Desert Island Discs: 11 Of Kirsty Young's Best Episodes

From Davina McCall to David Nott.

After 12 years at the helm Kirsty Young has officially stepped down from Desert Island Discs.

The presenter took a leave of absence from the Radio 4 show last year, due to her battle with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition which causes pain all over the body.

Lauren Laverne then stepped in and on Friday it was confirmed she’ll be continuing to host the show, as while Kirsty is “well on the way to feeling much better”, she’s decided not to return.

Following confirmation of her exit, here are 11 of Kirsty’s best interviews to listen to...

1. Davina McCall (2016)

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The presenter’s life has not been easy, and in her episode, Davina covered a number of tough topics, discussing her mother’s struggles with addiction, explaining that when she tried to build bridges and invited her to her wedding, she sold the pictures to a tabloid newspaper. Davina also spoke candidly about her own battle with narcotics.

2. Tom Hanks (2016)

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The Castaway actor has spent more time than most considering the realities of being stranded, but that didn’t stop the tears from flowing during his interview. While discussing this childhood, Tom admitted to suffering from acute loneliness, explaining: “There’s a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is to be avoided.”

3. James Corden (2012)

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He might be one of the most recognisable figures in showbiz right now, thanks to The Late, Late Show, but James’ interview came shortly after a far more rocky stage in his career.

Given just how popular he would go on to become, it’s interesting to hear James being interviewed by Kirsty at a time when he was still rebuilding his public profile after taking more than a few knocks (adding to the vulnerability is his quiet speaking voice throughout, a result of his then-ongoing performances in the play One Man, Two Guv’nors).

4. Julie Burchill (2013)

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While Kirsty is usually renowned for her cool and relaxing tone, she has had moments of clashing with her Castaways, most notably when Julie Burchill was her guest.

One particular moment which led to tension came as Julie spoke “so clearly unrepentantly” about her past drug and alcohol abuse.

“That’s their hard cheddar,” she shot back at host Kirsty. “I’m not telling them to do it, I’m just saying honestly what I’ve done myself.”

5. Martin Sheen (2011)

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The West Wing star opened up about his own struggle with addiction, before speaking candidly about his son Charlie’s much-publicised problems with substance abuse.

If he had cancer, how would we deal with him?” he asked. “Well, he has another disease and it is equally as dangerous as cancer. And so we lift him up and we pray for him and be present to him. And we try to meet with him as much as we can. But he is an adult and he needs a lot of help on a lot of different levels.”

6. Emma Thompson (2011)

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Emma discussed the anguish and depression she suffered after splitting from her first husband, Kenneth Branagh, crediting her now husband Greg Wise with “saving” her. “I should have sought professional help. Divorce. Ghastly, painful business.” she said, later adding: “Work saved me and Greg saved me. He picked up the pieces and put them together again.”

7. David Nott (2016)


The surgeon was “severely traumatised” when he returned from working in Aleppo and found help in one of the unlikeliest places - Buckingham Palace. During a conversation over lunch with The Queen(!), his distress became clear, so she called in the corgis and they sat feeding the dogs for a short while.

8. George Michael (2007)

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The former Wham! star’s episode wasn’t especially teary, but in light of his recent death, it makes for poignant listening.

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In his moving interview, the Reverend discussed the death of his daughter, Johanna, who was killed in a tragic car crash when she was less than a year old. “It’s just the constant reminder of the uncertainty in life,” he said. “The only certainty in this life is Christ – everything else is contention.”

10. Yoko Ono (2007)

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Yoko’s powerful interview revealed her anguish about what she faced as John Lennon’s partner, describing the days they spent together before he was shot and killed.

11. Nicola Sturgeon (2015)

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Many politicians have taken a set opposite Kirsty in the Desert Island Discs studio, but Nicola’s interview is one of the best.

The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) spoke openly about her career, becoming the party’s first female leader and the first woman to be Scotland’s First Minister.

But best of all, her track choices were exemplary as Nicola and Kirsty blasted out Cilla Black, Kate Bush and Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves along the way.

Explore the whole Desert Island Discs archive here.


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