New BBC digital station offers 69 years of 'Desert Island Discs'

If you want David Cameron singing Benny Hill's "Ernie" on your iPod, or a download of Johnny Vegas talking about how his dad skinned his pet rabbit, or even Kathy Burke requesting a life-size laminated photograph of business guru James Caan to use for bodysurfing, then your time has come.

The BBC is to give public access to the archive of the classic Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs, allowing downloads of the past 500 editions and listing the choices made by every guest since the programme began in 1942. The archive will become live with the launch of the re-branded digital network Radio 4 Extra, which replaces Radio 7 next month. The new station will broadcast classic editions from the past decade, introduced and contextualised by the host Kirsty Young.

Announcing details of the network at Broadcasting House in London yesterday, the head of BBC Radio, Tim Davie, said Radio 4 Extra was not intended to draw listeners away from Radio 4 or other BBC analogue stations but to provide added content that would encourage use of digital radio.

Radio 4 Extra will also feature a series of family-based plays, starting with Ian Fleming's novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car, read by Imogen Stubbs, followed by the children's classic The Silver Sword written by Ian Serraillier. The comedian Arthur Smith has been hired to host the station's comedy club.

Mr Davie said Radio 4 Extra would also provide extended versions of Desert Island Discs shows already broadcast on Radio 4 in the past year. These hour-long broadcasts would contain up to 15 minutes more conversation with the guest.

Online searches of the past selections of the guests of presenters Roy Plomley, Michael Parkinson, Sue Lawley and Ms Young during the past 69 years will reveal many gems. Actor Sir Norman Wisdom requested as his luxury item a pot of stew with two dumplings. Publisher Felix Dennis desired a stainless steel shaft so he might attempt to entice Mermaid pole-dancers. Former chat show host Russell Harty wanted a Union flag and a pole to claim the island for Britain.

The BBC wants to encourage digital listening, which accounts for only 25 per cent of the British radio audience. Just 3 per cent listen via the internet, which Mr Davie believes is a missed opportunity.

Mr Davie said the reception for Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radios was "like a Swiss cheese" in London and that the radio industry was searching for the highest possible building on which to base a transmitter.

Classic Episodes

Norman Mailer The American author declared he would choose "a stick of the finest marijuana" as his luxury item. The request was politely refused by the programme's creator, Roy Plomley.

Kathy Burke The comedian defended her dislike of relationships and spoke about her alcoholic father. She wanted a life-size picture of businessman James Caan, from Dragons' Den, on which to surf.

Johnny Vegas In a moving episode, the comic discussed the year he spent at a Catholic seminary where other children were abused: "When I left, I felt very guilty. I wanted to take everybody else with me."

Tony Adams Interviews with footballers are rarely as insightful as this one, in which the former England captain opened up about the alcohol addiction that almost wrecked his career.

Oliver Reed The late actor and reveller put in a characteristically rousing performance, nominating a blow-up doll as the luxury item he would take to the island.

Gordon Brown Appearing in 1996 with rumours circulating about his sexuality owing to his bachelor status, the soon-to-be Chancellor said he was straight but that a relationship "just hasn't happened".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Guru Careers: PR Account Director / SAM

£50 - 60k (DOE) + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A PR Account Director / SAM ...

Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Insight Analyst

£32 - £37K + extensive benefits: Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Ins...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific