Later this month BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs will mark 75 years on air with former footballing pro and ex-England captain David Beckham as the castaway.
“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.” – Gwyneth Williams, Controller of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra
On-air celebrations will begin on the January 28 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.
In total eight episodes will be restored to the 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.
The addition of nine extracts will bring 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.
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.
“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!” – Kirsty Young, presenter of Desert Island Discs
Since it was first heard on 29th January 1942, the programme has played host to more than 3,000 individuals, all of whom have spoken about their lives and chosen eight tracks, a book and a luxury item that they would take with them to a desert island.
Radio 4 Extra is to 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 January 29 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 January 24. 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. Those celebrating on social networking sites can get involved using the hashtag #DIDat75.
David will be Kirsty’s castaway on January 29 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.
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. The show remains one of BBC Radio’s most loved programmes with a weekly on air audience of 2.8m.
“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.” – David Beckham