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Ghost of Christmases past haunts BBC schedule

29 November 2019

The programming is criticised for being too predictable

BBC

Choristers at King’s College, Cambridge, from Carols from King’s. The former choir director of nearly four decades, Sir Stephen Cleobury, died at his home in York, on St Cecilia’s Day, after a long illness, aged 70. Obituary to follow

Choristers at King’s College, Cambridge, from Carols from King’s. The former choir director of nearly four decades, Sir Stephen Cleobury, died at his ...

THE BBC has relied on old favourites for its Christmas schedules this year.

The choirmaster Gareth Malone and gospel choir conductor Karen Gibson reunite for Advent to explore Christmas traditions in the UK in a two-part programme, Britain’s Christmas Story. The pair presented Britain’s Easter Story on Good Friday and Easter Day (News, 5 April).

Carols from King’s will return to BBC2 on Christmas Eve, conducted for the first time by the new musical director, Daniel Hyde. Midnight Mass will be broadcast live from Croydon Minster. On Songs of Praise, the Revd Kate Bottley will celebrate the Nativity on a Devon farm, and Aled Jones will host the Christmas Big Sing from the Assembly Hall, Belfast.

There will be two editions of Beyond Belief on BBC Radio 4 during advent: on Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the C. S Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and a third, on miracles, on 30 December.

The annual nativity service from the Wintershall Estate, near Guildford, whose cast of players and animals also stage Passion plays in Trafalgar Square, will fill the 9 a.m. slot on Christmas Day on Radio 4. The service will be led by the Bishop of Dorking, Dr Jo Bailey Wells.

Ms Bottley will be hosting the Christmas Morning show on Radio 2 before joining the Revd Richard Coles and Canon Giles Fraser for a Christmas special of Three Vicars Talking on Radio 4. On Christmas night on Radio 4, the actor and comedian Sally Philips will reflect on the day.

On Tuesday, the executive director of the Sandford St Martin Trust, Anna McNamee, was critical of the schedule: “It’s difficult not to feel a little disappointed by the predictability of the BBC’s religious programmes offering this Christmas. This year’s holiday marks the end of the BBC’s much-touted ‘Year of Beliefs’, and also comes during one of the most politically and socially turbulent times in the nation’s recent history.

“It would have been the perfect opportunity for the broadcaster to be more ambitious, innovative, and creative. . . While traditional carols, festive music, and live worship are all very welcome, where are the original dramas, the landmark factual programming, or the comedy the Year of Beliefs promised would ‘shine a light on faith, belief, and values in modern Britain’?”

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