Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, Cambridge

Sonita Alleyne is the Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, the first woman to hold the post and the first black master of any Oxbridge college.

In this Radio 4 Desert Island Discs from earlier this year Sonita shares the eight tracks, book and luxury she would want to take if cast away to a desert island. With Lauren Laverne.


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Born in Barbados, Sonita Alleyne came to England aged three and grew up in East London, the youngest of three children. She was an able reader by the time she started primary school, and her potential was spotted at her secondary school, where she was encouraged to apply to Cambridge.

She read philosophy at Fitzwilliam College and, after a brief and unfulfilling spell selling life insurance, she followed her passion for jazz by starting to write for music magazines. In 1989 she joined the radio station Jazz FM. When she was made redundant a couple of years later, she and two former Jazz FM colleagues set up a production company they called Somethin’ Else.

Sonita stepped down as CEO in 2009 to concentrate on other boardroom roles. She served on the BBC Trust for nearly five years, sits on the board of the London Legacy Development Corporation, and founded the Yes Programme to show primary school pupils their future career options. She is a fellow of the Radio Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts.

Sonita began her ten year tenure as Master of Jesus College in October 2019. She lives in Cambridge with her partner, the screenwriter James McCarthy, and their teenage son.

DISC ONE: I’ve Known Rivers by Gary Bartz & NTU Troop
DISC TWO: Les Fleurs by Minnie Riperton
DISC THREE: Key To The World by L J Reynolds
DISC FOUR: Martha by Tom Waits
DISC FIVE: Tennessee by Arrested Development
DISC SIX: To Forgive But Not Forget by Outside
DISC SEVEN: Last Train to Clarksville by Cassandra Wilson
DISC EIGHT: Swing Low Sweet Chariot by Marvin “Hannibal” Peterson

BOOK CHOICE: Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
LUXURY ITEM:A genie in a lamp which would only work within the confines of the island
CASTAWAY’S FAVOURITE:Les Fleurs by Minnie Riperton

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