Kirsty Young says Desert Island Discs exit ‘wasn’t really a choice’

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Broadcaster Kirsty Young has spoken out about her exit from BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

Kirsty, 54, left the long-running show after suffering from a series of health problems.

Speaking exclusively to the Radio Times, the broadcaster has now opened up about her decision to leave.

She said: “For anybody, when you’re unwell, everything else recedes. But it was very difficult, I had a lovely team I worked with, and there was a part of me that thought, ‘If I don’t do that job, do I even exist?’ And I immediately realised, ‘Of course you do, don’t be such a ninny.’”

She went on to say: “It was one of those things. It wasn’t really a choice – it was what I’d been told I needed to do. It didn’t feel great, but the thing I was dealing with at the time felt bigger.”

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Kirsty hosted Desert Island Discs for 12 years. The show sees famous people are asked to choose and discuss eight pieces of music that they’d most like to have with them if they were left alone on a desert island.

She hosted 496 episodes of the show, interviewing stars including Judi Dench, David Beckham and Tom Hanks.

However, she took several months off after being diagnosed with chronic fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis before deciding to leave in 2019.

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Her new podcast Young Again for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds begins this week, which will see her explore the life stories of some of the world’s most prominent figures through a series of in-depth conversations.

Speaking about the new podcast to the aforementioned publication, she said: “That’s the great thing about broadcasting conversation – there’s an intimacy to it. I love to listen to two or more interesting and interesting people. It’s a joyous thing. So Young Again is more of the thing I like, more free-ranging, less prescriptive, and even more like a conversation.”

When asked whether it will remind listeners of Desert Island Discs, she responded: “I hope not. I very deliberately decided it was a podcast I wanted to make, not a radio show. I think the ‘undoneness’ of it, that feeling of taking your shoes off, is much closer to life.”

Kirsty is married to Soho House founder Nick Jones. The couple share two daughters, and Kirsty is stepmother to Nick’s daughters from his previous marriage.

Nick was treated for prostate cancer in 2022, something Kirsty reflects on during the interview, saying: “Life sharpens. It actually gets sharper: the people I want to spend time with, how I want to spend my time… if I do work, what do I want to do? Getting older, having a period of ill health, it adds a piquancy to your decisions.”

You can read the full interview with Kirsty Young in this week’s Radio Times, which is out now.

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