(Helen Bond) Last week saw a one-day conference at King’s College, London on the topic of ‘The Bible on TV.’ It was organised by Dr Eddie Adams, along with his colleagues at King’s and CTVC, an independent TV production company. The event was a sell-out, with 200 people gathered together, from school children to media people, academics to church ministers. It was such a good idea – I wish we’d have thought of it here!
The original impetus for the conference was a 2-part programme on St Paul due to be aired on BBC 1 this Christmas. It’s called David Suchet in the Footsteps of St Paul and features the lovely David Suchet (Poirot to many of us) walking the roads tramped by St Paul and meeting various academics, archaeologists and tour guides along the way. David became a Christian after reading St Paul’s letter to the Romans and has been a fan of the great apostle ever since, so its a very personal, considered programme. Eddie Adams was historical consultant, and David runs into me at Antioch. (If you’re interested, it goes out here at 9am on 23rd and 24th December, then again at the slightly better time of 6pm on 1st and 2nd Jan, I think on BBC2 that time).
The conference showed a few clips of the film and had a panel discussion devoted to it. But there were lots of other interesting sessions – Robert Beckford, who has made several TV programmes now, shared his insights on what makes a good programme, and who programmes need to appeal to. We also heard from the Head of Religion and Ethics at the BBC (Aaqil Ahmed), David Batty (a documentary producer and director), and Ben Quash (Prof of Christianity and the Arts at King’s). There was a nice mix between lectures, panel discussions (on sofas, a la Breakfast TV), and Q & A sessions.
I was also involved in another session in which Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Joan Taylor and myself each gave a 10 minute account of our experiences of working with the media. Not surprisingly, perhaps, there were some common themes – we’re all highly committed to working with media people on ‘Bible’ programmes, but we’ve all had some less than pleasant experiences, particularly when it comes to dealing with responses by viewers. The fact that we’re all female only exacerbated some of these responses. From my own point of view, its very difficult (if not impossible) to know in advance which particular 10-second clip of a 2-hour interview is going to be used in the final product. Its up to me to be clear and concise in my answers on screen, but I can’t really be blamed for the final thing! We also talked about the need for women to find an authoritative voice, and the opportunities that working with the media offer to academics to get their views out to a wider public.
I came away from the day feeling that there’s a lot of good work on the Bible being done for TV at the moment. The History Channel are due to launch their epic 10-part dramatisation of the Bible at Easter (in the US, at least) and I imagine that that will create quite a stir. I’ve seen some episodes already, and though I’m sworn to secrecy, I think they’re pretty good . . .
The conference was filmed and may be put up on the King’s website at some point, though I haven’t seen anything of it yet. Thanks again to Eddie and the team at King’s.