BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs archive expansion

4 Jul

It’s one of the best radio programmes ever devised and now all of you (including those outside the UK) can access free official audio versions of episodes dating back to 1951. Most can be downloaded as mp3s directly from the website or as podcasts through iTunes. Due to copyright issues (involving the creator Roy Plomley’s wife) the programme had not initially been available on the iPlayer, but once these issues were resolved, the Beeb gradually uploaded all of the complete programming from its archive (a total of 1565 episodes).

For the uninitiated the programme follows a simple but effective interview format, in which a guest (or “castaway”) is asked to choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item for their imaginary stay on a desert island, while discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices. Originally devised and presented by Roy Plomley in 1942, it is one of the longest-running radio programmes in the world. And although it celebrated its sixtieth anniversary earlier this year, only four people have ever presented it! Besides Plomley, who hosted it until his death in 1985, the other presenters are Michael Parkinson (1985-88), Sue Lawley (1988-2006) and Kirsty Young (2006- ).

Since I was introduced to it four years ago, I have spent many hours listening to the archive and its current broadcasts. I can’t think of any other weekly programme that brings out as much emotion in the listener as Desert Island Discs. As a national treasure it must be preserved in cotton wool for current and future generations to enjoy. I only wish many more of the archive episodes which have probably been lost forever, particularly those from before 1975, could somehow be recovered. As a rule until 1976, the music was edited out of the majority of the programmes and only the speech was archived.

But all is not lost. The Beeb’s archivists have kindly uploaded a user-friendly database of every episode listing the castaway’s eight pieces of music, book and luxury item. The database is searchable by name, year, occupation, presenter and gender. There’s also access to four specials that have been recorded since 1992 and other random useless information (aka trivia) in the About section.

Official Website on the BBC
Wikipedia Page


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: