WE ARE all too aware of the distress of those who cannot join together in public worship: the faithful and those privileged to lead them in the ways of God. We are probably less aware, though, of the ways in which it affects our Muslim neighbours.
Last week, Channel 4 repaired that ignorance with Ramadan in Lockdown: four 15-minute films compiled from video diaries kept by a range of adherents up and down the country. While they represented the articulate, media-comfortable section of their faith, this was still an impressive snapshot of people for whom religion is central to their lives, and who can find, in the rigorous discipline of their fast, pride, celebration, and solidarity — deepening their relationship with God, and their care for neighbours.
Besides donating more than £100 million to charities in this holy month, UK Muslims provide extensive practical charity, such as bringing food to the self-isolating and destitute. Why cannot TV complement this portrait of British faith in action with a similar series depicting our Christian keeping of Lent? Might it be because so few of us actually do keep it with anything approaching this wholehearted enthusiasm?
In Grayson’s Art Club (Monday of last week), Channel 4 did celebrate (although not so recognising it) a central religious meditative practice: intense looking. Grayson Perry challenged us to depict the view from our window, then discussed some of the works sent to him by mobile phone with their creators. His cheerful, positive encouragement — helped by the visiting artist Jim Moir, aka Vic Reeves — unlocked delightful, creativity. His artist’s eye lighted on some marvellous works: perhaps the most moving was a powerful drawing from a woman who, in the video interview, turned out to be, to all intents and purposes, blind. It is a probing challenge worth pondering: how do the eye, imagination, and hand relate?
BBC2 asked What’s the Matter with Tony Slattery? (Thursday of last week). Thirty years ago, at the height of his TV fame, the comic improviser Tony Slattery vanished from public view. Decades of paranoia, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse followed; now, he is willing to explore which of these demons is cause and which is effect.
TV cameras recorded meetings with therapists, doctors, and specialists, and chronicled the love and care of his partner, Mark. Eventually, he disclosed on camera an appalling childhood trauma: aged eight, he had been anally raped by a Roman Catholic priest. We saw no resulting miracle cure, but, perhaps, the first steps to slow painful recovery.
Wednesday of last week provided two aspects of the Scots’ fascination with stone: in Climbing Blind (Channel 4), a blind climber ascended the Old Man Of Hoy; Sink or Skim (BBC1) showed feats of skipping stones across water: the current record is 121.8 metres.