Desert Island Discs

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Desert Island Discs is a long-running radio programme aired on BBC Radio 4. The show was conceived and originally hosted by Roy Plomley on 29 January, 1942 and is one of the longest running programmes on radio.

The premise of the show is that a guest is castaway on a desert island and must choose just eight recordings that they would like to listen to during their isolation. The choice of records is interspersed with a review of the castaway's life, the choice of music supposedly telling us something more of their character. At the end of the programme the guest is asked to choose one special recording that they would save should a freak wave happen to wash the collection away. In addition the castaway is asked to select a luxury item (supposedly something of no practical use for survival or escape) and a book. To pre-empt many people choosing either the Complete Works of Shakespeare or the Bible, and therefore give the programme more interest - these two volumes are presumed to be already present, although the Q'ran or other holy book may be substituted by those of a non-Christian faith.

However, some non-religious guests guest have caused controversy by not wishing to take The Bible.

  • Michael Mansfield QC said “I would like to take another bible: Leith's Vegetarian Bible”, but [1] The presenter, Kirsty Young, insisted that he had no choice, he had to have a Bible (and “not one in quotes”) or another religious book. He compromised on a philosophical tract: The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine.
  • The comedian David Walliams refused to take the Bible saying “I don’t want the Bible, I don’t like the Bible.”[2]
  • Fellow Little Britain co-star, Jewish-born Matt Lucas, had refused both the Torah and the Bible.[3]
  • David MacVicar the opera director requested to "leave the Bible behind, I'm not interested in that" but when he discovered that he could substitute it with another religious text chose the Bhagavad Gita[4]
  • Tariq Ali, the one-time radical simply declined a religious text.[5]
  • Joe Simpson the mountaineer and writer, having established his unbelieving credentials earlier in the programme was "obviously" not offered the Bible but opted to take the Sutras of Gautama Buddha for interest rather than any religious reason.[6]
  • Anna Ford, the broadcaster and journalist, said "Would it be very rude of me not to take the Bible?"[7]


  1. Desert Island Discs - BBC iPlayer episode, 17 October, 2010.
  2. Desert Island Discs - BBC iPlayer episode, 22 February, 2009.
  3. Desert Island Discs - BBC iPlayer episode, 26 November, 2006.
  4. Desert Island Discs - BBC iPlayer episode, 5 October, 2008.
  5. Desert Island Discs - BBC iPlayer episode, 16 March, 2008.
  6. Desert Island Discs - BBC iPlayer episode, 19 September' 2004.
  7. Broadcast 18 March 2012

Adapted from a deleted RationalWiki article

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