2018 Award Winners

TV and Radio Times Readers’ Awards Winner


LA Productions Ltd for BBC One

Jimmy McGovern’s tough but timely TV drama begins when an unfortunate series of events leads to a single mother-of-three, losing her job.  Unable to claim benefits, she struggles to feed her family and keep the roof over their heads, not to mention paying for her daughter’s First Communion. Catholic priest, Father Michael Kerrigan recognises that Christina is in trouble but she turns away his attempts to help her.  As he struggles to serve parishioners like Christina, Father Michael also has his own personal tragedies to deal with. With a widening caseload of personal problems, community conflicts and society’s suspicions of the church at large, Father Michael begins to question his own capabilities. “Sean Bean’s turn as a troubled priest in the BBC drama celebrates the best of religion while acknowledging the worst” said the review in the Radio Times.

This was a searingly affective programme which has haunted both critics and audiences.  One network commissioner confided to us that she wishes it had come across her desk first and she had commissioned it.

TV runner-up

ISIS: The Origins of Violence

Blakeway Productions for Channel 4

Historian Tom Holland traces the origins of Isis’ extreme violence, which it claims is justified by the tenets and scriptures of Islam: a claim contrary to most Muslims’ interpretation of their faith.  Never afraid to ask tough questions, as Tom’s investigation takes in three continents and goes back 1400 years, he begins to recognize that sources of Isis violence do not all originate in the Middle East – some have their origins much nearer home. This courageous programme explores questions left unspoken in large parts of the media and -as one critic noted – breaks all the rules of TV presentation when Tom retches at the site of an Isis atrocity.

Children’s Award Winner


TrueTube/CTVC for TrueTube.co.uk

This timely and very relevant comedy drama from the team at TrueTube effectively addresses some of the biggest challenges facing young people in the early 21st century.  Ryan and Natalie are two sympathetic young people struggling through their first sexual encounter while having to deal with each other’s expectations, a shiny trumpet and way too many cats.  TrueTube is a multi award-winning website that provides short films, lesson plans and assembly scripts to complement RE, PSHE and Citizenship at Key Stages 3 and 4 in schools.

Children’s runner up

My Life: New Boys in Town

Drummer TV for CBBC

Imagine living in a war zone. You’re forced to flee to a foreign country, where you know no one, leaving your family and friends behind. How do you make friends in a new school if can’t speak their language? Twelve-year-old Adel knows exactly how this feels as he had to leave his home in Syria three years ago and move to the UK as a refugee. He’s now happily settled here, and now he’s on a mission with his best friend Elijah to help welcome some new refugees who are struggling to settle in his new home town of Bristol.

2018 Trustees’ Award

Neil MacGregor

One of the indisputable broadcasting highlights of 2017 was Neil MacGregor’s deep exploration into the history of human faith through objects: Living With the Gods, the 30 part BBC Radio 4 series and the subject of a major exhibition at the British Museum.  But its not the first time MacGregor has recognised the key role religion and belief play in the human story.  Religion, Neil has long argued, is at the heart of human existence.  It belongs, he has said, with our most archaic and tenacious wishes; no society on Earth has lacked beliefs about where it has come from or about its place in the natural or supernatural scheme of things; no society has doubted that there exists a connection between us and eternal reality.  These are ideas MacGregor started to explore in his groundbreaking 20-week-long series of radio stories A History of the World in 100 Objects in 2010 and, if his 2013 Hay Festival debate with Rowan Williams is any indication of, have continued to exercise and fascinate him.  Living With the Gods granted him another chance to explore the subject and traced how different societies have understood and articulated their place in the cosmic scheme, examining humankind’s multifarious belief systems, not from the perspective of institutional religion, but by focusing on the shared narratives that have shaped societies – and on what happens when these competing stories run up against each other.  As one critic noted “MacGregor describes a coat made from seal-gut by the Yupik people of Alaska and a figure of Osiris, an Egyptian deity that is connected with life, death and the underworld. The coat speaks of indigenous hunters’ sacramental relationship with their prey, the Osiris figure of the new life engendered by the Nile.  It takes a deft communicator to pull off such verbal pirouettes.”  It is for the scale of his ambition and vision that Neil MacGregor has been chosen to receive the 2018 Sandford St Martin Trustees’ Award.

Radio Award Winner

5 Live with Emma Barrett: Stanbrook Abbey

5 Live Daily production team for BBC 5 live

BBC Radio 5 live delights in taking our listeners to new places, and in 2017 they mounted a genuine first: a live broadcast from a working nunnery. Faith, life, men, and what’s in the kitchen cupboards; listeners heard it all in this unique radio broadcast which only came after months of careful negotiation.  Presenter Emma Barnett spoke to the nuns about the choices they’ve made – from youngest nun Sister Marian, to Mother Andrea, the women answered questions about their lives before and after their calling, addressing faith, family, community and commitment.  Listeners also had a chance to text in their questions which included everything from the existential to more mundane concerns such as “is that habit itchy?”  Our judges called it an ambitious and superb example of live radio featuring all the intimacy and unpredictability this medium has to offer.

Radio runner-up

Hardeep’s Sunday Lunch: Inverness

BBC Radio Religion and Ethics for BBC Radio 4

Hardeep Singh Kohli is in his native Scotland to cook lunch for Inverness-based friends Colin Campbell and Rona Tynan. Colin has lived with primary progressive multiple sclerosis since his 30s and at the age of 56 made the decision to end his life at a Swiss Clinic rather than face an unbearable, lonely decline. Hearing of his plight, fellow MS patient Rona Tynan felt compelled to get in touch with him. A former London Met police officer. Rona has lived with MS for 12 years and was distressed to learn that Colin, who is more able than she, wanted to end his life. At the point when Hardeep turned up at Rona’s door to make the pair of them a haggis curry, Colin had an appointment for the Swiss Clinic in his diary.

Interview of the Year Winner

Heart and Soul: Good Without God

BBC Radio Production North for BBC World Service

As a father-son team, Tony and Bart Campolo were perhaps the best known evangelical pastors in America. The pair spent decades preaching a gospel focused on serving the poor and the marginalised and Bart built a thriving inner city ministry doing what was called ‘heroic’ work for Christ. And then one day that all changed.  Bart came off his bike at full speed.  During his slow recovery he came to realise that his faith had disappeared and – although he still wanted to serve his community – he could no longer call himself a Christian.  In a frank and emotional discussion, father and son openly talk about their diverging paths.  Tony tells BBC reporter Jane Little about the pain he experienced when Bart lost his faith and how he still prays for his own prodigal son to return.  Bart explains about how he has set out since his accident to create a new “religion for unbelievers” built around the idea that people can still be good without God.   – and how he still prays for his own prodigal son to return.

Interview of the Year runner up

Ramadan: In Conversation with Babar Ahmad

CTVC for www.thingsunseen.co.uk

Babar Ahmad spent 8 years in UK prisons fighting extradition to the US on terrorism charges. Having allowed his website to host articles supporting the Taliban, about which he now says he was naive, he was eventually transferred to solitary confinement in the US before pleading guilty to ‘providing material support to terrorism’. He was released shortly afterwards and returned to the UK.  In conversation with Mark Dowd, Babar Ahmad talks about his experience: how he came to set up the website in question, incarceration and how he managed to mark Ramadan in the most difficult circumstances.

Special 40th Anniversary Award

Blue Peter


For sixty years now Blue Peter has been introducing young audiences to the wide world and fostering in them a sense of belonging and responsibility for its future.  Through the programme children have had the opportunity to explore the natural world, history and science while also engaging with bigger questions about immigration, the environment, how things work or what makes a community.  The Sandford St Martin Trustees believe making the space in this busy world for children to ask these larger questions about they are, who they want to be and what they want their world to be is a vital service.  It’s in recognition of the huge contribution Blue Peter has made to furthering succeeding generations understanding of belief, moral and ethical issues that it was chosen to receive the Trust’s Special Anniversary Award.