Justin Webb’s childhood was far from ordinary. “The TV news came on and a lugubrious-looking chap in a light coloured suit with a deep, plummy voice said something about the balance of payments. ‘That’s your father’, my mother said, quite unprompted.”
Between his mother’s undiagnosed psychological problems and his step-father’s untreated ones, life at home was dysfunctional at best. But with gun-wielding school masters and substandard living conditions, Quaker boarding school wasn’t much better. And the backdrop to this coming of age story? Britain in the 1970s. Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and Free. Strikes, inflation and IRA bombings. A time in which attitudes towards mental illness, parenting and masculinity were worlds apart from the attitudes we have today. A society that believed itself to be close to the edge of breakdown.
On radio and television, Justin Webb comes across as one of this country’s most relaxed and affable broadcasters. His moving and frank memoir tells a different story of a childhood defined by loneliness, the absence of a father and the grim experience of a Quaker boarding school. He gives a perceptive account of Britain in the 1970s when the country was at its most stagnant and grey. He talks to broadcaster and journalist Sophie Raworth about his story of hope and how the gift of a radio changed the life of an unhappy little boy and put him on the road to becoming one of Britain’s most trusted journalists.