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Jenni Murray, Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton, May 13
It was a sombre start indeed as “voice of Woman’s Hour” Jenni Murray launched into some particularly poignant sections from her book Memoirs Of A Not So Dutiful Daughter.
Detailing the tumultuous year that saw the death of both her parents and her own diagnosis with breast cancer, her voice seemed a little shaky with emotion in sharing these personal moments.
But the vibrant discussion grew from there to incorporate everything from her relationship with her sons, her intense work ethic, her love of opals and Jack Nicholson, the media’s complete blindness to women’s issues and, inevitably, gender politics.
One of her strengths as a broadcaster is her knack for cutting straight to the point and, in the hot seat herself, she was similarly frank – yes, her husband is very much like her father; one of the main reasons she became a broadcaster was to show off; the people who created Britney Spears should be shot; and John Humphreys? “I taught him everything he knows.”
There were some very annoying dying-microphone issues in the first 15 minutes, but Murray gamely laughed them off while an assistant attempted to rewire her. “I think it’s lost in my bra” she chuckled.
It was interesting to hear her speak outside her role in the BBC, free to express her strong views on assisted suicide, of which she is fervently in favour after watching her mother effectively starve to death towards the end of her fight with Parkinson’s.
But she was also insistent she would never sacrifice the journalistic integrity of Woman’s Hour by turning it into a pulpit to push causes. “I may sometimes let slip how I feel about certain issues, but I defy anyone in this room to know which party I’d vote for. And I won’t tell you.”
But she was at her most wickedly disarming when brandishing her razor sharp wit, as when interviewer Simon Fanshawe dared to mercilessly deride her choice of croc footwear. “I can change my shoes any time,” she deadpanned. “Your hair will never grow back.”