Woman’s Hour: Dame Jenni Murray signs off with feminist anthem

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Tricia Yourkevich/BBC

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Dame Jenni Murray is the Radio 4 show’s longest-serving presenter

Dame Jenni Murray ended her final episode of Woman’s Hour with Helen Reddy’s feminist anthem, I Am Woman.

The Australian singer died this week aged 78.

The outgoing presenter said it was “very strange” to be hosting the BBC Radio 4 show for the last time, as she prepared to leave after 33 years.

She added she was “much cheered” by receiving the gift of a farewell chocolate cake from celebrity chef and fellow broadcaster, Mary Berry.

Dame Jenni, 70, is the 74-year-old programme’s longest-serving presenter. She announced in July that it was “time to move on”.

One of her final guests on Thursday, MP Harriet Harman, praised her “tremendous legacy”.

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Tricia Yourkevich/BBC

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Dame Jenni was given a farewell cake, courtesy of Mary Berry

Her finale celebrated the success of the show, which “offers female perspectives on the world”, including how it had helped in “changing the conversation” about domestic violence and marital rape.

It also looked back at some of her most memorable interviews, with figures as varied as US actress Bette Davis, former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and her favourite singer Joan Baez – “the peak of my career”, Dame Jenni said.

Opening her final time in the hot-seat, she declared: “Good morning and welcome to Woman’s Hour.

“And yes, it does feel very strange to be saying that for the last time after 33 years!”

‘Penetrating gaze’

Paying tribute in a special radio package, the programme’s former editor and producer Sally Feldman said the celebrated interviewer “almost hypnotised people into replying to her”.

“The experience of being interviewed by Jenni is quite something else, because you get her warm voice and penetrating gaze,” she said.

“She just didn’t have any fear at all about asking people things and they always found themselves replying.”

Novelist and poet Jackie Kay saluted Dame Jenni for “holding up a mirror to the real world and everything that’s been going on in it.”

She signed off by thanking all of the listeners, who she described as “a vital part of the Woman’s Hour family”.

She also thanked “the three men in my family – David, Ed and Charlie”, who she added had “given endless support”, before playing Reddy’s ode to female empowerment to finish.

‘Tackling important issues’

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Departing Woman’s Hour presenters Jenni Murray (left) and Jane Garvey, in 2016

Dame Jenni received her damehood in 2011, in recognition of her Sony Award-winning broadcasting contributions.

During a three decade-career on the show, the departing Woman’s Hour host also interviewed fellow Dame, Judi Dench, and Saoirse Ronan; as well as Margaret Atwood and Kate McCann.

In 2006, she announced on-air that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. On her return to work the following year, Dame Jenni spoke about her hair loss and the importance of hair in defining femininity.

Mohit Bakaya, controller of Radio 4, praised her for tackling “important issues” and having “difficult conversations about the experiences of women”.

“I want to thank her for her wonderful commitment to Woman’s Hour, to Radio 4 in general, and for the passion she has shown for the topics explored during her time on the programme,” said Bakaya, around the news of her departure this summer.

The corporation’s outgoing director general, Tony Hall, added that “the radio airwaves won’t be the same without her”.

Who is the new presenter?

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Media captionThe broadcaster thanked her 5 Live audience for making the show ‘such a wonderful place’

Earlier this month, it was announced that Emma Barnett will be the new presenter of Woman’s Hour.

The 5 Live and Newsnight presenter will fill the shoes of Dame Jenni, and her co-host Jane Garvey – who has also decided to step down from the end of the year.

Unlike the current arrangement, where Garvey and Dame Jenni share presenting duties, Barnett will be the main host from Monday to Thursday each week.

An additional presenter will be appointed to host the Friday and Saturday editions in due course.

Barnett is already associated with the Radio 4 programme, presenting its late-night spin-off and regularly chairing the Woman’s Hour Power List.

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