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A ‘lesser well known mortal’s’ guide to Desert Island Discs: The People’s Playlist

09 December 2019

I suspect that many of us fantasize what eight pieces of music/sound we would take to our desert island – although few get a chance to air this publicly on the iconic Radio 4 show….however BBC3 Counties Radio (and I imagine other BBC local radio stations) have come up with an excellent way of widening the net to engage lesser well known mortals - and this year I was asked to be a guest of Tara Dolby on The People’s Playlist

So, if you want to listen to my choice of music, together with a snapshot of the reasons behind my choices, sit back and tune in – and to whet your appetite below is the ‘script’ Tara asked me to complete to guide her through our conversation.

Happy listening.


Born: Year 1953

Where were you born? Moss Side inner city Manchester

What was childhood like? Northern, gritty, working class lived above butcher’s shop, matriarchal,

• playing in the back alley with my black friend Peter,
• carrying meat on metal hooks from fridge to shop window – helping my Dad in the butcher’s shop,
• home birth of my sister, Julie in 1957 (shades of Call the Midwife)
• listening to radio (Listen with Mother) on my maternal grandmother’s lap
• father diagnosed with epilepsy

Track 1 ‘My curly headed baby’ Paul Robeson


• moved to ‘leafy suburbs’ of Hazel Grove, brand new house, and Dad became a milkman

• maternal grandmother, Lilly Wiest died; she was first generation British as my great grandfather was an economic migrant from Southern Germany

• my Mum became depressed but kept going, helping Dad as they needed to earn a living

• going to a new school and joining Brownies

• going to the cinema for the first time to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’

• going to an art gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, for first time

Track that reflects / reminds you of that time

Track 2 ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ Judy Garland from ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Years 1964-1971

• passing 11+ going to grammar school, then in 1971 becoming the first in my family to go to university in Liverpool
• exposure to the power of education, languages, arts, music, theatre, culture
• spending spare time at Library Theatre Manchester and going to hear Halle orchestra in Free Trade Hall
• miniskirts maxi coats and being miserable
• going with my friend Catherine to see Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch in ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’
• earning and learning - always had part-time and Saturday jobs working in family business

Track 3 ‘Soave sia il vento’ from Cosi fan tutte by Mozart (soundtrack to Sunday Bloody Sunday)

Years 1976-86

• postgraduate studies in France
• began teaching career in Manchester and then promoted to Derbyshire, moving from part timer to Principal in a decade
• miners’ strike, Thatcherism, equal opportunities legislation (in 1975 1976) alongside section 28 staing that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality’
• first relationship with a woman, Marilyn, and sailing on the Mersey and in Anglesey

Track 4 ‘Where corals lie’ from Sea Pictures by Sir Edward Elgar sung by Dame Janet Baker

Years 1986-2006

• move south in 1986 to take up role of Vice Principal , then Principal of Milton Keynes College – youngest ever Principal of FE College and career takes off
• a decade as Principal Milton Keynes College, 5 years as Principal Cambridge 5 years as senior civil servant setting up learndirect
• founded the Women’s Leadership Network in Further Education
• met Maggie and have been in a committed and loving relationship with her ever since
• went into therapy, trained in psychodynamic counselling became a Quaker
• set up a charity Helena Kennedy Foundation

Track 5 ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ sung by Kathleen Ferrier

Years 2006 - 2009

• in my early fifties, having enjoyed a highly successful career since graduating, I found myself overnight out of a job

• ‘dark night of the soul’ with bouts of depression,
• couldn’t find right ‘role’ as I felt I had lost power, position and purpose

• lost any sense of who I was as I had been so involved in and identified with work

• threw myself manically into whatever came along – mostly charitable activity

Track 6 Bach Double Violin Concerto in D minor 2nd movement Largo played by Yehudi Menuhin & David Oistrakh

Years 2009 - 2019

• all changed as Chair of Milton Keynes Partnership I chaired MK World Cup Bid, and Milton Keynes chosen as a host city for England bid
• this seemed to provide a platform from which my energies could flow again
• Chair of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival
• Founding Chair of SE Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, judged “exceptional’ by government and is the country’s top performing LEP
• Deputy Lieutenant Buckinghamshire
• OBE 2011
• CBE 2015
• President Destination Milton Keynes
• First woman Chair of Scouts
• Walk up Suilven North West Highlands of Scotland

Track 7 ‘Joy of Living’ by Euan MacColl and Peggy Seeger

Year 2019

Just got married after 33 years with Maggie

Track 8 ‘Love changes everything’ from Aspects of Love by Andrew Lloyd Webber sung by Michael Ball - although prefer the version sung by our great niece at our wedding which accompanies the video of our wedding