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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




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...


Ronan Bennett

Ronan Bennett is a novelist and screenwriter whose latest drama series on the BBC, "Gunpowder", dramatizes the story of Guy Fawkes from the point of view of the Catholics, who were persecuted in England at the time. All through his substantial body of work Ronan Bennett has explored the roots of violence and terrorism, something he knows about from personal experience, having grown up as a Catholic in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. He was imprisoned twice as a young man, accused of IRA...


Sir Simon Wessely

As part of Radio 3's Why Music? The Key to Memory weekend, Michael Berkeley talks to the psychiatrist Sir Simon Wessely. Professor Sir Simon Wessely is one of our most eminent psychiatrists: until recently the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, he is the current president of the Royal Society of Medicine, and Regis Chair of Psychiatry at King's College London. An interest in unexplained symptoms and syndromes has led to many years of research in areas such as Chronic Fatigue...


Hildegard Bechtler

As part of the BBC's opera season, designer Hildegard Bechtler talks to Michael Berkeley about her favourite music and some of the twenty-seven operas she has worked on all over the world. Hildegard is one of our most prolific and successful theatre and opera designers. Born in Germany, she moved to Britain aged eighteen, and very quickly established herself first in film, then in theatre and opera. Her style combines wit and invention to deliver minimalist style with maximum impact. She has...


Maurice Riordan

Maurice Riordan is a poet much preoccupied with time - how time suddenly stands still, or speeds up, or loops you back in dreams to childhood - in his case, to the countryside of County Cork where he grew up. It's a theme he's explored in four prize-winning collections of verse, alongside translations and a series of anthologies - including an anthology of very early Irish poetry, scribbled by Irish monks in the margins of Latin texts. In his day job, he's professor of poetry at Sheffield...


Stephen Poliakoff

Stephen Poliakoff made his mark as a playwright very early; he began writing plays as a schoolboy and got first review in The Times when he was only seventeen. At the age of twenty-four he became writer in residence at the National Theatre and he's also written for the RSC. But it's as a television scriptwriter and director that Poliakoff is now best-known, with series such as "Shooting the Past", "Dancing on the Edge" and recently, "Close to the Enemy". Some of our very greatest actors -...


Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry's great-grand-father was a traditional Irish musician, who played on the wooden flute and piccolo. His mother was an actress at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; his aunt Mary O'Hara had a huge career as a singer and harpist with her own series on the BBC. Little surprise then that Sebastian Barry's writing is musical in the widest sense; full of the rich music of everyday speech. It's an impressive body of work: fourteen plays, two volumes of poetry, and nine novels. Two of his...


Michael Craig-Martin

Michael Craig-Martin is one of our most influential artists, celebrated for his huge black and white wall drawings and intensely coloured paintings of everyday objects, as well as his installations, sculpture, and computer-generated works. A pioneering conceptualist, he's always provoking questions about what we understand to be art. Born in Dublin in 1941, Michael Craig-Martin grew up in the United States but returned to Britain in the 1960s where he's lived and worked ever since. He's had...


Vivien Duffield

Dame Vivien Duffield is one of our leading philanthropists, and her passion for the arts - and particularly opera - is reflected in her giving. Her Foundation, the Clore Duffield Foundation, has supported the Royal Opera House, the Tate, the Royal Ballet, the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Southbank Centre and The National Children's Museum. It all amounts to more than 200 million pounds over the last fifty years. In 2008 the Prince of Wales...


Nick Davies

Nick Davies is an expert in the art of deception - as practised by the cuckoo. He has spent his career studying that deceiving, murderous bird, and living in woods and wild gardens, even up in a mountain hut in the Pyrenees. He's a hugely influential scientist: since the late 1970s he's really helped define the field in behavioural ecology, and he's Professor of Behavioural Ecology at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Pembroke College. But really, as he tells Michael Berkeley, he's...


Shirley Hughes

On her 90th birthday, Shirley Hughes, the creator of many of our best-loved and most enduring children's books, talks to Michael Berkeley about her musical passions. In a career spanning nearly seventy years Shirley has written as many books and has illustrated nearly two hundred. She was the first winner of the Book Trust Lifetime Achievement Award, has twice won the Kate Greenaway Medal, and was recently awarded a CBE for services to literature. Her picture books have an enduring appeal...


Dan Pearson

Dan Pearson discovered his passion for gardens very young, building landscapes for his toy trolls out of stones. He's now one of our most influential landscape designers, with work ranging from private gardens around the world - including Chatsworth - to the 600-acre Tokachi Forest Garden in northern Japan, and gardens in Manchester and London for the Cancer charity Maggie's. He's written five books, presented several television series, and exhibited at Chelsea six times, winning awards each...


Lindsey Davis

Lindsey Davis is best known for her series of historical crime stories about a laid-back amateur sleuth called Marcus Didius Falco. Set against the turmoil of the 1st-century Roman Empire, the books are witty, gritty and hugely entertaining. She's also written stand-alone novels about Ancient Rome, and about the English Civil War. The recipient of many awards, including the Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement, Lindsey writes a book a year, but has still found...


Canada 150: Madeleine Thien

As part of Canada 150, a week of programmes marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the nation, Michael Berkeley talks to Canadian novelist Madeleine Thien. Born in Vancouver, she is the daughter of Malaysian-Chinese immigrants to Canada and her writing explores the history of the Asian diaspora. She is the author a short story collection 'Simple Recipes' and the novels 'Certainty', 'Dogs at the Perimeter' and 'Do Not Say We Have Nothing' -about musicians studying Western classical...


Patsy Rodenburg

Michael Berkeley talks to Patsy Rodenburg, the most highly acclaimed voice teacher of her generation, about the music she loves. Patsy Rodenburg has worked with pretty much every actor you can name, including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Daniel Day Lewis. They all testify to the huge impact she has had on their careers and performances. Among the many companies she's worked with all over the world are the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and she continues to teach...


Nishat Khan

Nishat Khan is one of India's finest musicians; born into a dynasty of famous sitar players, he first went on stage with his father and uncle when he was only seven. Since that first appearance in Calcutta in the 1970s, he has performed worldwide, collaborated with all kinds of musicians, from Philip Glass to Gregorian choirs to Django Bates, and composed both for the BBC Proms and for Bollywood films. He's here in Britain to appear at the Aldeburgh Festival this June, fresh from recording...