Jeremy Deller to premiere new work on Desert Island Discs

New steel band version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah will be one of his eight picks

The British artist Jeremy Deller is to use his time as a castaway on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs to premiere his latest work of art.

A specially commissioned uptempo version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, played by the Melodians Steel Orchestra and broadcast for the first time, will be one of the eight discs Deller chooses to accompany him on his imaginary island stay.

Deller won the Turner prize in 2004 and received widespread praise for his 2016 work We’re Here Because We’re Here, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Somme. The piece saw more than 1,400 young uniformed volunteers appear unannounced on station platforms and in public places, each representing a dead soldier.

Describing making art as “a big experiment”, Deller will tell host Lauren Laverne he had no idea how people would react on the day. “In fact many were crying and breaking down. It took on its own life, almost like a virus, with no pre-publicity. We think 2 million people experienced it in person.”

Deller now prefers working with communities to create “cultural interventions”, he says, rather than constructing work inside galleries, because there are “enough objects in the world, frankly”.

Deller, who studied art at the Courtauld Institute, will also reveal that Dulwich College, the top independent school he attended, failed to inspire him. “It was like a prison sentence. You know it will end,” he says. “It was all about sport and I was all not about sport. So I wasn’t allowed to be about anything.”

Winning the Turner prize, the leading annual contemporary art prize awarded by Tate, meant that Deller started to be invited to things he had not been invited to before. “To the dinners after things,” he says. “And as soon as you get invited, you don’t want to go for some reason.”

He said he tries to avoid “artspeak” and believes there should be no reverence for artists. “I know because I am one. They are just lucky people. But for certain artworks, yes, we should feel very lucky they are in our lives.”

The artist, who grew up in south London and says he learned about the world from watching the BBC’s Top of the Pops, found selecting his eight discs very hard: “It has been awful and stressful. I had my list and then it disappeared. I’m not even sure this is the definitive list, but it has to be, I know.”

He chooses childhood favourite Blockbuster by The Sweet, and the Beach Boys track In My Room, as well as Roxy Music’s Out of the Blue.

Allowed one luxury item, Deller picks the views of Wales from Hay Bluff in the Black Mountains.

Contributor

Vanessa Thorpe Arts and media correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Kirsty Young to take Desert Island Discs break because of illness
Lauren Laverne will cover BBC Radio 4 show while host is away due to fibromyalgia

Nadia Khomami

30, Aug, 2018 @10:51 AM

Article image
Fans defend Laverne as Desert Island host
Listeners and famous names react on social media after criticism of ‘lightweight’ presenter of BBC’s Desert Island Discs

Vanessa Thorpe Arts and media correspondent

10, Aug, 2019 @4:30 PM

Article image
A real party island: Keir Starmer's desert discs have Stormzy and soul
The Labour leader selects a northern dance classic and a football anthem for Desert Island Discs in a list that could unite both wings of his party

Michael Savage

15, Nov, 2020 @10:30 AM

Article image
Tom Daley discusses fatherhood on Lauren Laverne's first Desert Island Discs
Diver tells host becoming a father has given him a new emotional distance from sport

Vanessa Thorpe Arts and media correspondent

29, Sep, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
Symphonies in sea – 75 years of Desert Island Discs
What makes Desert Island Discs so intimate? As the programme celebrates 75 years on air, it’s the music that continues to crack open its castaways

Zoe Williams

28, Dec, 2016 @9:00 AM

Article image
​Anne-Marie Duff talks divorce, love and loss on Desert Island Discs
The actor spoke about the end of her marriage to James McAvoy on the BBC Radio 4 show

Vanessa Thorpe Observer arts and media correspondent

25, Mar, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
Radio head: Desert Island Discs
Mark Gatiss's Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 was full of big emotions and highlighted the show's many strengths, writes Elisabeth Mahoney

Elisabeth Mahoney

25, Oct, 2011 @6:59 PM

Article image
Me, marriage and a big regret: David Beckham tells all for Desert Island Discs
Footballer reveals his dates with Victoria at a pub car park on Desert Island Discs special

Vanessa Thorpe

29, Jan, 2017 @12:04 AM

Article image
The week in radio and podcasts: Multi Story; Desert Island Discs; You’re Dead to Me
Local hidden histories supplied an enjoyable antidote to our all-consuming woes – plus Thom Yorke giggling

Miranda Sawyer

29, Sep, 2019 @4:30 AM

Article image
Roll over Beethoven: Desert Island Discs stars pick pop over classical
Varying background of modern castaways means Radio 4 show features more diverse range of cultures and musical choices

Nadia Khomami

24, Jan, 2017 @12:01 AM