, Pray Build Me a Boat - Sheila Smith
    DISC FIVE: 61 Highway Blues - Mississippi Fred McDowell
    DISC SIX: Poor Sally Sits a-weeping - Dolly Collins
    DISC SEVEN: A Heart Needs A Home - Richard & Linda Thompson
    DISC EIGHT: Going Home - Mark Knopfler

    BOOK CHOICE: A collection of Brodie detective novels by Kate Atkinson
    LUXURY ITEM: A solar powered fridge filled with Italian Ice cream and two lipsticks
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Poor Sally Sits a Weeping

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 37 min
    Toto Wolff, Formula 1 executive

    Toto Wolff, Formula 1 executive

    Toto Wolff is CEO and Team Principal of the Mercedes Formula 1 motor racing team. He has led the team to an unprecedented seven consecutive drivers’ championships – six with Lewis Hamilton - and eight consecutive constructors' championships. He is the most successful manager in Formula 1 history, and arguably one of the most successful managers in any sport.

    Toto was born Torger Wolff in Vienna. When he was eight his father was diagnosed with a brain tumour and died when Toto was 15. Toto found himself looking after his mother and sister from a young age which he believes contributed to the strength of character he developed as an adult.

    Toto's original ambition in motorsport was to be a driver, and he started competing in his late teens. Following the deaths of drivers Ayrton Senna and then Roland Ratzenberger, his sponsor withdrew support, which forced him to give up his dream. He turned his attention to business and made a fortune as an entrepreneur.

    In 2009 he bought a stake in the Williams Formula 1 team and four years later bought a 30% stake in the Mercedes team.

    Toto is married to the former racing driver Susie Stoddart and they divide their time between the UK and Monaco. Their six-year-old son Jack is already showing an interest in karting.

    DISC ONE: Unfinished Sympathy - Massive Attack
    DISC TWO: Mama - Genesis
    DISC THREE: Money Can’t Buy It - Annie Lennox
    DISC FOUR: Iron Sky - Paolo Nutini
    DISC FIVE: We Are The Champions – Queen
    DISC SIX: Another Day in Paradise - Phil Collins
    DISC SEVEN: Fallen - Lauren Wood
    DISC EIGHT: The Power of Love - Frankie Goes to Hollywood

    BOOK CHOICE: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
    LUXURY ITEM: Diving fins and a mask
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Fallen - Lauren Wood

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Paula McGinley

    • 35 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
1.3K Ratings

1.3K Ratings

eatsleepswim ,

Kirsty Young

So great to hear your voice again.

the other Dell ,

Inaccurate time frame

Having enjoyed the interview with Michael Pollan, I tuned into the Netflix series “How to Change Your Mind” I was dismayed to hear Pollan imply that Bill Wilson (cofounder of A.A.) had his Spiritual Awakening as the result of LSD trials. This is patently false. His God Experience came in 1935 and he participated in the trials in the late ‘50s. This misinformation could confuse or cause harm to Alcoholics seeking help through A.A.

NeverAReviewer ,

Excellent series

Grateful these are available on podcasts. The interviews are in depth and the guests are all fascinating in their own right.

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