Listeners sail to the rescue of Kirsty Young on 'Desert Island Discs'

Like many castaways, Kirsty Young was forced to cross some choppy water on her journey to the presenter's chair at Desert Island Discs.

News that she was to replace Sue Lawley as host of the long-running Radio 4 programme sparked a barrage of negative headlines that portrayed the "auto-cutie" newsreader's appointment as "dumbing down."

Young's debut show, which featured the children's illustrator Quentin Blake, received several hostile reviews and prompted a tabloid newspaper profile that dubbed her "ruthless, disloyal, and chillingly ambitious."

Yesterday there was further controversy: the chef Heston Blumenthal was accused of using this week's edition of the BBC programme to "plug" BMW cars. The firm had recently held several business events at his Berkshire restaurant.

Yet despite the media hoo-hah surrounding her appointment, Young has managed to gain approval from the one group that really matters: Desert Island Discs' loyal band of listeners. Sources at the BBC say audience figures for her opening five programmes - which have featured interviews with the actress Jane Horrocks, and The Independent's Robert Fisk - have far outstripped those achieved in the final days of Sue Lawley's reign.

Calls and e-mails to the BBC's "audience line", in which viewers and listeners can pass comment on programming, have endorsed Young's style of interviewing by a majority of roughly two to one.

Official figures are not due to be released by Rajar, the radio monitoring service, until 18 December. But the increase in audience is larger than would normally be expected.

Correspondents on the BBC's internet message board appear to endorse the positive viewpoint.

"She is such a wonderful relief from the hectoring style of Sue Lawley, whose interviewing technique only served to bring out the defences of interviewees and annoy the hell out of me!" wrote one listener, going by the name of "Bluescout".

"Kirsty has a wonderful way of making a relationship with her guest, which then allows them to really open up about themselves."

Although the BBC is able to delete negative and abusive comments from its internet site, sources at the corporation insist that reports of it having received a "barrage" of complaints form dissatisfied listeners are simply untrue.

"We can't find any record of complaints being received," said a senior colleague of Young. "In our view the negative press that her shows received have been attacks on her personally, rather than the substance of her actual shows."

The colleague claimed that critics have unfairly focused on Young's nationality and membership of a supposed media elite. Her husband, Nick Jones, runs the Soho House members' club in London.

"She's a successful woman who has worked her socks off to get where she is," said a friend. "None of the criticisms levelled at her would have applied to a man. It's so sexist, and really such a pathetically English thing to do."

Young herself has refused to be drawn on the matter, but shortly after her appointment she did break ranks to deny that a "tartan mafia" had helped her to land the prestigious job.

"I know we Scots do have quite a lot of good jobs, but all I can say is that I'm not part of some underground Scottish group who roll up their trousers to give each other jobs," she said.

What the critics said ...

* The Daily Telegraph - Gillian Reynolds

"It pains me to say this, not least because I forecast the opposite, but she isn't very good at this programme... Maybe she's just too nice."

* The Times - Chris Campling

"Quentin Blake is obviously a very nice man, and Young was enjoying talking to him. But it wasn't right for the first programme."

* The Observer - Miranda Sawyer

"Though she's picked up Lawley's meticulous research habits, and, spookily, her way of summarising a person's life and then pausing for them to elaborate, Kirsty hasn't yet acquired Sue's killer touch."

* The Independent on Sunday - Nicholas Lezard

"My only problem, if you can call it that, is with Kirsty Young's voice. Low, luscious and slightly husky, I found it rather more full of erotic suggestiveness than Sue Lawley's, or even Michael Parkinson's. I found it hard to concentrate, what with having to rush off for a cold shower every few minutes."

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution