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Today guest editors 2012

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Every year, the Today programme hands over the editors' reins to public figures in the period between Christmas and new year. This year will feature what the programme's editor Ceri Thomas calls "a fascinating group of individuals who will bring their own unique expertise to the programme."

Mass Observation - 26th December
Fountain pen

A special series of features on Christmases past, as experienced by some of those who wrote reports for Mass Observation, This project, which ran from 1937 until the early 1950s before being revived in 1991, examined the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain, as told through the words of a team of volunteer writers. The Boxing Day programme shows how people celebrated Christmas in wartime and under rationing and examines how New Year's Resolutions have changed down the years.

Sir Paul Nurse - 27th December
Sir Paul Nurse

Sir Paul Nurse is a geneticist and cell biologist and one of the winners of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, as one of a group of three scientists honoured for their discoveries of protein molecules responsible for controlling cell division. Born in Norwich in 1949, his father was a mechanic and his mother worked as a part-time cleaner. He read Biology at Birmingham University before taking a doctorate at the University of East Anglia. He has worked for Cancer Research UK and has chaired the Department of Microbiology at the University of Oxford. Sir Paul believes strongly that scientists have a duty to speak out about science in public life and challenge pseudoscience. Sir Paul is currently President of the Royal Society. Sir Paul will talk to novelist Ian McEwan about how fiction tackles scientific fact and take John Humphrys on a tour of his laboratory in an attempt to explain why good science deserves good journalism.

Melinda Gates - 28th December
Melinda Gates

The businesswoman and philanthropist is co-chair, with her husband, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, she joined Microsoft, the company her husband co-founded, in 1987. Since retiring as the company's general manager of information products in 1996, Melinda Gates has focused on philanthropy. The foundation, which was founded in 1994 and renamed in 2000, seeks to tackle extreme poverty and enhance healthcare throughout the world. "I am very excited about the opportunity to guest edit the Today programme," she says. "I hope to highlight the amazing progress that has already been made in improving the lives of the world's poorest people, and the vital role that UK generosity and African leadership have played. I will also introduce some powerful voices of African women who share my optimism for how much more we will achieve in the coming years and my belief in the opportunities for sustainable change."

Dame Ann Leslie - 29th December
Dame Ann Leslie

In her long and distinguished career, Ann Leslie, the doyenne of British foreign correspondents, has reported from over 70 countries, covering coups, civil conflicts and wars from El Salvador to the Philippines, Russia, Africa, the Balkans, China and the Middle East. Born in Pakistan and educated at assorted convents and Oxford, she joined the Daily Express in 1962, where she was a columnist and interviewer of innumerable celebrities ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Robert Graves, David Niven and Salvador Dali. Before becoming a foreign correspondent she wrote for the Mail on political and social issues. She witnessed from the East German side the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Mandela's release from prison in 1990, and the failed 1991 coup against the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.A regular broadcaster, Dame Ann has won nine British Press Awards and three Lifetime Achievement awards.

Benjamin Zephaniah - 31st December
Benjamin Zephaniah

Born in the Handsworth district of Birmingham in 1958, Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah is, he says on his website, "a poet, writer, lyricist, musician and trouble maker". His powerful poetry is heavily influenced by the poetry and music of Jamaica. A writer and performer of poetry from an early age, he left school at the age of 13 and his passionate writing soon gained him a following in his home town. After moving to London aged 22 he saw the publication of his first book, Pen Rhythm, which brought dub poetry into the mainstream. Since then, he has performed for Nelson Mandela and with musicians as diverse as The Wailers, Howard Jones and Sinead O'Connor and has become a noted children's author. "I want to bring new voices to the listeners," he says. "I want to bring new listeners to the programme. Most of all I want to impress my mum. She thinks I'm not working hard enough."

Al Murray - 1st January
Al Murray

The writer and comedian Al Murray is best known for his character The Pub Landlord. He has also worked extensively with fellow comic Harry Hill, as well as presenting television programmes including Al Murray's German Adventure and Al Murray's New Year Resolutions. Educated at Bedford School and St Edmund Hall Oxford, he won the prestigious Perrier Award for comedy in 1999, after being nominated in the three preceding years. He is patron of the Cambodian Children's Charity as well as being a keen drummer. Al Murray comments: "I'm looking forward to guest editing the Today programme: even though it means I'll have to get up early and listen to the first hour."

Get in touch with Today via email , Twitter or Facebook or text us on 84844.

Ajibola Lewis (right) with her daughter Police custody 'scandal'
A charity calls for a public inquiry into the number of people who die while being held by police.

Christmas tree Mass Observing the season
The spirits of Christmases past, as seen by the British people

Children selling low-value goods at the roadside are a familiar sight in Liberia Catch-22
Evan Davis examines Liberia's attempt to rebuild its economy following the recent civil war.



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