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 • 18 Ratings

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

    Francesca Simon

    Francesca Simon

    Anyone who’s spent any time with children in the last thirty years will know Horrid Henry and his brother, Perfect Peter. They’re the creations of Francesca Simon, and they’ve appeared in 25 books, been translated into 31 languages and sold 25 million copies. They seem to embody archetypes: the chaotic, naughty brother who’s always in trouble, and the neat well-behaved sibling who’s always anxious to please the parents.

    In Private Passions, Francesca Simon tells Michael Berkeley that her own emotional memories of childhood are extraordinarily vivid. She was brought up living on the beach in Malibu, where her father Mayo Simon was a screenwriter, but then moved around to Paris and New York and London. It all sounds glamorous, but actually, she says, it was hard. They moved so often that she always felt like an outsider. Francesca chooses music that reflects the very diverse influences of her early life: Yiddish and Breton folk songs, and Jascha Haifetz playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto. She also chooses music by the young British composer Gavin Higgins, for whom she’s written a libretto for his new work The Faerie Bride, and by E. J. Moeran, a composer she thinks should be much better known.

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

    • 38 min
    Anne Glenconner

    Anne Glenconner

    In this special programme for the Queen’s platinum jubilee, Michael Berkeley’s guest is the author and former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, Anne Glenconner, who tells Michael about her long life as a friend of the royal family, her marriage to the outrageous Colin Tennant, and how she survived unimaginable family tragedy.

    At 11.15am on June 2nd 1953, Lady Anne Coke stood at the door of Westminster Abbey, dressed in a gorgeous embroidered white satin gown. She was 20, one of six maids of honour about to pick up the Queen’s 21-foot-long velvet train and follow her up the aisle at the start of the Coronation.

    What followed that momentous day for Lady Anne Coke, who became Lady Glenconner, was a life of continued service to the royal family, as well as running enormous houses, having five children, hosting glamorous parties, and travelling the world. Then at the age of 87 she published her bestselling memoir Lady in Waiting, followed by two novels. Her new book Whatever Next? will be published in the autumn.

    Anne Glenconner tells Michael about the exciting days leading up to the coronation and her emotions as Elgar’s Nimrod was played at the very start of the service. She reminisces about playing on Holkham beach as a child with the Queen and Princess Margaret, and plays music that helped her through the terrible events that engulfed her three sons in the 1980s.

    And she also talks frankly, and with great humour, about life with Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner: the temper tantrums which got him banned from airlines, the ruined trips to the opera, the excruciating first evening of their honeymoon, and the final, awful twist in the tale of their marriage.

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

    • 38 min
    Jarvis Cocker

    Jarvis Cocker

    In a wide-ranging and engaging interview, musician Jarvis Cocker tells Michael Berkeley about the role classical music plays in his life and relationships.

    Fortunately for the world of music Jarvis Cocker abandoned his early ambition to be an astronaut and instead, at the age of 14, had the idea of forming a band called Pulp during an Economics lesson at school in Sheffield. Some 15 years later, Pulp was one of the most successful bands in the world, with a string of witty, emotionally raw, and musically inventive hits rooted in the details of real life.

    Since then, he has become a much-loved radio presenter with the long-running "Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service" on BBC Six Music, and "Wireless Nights" on Radio 4. Amongst numerous other projects he has formed a new band, JARV IS…, and he has just published a memoir of his childhood and the early years of Pulp called Good Pop, Bad Pop.

    Jarvis describes how, during a long period of convalescence after an accident, he transformed the way he wrote songs, realizing that the details of everyday life around him in Sheffield provided a goldmine of material. He tells Michael how he coped with fame when it eventually arrived in his thirties, and how he has never conquered his stage fright.

    Jarvis chooses music by Schubert, Max Richter, Rachmaninoff, Eric Satie and Delius, all guaranteed to give him the ‘tingle’ factor. He talks about the power of particular vinyl records to bring back memories of his teenage years in Sheffield and of his son as he was growing up in Paris. And he talks movingly about the role Richter’s music played in his relationship with his dying father who had been absent for most of Jarvis’s life.

    Producer: Jane Greenwood

    • 41 min
    Kat Arney

    Kat Arney

    The science writer and broadcaster Dr Kat Arney shares with Michael Berkeley her passion for the harp and her revelatory new research into the causes of cancer.

    Gone are the days when cancer could not be mentioned but was “the Big C”. It is just as well, since about half of us will develop cancer during our lifetime. And as the treatments and drugs improve all the time, so does our knowledge of what causes it. Kat Arney’s latest, award-winning, book, Rebel Cell: "Cancer, Evolution and the Science of Life", explains the revelatory new breakthroughs happening in labs around the world.

    After a PhD in Genetics at Cambridge University, Kat Arney worked for ten years as Science Communications Manager at Cancer Research UK. And then she left that job to go freelance - writing books and newspaper articles about science, broadcasting and podcasting including a recent Radio 4 series, Ingenious, about how individual genes shape our lives.

    But as well as science Kat Arney has another passion, for music, and particularly the harp, which she has played since she was a teenager both as a classical instrument and in bands. She chooses music by the harpist Ruth Wall; Arnold Bax’s Harp Quintet; and we hear Kat herself playing with the Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics.

    And she lets Michael into the secret of how to fit a harp into the back of an Austin Metro.

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

    • 34 min
    Waheed Arian

    Waheed Arian

    As we’ve watched the war in Ukraine unfold, we’ve seen huge crowds of people queuing at the border, dragging small suitcases, carrying babies and children, leaving their homeland behind. Dr Waheed Arian knows what it’s like to be forced to leave your home, suddenly, and under fire; he’s a refugee from an earlier war, the Soviet-Afghan War, which lasted for almost ten years and claimed the lives of as many as two million Afghan civilians. Five million people are estimated to have left the country as refugees, and Waheed Arian was one of them.

    In 1988, at the age of five, he escaped on horseback from Afghanistan to Pakistan, arriving at a refugee camp on the North-West frontier. In the camp he almost died from malnutrition, malaria and TB. But – just in time - he managed to get medical treatment, and the doctor who treated him inspired an ambition to be a doctor himself. Dr Waheed Arian is now an A and E doctor in the NHS and he has founded a pioneering medical charity, Arian Teleheal. He has received many awards for his work, and has written about his life in a vivid memoir, “In the Wars”.

    In a moving conversation with Michael Berkeley, Waheed describes the dangerous journey that brought him to Britain, where he was at first imprisoned in Feltham Young Offenders Institution. He reveals how he fulfilled his early ambition to become a doctor, despite having had almost no schooling. And he chooses music which takes him back to childhood, watching Bollywood films with his family, and to his early years in Britain, when he was befriended by an old woman who played Schubert to him. Other choices include music by Charlie Chaplin, and a song by Ahmad Wali, who like Waheed fled Afghanistan.

    Produced by Elizabeth Burke
    A Loftus Media Production for BBC Radio 3.

    • 43 min
    Osman Yousefzada

    Osman Yousefzada

    The fashion designer and artist Osman Yousefzada tells Michael Berkeley about his childhood in a strictly religious Pashtun community in Birmingham.

    Osman Yousefzada shot to fame when Beyoncé wore one of his designs to the 2013 Grammy Awards. Lady Gaga, Thandiwe Newton and Taylor Swift are among his many other celebrity clients. He is also an acclaimed artist, curator and film-maker, and the creator of one of the world’s largest ever pieces of public art: the ‘wrapping’ of the Selfridges building in Birmingham in geometric patterns inspired by Islamic art.

    Educated at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Central St Martins and Cambridge University, Osman grew up in a community described by the Daily Mail as ‘the Jihadi capital of Britain’. His newly published memoir, The Go Between, is a fascinating account of his childhood and his first steps into the outside world while navigating both racism and family expectations.

    He tells Michael Berkeley about his beloved mother, a talented seamstress who inspired him as a designer: she was married at 14, had her first child at 15 and lived most of her life in Birmingham, but remained illiterate and never learned to speak English. She hardly ever left the house. Osman’s sisters were taken out of school at the age of 11 and also shut away inside the family home.

    Osman chooses music inspired by the Sufi tradition of Islamic mysticism by Abida Parveen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and a song by the Grammy-winning Pakistani-American Arooj Aftab, as well as pieces by Philip Glass and by the Canadian composer and cellist Zoe Keating.

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

    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
18 Ratings

18 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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