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Private Passions


Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives

Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives
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London, United Kingdom




Guests from all walks of life discuss their musical loves and hates, and talk about the influence music has had on their lives




Margaret MacMillan

Michael Berkeley’s guest on the centenary of Armistice Day is the historian Margaret MacMillan. In this year’s Reith Lectures, Margaret Macmillan delivered a powerful series of lectures exploring war and society, and our complex feelings towards those who fight. She is Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford, and Professor of History at the University of Toronto in her native Canada. But she wasn’t always as well known as she is now; her book Peacemakers,...


Anil Seth

It’s the size and shape of a cauliflower, and weighs about 3 lbs. And yet the average human brain has so many intricate and complex connections that if you counted one connection every second it would take you more than three million years. Professor Anil Seth has devoted his career to trying to understand the brain, puzzling over the mystery of consciousness itself. He’s Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the Sackler Centre at the University of Sussex, and the author...


Richard Powers

As part of Radio 3’s celebration of forests this autumn, Michael Berkeley’s guest is the American novelist Richard Powers. His latest novel, The Overstory, is his twelfth, and it’s a monumental work which was entirely inspired by trees. It all started when Powers was teaching in California, and visited the giant redwoods there. That encounter amounted he says to “a religious conversion”. He realised he’d been blind to these amazing creatures all his life. So, to make up for lost time, in his...


John Bird

Big Issue founder John Bird talks to Michael Berkeley about the role music played in transforming his life. For two weeks in 1970 John Bird worked in the Houses of Parliament washing dishes; in 2015 he returned as a life peer. To say he didn’t have a great start in life is something of an understatement. Born in 1946 in a Notting Hill slum, he was five when his family was made homeless and at seven he was taken into care. Much of his teens was spent in reform school, he slept rough, and he...


Ed Vulliamy

Ed Vulliamy has worked all around the world as a journalist; he’s best-known for his prize-winning coverage of the war in Bosnia, on television and in The Guardian. The war crimes he reported on led to his becoming a witness in the trial of the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, and he was the first journalist since the Nuremberg trials to testify at an international war crimes tribunal. He went on to cover the 9/11 attacks in New York, and more recently the drug wars on the US/Mexico...


Bel Mooney

Bel Mooney describes her pleasures as: watching for kingfishers, riding pillion on a motorbike, and dancing to a 1962 Wurlitzer. That entertaining list reflects something of her enjoyment of a life which has brought many challenges as well as pleasures. Bel Mooney started out as a writer almost fifty years ago, and in 1976 was one of the first journalists to speak from personal experience about the terrible loss of having a stillborn baby; that article led to the founding of the first...


Bella Hardy

Michael Berkeley’s guest is Bella Hardy, a passionate interpreter of traditional songs who has also blossomed into an accomplished songwriter, drawing on the Peak District, where she grew up, as well as influences from as far away as Nashville and China. Despite being only in her early thirties Bella has nine acclaimed solo albums to her name. She was part of the first - and highly memorable - Folk Prom in the Albert Hall in 2008 and she’s held the title of BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the...


Steve Punt

Steve Punt is well known thanks to the popular Radio 4 Friday night comedy, The Now Show - with fellow-host Hugh Dennis, he’s been mocking politicians and celebrities for an astonishing twenty years now. He also presents The Third Degree, the Radio 4 quiz which pits undergraduates against professors. But behind the scenes he’s been busy writing for a whole host of other shows, such as Mock the Week and The Mary Whitehouse Experience, for comedians Jasper Carrott and Rory Bremner; he even...


Eugenia Cheng

At first glance chocolate brownies, puff pastry and Battenberg cake don’t seem to have a great deal in common with theoretical maths, but Eugenia Cheng has harnessed her love of cooking in order to tackle the fear of maths so many of us share – and has published a book about it called How to Bake Pi. Her mission is to rid the world of "maths phobia", and to this end she gave up her secure job teaching at Sheffield University to open up the world of maths to students from other disciplines as...


Lauren Child

Michael Berkeley's guest is the best-selling author, illustrator, and Children's Laureate Lauren Child. I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato; I Am Too Absolutely Small for School; I Am Not Sleepy and Will Not Go to Bed - these are just three of Lauren Child's bestselling, funny and touching picture books for young children. Her big-eyed characters such as Charlie and Lola, and Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent, capture the way children negotiate the small but significant challenges of family...


Henry Blofeld

Ahead of this week's first test against India, Michael Berkeley's guest is cricket commentator Henry Blofeld. Henry was a very promising young cricketer, but his prospects of a first-class career were ended by a near-fatal accident at the age of seventeen. He eventually found his way to cricket journalism and ultimately to Test Match Special, where he was a mainstay for nearly fifty years, illuminating each match with his forensic knowledge of the game, as well as entertaining listeners with...


Audrey Niffenegger

Audrey Niffenegger had a huge worldwide success with her first novel, The Time-Traveller's Wife, which sold eight million copies in thirty-six languages. It was made into a film, of which, she says, the least said the better. But that commercial success bought her creative freedom - and what she's done with it is intriguing. After a second novel, about the ghosts in Highgate Cemetery, Audrey Niffenegger has gone back to her first love of art, combining story-telling with comic-book-style...


Paco Peña

Paco Peña first started playing the guitar at the age of six; it was his older brother's guitar, and since there were nine children in the family, all living in two rooms in a crowded house in Córdoba, he had a ready-made audience right from the beginning. He made his first professional appearance at the age of twelve, and toured through Spain before moving to London in the 1960s, where he found himself sharing concerts with Jimi Hendrix. Over the last fifty years he's established a...


Adjoa Andoh

The actor Adjoa Andoh talks to Michael Berkeley about her passion for theatre, opera, and the music that reflects both her English and African heritage. Whether you're a regular at the National Theatre or Old Vic, prefer your entertainment on the big screen, or like to curl up on the sofa in front of Dr Who or Casualty (or - even - with the radio), you'll be familiar with the work of Adjoa Andoh. The daughter of a history teacher and of an exiled Ghanaian journalist, she was heading for a...


Kim Moore

Kim Moore won the prestigious Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize this year for her first poetry collection, "The Art of Falling", and is still only in her thirties. The judges described her prize-winning collection as "thrilling: language at its most irresistible and essential". But however thrilling, poets need to make a living, and Kim Moore's day job has been as a trumpet teacher, in Cumbria where she lives. She's also conducted brass bands. In Private Passions, Kim Moore explores her musical...


Miranda Krestovnikoff

As part of Radio 3's week in the forest, Michael Berkeley talks to wildlife presenter, President of the RSPB and accomplished musician Miranda Krestovnikoff. She's dived with sharks, shown viewers how to eat roadkill, and searched for mammoth bones in the North Sea. The co-presenter of ten series of Coast, Miranda's also a regular on The One Show and Radio 4's Costing the Earth. As well as the RSPB she's involved in numerous other environmental and wildlife charities. She tells Michael about...


Richard Smith

Dr Richard Smith heads an organisation called Patients Know Best, and having been editor of the British Medical Journal for most of his career, he now enjoys stirring things up in a provocative weekly blog there. Among his targets: the sinister power of drug companies - and the not unrelated tendency of doctors to over-treat illnesses like cancer. When he's not stirring things up at home, Richard Smith is in Bangladesh, working for a charity trying to prevent the terrible human loss caused...


Peter Florence

The Hay Festival began in 1988 with 250 people in a field in mid Wales. Thirty years later, the crowd has swelled to more than quarter of a million - 265,000 people are expected to turn up this year over ten days - and it's still in a field in mid-Wales. But the Hay Festival has also grown into an international brand, with spin-offs across the world in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Segovia. The Festival founder, Peter Florence, has been running it all that time; he started it with his parents -...


Elisabeth Luard

Michael Berkeley talks to the food writer, artist and journalist Elisabeth Luard about her favourite music and the memories it conjures up of the joys and tragedies of family life. The winner of the Guild of Food Writers Award for Lifetime Achievement, she has written more than twenty cookbooks, including European Peasant Cookery, Flavours of Andalucía, and A Cook's Year in a Welsh Farmhouse. And her compelling series of memoirs documents the joys and appalling tragedy she's experienced as a...


Lubaina Himid

For Lubaina Himid, winning the Turner Prize is recognition for thirty-five years of work as a painter, curator and installation artist. Her work is witty, vibrantly coloured, and provocative; in her most famous work, "Naming the Money", she filled galleries with more than a hundred huge and very beautiful cut-outs of African figures from the past - the forgotten black servants and musicians who were brought back by their slave-masters to live in Britain in the 18th century. Lubaina Himid...