Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young: the question I forgot to ask Aung San Suu Kyi

The presenter tells Radio Times about how she nearly spoiled one of the show's greatest ever interviews


Aung San Suu Kyi’s appearance on Desert Island Discs, to be broadcast on Radio 4 this Sunday, is one of the show’s proudest moments. “To get the Queen to appear is, perhaps, the only comparable guest on the DID wish list,” according to Kirsty Young, who has hosted the programme since 2006.


But Young tells the new issue of Radio Times that she was so flustered when faced with the Nobel-winning Burmese democracy advocate, she nearly forgot something crucial: the final question, about which of the eight selected songs the castaway would take to their desert island if they could only have one.

“The experience was so intense and had such a surreal quality about it that I forgot to ask her which of the eight tracks she would save,” Young said.

Fortunately, producer Nick Springate saved the day with a last-minute prompt. “Nick frantically signalled to me by holding up a single finger. My mind was busy doing cartwheels of joy!”

The interview, which took place in Naypyidaw, Burma, happened after six months of negotiation: “It fell through two or three times and it wasn’t until I was sitting opposite her with a microphone that I actually believed it was going to happen,” said Young. “I’d been swotting for this interview like I was doing an exam. Up until the point when she walked in the room and sat down, I could not allow myself to believe that it was happening.”


Read more about Kirsty Young’s encounter with Aung San Suu Kyi – including what sort of music was chosen and why she reminded Young of Elizabeth Taylor – in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, in shops now.