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BBC dominates as Sandford St Martin winners announced

09 June 2021

The annual awards recognise contributions to religious broadcasting in the UK

Al Jazeera English

Winfred Rembert, an American artist who survived an attempted lynching in the 1960s, and died this year, was featured in the documentary Ashes to Ashes, which won the TV/video category

Winfred Rembert, an American artist who survived an attempted lynching in the 1960s, and died this year, was featured in the documentary Ashes to Ashe...

HOPE amid turmoil and the redemption of past wrongs were the dominant themes of the winning programmes in the Sandford St Martin Trust Awards on Tuesday evening.

The annual awards are for contributions to religious broadcasting in the UK. For the second year running (News, 12 June 2020), the presentation took place online, owing to the ongoing Covid restrictions.

The power of love over grief and the long legacy of historical wrongs, including racism and child abuse, were among the themes explored in the 24 shortlisted programmes.

The BBC dominated in the four main categories, winning three awards. This included the children’s-broadcasting prize for the animation Sol, about a boy who undertakes an epic adventure to find joy again after the death of his grandmother. It was produced by Paper Owl Films in Belfast for TG4, SG4, and BBC Alba.

The broadcaster also won the journalism award for Hidden Children of the Church, a BBC Religion and Ethics feature for Radio 4 about the thousands of children allegedly fathered by celibate Roman Catholic priests.

Vincent DoyleAn image from the BBC Religion and Ethics programme for Radio 4, Hidden Children of the Church, which won of the journalism category

The BBC programme The Paddle Out won the radio/audio award. Made by Falling Tree Productions for the BBC World Service, it is named after the honour given by surfers to people with a love of the ocean who have died in the water. Thousands of surfers paddle out into the deceased’s favourite spot to celebrate their life.

The top prize in the TV/video category was awarded to Al Jazeera English for its documentary Ashes to Ashes, about the enduring legacy of racist violence in the United States. The programme featured Winfred Rembert, an American artist who survived an attempted lynching in the 1960s, and died this year.

Other winners this year were Psalm 23, a UK Jewish Film for YouTube, and Radio Wanna, a religious service broadcast on prison radio by the HM Prison Wandsworth Chaplaincy Team — which both received the trustees’ community award.

A drama series exploring the 1980s AIDS crisis, It’s a Sin, produced by the Red Production Company for Channel 4, won the Radio Times readers’ award. The producer, Russell T. Davies, said: “I wanted to create characters we love, who we then miss after their deaths, exactly like the real-life experience of looking back on the ’80s. And of course, the shock of those deaths is hitting young viewers hard. We’re getting thousands of stories about teenagers and young people being astonished and outraged. This seems like a recognisable world to them.”

The BBC was also a joint winner of the trustees’ content award for its programme Burnley Crisis, which covered the work of the Vicar of St Matthew’s, Burnley, in Lancashire, the Revd Alex Frost, and a Street Pastor, Mick Fleming, who were driven to tears of distress as they tried to support their poor and isolated community. Their charitable organisations have received more than £250,000 in donations since the programme was first shown on BBC News last year (News, 11 December 2020).

BBCMike Fleming, a Street Pastor, featured in the BBC programme Burnley Crisis, a joint winner of the trustees’ content award

In an interview with the Church Times at the time, Mr Fleming said: “I could have taken them to far worse situations. I’m with people every day for whom gas and electricity are luxuries. We take food parcels to people, but what’s the point if they can’t cook the food because there’s no gas or electric?”

The Channel 4 series Ramadan in Lockdown, about the 2.6 million Muslims in the UK who observed their 30 days’ sunrise-to-sunset fast during tight coronavirus restrictions, was the other joint winner of the trustees’ content award. It was produced by Clockwork Films.

The judges praised the innovation of the broadcasting industry during an uncertain year. The chair of the Sandford St Martin Trust, the Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, said: “During a year when so many of us were stuck in one place, public-service broadcasting played a critical role. This year’s winners have all helped audiences to engage with and experience the world, creating space for us to share in a public conversation about values and what it’s like to be alive today.”

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