After 18 years, more than 700 celebrity interviews and 1000s of songs, Sue Lawley is to bid farewell to BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

Lawley (pictured), who was born in Sedgley in the Black Country, yesterday announced she was to quit the show to pursue "other aspects of broadcasting and maybe a bit of business too".

She has occupied the presenter's chair since 1987 and is only the third presenter in the show's 64-year history. Her last programme will be on August 27.

Lawley, aged 59, said: "It is one of the best jobs in broadcasting. But it has dominated my professional life and I feel the time has come to concentrate on other aspects of broadcasting and maybe a bit of business too.

"I've had more than 18 very happy years and have talked to some extraordinary people as they revealed themselves through their choice of music."

Over the years Lawley has interviewed some of the biggest names in politics, the arts, literature and sport.

The Sunday show is currently enjoying its highest ratings since 1999.

Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said: "I tried hard to persuade Sue to change her mind but to no avail.

"She started her career as a journalist and is still a journalist at heart.

"She also has an enormous interest in people. Put these two attributes together and you end up with fascinating and entertaining interviews that are now the hallmark of Desert Island Discs. She will be a tough act to follow."

The programme was devised in 1942 by Roy Plomley, who presented the show until his death in 1985. Michael Parkinson succeeded him and Lawley took over in 1987.

There have been more than 2,600 guests since the programme began and Lawley has interviewed 750 of them.

The format is simple: each week a guest is invited to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island.

Born and educated in Sedgley, Lawley went on to study modern languages at Bristol University.

From there she won a place as a trainee journalist, learning her craft on The Western Mail & Echo in Cardiff before moving into television.

In 1972, she became one of the main presenters of BBC One's early evening current affairs programme, Nationwide, on which she worked for 12 years, making her name as a current affairs journalist.

In the 1980s, she presented the Nine O'Clock News and then the Six O'Clock News.

She has also covered the Budgets and General Elections for the BBC and ITV, as well as presenting Question Time, Wogan and her own television chat show, Saturday Matters.

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