Kirsty Young on swotting for Desert Island Discs and how she winds down from “intense” interviews

The presenter also reveals the one person she’d love to bring back to life and interview

Desert Island Discs - Kirsty Young (BBC, EH)

What can you see from your sofa, Kirsty?


A log fire, an unfeasibly slim TV, a tray stacked with the books the family currently is or should be reading and three sleeping dogs.

What’s your sofa like?

We have a long sofa recovered in a fiendishly clever fabric. It looks and feels like velvet but it’s actually a hi-tech outdoor fabric that repels spillages and deals admirably with muddy paws. In front is a central leather stool for the essential pastime of putting one’s feet up.

Is there a programme you absolutely love?

The Crown. It’s irresistible and people getting their knickers in a knot about “accuracy” are missing the point – it’s a drama, not a documentary. It aims incredibly high and delivers. It’s not only brilliantly entertaining but in the tradition of all great drama it helps us understand essential truths about an often opaque institution.

Is there any TV show that keeps you up at night?

Happy Valley – series after series. Is it coming back? Sally Wainwright, can you hear me?

How do you prepare for the Desert Island Discs interviews?

I do a lot of swotting at home in my study before recording day – with research notes compiled by the brilliant Desert Island Discs team and lots of source material. From soft matter physics to the life and work of our greatest movie directors – these past 11 years have been my education.

Is there anyone you’d love to bring back to life and have on Desert Island Discs?

I did once meet David Bowie in New York but I would so dearly have loved to have cast him away too.

Often the interviews are very emotional – do you need to relax afterwards?

I always try to walk in the fresh air afterwards, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Seeing other people going about their business helps to put the whole thing in perspective as recordings can often be a little… shall we say… intense.

You spend most of your time on the radio but what do you listen to at home?

Eddie Mair is quite good, isn’t he? I am also, let’s be frank, obsessed by Liza Tarbuck’s Saturday night show on Radio 2 – her playlist is always spankingly good, her sense of humour is infallible and her connection with her listeners is beyond brilliant. The definition of a great live broadcaster. Liza on the radio, a G&T in one hand and saucepan in the other and I’m very happy indeed.


Desert Island Discs is on Sundays at 11.15am on BBC Radio 4