Round Britain Quiz



1947 to Jan 48: Gilbert Harding and Lionel Hale

1948-9: Gilbert Harding with, successively, Leonard Sachs, Robert MacDermot, Philip Hope-Wallace, Peter Watson

1949-60: Gilbert Harding and Lionel Hale (Howard Marion-Crawford in place of Harding for Jan-Apr 57; Lionel Gamlin as occasional stand-in for Harding 1957-9)

Following Harding's death, short-term stand-ins 1960-1: Stephen Potter, Kevin FitzGerald, Edward Ward

1961-8: Roy Plomley and Lionel Hale

Patrick Harvey (producer, sometimes stood in for Plomley)

1973-6: Anthony Quinton and Jack Longland

1977-82: Anthony Quinton and Gordon Clough

1984-91: Louis Allen and Gordon Clough

1992-95: Anthony Quinton and Gordon Clough

Nick Clarke (1997-2005)

Tom Sutcliffe (2007-2021)

Kirsty Lang (2022-)


BBC Light Programme, 2 November 1947 to 23 May 1957

BBC Home Service / BBC Radio 4, 2 October 1957 to 26 March 1968

BBC Radio 4, 1 April 1973 to present


Amongst the most erudite radio panel games, Round Britain Quiz grew out of the wartime Transatlantic Quiz. For many years, two representatives from London would travel to each of the BBC's Regions, and each team would be faced with very difficult questions posed (until 1995) by two different quiz masters.

The format has evolved over the years as have the questions. Originally, the material covered basic you-know-it-or-you-don't stuff such as this one posed by Gilbert Harding in June 1954:

"Eight infantrymen raised their rifles and fired, a volley for each wound: Ball's Bluff, Antietam and Fredericksburg. Who received these wounds, and on what occasion were these volleys fired?"

The answer, which the contestant got right, was "The funeral of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes." Over the years, the format evolved into more of a puzzle-solving regime with three to six different entrance points leading to a linked theme. From these clues, the team would make their deductions, unravel the code, and arrive at the correct answer. When they couldn't complete the logical steps on their own, the chairman would give some guidance.

Here's an example from 1982:

"What contribution to opera is made by a segment of The Divine Comedy when accompanied by ten times a unit of sound?"

The answer is: Bel Canto, which earned the team three points. These days each question is marked out of a potential six points; half-marks were awarded on and off until the 1980s, but scoring is now done in whole numbers.

Each team receives their four questions at the start of the recording session, allowing them a little time to prepare their thoughts. Questions are not handed over to the other team for bonuses.

RBQ was formally taken out of production in 1996, following the death of chairman Gordon Clough. It was revived barely a year later, with a new chairman, new teams, and a new format of six teams playing four matches, leading to an overall winner. The new host, Nick Clarke, developed cancer after recording the 2005 series; following a one-year gap, the programme returned under the chairmanship of Saturday Review host Tom Sutcliffe.

Some suggest that questions in the Clarke and Sutcliffe era are less difficult than the past; others maintain that RBQ has always adapted with the times, and that the questions are already quite hard enough as it is. What has certainly changed lately is the transparency of when the questions are given to the contestants. It has been suspected that, in the past, contestants may have had some prior knowledge of the questions or even (shock, horror) some access to reference materials before recording began.

Theme music

The current theme music is Scherzo and Trio, performed by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. A previous theme was Radioscope by Georges Delerue.


Teams for the most recent series, broadcast in 2024, were:

  • South of England - Marcus Berkmann, Paul Sinha
  • Midlands - Frankie Fanko, Stephen Maddock
  • North of England - Adele Geras, Stuart Maconie
  • Wales - Myfanwy Alexander, Cariad Lloyd
  • Northern Ireland - Paddy Duffy, Freya McClements
  • Scotland - Val McDermid, Alan McCredie

Previous contestants include: Michael Alexander, Michael Ayrton, Marcel Berlins, Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Diana Collecott, Jim Coulson, Polly Devlin, David Edwards, Thomas Ellis, Brian Feeney, John Foote, Alan Gibson, Philippa Gregory, Richard Gregory, Patrick Hannan, Jack House, Fred Housego, Eric Korn, Roddy Lumsden, Roisin McAuley, Jessica Mann, Rosalind Miles, John Julius Norwich, Patrick Nuttgens, Hubert Phillips, Michael Schmidt, Simon Singh, Peter Stead, Alan Taylor, and, for 30 years, Irene Thomas.

The credited question-setters for 2019 were Danny Roth, Beth Porter, and Stephen Follows. Almost from the beginning, RBQ has made space for listeners' questions, and by 2013 these accounted for about half the series.

Web links

Radio 4 website

See also

Round Europe Quiz

Cross Channel Quiz

World Quiz

X Marks the Spot


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