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Beccy Bowden's Desert Island Discs

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Music for a Community to Listen to

Picture: Christ the Redeemer overlooking Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil /


The Hub enjoyed speaking to Rebecca Bowden, CEO at the Community Foundation for Surrey. The Community Foundation's aim is "to build a strong movement of philanthropists connecting them together with local charitable organisations to ensure everyone in Surrey has hope". Ahead of the call Beccy sent through her Desert Island Discs selection with explanatory notes.

Says Beccy: "I wasn't waiting for the call from Radio 4 to appear on BBC's Desert Island Discs show! Sadly, the reason I had the list ready is that my uncle John, who was a great character in our lives, had a terminal cancer diagnosis. We exchanged song picks over his last months as a creative way of spending the time together.

That is why I had my list ready when you invited me on to The Hub. Sadly, my uncle John never got to complete his. But I recommend it as a useful life exercise for anyone to do."

Thanks for sharing Beccy, some great music and a compelling narrative. Follow up blog and podcast on the chat to come...


1. Simon & Garfunkel - 'For Emily'

YouTube video: For Emily (Live 1969)

For my son Josh: Simon & Garfunkel, For Emily because growing up my parents played Simon & Garfunkel all the time and I know all the songs, all Paul Simon’s solos too. Listening to them is like putting on some slippers and an old comfy cardigan. I have chosen this one, not because it is my favourite or their best, but because when my son, Joshua, was a tiny baby I used to sing him to sleep. He didn’t mind what song, but this one I sang to him a lot. We still sing together, in the car mostly on long trips to archery or football competitions. If I was on a desert island this would remind me of Josh.

2. Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz - ‘The Girl from Ipanema’

YouTube video: Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz - The Girl From Ipanema (1964) LIVE

For my daughter Freya: Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz, The Girl From Ipanema. In our first little house the kitchen had a glass roof. It was a very sunny summer the year I had Freya and this track is all about summer – you have to dance to it! Also, when I was heavily pregnant I was in Brazil for a conference and visited my friends Andy & Fernanda who live on Ipanema beach.

I remember watching all the beautiful Brazilian girls in their tiny, tiny bikinis, whilst I lumbered about looking like I’d swallowed a Zeppelin! It was very, very hot, but it was very nice. Andy showed me round his home city, including going up to Christ the Redeemer on the hill. I always tell Freya she’s been to Ipanema even though she was only a bump at the time. I would have this track to dance around the dessert island to and think about my darling Freya.

3. New Model Army - 'Green & Grey'

YouTube video: New Model Army - Green and Grey

Some of the music people pick is because it takes them back to a time or place. I would definitely have New Model Army for being young, and angry and being with a bunch of people that felt the same. I think on balance if I were forced to choose it would be Green & Grey. It is about the countryside around Bolton and getting angry at people leaving their hometown without a backward glance. At the time I was doing my very best to find a way to leave my own hometown.

I didn’t know where I was going to, just that I needed to go somewhere. In my calculations the best way to do that, was to work my backside off and become a scientist. Which I did, eventually. NMA have another equally angry song about the evils of scientists which always makes me laugh. They are one of those bands that have a fanatical fan base and tour frequently. One of these days we might get to see them again, but at any rate this takes me right back to a time when I was young and had a world to change 😉.

4. Davy Spillane - 'Caoineadh Cu Chulainn Uilleann Pipes'

YouTube video: Davy Spillane - 'Caoineadh Cu Chulainn Uilleann Pipes'

So let’s make my next one from sometime during Uni when I was in Liverpool for 6 years, and the period after when I did postdoctoral research at Newcastle Uni for a couple of years. My boyfriend from school had gone off to Uni in London, and then a Masters at Leeds Uni whilst I was at Newcastle. We had very sensibly decided to part ways when we went to Uni, but it never worked out that way. We spent the next 8 years or so commuting across the UK to see one another at weekends. Both Liverpool and Newcastle are fantastic lively cities, in both cities I attended a lot of ceilidhs – which is why, years later, we had one at our wedding!

Strip the Willow would be my choice, but not for a dessert island as you need a gang of you to dance it properly.

During my Liverpool/Newcastle time we had several holidays with friends over to Ireland, all involving a lot of laughter, an awful lot of Guinness and all done very much on the cheap as we were always skint. One memorable trip was to the Dingle peninsula, in Kerry, in the heart of the Gaeltacht, the Irish language and culture enclaves dotted across the west of Ireland. We had a great time, and Rich and I drove the rest of them mad hiking everywhere looking for Ogham stones and other prehistoric stuff. For fond memories of wild Irish scenery and patient friends letting us hunt for another bloody stone, let's have some Davy Spillane Caoineadh Cu Chulainn as my track 4. It helped me write a thesis on the way, an extremely tedious job to do.

5. JS Bach: 'Cello Suite Number 1'

YouTube video: Jacqueline du Pré - Bach, Suites for Solo Cello No. 1 & 2

I must put J.S. Bach's Cello Suite Number 1 as played by Jacqueline du Pré at number 5. I also had it on repeat whilst typing away all hours of the day writing my thesis. Fortunately, Rich was taking a year out of Uni and came to join me in Liverpool. We lived in crummy little houses in Toxteth and then Maghull, saving coppers in a jar to go to the pub. I will remember it always as the tune we walked down the aisle to at our wedding in 1997. By the time we got married I had finished my PhD, had a couple of years doing postdoctoral research up in Newcastle, and finally got sick of all the commuting to see Rich, who was by then doing a PhD at Brunel University near London.

So, I got a job working for the UK government, writing legislation about the new genetically engineered plants and animals, which was what I had been doing research on. We moved to lovely Slough, first in a crummy rented place, and then buying our first home. If I was doing Desert Island Discs I would mention that sometime during 1996-7 I was seconded to the UN in Montreal, where I had to chair discussions of all the EU member states. I remember standing outside the room before I first went in, feeling a bead of sweat running down my back, on the phone to Rich telling him I couldn’t possibly do it, with him saying of course I could, "Just get in there!". He’s been having ridiculous faith in my abilities, far beyond my own faith in my abilities, ever since.

6. Paolo Nutini - 'Iron Sky'

YouTube video: Paolo Nutini - Iron Sky [Abbey Road Live Session]

6 & 7: The two go together because I can’t decide between Paolo Nutini's Iron Sky and Hozier's Nina Cried Power. There could have been any number of protest songs in this slot, anything that speaks about making a change or looking out for the underdog. I chose these two for the words and the wonderful hopefulness of the themes, but also to hark back to many long car journeys with my kids singing along.

After 15 years or so working for the UK government here and overseas I had to change my career when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and could no longer walk without sticks. As a result, I inadvertently discovered a whole new purpose to my life when I first of all became the chief exec of a youth charity and subsequently moved into the world of charitable foundations – providing funding to hundreds of different charities.

7. Hozier - 'Nina Cried Power' (ft. Mavis Staples)

YouTube video: Hozier - Nina Cried Power ft. Mavis Staples

Working with a youth charity in Surrey I discovered there were two sides to the county I lived in. One very much hidden, in which young people were growing up in poverty, unable to afford breakfast before school or a school uniform while living just across the road from a huge mansion. It was a real eye opener and helped me to find a real passion for shining a light on some of the hidden things in our communities that need fixing.

I’ve worked for many years now in the charity sector and it is a huge honour and privilege to work with so many people that are trying to make positive changes in their local communities - big and small. I now work for the Community Foundation for Surrey and have the huge, huge privilege of being able to connect donors with charities local to where they live, making a huge difference.

8. Allegri - 'Miserere Mei'

YouTube video: Allegri | Miserere mei | King's College, Cambridge

This last 18 months or so, of course, like many I have been in lockdown for many months. Although, unlike many I have had the great good fortune of being able to walk every day in the Surrey Hills. If I’ve had a busy day I often listen to a podcast or music to help me unwind as I walk. Gregorio Allegri's Miserere mei has the power to make me stop and breathe and reflect. I’m always amazed by the sound coming out of these humans, especially the little ones singing in The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.


Listen to Beccy's Music

You can listen to a playlist of Beccy's Desert Island Discs music by clicking on the link below.



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