Michelle Obama or Bob Dylan? Readers suggest castaways for Desert Island Discs

As the show celebrates 75 years on the airwaves, we asked readers who they would like to see in the hotseat

Desert Island Discs has welcomed hundreds of guests in its 75 years on the airwaves and celebrates the anniversary with the casting away of David Beckham on Sunday.

We asked readers who they would like to hear on the BBC Radio 4 show and received hundreds of suggestions, from household names such as Michelle Obama and the Queen to lesser known figures who are leaders in their field, such as the statistician Julian Peto and physicist Helen Czerski.

There were calls for those you’d imagine the programme has long had on its radar, with the world of music providing many of your prospective castaways. Bob Dylan, Kate Bush and Bruce Springsteen (the latter has already been on the programme) received a number of votes, but there was interest too in the world of literature and politics – even journalism, with colleagues at the Guardian and Observer not forgotten.

So who would you like to see and why? Here are some of your suggestions so far – and you can add further ideas in the comments below.

Michelle Obama

Lawyer, writer, campaigner, former US first lady

“She was such an inspirational first lady and is such a positive and forceful role model for women everywhere, radiating charm, compassion and charisma in these dark and troubled times,” says Catherine Bardrick, one of several to mention Obama. “Plus, having seen her on James Corden’s carpool karaoke she would be totally up for it ... not only worthy but a thoroughly entertaining guest to boot!”

Lily Cole

Model, actor

“A model, mother and actor with a double first [in history of art] from Cambridge, a social conscience and she’s a tech entrepreneur too,” says Olive Butler, from Cambridge. “What’s not to like?”

John Rentoul


Nominated by Sophie Hedwig Zander, who positively pleads: “He’s a prominent journalist and author (and biographer of Tony Blair) and has had (I think) a very interesting life, growing up in India until he was about 11 and then working for a variety of news publications, as well as on an oil rig. He has wonderful taste in music, particularly modern music – you would get an eclectic mix of punk and everything else. He’s also my favourite political commentator and (as he once put it) highly opinionated. I would like to hear more about his early life and influences, even if he describes his cultural hinterland as being ‘the size of a window box’ (it’s not!).”

Britney Spears


Seb Darke from London says: “The Kylie episode [in 2015] provided a brilliant opportunity for her to talk candidly in a way stars this big are not often encouraged to do. Britney has a lot to say that she hasn’t been ready – or allowed to – for years, particularly concerning her rapid rise to fame and brutal attacks on her by the media less than a decade later, culminating in her controversial conservatorship. Her interview with Jonathan Ross late last year proved she is no glassy-eyed blonde with nothing to say, and it would also showcase her rather eclectic music taste.”

Mark E Smith


Reader Bob Taylor says he “cannot think of a single reason why he would not be a fascinating – albeit scary – castaway. Obtuse, contrary, sweary and only mainly intelligible, but it would be very funny if slightly car-crashy. What more do you want?”

Helen Czerski

Physicist, broadcaster

Helen Czerski.
Helen Czerski. Photograph: Sonja Horsman/The Observer

Sarah, from Staffordshire, notes: “I recently read Czerski’s book, Storm in a Teacup. It was a fascinating and accessible read. She seems to have had a very interesting life so far as a bubble physicist, TV presenter and science communicator. I have no idea about her taste in music, but after reading about her experience on Scrapheap Challenge, I am sure she would be able to come up with interesting contraptions to make life easier on the desert island.”

Prof Julian Peto

Epidemiologist, statistician

A reader who worked with Julian for a number of years says he inspired her: “Entertaining, charming, humble, witty, super-intelligent and worldly wise are not qualities always found in statisticians. He has been working on HPV and mesothelioma for years, making real strides in helping advice the understanding of these conditions. His brother, Sir Richard Peto, and fellow epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll are great influences, as well as his lifelong friend, the late Howard Marks (Mr Nice). An original hippy and believer in the greater good – he has fascinating theories and insights and mad cap tales to tell.”

Caroline Lucas


Peter Lihou in Plymouth nominates the Green party MP. “She has campaigned for our environment and a different approach to politics for years. Someone who is passionate about the environment shouldn’t be that ‘fringe’ but the reality is that, in 2017, we still don’t grasp the significance of the damage we are doing to our planet and our legacy for future generations. Caroline is also an interesting person and it will be entertaining to learn more about the woman behind the politician.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Actor, playwright

A reader notes: “Mr Miranda shaped Broadway musicals in an extraordinary way with Hamilton. The mainstream success of his rap-based musical makes him, in my opinion, one of the most important artists in at least this century. Also, he is an incredibly interesting person. And funny.”

Hideo Kojima

Video game designer

Mannu, in Preston, describes why he’d like to see the Japanese video game designer: “He has an obsession with movies and gives the impression that he’d rather be a film director rather than a video game auteur. He grew up in a country that was getting to grips with the trauma of the second world war; this clearly influenced his anti-war message in the Metal Gear series of games. The success of these has made Hideo the most famous game designer in the world, but he is well known for his love of music, particularly British artists of the 1980s including Bowie and New Order, so I think he’d make a very interesting guest.”

Nigel Owens MBE

Rugby union referee

Nigel Owens and Chris Robshaw
Nigel Owens puts Chris Robshaw in his place during a 2014 England v New Zealand match at Twickenham. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

A rugby fan from London describes Nigel Owens, a rugby union referee, as “one of the most prominent openly gay men in sport. His journey has been a difficult but fascinating one ultimately culminating in his current success and I believe happiness. I think his story is one that should be shared.”

Ariane Mnouchkine

Stage director

James Eden, from Wakefield, says: “Ariane has led the Théâtre Du Soleil in Vincennes, Paris, for 50 years and is collaboratively responsible for producing the most exciting, innovative theatre in the 20th and 21st centuries. She rarely tours to the UK (her last visit was to Edinburgh three years ago), so when she does it is headline news. Bringing Les Atrides to Bradford in 1994 was the highlight of the Year of Culture and saw the transformation of Salts Mill into a functioning theatre for the presentation of four Greek tragedies (performed in French, without an interval) and some of the most exciting theatre I’ve ever seen. Assimilating theatre traditions from eastern cultures, Mnouchkine has gained a worldwide reputation as one of the most influential theatre directors in the world today.”

Courtney Love

Musician, actor

“Chaotic, interesting, furiously intelligent,” is how Lucy in Brighton describes Love. “Her record collection is probably brilliant and Live Through This is arguably the best rock album of the 1990s – appreciated but I think underrated. She survived a level of public humiliation, cruelty and hostility that is unimaginable to most of us, but she always called sexism when it happened, and she is polarising in the way all the best people are. She was a pioneer, simple as that. She’s often very funny and often unlikable and annoying, but that is the point – her rules, no one else’s. She certainly is not peerless, and not even as talented as some of her musical peers, but she was the loudest and the most unapologetic and it counted for a lot. She changed my life and I cannot help but love her and want to hear more from her.”

Bob Dylan


“He remains an enigmatic but always fascinating character whose contribution to the arts is almost unequalled in his chosen field – a fact most recently acknowledged by the Nobel committee,” says reader John McGowan, one of several to nominate Dylan. “His influence is omnipresent but we still know so little about him. Nobody knows more about the music traditions of America than Bob. All of this would make him the perfect guest.”

Jackie Malton

Former police officer, now TV script consultant and psychotherapist

Jackie Malton
Jackie Malton: ‘A wonderful character with a good sense of humour.’ Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

“Jackie is the former Metropolitan police detective chief inspector who was the model for Lynda La Plante’s TV Series Prime Suspect,” says our reader. “On retirement she became a story developer for The Bill, and after working on various TV dramas she took a master’s in psychotherapy and now leads addiction groups in a Surrey prison. She was also story consultant on the recent crime drama The Level. Jackie is a wonderful character with a good sense of humour and would be great castaway.”

Sakari Oramo


A man who our nominating reader – who tells us she was a teenage penfriend of his stepmother, writing between Surrey and Finland, and remains so 60 years on – says has “rejuvenated the Proms and brought humour clarity and warmth to many of the orchestras and concerts he has worked with; to hear his choices and reasons for them would be very special”.

Peter Saville


“He is one of the UKs foremost creatives, mostly in graphic design but also in fashion, and even designed an England football kit,” notes the reader who nominates Saville. “He has had a long association with the music industry and is known to be influenced by Kraftwerk and Roxy Music, for instance, but is particularly associated with Manchester’s Factory Records label. I think it would be interesting hearing what else inspires him and what he thinks of the creative industry in the UK today.”

Jo Whiley


“Jo has been a respected pioneer for music for over 20 years, at the forefront of huge genre shifts, and celebrated some of the most illustrious bands of their generation in the infancy of their careers,” says the reader who nominated her. “She is also a keen ambassador for Mencap, having grown up with a sister, Frances, who has a rare genetic disorder. Jo’s musical knowledge is unmatched, and it would fascinating to hear favourite eight with such a huge catalogue to choose from.”

Margaret Mountford

Lawyer, businesswoman

“A role model for women who walked away from TV fame to complete a PhD on papyrus,” says reader Hannah MacKenzie. “She has pursued a fascinating career – on her own terms – and is a terrific conversationalist.”

Nicky Wire


Nicky Wire
Nicky Wire: ‘The last great indie musician of the old guard.’ Photograph: Paschal/Rex Shutterstock

Stephen Regan from Liverpool wants to hear the Manic Street Preachers (“the smartest political band since the 1980s”) lyricist cast away: “He is probably the last great indie musician of the old guard before the rise of overproduced industry pop rock. Grew up in a mining town that declined with the strikes. Also he has a passion for a lot of music and would probably come up with some good picks.”

Arsene Wenger

Football manager

A reader in Plymouth says of the Arsenal boss: “One of the greatest and longest-serving managers in the Premiership has remained a private person most of the time, so it would be great to hear a little more about the man and his music loves.”


Actor, model

Claire Furnish in Winchester says RuPaul is “an awesome individual who has made a huge contribution to culture around the world. Ru teaches us to accept difference and to revel in being who you are. A great force for good and a bastion of encouraging people to be happy in their own skin. Someone the world ought to hear more from.”

Donald Trump

Businessman, US president

Nominated by Martin Constantinides, who said: “It wouldn’t be dull, would it?”


Guardian readers and Matthew Holmes

The GuardianTramp

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