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TV review: The British Academy Television Awards, Sandford St Martin Trust Prizegiving, and Trooping the Colour: The Queen’s birthday parade

18 June 2021


Oti Mabuse arrives at The British Academy Television Awards (BBC1, Sunday of last week)

Oti Mabuse arrives at The British Academy Television Awards (BBC1, Sunday of last week)

LAST week, we saw not only the annual British Academy Television Awards (BBC1, Sunday of last week), but also the Sandford St Martin 2021 Awards for outstanding contributions to the public understanding of religion, ethics, or spirituality (available online via their website). By the time this is published, you will know whether these two events reflected shortly disappearing limitations on public gatherings and live events or, depressingly, exhibited the level of compliance which could be with us for some considerable time.

The BAFTAs felt rather similar to the kind of thing that we have got used to in church: the auditorium less than a quarter full; the small representative sample granted access dotted here and there, self-consciously trying to build up appropriate atmosphere; the numbers made up with a Zoom relay. What was probably unlike your own Sunday worship was the extravagant bling and glamour of the live participants’ vesture, and the brilliant way in which the presenter, Richard Ayoade, decided that the only way to deal with the situation was to mock mercilessly the hand that was feeding him.

The prizes went to worthy and serious recipients, with a particularly high incidence of our marvellous female and non-white actors, directors, and writers: it was a notably diverse line-up.

The Sandford St Martin Trust awards were reported on last week (News, 11 June); so I won’t duplicate; but, commenting on form rather than content, I can fairly say that there was no emulation of Ayoade’s comic turn: this was, as no doubt befits its subject, a serious affair.

Denied the customary grandeur of Lambeth Palace, each category was introduced from outside a different transmission tower, giving the proceedings a novel live-broadcast character. I must mention that the culminating Trustees Award, instead of going to a conventional programme, went to a segment of national news: the BBC1 report of two clergy in Burnley, reduced to tears as they responded to the effect of the pandemic on the poor and destitute. This was a terrific choice: for once, the nation saw the true ministry of the Church, “the cutting edge of the Christian faith”. Let’s have more like that.

It would be entirely improper to give an award to the star of two news segments last weekend: the Queen, sorting out the G7 leaders’ photocall (“Are we supposed to look as though we are enjoying ourselves?”) and foot-tapping along with her Guards Bands at Trooping the Colour: The Queen’s birthday parade (BBC1, Saturday). Another Covid casualty, Horseguards Parade, was replaced with Windsor Castle, its immaculate greensward presenting a big problem: they cannot hear each other’s stamping footfall. It was as impossible as trying to present decent liturgy in a carpeted sanctuary.

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