OF course, it is perfectly possible that the prospect of Mrs Brown’s Boys on Christmas day is your idea of hell (it certainly is mine). And as for Gavin and Stacey on Christmas Eve, well, didn’t we watch that last year? The truth is Christmas TV is all well and good, but it’s radio that does all the heavy lifting when it comes to the festive season. It’s the background noise for the present opening and Christmas dinner cock-ups. It can also be relied on offering a menu of familiarity, variety and, yes, let’s just say it, intelligence over the next fortnight.

Here are just a few of the radio programmes to look forward to.

Saturday, December 19

Dolly Parton’s Good List, Radio 2, 9pm

Dolly Parton talks to Claudia Winkleman from her home in Nashville about Christmas while choosing a few of her favourite country and seasonal songs. Hopefully, her own Hard Candy Christmas will be one of them.

Sunday, December 20

Desert Island Discs, Radio 4, 11am

Sir Clifford of Richard (as Smash Hits used to call him) was first sent to Radio 4’s desert island back in 1960, long before ”the end of the ‘Chatterley Ban’/And the Beatles’ first LP.” (And sexual intercourse too if Philip Larkin is to be believed). Now six decades on, at the age of 80, Britain’s first proper pop star is back to reflect on his life and choose the eight records to accompany him as he talks to Lauren Laverne.

Open Book, Radio 4, 4pm

John Mullan, Armando Iannucci and Thomas Keneally discuss the work of Charles Dickens, while food historian Pen Vogler, author of the excellent book Scoff, looks at the meals recorded in Dickens’s novels.

Monday, December 21

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Radio 4, 10.45am/7.45pm

And talking of Dickens, Radio 4 launches a new dramatisation of Dickens’s final, unfinished novel in daily 15-minute instalments. Adapted by Mike Walker, it stars Pippa Nixon and Peter Davison, with Iwan Davies as Edwin Drood.

Wednesday, December 23

Maggie’s Cancer Care Carol Concert, Classic FM, 8pm

Recorded earlier this month, this concert, in aid of Maggie’s, sees Lulu and Roderick Williams sing seasonal favourites while the likes of Stanley Tucci, Sue Perkins, James Norton and the Duchess of Cornwall provide readings. The London Oriana Choir also takes part.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Service, Radio Scotland, 11.30pm

The Reverend Richard Frazer of Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh leads the service with carols and reflections to accompany you through any last-minute present wrapping into Christmas Day.

Christmas Day

Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show! Radio 4, 11.30am

This is probably heresy to say, but I actually prefer the TV version of Steve Delaney’s glorious comic creation. But I’m not going to turn up the chance to hear him on the radio. This Christmas show sees our favourite former variety star doing his Christmas shopping at Poundsqueezers. Mel Giedroyc guest-stars.

Christmas By The Lake, Radio 4, 2.15pm

Rachel Joyce offers up a festive story in this new drama starring Niamh Cusack and Robert Lindsay. Cusack plays a recently widowed 64-year-old who sees an older man seemingly drowning in a lake.

Sunshine Sound Walk, Radio 3, 3pm

By Christmas afternoon you might want to get out of the house. But if the weather isn’t co-operating then you could always turn to Radio 3 for Horatio Clare’s walk along the Northumberland coast as he heads for Lindisfarne. Sonically soothing slow radio for when the day is getting on top of you. The first of two programmes, Clare returns on Boxing Day at the same time to walk the Wash.

Don Black’s Christmas Crooners, Radio 2, 10pm

The lyricist makes a welcome return to Radio 2 to present a show of festive classics from the likes of Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee.

Boxing Day

Archive on 4: It’s Behind You, Radio 4, 8pm

Subtitled “The Weird and Wonderful Story of British Pantomime”, cultural historian Christopher Frayling dips into the BBC archive to reconstruct the history of this much loved (and sometimes loathed; or is that just me?) festive tradition, tracing it back to Shakespeare’s times. Frayling also asks how panto stands now in the wake of political correctness and this year’s pandemic.

Sunday, December 27

Classical Music in and after the Lockdown, Scala Radio, 6pm

Mark Forrest talks to Nicola Benedetti, Tasmin Little and Evelyn Glennie about the impact of the pandemic on classical music. Originally broadcast in June, this documentary has been updated to take in everything that has happened since.

Monday, December 28

Comedy Map of Scotland, Radio Scotland, 1pm

First of a new two-part series that maps the humour of Scotland. In the first episode presenter Chris Forbes talks to comedian Jim Smith and Absolutely star Moray Hunter and tries to work out where Stoneybridge actually is.

The Death of Nuance, Radio 4, 1.45pm

For those wanting something a bit chewier, Oliver Burkeman begins a new series that examines the coarsening of public discourse in recent years, beginning with an examination of our seeming need for binary options.

Tuesday, December 29

Gideon Coe, BBC 6 Music, 9pm

The first of two shows that pay tribute to the musicians who have died this year. Ennio Morricone and Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green are among those Gideon Coe pays tribute to.


Party with Robyn, BBC 6 Music

Scandinavia’s second greatest popster (after Ms Gudmundsdottir, obvs), Robyn makes her BBC 6 Music debut as a presenter with a two-hour show to set us up for the bells. Perfect for those dancing on their own tonight.

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna, Radio 3, 10.15am

The Vienna Philharmonic’s annual concert sees the orchestra play Strauss (and son) from the Musikverein in Vienna. It’s tradition, innit.

Beastie Boys Brunch, BBC 6 Music, 10.30am

Ad-Rock and Mike D share influences, favourite tracks and Beastie Boys deep cuts in this New Year Day special.