Peter Purves 'stunned' to lose Crufts presenting role after 41 years

‘Channel 4 want a younger presentation team, so I had to go’: Peter Purves, 80, tells GMB he was ‘stunned’ to lose Crufts presenting role after 41 years as Piers Morgan launches a campaign to keep him on the dog show coverage

  • Peter Purves found out this week he is to be axed from nearly 70-year-old show
  • The 80-year-old said he felt ‘upset and angry’ by it and thinks it is due to his age
  • Mr Purves, who has six dogs, said it ‘wasn’t a nice telephone call’ to inform him
  • GMB’s Piers Morgan launched campaign to keep the veteran presenter on show

A heartbroken Crufts presenter has told how he has been ousted because ‘Channel 4 want a younger team’.

Peter Purves found out this week he is to be axed from the nearly 70-year-old TV show which he has nurtured for more than half its life.

The 80-year-old said he felt ‘upset and angry’ by the decision and ‘don’t believe that because you reach a certain age, your talent, your skill.. should just be dismissed’.

Peter Purves (pictured on GMB today) found out this week he is to be axed from the nearly 70-year-old TV show which he has nurtured for more than half its life

Mr Purves told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today: ‘I believe that the diktat that’s probably come from Channel 4 is we want a younger presentation team.

‘I know that that was said, no one’s written it down for me, but I know that’s been said. Channel 4 want a younger presentation team, so I had to go.

‘I do a number of great big outdoor events, the Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace. I hope that I carry on running dog arenas at big shows.

‘I’m not worried about it being on television, but I don’t believe that because you reach a certain age, your talent, your skill.. should just be dismissed.

‘I feel I’ve been part of that show for a long, long time – so that’s what it’s very hard to break the feeling on. There’s a void.’

Mr Purves told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today: ‘I believe that the diktat that’s probably come from Channel 4 is we want a younger presentation team’

Asked about comments online about the decision, he said: ‘I’ve had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds all totally supportive, and one unpleasant one.’

He added: ‘I’m not really seen much in the show now, it’s just commentary, and what’s wrong with my voice?’

Asked what message his removal sends out, he said: ‘It’s an obvious message. There aren’t lot of people my age appearing on television, so it speaks for itself really.’

Mr Purves, who has six dogs, said it ‘wasn’t a nice telephone call’ to be told he had been dropped.

He said it went: ‘Well there’s no easy way to say this, but actually you’re surplus to requirements – we don’t need you.’

Speaking about his reaction to being dropped after 41 years at the show, he said: ‘I was stunned actually. There hadn’t been a hint about it.

Mr Purves, who has six dogs, said it ‘wasn’t a nice telephone call’ to be told he had been dropped

‘Not a hint last year at the show – this would be my 42nd year at the show. It’s part of my life. I was very shocked, I was very hurt.

‘The point was that I’m not part of the commentary team. The executive producer has invited me to be a guest, a contributor on two of the programmes on the Saturday and Sunday.

‘Well I’m going to be at the show because I’m going to be presenting the award, so it’s no skin off their nose, so they can do something very nice for me.

‘I feel it was just a bit of a sop, and it was perhaps to soften the blow, but it didn’t.’

GMB host Piers Morgan launched a campaign to keep Mr Purves on the show.

He tweeted: ‘Dog-awful decision. Come on @Channel4 – reverse it & save @peterpurvis for the nation.’

What made the decision so brutal for Mr Purves was that it came just as he was celebrating one of the greatest accolades of his career.

Forget Oscars or Baftas — Mr Purves had just been invited to present the trophy to the Best In Show winner at Crufts 2020. The Kennel Club contacted him last week.

GMB host Piers Morgan (pictured with co-presenter Susanna Reid today) launched a campaign to keep Mr Purves on the show

Delighted, Mr Purves promptly emailed Sunset+Vine, the company who make the programme for Channel 4, with the thrilling news. 

He explained that, for obvious reasons, he would not be able to commentate on that segment of the show next year.

But it was then the show’s executive producer David Stranks called to admit he had news of his own: Mr Purves’s services would no longer be required.

A follow-up email worded his sacking thus: ‘As I am sure you’re aware, a long-running production like Crufts is under constant pressure to refresh and revitalise what we do… as much in terms of the faces and voices who present the programming as in terms of the way we work to give our evolving audience insight and entertainment about the event and its wider subject matter.

‘This is an ongoing process and has impacted many people who have been key members of our team over the years.’

Mr Purves was shocked: ‘It was a body blow. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.

‘He simply said that my services would not be needed next year. I didn’t know what to say.

‘I know Crufts only takes up four days, but it’s my very favourite week of the year. I adore the show.

‘I’ve nursed it through thick and thin, and to be unceremoniously dumped like this is deeply hurtful.

‘I was the first presenter to commentate on agility — now one of the show’s most popular items — when it was introduced by the BBC in 1978. There have been numerous changes over the years, but I’ve always been part of them. I co-presented with Angela Rippon in the early 1990s.

‘When the BBC pulled out in 2009 I kept the show going for the Kennel Club by broadcasting on the internet. I don’t want to boast but I kept it alive. I was thrilled when Sunset+Vine came in the following year and got the show back on TV.

‘I adore my co-presenters, Jessica Holm, Jim Rosenthal and Frank Kane. We are a very happy family. But, looking back, I can see I have gradually been eased off the screen. From presenting the entire Crufts show until 2003, my main role in the last few years has been as an off-screen commentator, with Clare Balding anchoring the show.

‘Still, I imagined carrying on for ever. Perhaps that’s my stupidity. I realise I am getting older but, after a hip operation six years ago, I’m actually fitter than ever. Of course my face has aged, but inside I feel about 40.’

Crufts’ executive producer Mr Stranks said: ‘Peter has been a much-loved part of the Crufts team.

‘We’re delighted he will continue to be part of our coverage and join us on-screen at the weekend of Crufts, the culmination and most-watched part of the four-day event.’

Mr Purves has been from the famous dog show after 41 years and now fears that he will lose his house

Mr Purves urges TV bosses not to abandon their loyal, older viewers. ‘In TV, and I suspect in many other professions, too, ageism is widespread. It’s shocking,’ he said.

‘Producers are so desperate to chase younger audiences that they are jettisoning older faces right, left and centre. The result is that TV doesn’t cater for the older generation.

‘So many well-established faces have disappeared from our screens. There are one or two women left, such as Gloria Hunniford and Angela Rippon, but they are a rarity.

‘For every Bruce Forsyth there are 100 thirtysomethings. We are living longer, healthier lives and being exhorted by governments to work longer. And, with the pension age climbing, we are penalised for giving up work.’

No wonder Mr Purves has been left feeling like a loyal, once-loved family pet, kicked out in favour of a newer, bouncier model.

He is far from geriatric. His mind is razor-sharp, his memory acute. And, of course, his voice remains velvety.

His wife of 37 years, West End actress Kathryn Evans (known as Kate) cannot even mention the word Crufts without welling up.

‘I’m heartbroken for Peter because I know how much it means to him,’ she says as he kisses her hand. 

‘Peter is very resilient and will pick himself up. But I have never seen him so upset. To treat someone like this after 41 years is simply horrendous.’

While Kate did her best to console her husband, only one thing would do — the comfort of a furry face and a wet nose.

Mr Purves has six dogs and has been working out his frustration and anger with plenty of cuddles and brisk walks around his one-acre garden.

So will he sue? ‘I can’t afford it,’ he admits ruefully. ‘Besides, while I believe in my heart it’s down to my age, I can’t prove it.’

Mr Purves is the first to admit that, when all is said and done, it’s only a job. But, at 80, losing a job is hard to bounce back from, and finding another role which suits him quite so beautifully is unlikely.

Peter (alongside Clare Balding) believes that the reason for his axing was due to his 80-year-old face no longer fitting Channel 4

Then there is the thorny question of money. He has too much dignity to plead poverty. 

But the grim truth is that, as a result of losing his job at Crufts, the couple will find it hard to keep the home they have lived in for the last 12 years.

With its beams and inglenook fireplace, the 400-year-old moated farmhouse deep in the Suffolk countryside is their pride and joy.

But it has got a hefty mortgage, and Mr Purves sadly admits that they have been hanging on by the skin of their teeth for the last few years.

‘I went to boarding school, so I don’t get too attached to places,’ he said. ‘But leaving here would break Kate’s heart.

‘It’s not just the fee from the programme which, for heaven’s sake, wasn’t huge. The job has been fundamental to my earnings.

‘I present numerous prestigious dog shows around the country which bring in much-needed cash. The last thing I want is to be seen as a whinger, but it annoys me when people assume that because I was on television I must be mega rich.

‘I loved Blue Peter to bits and it gave me some of the happiest years of my life, but by today’s standards the pay was pitiful. I actually earned £35 a week. The most I ever earned in a year was £10,000. There wasn’t even a clothing allowance.

‘Like the other presenters, I was self-employed so I don’t have a fat BBC pension to rely on. I don’t have any pension at all.’

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