Back to Burnley: In conversation with Bp Mick Fleming, Fr Alex Frost & Ed Thomas

The last few years have done much to expose and exacerbate social inequality in the UK. This was brought into stark relief by the BBC News correspondent Ed Thomas in December 2020 through a series of reports on the pandemic which gave viewers a rare insight into both the resilience of one of the nation’s most vulnerable communities and of the vital role grassroots organisations like the Church on the Street and community leaders like Bishop Mick Fleming and Father Alex Frost have played in supporting them. The reports generated international interest, won a Sandford St Martin 2021 Award as well as prizes from the Royal Television Society and the Orwell Foundation, and for a while Burnley was the focus of much media attention. Almost two years later, we caught up with Ed, Father Alex and Bishop Mick at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester to find out what if anything has been the legacy of the media attention Burnley received. And, as the country finds itself in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, what next for their community?

The evening’s discussion began with a short screening of one of Ed’s news reports from Burnley. Click here or on the screen at the top of the page to watch it.

To listen to an audio recording of the discussion that followed, click on this sentence.


Our guests:

Bishop Mick Fleming has a degree in theology from the University of Manchester and was ordained into The International Christian Church Network (TICCN) in March 2019. He is Bishop of TICCN and of Church on the Street in Burnley, a Christian community dedicated to helping others, particularly those who find themselves homeless, struggle with addictions, or are on the bread line. Bishop Mick’s first book, Blown Away was published by SPCK Publishing on 22 Sept 2022; copies of Bishop Mick’s book will be available to buy on the evening.

Father Alex Frost is the vicar of St Matthew’s the Apostle, Burnley. Ordained in 2012 after a mixed career working as a football referee, manager at Argos and a stand-up comic, Fr Alex was recently appointed to the General Synod for Blackburn Diocese. He hosts The God Cast, a podcast devoted to issues of faith and spirituality, and has just published Our Daily Bread: From Argos to the Altar – a Priest’s Story , by HarperNorth; copies of Father Alex’s book will be available to buy at the event.

Ed Thomas is a Special Correspondent at BBC News. His reporting inside Wandsworth Prison and the inequality exposed by Covid won Royal Television Society awards in 2017 and 2022, and he won the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils in 2022. His work often focuses on communities and people struggling to be heard in modern Britain and his extended reports feature on the BBC News at Ten and BBC online. During 2021 Ed, with picture correspondent Phill Edwards and Senior Producer Lou Martin spent months in Burnley to witness the impact of the pandemic on the poorest, their reporting was an unflinching look at the lives of those in the most deprived areas of England. The BBC coverage took the story to audiences across the globe and was awarded a Sandford St Martin Trustees’ Award in 2021.


Proceeds from this salon’s ticket sales were donated to the nominated charities of our speakers, Church on the Street and St Matthew’s Church Community Support fund.

For more information about their work visit Church on the Street or St Matthew’s webpages.