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

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

    Robert Macfarlane, writer

    Robert Macfarlane, writer

    Robert Macfarlane is a writer whose books about the natural world, including The Wild Places and The Old Ways, have won many prizes and taken root in the best-seller charts.

    He was born into a family of enthusiastic amateur climbers and his early memories include being carried up the Cairngorms on his father's back. This childhood experience led to a lifelong passion, and inspired his first book, Mountains of the Mind, about the complex human fascination with mountains. His interest in the wider natural world also developed from a young age, and much of his writing focuses on the environments around us and how we relate to them. In The Wild Places, he travelled to marshes and moors, cliff-tops and beaches, in search of remaining areas of wilderness in the British Isles. In The Old Ways, he headed out on foot, following often ancient pathways through a range of landscapes, both in Britain and beyond.

    His book The Lost Words, created with the artist Jackie Morris and published in 2017, became a phenomenon. It highlighted how words such as bluebell, conker, heron and kingfisher were disappearing from modern British childhoods. It's been adapted for performance and widely distributed in schools and care homes.

    Robert is Director of Studies in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He is married to Professor Julia Lovell and they have three children.


    DISC ONE: Nature Boy by Nat King Cole
    DISC TWO: The Ghost of O'Donahue by Johnny Flynn
    DISC THREE: California Dreamin by The Mamas And The Papas
    DISC FOUR: Birdhouse In Your Soul by They Might Be Giants
    DISC FIVE: Blessing by The Lost Words
    DISC SIX: Four Ethers by Serpentwithfeet
    DISC SEVEN: The Swimming Song by Loudon Wainwright III
    DISC EIGHT: Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time (third movement) performed by Claude Desurmont (clarinet)

    BOOK CHOICE: Collected works of Gerard Manley Hopkins
    LUXURY ITEM: A chilli plant
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: The Ghost of O'Donahue by Johnny Flynn

    Presenter Lauren Laverne
    Producer Sarah Taylor

    • 34 min
    Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, athlete

    Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, athlete

    Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is an Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion heptathlete, and is one of the most successful women in British sporting history. She was the face of Team GB during the 2012 London Olympics, and her image adorned billboards and hoardings across the country in the run up to the Games.

    Born in Sheffield, Jessica discovered sport as a youngster after attending a local athletics camp during the school holidays. By the time she was 13 she was working with a coach and had joined the City of Sheffield Athletics Club.

    In 2006 she won bronze at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games but in 2008 she suffered an injury to her right foot which dashed her hopes of competing in the Beijing Olympics.

    She spent the next year working her way back to fitness and by the 2012 London Olympics she was at the peak of her powers. When she crossed the finish line on 4 August – known as Super Saturday when Team GB won three athletics gold medals in less than an hour – she took the gold medal with a British and Commonwealth record score which remained unbeaten for seven years.

    Just 15 months after the birth of her first child, Jessica won the heptathlon world title in Beijing – her third World Championship gold medal in a row. She won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016. In October of that year, at the age of 30, she retired from competitive athletics.

    DISC ONE: Moment 4 Life by Nicki Minaj
    DISC TWO: Street Life by Randy Crawford
    DISC THREE: Westside by TQ
    DISC FOUR: Foolish by Ashanti
    DISC FIVE: Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious BIG Featuring Mase And Puff Daddy
    DISC SIX: Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack
    DISC SEVEN: Public Service Announcement by Jay-Z
    DISC EIGHT: Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding

    BOOK CHOICE: The Wonders of Life by Professor Brian Cox
    LUXURY ITEM: A photo album
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 35 min
    Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, veterinary surgeon.

    Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, veterinary surgeon.

    Professor Noel Fitzpatrick is a veterinary surgeon who presents the television series The Supervet. He has pushed the boundaries of treatment available to animals and has developed ground breaking surgery including fitting the world’s first bionic leg on a dog.

    Noel was born in Ballyfin in Ireland where his father Sean was a farmer. As a very small boy Noel’s job was to count the sheep at night which he credits as the catalyst for his enduring love of animals.

    He completed his training in Ireland where he worked as a country vet looking after livestock. He moved to England in the 1990s and set up his referral practice in Surrey in 1997.

    Some of his famous clients include Meghan Markle’s dog Guy and Russell Brand’s cat Morrissey. He has also written two best-selling books based on his experiences of working with animals.

    DISC ONE: One by U2
    DISC TWO: Love of My Life by Queen
    DISC THREE: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
    DISC FOUR: Do Anything You Want To by Thin Lizzy
    DISC FIVE: Walking in My Shoes by Depeche Mode
    DISC SIX: Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones
    DISC SEVEN: Uprising by Muse
    DISC EIGHT: Nothing Else Matters (Live) by Metallica And San Francisco Symphony

    BOOK CHOICE: Oscar Wilde: Essays and Letters, Plays and Poems, Stories
    LUXURY ITEM: A guitar
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: One by U2

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 35 min
    Paul Costelloe, fashion designer

    Paul Costelloe, fashion designer

    Paul Costelloe is a fashion designer who recently celebrated his 36th year showing at London Fashion Week, making him the event’s longest-standing designer.

    Paul was born in Dublin where his father ran a successful company making raincoats. He studied at the Grafton Academy of Fashion Design and then moved to Paris where he started a fashion course at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture but felt out of his depth and soon dropped out.

    He talked his way into a job with the eccentric French designer and performer Jacques Esterel, who designed Brigitte Bardot’s wedding dress, and then spent time in Milan and New York before returning to Ireland where he set up his own label.

    In 1983 Paul started designing clothes for Diana, Princess of Wales – a collaboration that lasted until her death in 1997. He created a range of memorable outfits for the Princess of Wales including the tuxedo suit she wore to the Pavarotti in the Park concert at Hyde Park in 1991 where the Italian tenor serenaded her in front of 125,000 people during a torrential downpour.

    DISC ONE: Don't Be Cruel by Elvis Presley
    DISC TWO: Raglan Road by Luke Kelly And The Dubliners
    DISC THREE: Save the Last Dance For Me by The Drifters
    DISC FOUR: Les Champs-Elysees by Joe Dassin
    DISC FIVE: Ol Man River by Paul Robeson
    DISC SIX: Did You Not Hear My Lady by Aled Jones
    DISC SEVEN: Di Capua, Capurro: O Sole Mio! performed by Luciano Pavarotti (tenor) and National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Giancarlo Chiaramello
    DISC EIGHT: Grace by Rod Stewart

    BOOK CHOICE: Reynard the Fox by Anne Louise Avery
    LUXURY ITEM: A painting kit
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Grace by Rod Stewart

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 34 min
    Margaret Busby, publisher

    Margaret Busby, publisher

    Margaret Busby is a publisher and editor who was the chair of the Booker Prize jury in 2020.

    She has spent a life time in the literary world and was the youngest person and first black woman to set up a publishing house when she was twenty three years old. Together with Clive Allison, she created Allison and Busby based in Soho, London.

    Margaret was born in Ghana in the 1940s and spent her childhood at a boarding school in the UK whilst her parents ran a medical practice in rural Ghana. She studied English at Bedford College, University of London before embarking on her career in publishing.

    Margaret’s love of poetry was the catalyst for setting up Allison and Busby. They were both totally new to publishing and did not know the usual industry rules. She and her business partner had fifteen thousand, five shilling poetry magazines printed without any means of distributing them . They went on to be an eclectic publishing house championing new work and also reprinting classic texts from writers of all backgrounds.

    In recent years, Margaret has made time to be a literary judge and has compiled two landmark anthologies Daughters of Africa and New Daughters of Africa which pull together writings by women of African descent from Ancient Egypt to the present day.

    DISC ONE: 7 Seconds by Youssou N’dour with Neneh Cherry
    DISC TWO: Haiti by David Rudder
    DISC THREE: Ave Maria – Gounod by Kathleen Battle (soprano) and Orchestra of St. Lukes, conducted by Leonard Slatkin
    DISC FOUR: Visions by Stevie Wonder
    DISC FIVE: My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone
    DISC SIX: Masanga by Jean Bosco Mwenda
    DISC SEVEN: Soweto Blues by Miriam Makeba
    DISC EIGHT: On The Sunny Side Of The Street by Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins And Sonny Stitt

    BOOK CHOICE: Return to My Native Land by Aimé Césaire
    LUXURY ITEM: An endless supply of Ghanaian chocolate
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Visions by Stevie Wonder

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Sarah Taylor

    • 36 min
    Richard Wilson, actor and director

    Richard Wilson, actor and director

    Richard Wilson is an actor and director who became a household name when he played the part of Victor Meldrew in the BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave.

    Richard was born in Greenock in Scotland in 1936. As a child he performed in amateur drama productions and harboured a secret desire to become an actor. He left school at 17 and trained as a laboratory technician at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow.

    Following National Service in Singapore, he moved to London and at the age of 27 successfully auditioned for a place at RADA. His first role was as a stonemason in Dr Finlay’s Casebook and he later reached a wider audience playing snooty Jeremy Parsons QC in the television series Crown Court.

    Richard went on to carve out a successful theatre and television career as both an actor and director. He starred in the comedy Only When I Laugh and later in the series Tutti Frutti alongside Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane.

    In 1990 he delighted audiences with his portrayal of the grumpy pensioner Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave, with his catchphrase ‘I don’t believe it!’ – a phrase which has haunted Richard ever since. The series regularly attracted an audience of 17 million viewers and Richard won two BAFTAs for his performance.

    Richard received an award for his outstanding contribution to film and television at the Scottish BAFTAs in 2013.

    DISC ONE: Symphony No. 6 in D Minor (4th movement) composed by Jean Sibelius, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Herbert von Karajan
    DISC TWO: Farewell to Stromness by Peter Maxwell Davies
    DISC THREE: Im Abendrot from Four Last Songs, composed by Richard Strauss, performed by Renee Fleming and the Houston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach
    DISC FOUR: The Rite of Spring, composed by Igor Stravinsky, performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Rattle
    DISC FIVE: Cucurrucucu Paloma by Caetano Veloso
    DISC SIX: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack
    DISC SEVEN: Hammond Song by The Roches
    DISC EIGHT: Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor (first movement) by Sheku Kanneh-Mason (cello)

    BOOK CHOICE: The poetry of Robert Burns
    LUXURY ITEM: A subscription to The Guardian newspaper
    CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Im Abendrot from Four Last Songs, composed by Richard Strauss, performed by Renee Fleming and the Houston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach

    Presenter: Lauren Laverne
    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 37 min

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