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Elizabeth Mary Purves
2 February 1950
London, England, UK
|Occupation||Radio presenter, journalist and author|
|Children||Nicholas Heiney (died 2006)|
Elizabeth Mary "Libby" Purves, (born 2 February 1950) is a British radio presenter, journalist and author.
Born in London, a diplomat's daughter, Purves was raised in her mother's Catholic faith and educated at convent schools in Israel, Bangkok, South Africa and France, and at Beechwood Sacred Heart School, Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Purves won a scholarship to St Anne's College, Oxford, where she was awarded a first class degree in English. She was elected Librarian of the Oxford Union. In 1971, she joined the BBC as a studio manager. By the mid-1970s she was a regular presenter on BBC Radio Oxford where she could be frequently heard on the station's early morning shows. In 1976, she joined the BBC Radio 4's Today programme as a reporter and became the programmes's first woman presenter, alongside Brian Redhead and John Timpson two years later.
For her column in The Times newspaper, Purves was named columnist of the year in 1999 and in the same year was appointed an OBE for services to journalism. She has written books on childcare, twelve novels including Mother Country, a memoir of religious upbringing, Holy Smoke (1998), and a travel book, One Summer's Grace (1989), about a 1,700-mile sailing journey round Britain with children aged three and five.
Purves has a monthly column in the sailing magazine Yachting Monthly and is a contributor to The Oldie magazine. She was appointed a patron of the British Art Music Series Trust  along with James MacMillan and John Wilson. She served ten years as a Trustee of the National Maritime Museum.
On being sacked without explanation as Chief Theatre Critic, she announced in the London Evening Standard two days later, 13 October 2013, that her commitment to, and interest in, theatre commentary was so great that she intended to continue, and on that day she inaugurated theatrecat.com, a review website covering much the same first nights as before.
Purves is in favour of gay rights, and has written articles supporting this position. However, she has spoken out against the "coercive liberalism, one-note righteousness" of the National Trust following its "outing" of Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, saying that "Crassly reducing any human being to a sexuality, posthumously enlisting him or her in a phantom regiment under your orders, is almost as belittling as persecution itself."
In 2009, Purves debated at the Cambridge Union against Dr. Glenn Wilson and Rupert Myers on the motion This House Would Rather Be Gay. Following a column on the anti-gay policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Greek businessman Demetri Marchessini took out a quarter-page advertisement in The Daily Telegraph on 28 January 2014 to criticise her views on homosexuality and religion. According to Purves, while Marchessini is "free to approve of the beatings and hangings of young men across the world in the name of what he considers religion" she is also "free to say he is a loony."
Purves is married to broadcaster Paul Heiney. The couple has one surviving child. Their first child, Nicholas, died on 26 June 2006, at age 23. He hanged himself in the family home in Westleton, Suffolk after a serious mental illness. A collection of his poems and sea-logs of a Pacific journey under square rig, The Silence at the Song's End, has been published, inspired a song cycle by Joseph Phibbs, and was broadcast on Radio 4.