‘Think bins and museums and you’ve got me’ – Dorset Island Discs


Laura Beddow is a Dorset councillor, a parrot rescuer, and dreams of an itinerant life playing her viola around a campfire with a cider in her hand

Laura Beddow Dorset councillor

Councillor Laura Beddow covers the ward of West Purbeck, about as far as you can get from the Blackmore Vale while still staying in Dorset. But she’s also in the Dorset Council Cabinet, and is Portfolio Holder for Culture, Communities and Customer Services. And if, like me, you have no idea what that actually is, Laura’s happy to explain:
‘Just think ‘museums and bins’ and you’ve got it! It’s basically anything that the public will directly use – it’s such a varied remit. I deal with Parish and Town councils. The protection of the razor clam beds off West Bay. All household waste and recycling (actually I’m a completely boring recycyling nerd now). The Arts Development Company (did you know that Dorset is the only council in the country that works with an arts company to deliver its cultural strategy?). Records and archives… No day is the same, that’s for sure.’
Among local politics, Laura’s known as a straight talker; sometimes causing ripples as she cuts to the heart of issues and focuses on finding solutions:
‘I feel like it’s just really important for us as a council to translate the local-government-speak for residents. That’s literally our job. Instead of sending out two pages of information about refreshing the library strategy, what people really want to know is “are there any changes to opening hours or staffing? Are there any closures?” And that’s it.’
In an interesting, wide-ranging and often off-topic conversation, I discovered that her fantasy Cabinet to run the country would include Optimus Prime as Secretary of State for Transport (‘I mean, he’s literally a lorry. He totally understands the brief’) and Martin Lewis as Chancellor.

Limpy Steve the seagull
When Laura’s not out admiring the inner workings of the council’s recycling technology, she’ll be found at home looking after a menagerie of broken animals. ‘Current count is three rescue dogs, a rescue tortoise, some rescue rabbits … and there’s often a broken limpy parrot in the house.’
Laura’s not joking – she has an aviary in the garden and works with Birdline Parrot Rescue, taking in rescued parrots and nursing them back to health. Along the way she gets side-tracked by non-parrot rescues; a friend recently handed over a baby dormouse which she had to feed with an eyedropper, and a dodgy-footed seagull named Steven has just been released ‘I just seem to collect random animals. We stick them in a safe space, feed and look after them, and then release them when they’re ready.’

A life in music
And so to Laura’s eight music choices, along with how and why they stuck in her life:

A Case Of You
Joni Mitchell

Well, come on. Why wouldn’t you? Frankly it could have been any Joni Mitchell song. I love her, she’s incredible. But this one in particular – I know it’s a breakup song, but it’s the ultimate love song too.

Raise Your Glass

This one’s a sad one for me, despite the fact that it’s so aggressive and life-affirming.
Nearly ten years ago my daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia. As a terminally ill child she was offered a ‘wish’ and she chose to go and see P!nk in concert at the O2 in London. It was a brilliant, special night; what an incredible show it was – she’s such a great performing artist, not just a terrific singer.
When Issy died, her friends were really struggling. We decided we wouldn’t have a funeral, and instead we would have a memorial party with balloons and sweets and music.
I’m not religious at all, but our local vicar was fabulous and she wore a spotty onesie and silver wellies to take the service. This is mine and Issy’s song, and of course we played it that day.

Under The Bridge
Red Hot Chili Peppers

This is just me as a young teenager – that age when you’re starting to work out who you are, what you’re going to be about. My friends were all in bands, and we were the grungy kids getting into Nirvana, painting our Doc Martins. This was the song all my friends learned, and we went to grotty little gigs at local youth clubs and it was completely beautiful.
I saw the Chilis recently with my own 20-year-old, and they’re still amazing. I could have picked any Chilis song really, but this one in particular is just my grungy little teenager heart.

Violin Concerto No.1, movement three

I started playing violin at the age of five – I wasn’t brilliant so I switched to the viola (I worked out that viola players are more rare, so you can get away with being less good). I joined the Dorset Youth Orchestra and was a total band geek.
My granddad’s name was (genuinely) Ivor Head, and he loved this piece of music. When I was about eight I got to see Nigel Kennedy play, during his amazing punk classic era. The concert was brilliant – it opened my eyes to the fact that classical music could be fun and COOL – and he played this piece.
I queued up afterwards to get his autograph, and asked him to sign my ticket for my grandad, who would have loved to hear him play but was just too poorly to go to the concert. Nigel Kennedy asked what my grandad’s name was, and when I told him he tore the ticket in half and wrote ‘Ivor half a ticket from Nigel Kennedy’.

My Immortal

I just … really like this. Amy Lee has such an amazing voice, so other-worldly.
Sorry, there’s no big story I want to share with this one. I just love it.

Far From Home
The Levellers

This is ALL about that fiddle playing! The Levellers always show me the life I thought I would have as a teenager. An itinerant wanderer, sitting around a campfire playing the fiddle and drinking cider.
Now I’m a Tory politican.
It didn’t quite pan out, did it? But a part of me still believes I could totally do this.

The Storm
Tanya Donelly

Another amazing voice from the 90s – and really it’s the evolution of the Joni Mitchell track. It’s another break up song (aren’t they actually the ultimate love songs?), but it’s amazing. The lyrics are so carefully chosen and placed. It’s casual, slightly ethereal, and yet it’s so well constructed. I have an absolute horror of trite pop rhyming, and this is the exact opposite.

David Bowie

I had to – and yes, it could have been any Bowie.
I was born and brought up in Lulworth Cove, and I’m sorry to say I got to the age of 15 without knowing Bowie at all. But in those days Lulworth was a small village, and we used to just gather and hang out together – no age groups, it was just a big sociable village community. We would drag an old cut up oil drum to the beach for barbecues (yes, way back in the days before I myself had to propose a ‘no disposable barbecues’ rule for Dorset), have a few drinks, the local who ran boat trips from the cove would take kids out on water skis and an inflatable
doughnut …
One night we were on the beach, and this song was playing. I just thought ‘wow. This is actually amazing. I’m on my beach, my parents are over there, my friends are here, I have a drink in my hand, the stars are bright …’ It’s not what the song is about, but when I hear it, it’s just everything that was growing up in a small seaside village.

The final choices
And if a giant wave was washing in, and Laura could only save one disc?
I’d save Joni. Obviously.
Laura’s luxury item?
A blanket. And no, not for any of its incredibly practical uses, because that would break the rules:
‘I tried to think of something clever and unusual but everything is better if you can tuck yourself in. Also, when I sleep, even on the hottest of nights, I have to have my feet tucked in. Because monsters.’
And the book Laura would like to take with her?
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
I mean, I have every single book Terry Pratchett wrote, but this one is the Best Book Ever.
The relationship between Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is really interesting, and the combination of the two of them in this book is pure magic.
My ten-year-old asked me recently why I loved Terry Pratchett ‘because reading’s a bit boring’. So I read him Johnny and the Dead – now he gets it.

Listen to Laura Beddow’s entire Dorset Island Discs playlist here!


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