What a pleasure to hear Voice of Kirsty Young on Desert Island Plates (Radio 4, Christmas Day) again. Perhaps they were evil greedy listening for signs of tension between Young, who hosted the show for 12 years to universal acclaim, and current host Lauren Laverne, who never enjoyed the same level of approval. But there was never any tension in the prettiest radio show, and Laverne politely faded into the background in genuine admiration for her predecessor. Unsurprisingly, Young proved to be just as hypnotic as a guest as she was as host.
Her story of rising from very humble beginnings to national treasure status, bypassing university and seizing opportunity whenever it came her way, was a reminder that for those with talent and ingenuity, there is always a way to get ahead. “I’ve always believed that if you work hard, opportunities will come,” she said. So too with her reflections on dealing with the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, which forced her to give up a job she loved.
“It grinds you down, you lose your personality, your sense of humor, your sense of self,” she said. A description of life with a long-term illness that will undoubtedly resonate with many. Not a trace of self-pity, just a tangible impression of a life-changing impact on her.
Desert Island Discs has had some very star-studded guests recently, including Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett and mega-director Steven Spielberg. But the BBC was certainly right to save Young for Christmas because of her continuing connection with radio and TV audiences, which despite a five-year absence due to illness was instantly rekindled when she returned to cover the Platinum Jubilee in June and then, again stronger, the September funeral of the Queen. Of some truly fascinating, thought-provoking interviews aired over the past few days, this was one that went straight to the heart.