Round Britain Quiz



Hosts for known years:

1948: Gilbert Harding and Philip Hope-Wallace

1954-9: Gilbert Harding and Lionel Hale

1965: Roy Plomley and Lionel Hale

1974: Anthony Quinton and Jack Longland

1978-82: 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-present)


BBC Home Service / Radio 4, 2 November 1947 -


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.

See also

X Marks the Spot

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 2015, were:

  • South of England - Marcus Berkmann, Simon Singh
  • Midlands - Rosalind Miles, Stephen Maddock
  • North of England - Jim Coulson, Adele Geras
  • Wales - David Edwards, Myfanwy Alexander
  • Northern Ireland - Polly Devlin, Brian Feeney
  • Scotland - Val McDermid, Roddy Lumsden

Previous contestants include: Michael Alexander, Michael Ayrton, Marcel Berlins, Diana Collecott, Thomas Ellis, John Foote, Alan Gibson, Philippa Gregory, Richard Gregory, Patrick Hannan, Jack House, Fred Housego, Eric Korn, Roisin McAuley, Jessica Mann, John Julius Norwich, Patrick Nuttgens, Hubert Phillips, Michael Schmidt, Peter Stead, Alan Taylor, and, for 30 years, Irene Thomas.

The credited question-setters for 2014 were Sue Barnard, 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


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