THE BBC Panorama programme Is the Church racist? was among the winners of the 2022 Sandford St Martin Awards, announced on Wednesday.
The Awards, which were presented at Christ Church, Spitalfields, at the first in-person ceremony since 2019, celebrate excellence in broadcasting about religion, ethics, and spirituality. The winners this year were praised for their presentations of diversity, representation, and inclusion.
Panorama: Is the Church racist?, which aired on BBC1 in April 2021 (News, 23 April 2021), won the Journalism Award, beating the joint runners-up: Pope Francis in Iraq: The historic pilgrimage, for BBC Audio Heart and Soul; and The Women of Standing Rock, by Red Queen Media/Playart Productions for Al Jazeera English.
During the 30-minute documentary, Clive Myrie reported on stories of racist abuse and claims of a hostile environment for BAME/UKME Christians in the Church (Features, 3 July 2020). This included an interview with the Church’s former National Adviser for Minority-Ethnic Anglican Concerns, Dr Elizabeth Henry, who said that the Church had “abysmally failed” to address racism within its institution. The previous year, the Archbishop of Canterbury had told the General Synod that the Church was “still deeply institutionally racist” (News, 14 February; General Synod Digest, 21 February).
The Trustees’ Awards, announced two weeks ago (News, 10 June), were presented to the comedian, actor, and broadcaster Sir Lenny Henry, and the Afghan women’s news organisation Rukhshana Media, for their contributions to addressing under-representation in broadcasting.
In his acceptance speech on Wednesday, Sir Lenny paid tribute to his mother, who, he said, had come to Britain in 1957, but who had subsequently lost her faith after experiencing racism and sexism in church. Later, he said, she became a born-again Christian, a deacon and lay-preacher active in community and church outreach.
“I think that what we’re doing here with equality and inclusion is very much a part of what my mum inculcated in me,” he said. “This idea of helping people who are less fortunate than myself. If you want to know where I got it from, I got it from her.”
The TV/Video Award was awarded to Brotherhood: The inner life of monks, made by Intrepid Films Ltd for BBC4. The programme follows the lives of the Roman Catholic monastic community of Mount St Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire (more than half of whom are over the age of 80) who opened the first Trappist brewery in the UK.
This Girl’s Changed, made by Clockwork Films for BBC3, won the Young Audience Award, in which Persephone Rizvi — “a self-professed party girl before embracing Islam” — returns home to Huddersfield to see her old friends and find out whether they still have anything in common.
The Radio/Audio Award was presented to A Uyghur Ramadan, made by CTVC for the Things Unseen podcast. In it, the Uyghur singer and human rights activist Rahima Mahmut tells the story of her people, their cultural and Islamic traditions, and the oppression they have faced under the Chinese government.
The Radio Times Readers’ Award, voted for by readers of that magazine, was won by the prison drama Time, written by Jimmy McGovern for BBC Studios for BBC1, and starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. It explores “wrongdoing, redemption, the torment of guilt and the power of forgiveness”.
Speaking at the event, the Bishop of Ripon, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, who chairs the the Sandford St Martin Trust, said: “For many of us, the last couple of years have been exhausting — both physically and emotionally. Here, in Spitalfields, surrounded by stories of resilience and hope as well as of hardship and suffering, I’m reminded of how important it is to share our stories, and of the vital role broadcasters play in bringing those stories to a wider audience.”