As Lawley sails away, Kirsty Young takes over as queen of the desert island

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The Independent Online

The broadcaster Kirsty Young, anchor of Five News, has been confirmed as the next presenter of Desert Island Discs. The newsreader, who began her career as a radio trainee at BBC Scotland, will take up one of the most coveted positions in broadcasting in the autumn.

Desert Island Discs was first broadcast on 29 January 1942 and Young is only the programme's fourth presenter. Its creator, Roy Plomley, hosted the show from the outset until his death in 1985. Michael Parkinson presented the show for the next three years, handing over to Sue Lawley in 1988.

Each week, a guest is invited to choose the eight pieces of music they would take with them if they were stranded on a remote island, as well as one book and one luxury item.

But the real appeal of the show -which has "The Sleepy Lagoon" as its signature tune - lies in the subtly probing questions that the presenter puts to interviewees to illuminate their personality through their choice of music.

"Castaways" have included the last five British prime ministers, Noel Coward, George Clooney, Stephen Hawking and Princess Margaret.

Young said: "I've loved Desert Island Discs for as long as I've been listening to radio. Its enduring success is testament both to the brilliant format and consistently fascinating guests.

"There isn't a show on radio I'd rather present. I'm completely thrilled to be doing it and can't wait to get started."

After working for BBC Scotland in Glasgow, Young joined Scottish Television as a newsreader and later fronted her own chat show, Kirsty. When she joined the fledgling Five News, Young pioneered the trend for perching on the news desk instead of sitting behind it.

In 1999, she quit Five to present ITV News, but despite the higher audiences, she returned to her old job after two years.

Young, 37, is married to Nick Jones, the owner of the Soho House private members' club empire, and is currently on maternity leave after giving birth to their second daughter.

Mark Damazer, Radio 4's controller, said: "I'm delighted Kirsty Young will be taking over Desert Island Discs. I have admired her work on radio and television for a number of years. She combines warmth and curiosity - the perfect combination to make a success of the programme."

Chris Shaw, the Five News chief, said: "We are delighted that Kirsty will be the new presenter of Desert Island Discs... I personally believe this will only enhance her reputation as a brilliant broadcaster. She remains committed to the channel and will be returning as the main anchor for Five News in the next few weeks."

Young was a surprise appointment. Martha Kearney, the Newsnight and Woman's Hour presenter, who was also passed over for the post of BBC political editor in favour of Nick Robinson, and the former Today presenter Sue MacGregor were both tipped for the job.

Sue Lawley's last Desert Island Discs will be aired on 27 August shortly after her 60th birthday. When her departure was announced in April, she said it had been "one of the best jobs in broadcasting".

"I've had more than 18 very happy years and have talked to some extraordinary people as they revealed themselves through their choice of music," she said.

When Tony Blair appeared on the show shortly before his election victory in 1997, he was accused of "spin" in his music choice, which included Bruce Springsteen and Debussy.

The Tory leader, David Cameron, recently appeared on the show. His selection included Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue", "This Charming Man" by the Smiths and "Ernie (the Fastest Milkman in the West)" by Benny Hill.

Stranded since 1942

* Desert Island Discs was created in 1942 by Roy Plomley and is the longest-running music radio programme in the world.

* For the 'island', guests must choose one book: actor Colin Firth chose the Stories of Woody Allen while the ballerina Darcey Bussell chose a biography of Audrey Hepburn.

* Michael Parkinson took over presenting it after Plomley's death. Sue Lawley has presented the show for the past 18 years.

* While the past five prime ministers have been guests on Desert Island Discs, only John Major appeared while in office. He chose Lord's Cricket Ground as his luxury item. Sir Menzies Campbell wanted a set of golf clubs on his island.