Anne Atkins

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Anne Atkins (born 1956) is an English broadcaster, journalist, novelist and controversialist. A regular contributor to the Today programme's "Thought for the Day" feature, she is the author of three novels: The Lost Child, On Our Own and A Fine and Private Place.

Early life[edit]

Anne Atkins was born in 1956 at Bryanston, Dorset, and moved to Cambridge at the age of three when her father, David Briggs, became headmaster of King's College School. She went to Byron House School, the Cambridgeshire High School for Girls and the Perse School for Girls. After school, she went to the Decroux School of Mime in Paris and studied harp under Solonge Renie. She studied English language and literature at Brasenose College, Oxford, and then trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her brother is the Oxford scientist Andrew Briggs.


Atkins started her acting career at St George’s Shakespeare Theatre in Tufnell Park. Her career moved increasingly into writing until her last theatre appearance at the National Theatre in 1991.

The Lost Child is based on a true story in which a family makes a decision one summer which haunts five-year-old Sandy into adulthood. The novel is interwoven with the history of Cassandra, the soothsaying daughter of Priam, King of Troy.

On Our Own is its sequel: a murder mystery set in Cambridge, featuring a ten-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome and his violinist mother. It examines domestic violence, as A Fine and Private Place, also a murder mystery set in and around Cambridge, tackles child abuse.

Atkins is an Anglican and is a regular speaker on the "Thought for the Day" feature on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Her contributions have sometimes been controversial and one such broadcast reportedly had the distinction of prompting the first ever complaint to the BBC from the Church of England Press Office.[1] She was The Daily Telegraph's first agony aunt (1996–2000) and also writes for The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, Country Life and the Daily Express, in which she has a weekly column about raising children.

Atkins presented The Agony Hour series for Channel 5, Watch Your ****ing Language for Channel 4 and Why People Hate Christians for BBC Radio 4, and frequently comments on programmes such as Question Time, Any Questions? and Today.


In 1996 she used her slot on Radio 4's Thought for the Day to attack Anglican bishops for supporting a celebration in Southwark Cathedral marking 20 years of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.[2] Her opinions prompted the Church of England's first ever complaint about the programme.

In 1998 the Press Complaints Commission ruled that an article written by her in The Sun objecting to Government proposals to make the age of consent for homosexuals equal to that for heterosexuals broke the industry's Code of Conduct. In the article she stated that "this is not opinion: it is fact. The life expectancy of a gay man without HIV is a shocking 43 years" and "a gay man is, alarmingly, 17 times more likely to be a paedophile than a straight man".[3] The PCC ruled that these were not proven facts and that she had been misleading the readers. The Sun apologised.[citation needed]

In November 2007, she defended a motion for free speech on BBC2's Newsnight, when the Oxford Union invited right-wing figures David Irving and Nick Griffin to speak: "When you say that the majority view is always right I think that is a deeply dangerous and disturbing thing to say. I am not for a moment saying that I agree with David Irving or Nick Griffin but I am saying that once you start having truth by democracy you risk silencing some of the most important prophets we have ever had."[4]

In September 2008, Atkins prompted complaints after offending the people of Norfolk on BBC Radio 4. In a Thought for the Day broadcast about compensation culture, she said: "No more chestnut trees lining the streets of Norwich, in case the conkers fall on your head – as if that would make a difference, in Norfolk."[5]

In October 2012, Atkins drew condemnation for a Daily Mail article published under the headline, “I haven't handed over a sex offender to the police – because I was told in confidence”.[6][7]



  • The Lost Child (1994). ISBN 0-340-63245-3
  • On Our Own (1996). ISBN 0-340-67218-8
  • A Fine and Private Place (1998). ISBN 0-340-67221-8



  • Encouraging Women (1998). ISBN 1-85345-135-5
  • A Working Faith; ed. Roger Mills. Newcastle upon Tyne: Claremont (1999). ISBN 1-953327-70-2
  • Why I Am Still an Anglican; edited by Caroline Chartres. Harrisburg, Pa.; London: Morehouse (2006). ISBN 0-8264-8143-4


  1. ^ Why I am Still an Anglican, Continuum 2006, p. 27.
  2. ^ "Church rounds on BBC over anti-gay 'Thought for the Day'". London: BBC. 1996-10-11. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  3. ^ "Press Complains Complaints Commission Adjudication". PCC. Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
  4. ^ "Protesters disrupt Oxford debate". BBC. 2007-11-27. Archived from the original on 2008-11-10. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  5. ^ Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent (20 September 2008). "Radio 4's conker joke raises hackles in Norfolk".
  6. ^ "'I haven't handed over a sex offender to the police – because I was told in confidence': A leading agony aunt makes an explosive confession". Daily Mail. London. 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
  7. ^ ""Is my friend a rapist?" asks South African journalist, McKaisar following allegations against Wa Mamatu". The Independent.