Libby Purves – Radio: A True Love Story

Radio: A True Love Story book coverLibby Purves loves radio and anybody who loves the medium will enjoy this book. It’s autobiographical but not an autobiography. It focuses solely on Libby’s life with radio: from building her own transistor set to hosting flagship Radio Four programmes Today and Midweek. Libby’s delight with sound, and particularly voices – is unmistakable.

This book is not a history of radio nor is it a manual or how-to guide. It is, however, filled with delightful personal anecdotes about speech radio spanning the corridors of the BBC World Service in Bush House, through the early years of BBC Local Radio (she worked at Radio Oxford) to the heart of BBC Radio at Broadcasting House. Libby’s joy in talk radio is clearly with the Radio Four style and her attitudes hark back to Lord Reith and the BBC’s founding fathers. This is not a criticism for it makes an interesting backdrop to today’s radio services. Not for Libby the shock-jock approach to the ‘phone-in nor the music driven disc-jockey speak but the (apparently) slower-paced world of radio documentaries and features and the fast-moving news and current affairs departments are her chosen arenas. The book is filled with personal stories and she paints superb pictures of the characters that inhabit the world of the wireless (management, production staff and presenters). The book is also an appeal for speech radio which, she feels, is too easily overlooked in a BBC obsessed with television ratings in the digital era. Yet the book has hopes that this unique brand of public service radio will survive.

Radio: A True Love Story
is an engaging read. It doesn’t overpower the reader with names and places but peppers the tales with personalities who add colour to the tale. Libby’s love of the medium comes through loud and clear and that is what makes this a joy to read and recommend.

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