Desert Island Discs | More than 90 lost episodes found by collector

Over 90 lost recordings of Desert Island Discs have been discovered, featuring the likes of Bing Crosby, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Jimmy Stewart and David Hockney. 

desert island discs

Richard Harrison, an audio collector from Lowestoft, Suffolk, made the discovery, describing it as “a great feeling”. The recordings date back to the 1960s and 1970s.

The episodes offer a glimpse into a different time. The interviews are clipped and more formal, and the answers reflect how different people were back then. 

desert island discs Ballet dancers Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev rehearsing 'La Bayadere' on stage, November 24th 1963

Ballet dancers Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev rehearsing ‘La Bayadere’ on stage, November 24th 1963

As her luxury item, Fonteyn asks for the kind of “mask that skin divers use”. Dirk Bogarde requests John Singer Sargent’s portrait of the Sitwell family, and comedian Bob Monkhouse for a “large colour picture of Marilyn Monroe to remind me of what I’m supposed to forget.”

For books, Hockney asks for an out of print pornographic book, Route 69 by Floyd Carter. “Otherwise you might fantasise too much on the island,” he said.

Crosby wants Roget’s Thesaurus. Alongside it and a sharp stick, he said: “I could do some useful writing”.

Former Desert Island Discs presenter Sue Lawley said: “Thank God for Mr Lowestoft.”

The BBC spoke to Richard Harrison in Lowestoft, where he is a member of Radio Circle – a group of enthusiasts who try to locate lost programmes. Historically, the BBC did not automatically archive its radio programmes. Finding them again is dependent on listeners who recorded the shows on reels and cassettes at the time.

desert island discs dirk bogarde

Dirk Bogarde

“[I’ve always been] interested in finding missing radio,” he explained. His focus on Desert Island Discs came because it is “such an iconic programme”.

He described the Dirk Bogarde episode as the one he was “most excited” to find. It was on an unlabelled reel.

“The neighbours must have wondered what was up. I let out a huge yell of triumph, it was a genuinely great moment”.

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