Justin Webb’s childhood was far from ordinary. Between his mother’s un-diagnosed psychological problems, and his stepfather’s untreated ones, life at home was dysfunctional at best. Growing up in 1970s Britain, attitudes towards mental illness, parenting and masculinity were worlds apart from the attitudes we have today. Justin Webb’s memoir is candid, unsparing and darkly funny.
Venue: Hylands House, London Road, Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 8WQ
Tickets: £10 / £8 concessions (Students, Under 27s and Jobseekers)
Date and time: Sunday 19th June, 2.00pm
Box Office: Book online or via Mercury Theatre 01206 573948 (10am – 8pm Tuesday to Saturday)
Free Parking: Car parking is included in the ticket price. Please register your car on arrival at Hylands House. Please note Hylands Estate are not able to refund car parking charges if you have already paid.
A portrait of personal and national dysfunction, drawing on themes of mental health, masculinity, grief, childhood guilt and what privilege looks like, Justin Webb’s memoir is candid, unsparing and darkly funny.
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 un-diagnosed psychological problems, and his step-father’s untreated ones, life at home was dysfunctional at best. But with gun-wielding school masters and sub-standard 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. This 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. It is also one of the most perceptive accounts of Britain in the 1970s when the country was at its most stagnant and grey. But it is also a 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.’
MISHA GLENNY, author of MCMAFIA
‘This is very, very good. It is not only a vivid portrait of Justin Webb’s young life but, deftly, of those times as well. He has a light touch but writes with great sensitivity, insight, and wit. It is touchingly self-revelatory but never mawkish. The absurd snobberies of the class into which he was born and reared are brilliantly illuminated. The portrait of his mother is painful and touching, tender and anguished. He is never self-pitying or self-regarding but there is much raw pain as well as candour in what he writes. A very fine memoir indeed.’
‘Justin is a great broadcaster because he sounds like a real human being. This hugely entertaining book helps explain why.’
‘I was gripped. This perfectly captures the unique in-betweenness of the 1970s. Justin Webb is both generous and critical, measured yet fierce in this account of an extraordinary childhood.’ RICHARD BEARD, author of SAD LITTLE MEN and THE DAY THAT WENT MISSING
Justin Webb is the longest serving presenter of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme Today. For the best part of four decades, he has been a voice on the airwaves or a presence on our TV screens. He joined the BBC in 1984 as a trainee, and has reported from around the world, as a war correspondent in the Gulf and in Bosnia, on the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the first democratic elections in South Africa.
He was Europe Correspondent when the Euro was introduced, and for eight years he was the chief correspondent in Washington DC. Among his awards is Political Journalist of the Year, which he won for his coverage of the Obama presidential campaign. He’s a regular columnist in The Times and for the Unherd website. He lives with his family in South London.
You can find Justin on Twitter @JustinOnWeb