BBC Radio 4 celebrates 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs
On Sunday 29 January, BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs will sail into its 75th anniversary with former professional footballer and ex-England captain David Beckham as the castaway.
On-air celebrations will begin on 28 January with a special three hour programme on BBC Radio 4 Extra featuring some of the wonderful voices from the archive and extracts from recently rediscovered episodes, which will also be restored to the show’s online archive.
Sunday’s episode of Desert Island Discs will also pay homage to the occasion by re-introducing the sound of sea wash to the opening and closing of the programme for the first time since the 1960s.
David Beckham says: “I’m delighted to join Desert Island Discs for its 75th anniversary celebrations. Music has been a huge part of my - and my family’s - life and it is a real pleasure to highlight that on such an iconic programme.”
Kirsty Young, presenter of Desert Island Discs, says: “Seventy five is a birthday worth celebrating and having David Beckham as my Castaway seems like the perfect gift. His sporting legacy is of course extraordinary. And along with his charisma, cultural impact and humanitarian work, he is a modern man of many parts. He’ll be a fascinating guest to welcome on to my little interview island!"
Since it was first heard on 29th January 1942, the programme has invited over 3,000 guests to talk about their lives and choose eight tracks, a book and a luxury item that they would take with them to a desert island.
Gwyneth Williams, Controller of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra, says: “A sure way to uncover an elusive British national identity is to listen to this programme week after week. The broad range of guests is a measure of contemporary talent and achievement, and the music opens up different eras and prompts emotional memory in all of us. Moreover, the rich archive now offers an understanding of how we have changed over time; what moves us and matters to us at different periods in our history. Desert Island Discs, with its splendid presenter, Kirsty Young, lies very much at the heart of Radio 4.”
Radio 4 Extra will set the celebrations into motion on Saturday 28th January with a three hour special presented by Kirsty Young. In Desert Island Discs at 75, Kirsty Young showcases some of the programme’s best moments, from Cilla Black talking about her early career, singing with The Beatles, and how a misprint in a magazine led to her changing her name, to Richard Dimbleby recalling being one of the first war correspondents to visit Hitler’s bunker after his death and taking from it an engraved cutlery set.
Desert Island Discs at 75 will also feature extracts from recently rediscovered episodes. Among these is Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s interview from 1958, in which the soprano reveals why she famously chose seven of her own recordings, and from the same year is Roy Plomley’s second appearance on his own programme in which he’s interviewed by Eamonn Andrews.
In total eight episodes will be restored to the Desert Island Discs archive this year, including silent movie star Tallulah Bankhead’s interview from 1964, BBC radio presenter Alan Keith’s from 1971, comedian Marty Feldman’s from 1968, and pianist Hephzibah Menuhin’s from 1958. A further nine extracts will be added to the archive, bringing Desert Island Discs’ fans more from the likes of actor Tod Slaughter who was cast away in 1955, as well as TV presenter Barry Bucknell, singer Moira Anderson, and musical theatre writer Julian Slade, all of whom were cast away in the 1960s.
Radio 4 Extra will also bring listeners a run of some of the most notable episodes from across the decades in Desert Island Discs Revisited, starting with conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent on 29 January at 10.15am.
In addition, Desert Island Discs will continue its anniversary celebrations this year by making extended versions of some of the biggest interviews, which will be added to the online archive and available to download.
Off-air, the anniversary will be honoured with a desert island sand sculpture outside BBC Broadcasting House on Tuesday 24 January. Hidden within the design – ready to be spotted by members of the public - will be some of the luxury items that castaways have chosen over the years.
Over the anniversary weekend, Radio 4 listeners will also be invited to join the celebrations on social media by sharing their favourite moments from Desert Island Discs using the hashtag #DIDat75.
David Beckham will be Kirsty Young’s castaway on Sunday 29 January at 11.15am on BBC Radio 4. An extended edition of the interview will be available online and to download as a podcast after transmission.
Desert Island Discs at 75 will air on BBC Radio 4 Extra on Saturday 28 January at 9am and will be available to download as a podcast after broadcast.
Desert Island Discs Revisited begins its run of notable guests on Radio 4 Extra on 29 January at 10.15am.
The celebrated format was devised by Roy Plomley, who hosted the show until 1985, after which it was presented by Michael Parkinson until 1988 and Sue Lawley until 2006. Today, in the hands of current presenter Kirsty Young, the show continues its reign as one of BBC Radio’s most loved programmes with a weekly on air audience of 2.8 million. Desert Island Discs is also available as a podcast with iTunes and an extensive archive is available online, with episodes dating back to the 1950s available to listen and download.