Kirsty Young: 75 Years of Desert Island Discs Arena


Kirsty Young: 75 Years of Desert Island Discs

As Desert Island Discs reaches 75, today's custodian of the island, Kirsty Young, introduces the 1982 Bafta-winning Arena classic.


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MUSIC: Desert Island Discs theme

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Desert Island Discs has been on air for 75 years,

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attracting to its shores Nobel laureates,

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Oscar winners, politicians,

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Olympians, business titans and some of the world's greatest thinkers.

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Not bad for a little show dreamt up

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one chilly night in a Hertfordshire bedsit

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and expected to run for no more than about six episodes.

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What follows is the Arena film made in 1982

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to celebrate its 40th birthday.

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Desert Island Discs' presenter back then was the same fellow

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who'd come up with the format at the tail end of 1941, Roy Plomley.

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In the last three quarters of a century,

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the premise has remained remarkably faithful

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to his original, utterly brilliant idea.

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Eight discs, a book to add to the complete works of Shakespeare

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and the Bible, and a single luxury

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to make life on this lonely little spit of land

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just a bit more bearable.

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There are some superb sequences,

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including Paul McCartney's recording,

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which includes a track from John Lennon,

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who had been killed just over a year previously.

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A zinger of an admission

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from the gravel-voiced actress Tallulah Bankhead,

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and comedy genius Frankie Howerd's touchingly tender choice

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of his little luxury.

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Interviewing is essentially a consensual activity,

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and when it happens is almost as important as who it happens with.

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These days, sadly, I'm not allowed the indulgence

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of loosening my guests' tongues with a couple of large G&Ts,

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as Roy sometimes did.

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But I do have the advantage of talking to castaways in an era

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when a little bit of introspection is considered a desirable thing.

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I do wonder if Otto Preminger

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would have been quite as tricky a castaway

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if he were recording his Desert Island Discs these days.

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So I've been marooning the great and the good on the island

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for ten years now, and it's been as rewarding a task

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as any I can think of in broadcasting.

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Before me, the island was in the custody of Sue Lawley

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and before that, Michael Parkinson.

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But before all of us was the man

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who thought of the whole thing in the first place.

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As Desert Island Discs reaches 75, today's custodian of the island, Kirsty Young, introduces the 1982 Bafta-winning Arena classic. It celebrated Roy Plomley and his magical idea on their 40th anniversary.

By then, everyone who was anyone had been cast adrift and washed up on Roy's island. Arena's castaways include 40th anniversary guest Paul McCartney, Frankie Howerd, Trevor Brooking, Professor J K Galbraith, Russell Harty and the great comedian Arthur Askey.


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