May 27, 2022

Nice, Very Nice! The BBC's Recently Launched "Desert Island Discs" Online Archive

UPDATE: “Desert Island Discs on mobile: A 70 year radio archive in your pocket (Radio 4 & Radio 4 Extra Blog)

Direct to the Desert Island Disc Online Archive

At the beginning of March we posted an item about the complete archive of the BBC radio program “Desert Island Discs” (first broadcast was in 1942) was going to be made available online.

A few weeks ago the archive became available online and what you can find and listen to online (free) is truly awesome. We had no problem accessing the archive and listening to the material from the U.S. Guests are from the UK, U.S., and other Countries.

Each week, a person (often a politician, business leader, author, poet, musician, etc.) called a “castaway” is asked what eight recordings would they want to have with them if they were stranded alone on a desert island. The shows are interesting, fun, and informational/educational since the discussion often reveals  info about the castaway you might be unaware of.

Yes, we know, the castaway would need technology to listen to the recordings but if you can suspend belief for a bit the musical selections and discussion are what matters.

At the moment the archive has about 530 episodes (approx. 350 hours of material) available to listen online. The programs can also be downloaded to keep (e.g. as podcasts), with more material being added weekly. The FAQ points out that the 500+ episodes are the most recent 500 from the launch date of the archive, March 2011. The program has been on the air since 1942.

Each program has the castaway presenting their eight songs and discussing why they want them. During the presentation/interview many other topics are touched on.

Accessing the Archive

Head to this Desert Island Discs web page and you’ll be able to search or browse for castaways and their selections (that also include books and a luxury items.

There are many ways to browse including by air date, alphabetically, and by occupation of the castaway. You can also search for a castaway or use one of several other fields to get results.

For example, novelist Nick Hornby would bring Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens.

One neat use of hypertext allows you to quickly check and see if other castaways have selected the recording, book, or luxury item.

Finally, here are some of the people who are found in the archive:

  • From 2010, Tim Robbins
  • From 1981, Sir Richard Branson

Don’t forget material is added to the archive each week. Go Enjoy!

See Also: About Page That Includes

  • The Desert Island Discs FAQ (Useful)
  • Lists of Top Music Choices Since the Program Debuted in 1942
  • Building the Online Archive
About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.