Wednesday 26 April 2017

No-one gave me a 'big reason' for axing Midweek, says Radio 4's Libby Purves

By Kerri-Ann Roper

The long-running Wednesday morning show will come to an end on March 29, the BBC announced last year.

Radio 4 presenter Libby Purves has said nobody has given her a “big philosophical reason” for the decision to axe Midweek after 35 years on air.

The long-running Wednesday morning show, which is repeated at 9pm, will come to an end on March 29, the BBC announced last year.

The show launched in its current format in 1982 and Libby has presented it since 1983.

She told Radio Times: “Nobody has given me any kind of big philosophical reason for it. They wanted to put something else in, and the other programmes they could have moved they are not going to move. They wanted Wednesday. But that is the Controller’s choice. Controllers control and that’s just how it is.”

The popular show will be replaced by a presenter-free 30-minute interview series featuring leading artists, writers, poets and musicians.

Libby, 67, said Midweek’s live element has been at the heart of its success.

“What Midweek did almost by accident because it grew organically, was it brought in people who are not famous, and they’d sit next to, say, Cameron Mackintosh, Priscilla Presley or Paul McCartney, and these people were given equal time and value, and it had the effect of both humanising the big stars and giving proper live dignity to people who otherwise wouldn’t be heard,” she told the magazine.

“And we did it together, creating this web of understanding. There were extraordinary moments when people reached across to each other. No other programme does that live, and it’s why live matters.”

Libby, who in 1976 became the youngest ever Today presenter aged 26, was due to front a new monthly Radio 4 programme about theatre but turned the offer down.

She told Radio Times she also declined a position presenting Pick of the Week.

She said: “I’m not Alan Partridge. I’m not going to take something just for the sake of being on Radio 4. If a programme challenges or interests me, that’s different. But I’m in my mid-60s. I maybe have ten years left in me, and I don’t want to dribble it away on things I don’t really want to do.”

Announcing Midweek’s departure last year, BBC’s Radio 4 Controller Gwyneth Williams thanked Libby and fans of the show.

She said: ”Most of all my thanks, both personal and on behalf of listeners to Libby, for the outstanding job she has done as presenter for so long.”

Commenting on Libby’s decision not to accept the theatre show, Williams said in a statement: ”We are sorry to hear that Libby has decided not to take on the presenting duties for Radio 4′s new monthly theatre programme as planned. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Libby again for her years as the brilliant host of Midweek, which comes to an end in March 2017.”

Libby will be back on Radio 4 in a documentary about the creation of a new theatre in London, which is due to be broadcast in Autumn. She has also written a book about Midweek titled That Was Midweek That Was: The Story Of A Radio Programme 1979-2017.

Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times.

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