The best Christmas radio

Radio Times radio editor Jane Anderson picks her festive favourites


1. Alice through the Looking Glass (Saturday 22 December, 2.30pm, Radio 4)


The festivities begin with an explosive cracker in this re-interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s surreal fantasy. It’s as much fun identifying the stars of Radio 4 performing unlikely comic turns as it is listening to the drama. Jenni Murray, Evan Davies, Kirsty Young, Bob Flowerdew and Garry Richardson are among those proving their thespian talents, but it’s Nicholas Parsons as Humpty Dumpty who is the most extraordinary revelation.

2. The Classic FM Interview Sunday (23 December, 9.00pm, Classic FM)

Michael Palin is so adored that when fellow Python John Cleese appeared on Desert Island Discs he asked for a stuffed Michael Palin as his luxury item. Nick Ferrari’s long conversation with the warm-hearted polymath touches upon the classical music that has accompanied him throughout his life — including a piece by Sibelius recommended to him by one John Ravenscroft (aka John Peel), when they were at school together.

3. A Little Twist of Dahl (Christmas Eve-Friday 28 December, 10.45am/7.45pm, Radio 4)

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a creepy tale or two, and Radio 4 has surpassed itself with these five Roald Dahl chillers, each with an unexpected twist. Charles Dance narrates the mini-noir dramas, while actors of the calibre of Celia Imrie and Kenneth Cranham give voice to Dahl’s darkest imaginings.

4. The Magic Faraway Tree (Christmas Eve, 11.30am, Radio 4)

A proper family listen in this gentle Enid Blyton fantasy about the magical worlds to be found at the top of a huge tree inhabited by fairy folk. Johnny Vegas is on great comic form as Moon-Face, one of the tree’s residents. I love the fact that the children’s names have been changed from Dick and Fanny to Rick and Frannie, for obvious reasons. 

5. Woman’s Hour (Christmas Day, 10.00am, Radio 4)

Ladies who lunch, bake, make, drink, hurdle and act gather with Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey for a specially extended festive edition for Christmas Day. Mary Berry, Monica Galetti and Allegra McEvedy have sanity-saving kitchen tips, Kirstie Allsopp, Anna Friel and Jessica Ennis share their festive plans, Miranda Hart provides the laughs and then Suzy Atkins rustles up some pre-lunch aperitifs to wash it all down.

6. French and Saunders (Christmas Day—Thursday 27 December, 2.00pm, Radio 2)

The only show that feels as if you have accidentally stumbled into the presenters’ living room while they’re having a good old natter. As light and frothy as a cappuccino, it’s the perfect distraction for the stressed adults of Britain (en)during the festive period.

7. Archive on 4: Blithe Margaret (Saturday 29 December, 8.00pm, Radio 4)

Stephen Fry adores Margaret Rutherford as only a gay man can worship a stout, five-chinned woman of a certain age. This celebration of the comedy actress’s life includes an interview with one of her relatives — the retired MP Tony Benn.

8. I Was a Teenage Heart-throb (Sunday 30—Monday 31 Dec, 7.00pm, Radio 2)

It’s David Cassidy! And Donny Osmond!! It’s enough to make you shriek and there’ll be plenty of screams to come as Nina Myskow revisits the teenage mania that made megastars out of these callow teens four decades ago this year.

9. They Write the Songs (Thursday 3 January, 10.00pm, Radio 2)


Talking of megastars, they don’t get much shinier than Barry Manilow, who enjoyed his 2011 Radio 2 series on songwriters so much that he’s come back for another. Cue yet more lusty middle-aged screaming.