12 Shows at Christmas: Today specials

Today guest editors Eliza Manningham Buller, Antony Jenkins, Tim Berners Lee, Michael Palin and PJ Harvey The guest editors tackle topics that are close to their heart

Five guest editors will bravely take the reins at Today over the Christmas period, giving the programme an imaginative spin. Assistant editor Peter Hanington tells us what to expect from the likes of Tim Berners-Lee and Michael Palin. He also lets us in on a little office secret...

Which of the guest editors' reports can't we afford to miss?

Eliza Manningham Buller, the former director general of MI5, in conversation with Judi Dench is great. They talk about spycraft, real and fictional. Michael Palin brings together some of the greatest travel writers alive to talk about the role of the traveller in a much-discovered world; he also asked Allan Bennett to read the shipping forecast, which is a delightful listen. PJ Harvey has Ralph Fiennes reading fantastic poetry from Woody Guthrie, William Blake, etc.

Tim Berners Lee asks listeners what they want from the web. What would Today want?

Depends which presenter you ask. Broadly speaking, we want what most other people want from the web - pictures of kittens that look like Hitler, cheap Viagra and porn.

Michael Palin will be reunited with John Cleese to discuss a famous interview. Which is your most memorable interview?

P D James lightly grilling the previous director general Mark Thompson. Lives long in the memory. And David Hockney smoking like a chimney while talking to Peter Blake was pretty good too.

Will the programmes fill us with Christmas spirit?

No doubt about it. Poetry, prose, politics… The five editors have taken the job very seriously and used the opportunity imaginatively, and so there's a huge variety of stuff in every show.

What fills you with Christmas spirit?

Not a lot of people know this, but our office manager Gillian Dear tops up the chocolate liqueurs under the Today Christmas tree with a homemade hooch all of her own making. Pipes the stuff in with a syringe and that usually does the job. John Humphrys swears by it.

  • Today is edited by Tim Berners-Lee (director of World Wide Web Consortium) on Dec 26; former director general of MI5 Eliza Manningham Buller on Dec 27; Michael Palin on Dec 30; Antony Jenkins, group chief executive of Barclays, on Dec 31; and musician PJ Harvey on January 2.

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