Today marks the 70th anniversary of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, a wonderful programme that you really must check out, if you haven’t listened to it before.
For the uninitiated, here’s how the show functions: after a little bit of very languid music and seagull calls, the host speaks to that episode’s guest (a writer, politician, sports figure, actor or musician) and asks him or her to talk about eight recordings he or she has chosen to take along, if ever stranded on a desert island.
The guest’s life and career are discussed with those eight songs punctuating the talk. At the conclusion, the guests are also asked which one book and one luxury item they would like to bring.
Sometimes, when working late at office, I’ll go to the DID archives and select a recording, sometimes to great surprise and delight, especially for the little details about a person’s life that you may not have known before (for example, British actor Richard Briers is a cousin of Terry Thomas, or Hanif Kurieshi’s father was born in Madras).
If you are fond of Indian or South Asian authors or directors or actors, you can listen to episodes with Ismail Merchant, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Salman Rushdie, Imran Khan (the cricketer), Hanif Kureishi, Mark Tully, and (premiered just a week back) Vikram Seth.
On the Irish side, guests have included Seamus Heaney, Bob Geldof, Christy Moore, Paddy Moloney, Edna O’Brien (twice a guest), Maeve Binchy, James Nesbitt, Sinead Cusack (who has been on twice), and Frank McCourt.
And then there are some glorious recordings with other British writers and film and theater people, such as Emma Thompson, Sir Patrick Stewart, Anthony Andrews, Sir Michael Caine, Richard Briers, and Jeremy Irons (actor and husband to Sinead Cusack).
Congrats to the Beeb for such delightful content, and here’s to another 70 years!