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

Kirsty Young is to take a break from presenting BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs for “a number of months” because she has a form of fibromyalgia.

Lauren Laverne will host the show while Young is away, the BBC said in a statement on Thursday.

Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, according to the NHS.

Announcing her decision to step away due to her illness, Young, 49, said: “Casting away some of the world’s most fascinating people is a wonderful job. I wish Lauren all the very best, I know she will be great.

“I very much look forward to getting back to good health and back to work.”

The show is back on air on 16 September and Young will host the first two episodes with the opera singer Danielle de Niese and the neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. Laverne, 40, will then take over.

Laverne said: “It’s a huge honour to be asked to cover my favourite programme on behalf of one of my heroes. As a listener first and foremost, I know what a special place Desert Island Discs holds in the hearts of the British public.

“So much of that is down to the warmth, wit and peerless skill of Kirsty Young. I wish Kirsty better and will do my very best to look after Desert Island Discs until her return.”

She later tweeted: “This autumn I’m going to be stepping into the biggest shoes in broadcasting for a while.”

Desert Island Discs celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. Young, a former anchor of 5 News on Channel 5, recently won praise for her coverage of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. She took over as host of Desert Island Discs in 2006, following in the footsteps of Sue Lawley, Michael Parkinson and the programme’s creator, Roy Plomley.

Fans have long commended Young’s work on the programme, and on Thursday many people wished her a speedy recovery. Laverne will continue to present her weekday mid-morning show on BBC Radio 6 Music. She will become the station’s new weekday breakfast show host in January.

The exact causes of FMS are unknown, although it can be triggered by physically or emotionally stressful events. Symptoms can include increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue, muscle stiffness and headaches.

Lady Gaga has the condition, and talked about her struggle with extreme pain and fatigue in the Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. The singer cancelled the final leg of her tour this year as a result of the symptoms.

There is no cure for FMS but treatment can make the condition easier to live with.

The NHS said fibromyalgia affected about seven times as many women as men, and typically developed between the ages of 30 and 50 but it could occur in people of any age. It is not clear exactly how many people are affected by the condition, particularly because it can be difficult to diagnose. But research suggests it could be relatively common with nearly one in 20 people affected.

The charity Fibromyalgia Action UK said research had shown that most people with fibromyalgia were deprived of deep, restorative sleep.

It has also identified a deficiency in serotonin in the central nervous system coupled with a threefold increase in the neurotransmitter substance P, which is found in spinal fluid and transmits pain signals. This causes disordered sensory processing, meaning the brain registers pain where others might experience a slight ache or stiffness.

Treatment can include a combination of medication such as antidepressants and painkillers, talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling, and lifestyle changes such as exercise and relaxation techniques.


Nadia Khomami

The GuardianTramp

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