The 7 best radio shows to listen to this Christmas

From Ed Balls to Jodie Whittaker – there’s a starry line-up taking to the airwaves...

Christmas radio (BBC, EH)

Ed Balls on Musical Theatre – Radio 2

3pm New Year’s Day


There’s no let-up in the post-politics flowering of Ed Balls, and here the former shadow chancellor celebrates one of his great loves — musical theatre. Fellow Strictly star Craig Revel Horwood (above right, with Balls) is one of his guests, along with Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker of the House of Commons who was once a Tiller Girl. We can look forward to the best of such shows as Annie, The Lion King, School of Rock and Follies.

Anansi Boys – Radio 4

11.30pm Christmas Day

Anansi Boys (BBC, EH)

Neil Gaiman says that his fantasy novel Anansi Boys started life more than 20 years ago when he and Lenny Henry were working together. “Lenny told me that it was wrong that back then there really weren’t any horror films with black leads, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll write you one.’” Anansi Boys was a novel before it was filmed, and now here’s Henry in a Radio 4 production that Gaiman considers to be the best example yet of many radio adaptations of his work.

Desert Island Discs – Radio 4

Across the holidays

“We always try to give Desert Island Discs listeners some special treats over the Christmas period,” says its longtime producer Cathy Drysdale, and Strictly fans will be delighted to know that Bruno Tonioli will be stepping on to the DID dancefloor on Christmas Eve. Before Bruno there’s Frasier and Cheers star Kelsey Grammer and the great Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame. Chef Angela Hartnett is the New Year’s Eve castaway.

Wise Women 6 Music

From 6pm on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Wise Women (BBC, EH)

The only radio that Sharon Horgan says she listens to is 6 Music and now the TV creative best known for Catastrophe gets to curate an evening of music on the station. On Boxing Day she rounds off a three-day Wise Women series, which also puts new Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker and Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto in the presenter’s chair.

Today – Radio 4

Across the holidays

Guest-editing Today is a Christmas tradition that dates back to 2003 and invariably creates news. The first Christmas that Today editor Sarah Sands has overseen promises plenty more, with a line-up in which Prince Harry (above) would have been the most eye-catching name had not Artificial Intelligence muscled in. They are joined by novelist Ben Okri, 95-year-old Conservative peer Baroness Trumpington and ballet’s Tamara Rojo.

Horatio Clare’s Bach Walk – Radio 3

Starts at 7pm on Tuesday 19th December

Horatio Clare’s Offa’s Dyke walk — four hours of rumination, music and the crunch of woodland path under foot — was one of the highlights of Radio 3’s spring. Now the poet is back for another lovely long helping of “slow radio”, pulling on his boots and going where JS Bach went in 1705 when the 20-year-old composer walked 250 miles across Germany in order to visit one of his musical heroes, Dietrich Buxtehude.

Paint It Black with Ronnie Wood and Anneka Rice – Radio 2

5pm Wednesday 27th December

Paint it Black with Ronnie Wood and Anneka Rice (BBC, EH)

It was when Anneka Rice’s children were small that she decided to take a career break — her extended sabbatical included studying at Chelsea College of Art. Painting is a huge part of her life, as it is for Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, whose own alma mater was Ealing College of Art. The two of them get together to talk art and music, and at the end of a year in which Rice’s lovely early Saturday morning show got shunted into a late-night slot, this is a welcome return to prominence.