Zeb Soanes

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Zeb Soanes
Soanes in 2014
Born (1976-06-24) 24 June 1976 (age 47)
Lowestoft, Suffolk, England
EducationHarris Middle School, Lowestoft
Denes High School, Lowestoft
Alma materUniversity of East Anglia
Occupation(s)Journalist, news reader, radio presenter, author, actor
EmployerGlobal Radio
AgentCurtis Brown
Notable credit(s)BBC Radio 4
Gaspard the Fox books
TelevisionBBC Proms

Zebedee Soanes (born 24 June 1976) is a British radio presenter who hosts the weekday evening music show Relaxing Evenings with Zeb Soanes on Classic FM.[1] He was previously a newsreader and continuity announcer on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra until June 2022. He presents live concerts, specialising in narrated orchestral works, and has published the children's book series Gaspard the Fox.

Early life and education[edit]

Soanes was born in Lowestoft in Suffolk, the son of a Methodist minister and one of three children.[2][3][4] He went to Northfield St Nicholas Infants School, Harris Middle School and Denes High School, a state comprehensive school in the town, before reading Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia[2] He then taught drama and toured Britain as an actor.[2][5]

Life and career[edit]

Early career and Shipping Forecast[edit]

An appearance on BBC Local Radio[6] led to a job as a presentation announcer for the television channels BBC One and BBC Two. His voice launched BBC Four in 2002 and he was the channel's sole announcer for ten months.[3][4] He left BBC television and took up a position with BBC Radio 4 on 9 February 2003.[7] In 2001 he began reading the Shipping Forecast, a weather report for the seas around the British Isles, which is broadcast four times a day on BBC Radio 4. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics he was asked to read the shipping forecast to a worldwide audience of over a billion.[8] Describing the forecast in 2012, Soanes said: "To the non-nautical, [it] is a nightly litany of the sea... It reinforces a sense of being islanders with a proud seafaring past. Whilst the listener is safely tucked-up in their bed, they can imagine small fishing-boats bobbing about at Plymouth or 170ft waves crashing against Rockall."[9] Writing in the foreword to the 2020 The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book, published by BBC Books, he expanded on the forecast's popularity: "The forecast gives the wind direction and force, atmospheric pressure, visibility and the state of the sea. It is a nightly litany with a rhythm and indefinable poetry that have made it popular with millions of people who never have cause to put to sea and have little idea what it actually means; a reminder that whilst you're tucked-up safely under the bedclothes, far out over the waves it’s a wilder and more dangerous picture, one that captures the imagination and leads it into uncharted waters whilst you sleep. Dependable, reassuring and never hurried, in these especially uncertain times The Shipping Forecast is a still small voice of calm across the airwaves."[10]

Later radio career[edit]

Soanes has been a newsreader for Radio 4's Today, PM and the Six O’Clock News. He is a regular newsreader on The News Quiz, joining the programme under the chairmanship of Sandi Toksvig, then Miles Jupp and in 2013 accompanied the programme on its first visit to the Edinburgh Festival.[8][11]

He acted with Toby Jones in the radio drama Beautiful Dreamers and has reported for BBC Radio's long-running series From Our Own Correspondent. He has also presented BBC Radio 3’s Saturday Classics, the first edition of which consisted of three hours of favourite sea-inspired music.[8] In December 2010, Radio Times magazine placed Soanes in the list of the seven most recognisable voices in Britain.[12] He voiced a series of documentaries for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, the launch of Sherlock in the US and is in Mayday, a short film with Juliet Stevenson.[8] Author Francesca Simon, creator of Horrid Henry, featured Soanes as the newsreader in The Lost Gods, her 2013 book for older children.[8]

In a 2015 poll of favourite radio voices in The Sunday Times, Soanes was voted as the favourite male voice. His voice was described, by the paper's radio critic Paul Donovan, as smoother than that of the favourite female Jane Garvey and as "evoking an earlier, more formal BBC".[13][14] In September 2015, he played a vintage radio announcer in the BBC Radio 4 drama Dead Girls Tell No Tales.[15]

In 2016 Soanes played Derek Nimmo in the radio drama All Mouth and Trousers, by Mark Burgess, the story behind the making of the television comedy series All Gas and Gaiters.[16] The reviews for the programme were generally positive with Paul Donovan saying "Zeb Soanes is terrific as its star, Derek Nimmo" and Gillian Reynolds of The Sunday Telegraph commenting "Zeb Soanes makes an ace Derek Nimmo."[17] Also in 2016 he played the sinister librarian in a Doctor Who audio adventure called The Unbound Universe with David Warner as The Doctor.[18] Interviewed in 2011, Soanes said he liked the possibilities offered through acting to assume personalities different to his own; "working on a character is the most rewarding because you get to put yourself in someone else’s mind."[6]

At Christmas 2018 Soanes appeared as part of the team for the University of East Anglia on BBC's Christmas University Challenge.[19] On Christmas Day, the team lost to University of Westminster by 100 points to 130.[20][21]

In 2022, Soanes joined Classic FM to present Smooth Classics at Seven, a three-hour programme of classical music every weekday evening, from 7pm.[22]

The Proms and concert performances[edit]

Soanes returned to BBC Four television in August 2006 as a presenter for the BBC Proms. In 2017 he presented a television tribute to The Proms on the occasion of the First Night of The Proms, in sepia tone in the style of a vintage programme. The sequence included photographs, radio and TV footage from the history of the concerts, with Soanes partly presenting in Received Pronunciation, fitting the style of early BBC programmes.[23]

In November 2013 he took the role of God in a production of Noye's Fludde for BBC Radio 3, as part of the station's celebration of Benjamin Britten's centenary.[24] In November 2014 he appeared in a concert with the vocal ensemble Opus Anglicanum at Wells Cathedral, featuring the poetry of George Herbert[25] and has appeared in numerous productions with them since.[26] The ensemble has touring an entire reading of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, set to music by Lynne Plowman.

In 2016 Soanes was narrator for The Snowman by the Brandenburg Sinfonia at St Martin-in-the-Fields, with Andrew Earis conductor. In 2019 the church commissioned him to rewrite the libretto for Vaughan Williams' 1958 nativity pageant, The First Nowell, presented as a charity gala casting BBC colleagues Dame Jenni Murray as God and Evan Davis as a Wise Man.[27] He narrated Peter and the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood at the Wimbledon International Music Festival, with Leo Geyer conducting. The Daily Telegraph has described Soanes as "the go-to person for music narration, specialising in children's concerts". Andrew Baker, son of broadcaster Richard Baker, has said "It is unusual .... for newsreaders to come from a non-journalistic background, but this seems to have been Zeb's path, just as it was my father's, so the state school, university, actor, BBC trajectory is uncannily similar."[28]

In March 2017 Soanes appeared, alongside Carole Boyd, in a new recording of Façade by William Walton and Edith Sitwell, produced by Andrew Keener.[29] Christine Labroche, of concertoNet.com said of the recording: "These two celebrated voices chant the strange poems of Edith Sitwell with an infallible rhythm and a perfect, stretched or swift diction."[30] Andrew Baker also praised Soanes for the way he had performed Façade: "My father regarded Façade as the pinnacle of the narrator's art, a hugely enjoyable challenge, and a celebration of clarity, breathing, projection and timing. Zeb has all of these attributes, and it's always a pleasure to hear him at work."[28]

On Twelfth Night, 5 January 2021, he appeared in a YouTube video with The King's Singers performing John Julius Norwich's humorous correspondence The Twelve Days of Christmas surrounding the gifts given in the traditional carol.[31]

Charitable work[edit]

Soanes is patron of a number of charities; Awards for Young Musicians,[32] the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine,[33] The Mammal Society and the Thaxted Festival.[34][35]

During the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, Soanes created "celebriTEAS", a comedy podcast, impersonating theatrical heroes to raise money for the Equity Benevolent Fund and Acting for Others. It was endorsed by fellow broadcaster Stephen Fry[36] In March 2021 he appeared on the Early Evening News on BBC London to promote World Book Day.[37] In 2022 Soanes helped launch a community project with the unveiling a maquette of a statue, by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, of Benjamin Britten, to be located on the seafront at Lowestoft.[38]

Awards and honours[edit]

Soanes was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Suffolk in October 2023 for his "outstanding contribution to education, music, media, literature and very public endorsement and celebration of Suffolk."[39][40]

Personal life[edit]

Soanes's family have lived in Lowestoft since the 18th century.[6] He now lives in Islington, North London[41] with his partner, Christophe.[5][42] Formerly a resident of Highgate, he was made a Freeman of Highgate, by means of the ancient Swearing on the Horns ceremony, on 25 February 2015, at the Duke's Head public house.[43] In March 2022 Soanes and his partner spoke of their plans to buy a home in Norwich and to live there and in London.[44]

Soanes enjoys classical music and plays the piano.[6] In Who's Who he is listed as being a member of The Garrick Club and the Southwold Sailors' Reading Room; his agent is Curtis Brown.[45]

On 1 April 2021, at the age of 44, Soanes suffered a stroke.[46] He has since worked with the Stroke Association to raise awareness of the condition.[47]


In 2018 independent Welsh publisher Graffeg issued, Gaspard the Fox, a collaboration with the illustrator James Mayhew. The book for children focused on an injured urban fox which had appeared at Soanes' home, and which he and his partner befriended.[42][48][49][50] Mayhew's illustrations drew inspiration from Soanes and his partner; "It was also important for James and I to include a positive representation of a gay couple in a very matter-of-fact way, and so my real-life relationship with Christophe and the fox is depicted at the end."[42] The second book, Gaspard: Best in Show was published in 2019[51] and the third, Gaspard's Foxtrot, was published in 2021.[52]

Gaspard's Foxtrot has also been adapted as a concert work by the British composer Jonathan Dove in the tradition of Peter and the Wolf, which was filmed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as part of its National Schools Concert Programme 2021.[28][53] It received its world premiere on 29 July 2021 at the Three Choirs Festival, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Alice Farnham.[54]

During the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, Soanes created a video series, on his own YouTube channel, called Gaspard’s Den, exploring and explaining the changed world as a spin-off from his children's books. The videos drew viewers from all over the world whose pictures and letters were shared in each episode.[55] Soanes' fourth book, Fred and the Fantastic Tub-Tub, illustrated by Anja Uhren, was published by Graffeg in March 2022.[56]


  • Gaspard the Fox. Illustrated by James Mayhew. Graffeg Limited. May 2018. ISBN 978-1912213542.
  • Gaspard: Best in Show. Illustrated by James Mayhew. Graffeg Limited. August 2019. ISBN 978-1912654673.
  • Gaspard's Foxtrot. Illustrated by James Mayhew. Graffeg Limited. March 2021. ISBN 978-1913134808.
  • Gaspard's Christmas. Illustrated by James Mayhew. Graffeg Limited. October 2022 ISBN 978-1913134846
  • Fred and the Fantastic Tub-Tub. illustrated by Anja Uhren. Graffeg Limited. March 2022. ISBN 978-1802580808.
  • Peter the Cat's Little Book of BIG Words. Illustrated by James Mayhew. Graffeg Limited. November 2023. ISBN 978-1802580242


  • Frederick Delius: Hassan, Chandos Records, 2024[57]
  • Walton: Façade, Orchid Classics, 2017[58]
  • In Parenthesis – Opus Anglicanum, 2013[59]
  • The Great and Wide Sea – Opus Anglicanum, 2010[59]
  • Mediaeval Carols III – Opus Anglicanum, 1999[60][59]
  • An English Music – Opus Anglicanum[59]


  1. ^ "Zeb Soanes to host Smooth Classics at Seven on Classic FM". RadioToday. 28 June 2022. Retrieved 8 July 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "For those in peril on the sea". East Anglian Daily Times. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b "BBC Radio 4 – Six O'Clock News – Zebedee Soanes". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Richard (7 December 2010). "Heard But Not Seen: Seven Recognisable Voices". Radio Times. p. 20.
  5. ^ a b "BBC Radio 4 – Six O'Clock News – Zebedee Soanes". Bbc.co.uk. 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d "#28 A Voice For Radio". Dining With Strangers. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Announcers". thetvroom.com. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Biography". Zebsoanes.com. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  9. ^ Hudson, Alex (17 February 2012). "BBC News – The lull of the Shipping Forecast". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Foreword: The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book". Zeb Soanes. 5 November 2020. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  11. ^ "The News Quiz – BBC Radio 4". zebsoanes.com. Archived from the original on 28 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Heard but not Seen: Seven Recognisable Voices". Zebsoanes.com. 7 December 2010. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Sunday Times Favourite Voices". Zebsoanes.com. 12 July 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  14. ^ Paul Donovan (12 July 2015). "Radio Waves: Bedside manners". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 21 July 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Dead Girls Tell No Tales, Drama – BBC Radio 4". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  16. ^ "All Mouth and Trousers, Drama – BBC Radio 4". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  17. ^ "Radio". zebsoanes.com. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  18. ^ "3. The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 03: The Unbound Universe – Doctor Who – The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield – Big Finish". bigfinish.com. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  19. ^ "BBC – Christmas University Challenge alumni line-up announced – Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk.
  20. ^ "Christmas University Challenge – Results". www.blanchflower.org. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  21. ^ "University of Westminster Alumni to appear in University Challenge on Christmas Day | University of Westminster, London". www.westminster.ac.uk.
  22. ^ "Broadcaster Zeb Soanes to host Smooth Classics at Seven, weekdays on Classic FM". Classic FM.
  23. ^ "BBC Proms – First Night of the Proms: the morning after the night before – BBC Radio 3". BBC. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  24. ^ "Noye's Fludde – Britten Centenary". Zebsoanes.com. 24 November 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  25. ^ "Welcome to Opus Anglicanum". opus-anglicanum.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  26. ^ "Past Events". zebsoanes.com. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  27. ^ "About". Zeb Soanes. 19 April 2023.
  28. ^ a b c Pepinster, Catherine (19 August 2019). "Tales of the Fantastic Newsreader's Fox". Zeb Soanes. Archived from the original on 9 January 2021. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  29. ^ Keener, Andrew (31 March 2017). "The special challenges of recording Walton's Façade". gramophone.co.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  30. ^ "ConcertoNet.com – The Classical Music Network" (in French). concertonet.com. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  31. ^ "The King's Singers & Zeb Soanes – The Twelve Days of Christmas – YouTube". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  32. ^ Dan Moe & Ruyman Rodriguez. "Awards for Young Musicians | Giving talent a chance | Zeb Soanes". A-y-m.org. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  33. ^ "British Association of Performing Arts Medicine | Zeb Soanes". bapam.org.uk. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  34. ^ "Keeping the Festival spirit alive". us11.campaign-archive.com.
  35. ^ "Broadcaster Zeb Soanes is Mammal Charity's first patron". The Mammal Society. 4 June 2019.
  36. ^ "celebriTEAS". Zebsoanes.com. 12 June 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  37. ^ "Evening News". BBC London. 4 March 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  38. ^ Boggis, Mark (30 April 2022). "Unique new statue of Britten as a Boy 'can inspire generations'". Lowestoft Journal.
  39. ^ "Doctor Soanes". zebsoanes.com. 13 October 2023.
  40. ^ "Honorary graduates 2023 named". University of Suffolk. 29 August 2023.
  41. ^ Hansel, Aleesha. "Fox finds a friend in newsreader Zeb". Islington Tribune. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  42. ^ a b c "The fascinating tale of Gaspard the Fox". 11 December 2018.
  43. ^ Soanes, Zeb [@zebsoanes] (25 February 2015). "Just sworn in as a freeman of Highgate at @DukesHighgate in the ancient Swearing on the Horns rite. I feel changed?!" (Tweet). Retrieved 21 November 2021 – via Twitter.
  44. ^ "Zeb's latest adventure". 4 March 2022.
  45. ^ "Curtis Brown". www.curtisbrown.co.uk. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  46. ^ Pepinster, Catherine (11 October 2021). "Zeb Soanes: 'I told myself I couldn't be having a stroke – I was only 44'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 November 2021.(subscription required)
  47. ^ "Finding Hope After Stroke - Zeb Soanes' moment of hope". YouTube. 14 October 2021. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  48. ^ "Gaspard the Fox signs three book deal". zebsoanes.com. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  49. ^ "Gaspard the Fox – Graffeg Publishing". www.graffeg.com. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  50. ^ "Gaspard the Fox". Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  51. ^ "Gaspard: Best in Show". Graffeg Books. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  52. ^ "Gaspard's Foxtrot". Graffeg Books. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  53. ^ "World Premiere of Gaspard's Foxtrot in Concert for RSNO National Schools Concert Programme 2021". 10 February 2021.
  54. ^ "Gaspard's Foxtrot". 3choirs.org. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  55. ^ "Gaspard's Den". Zeb Soanes. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  56. ^ "Fred and the Fantastic Tub Tub Book Reviews | Toppsta". toppsta.com.
  57. ^ "chandos.net". Chandos Records.
  58. ^ "ORC100067 - Walton Façade - Carole Boyd, Zeb Soanes, John Wilson".
  59. ^ a b c d "Opus Anglicanum — Shop". Opus Anglicanum.
  60. ^ https://www.allmusic.com/album/mediaeval-carols-mw0001828561

External links[edit]