by Annabel Freyberg HIGHLIGHTING radio's role in promoting "tolerance and understanding" in religious and humanitarian areas, BBC Chairman Marmaduke Hussey pointed out that his BBC Radio Ulster team consists of a Catholic controller and Presbyterian and Anglican producers. He was presenting the Sandford St Martin awards for the best religious radio programmes at Westminster School's Great Hall in London on April 12.
Founded 10 years ago to promote excellence in religious broadcasting the Sandford St Martin Trust gives its awards to television and radio in alternate years. The current value of its prize money is £4250. The proceedings last week were presided over by the very Revd Michael Mayne, Dean of Westminster. John Thompson, chairman of the Panel of Judges read the citations.
Authentic religious feeling in a challenging and imaginative frame-work was what the judges sought and found in the programmes submitted. Mr Thompson and Mr Hussey expressed disappointment that religious radio output and hence the programmes put forward for the awards were almost entirely Christian in denomination.
Emphasis was placed on local radio. The three merit awards of £700 each went to documentary programmes made in Scotland and Northern Ireland. "Is there a Christian Response to Aids?", broadcast by Radio Forth, impressed the judges by its intelligent and soulsearching examination of the question posed. Two programmes about the Enniskillen bombing also won merit awards.
But the two main prizes went to more elaborate dramatisations of the lives of religious figures. In the case of the runner-up award of £900 the "musical Wesleys" were celebrated in BBC Radio 4's "Let Saints on Earth in Concert Sing". The Premier Award of £1250 was presented to "Gabriel 42", a contemporary reworking of the nativity story so original that one of the judges initially dismissed it as "science fiction" "Gabriel 42" was written and produced as a Christmas special for Piccadilly Radio by Bryce Cooke, who has featured as an award winner in previous years.