Main content

Barbara Hosking

Michael Berkeley’s guest is 92-year-old civil servant Barbara Hosking. With music by Elgar, Strauss, Schubert and Britten.

Barbara Hosking was born above her father’s dairy in Penzance, back in the 1920s, and ended up in the corridors of power serving two British Prime Ministers. Two years ago, at the age of ninety, she decided to come out as gay, which, she says, is the best thing she’s ever done.

Barbara Hosking talks to Michael Berkeley about moving from Cornwall to a new world in London after the War, meeting Eastern European emigres, and discovering lesbian clubs where women could dance together openly. All sorts of women were there, from the posh to the very poor, from “respectable” women to prostitutes. Despite her early Labour party affiliation, she found herself working for Edward Heath, whom she admired greatly, and who she persuaded not to wear a terrible old cardigan when he was conducting with the London Symphony Orchestra. She talks too about finding happiness late in life with her partner Margaret.

Music choices include Edward Heath conducting Elgar, Strauss’s opera Ariadne Auf Naxos, Schubert’s Winterreise, and Britten’s Billy Budd. And a love song in Yiddish, a language she taught herself and which she loves.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3

14 days left to listen

59 minutes

Last on

Sun 5 May 2019 12:00

Music Played

  • Malcolm Arnold

    The Padstow Lifeboat

    Performer: Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
  • Camille Saint‐Saëns

    L'amour viens aider ma faiblesse (Samson et Dalila)

    Orchestra: La Scala Orchestra, Milan. Conductor: George Pretre. Singer: Shirley Verrett.
  • Jacob Jacobs

    Bei mir bistu shein

    Ensemble: Budapest Klezmer Band.
  • Richard Strauss

    Grossmaechtige Prinzessin (Ariadne auf Naxos)

    Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Conductor: Kurt Masur. Singer: Edita Gruberová.
  • Edward Elgar

    Cockaigne Overture

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Edward Heath.
  • Franz Schubert

    Der Leiermann (Winterreise)

    Performer: Anna Tilbrook. Singer: James Gilchrist.
  • Benjamin Britten

    Epilogue (Billy Budd)

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Hickox. Singer: Philip Langridge.


Six mind-expanding music podcasts to download in 2019

Six mind-expanding music podcasts to download in 2019

Love music? Looking for new ear-fodder for your commute? We've got you covered.

Archive Unlocked: Two Decades of Private Passions

Archive Unlocked: Two Decades of Private Passions

Michael Berkeley introduces memorable interviews from Private Passions' archives.