So in the summer I was at Lambeth Palace for the evening, in an actual dress and proper shoes, for the 2016 Sandford St Martin Awards. And, just as well I scrubbed up, because this is me hanging out of the window, wine glass in hand, telling my excited 9 year old the news that my show, Travellers Tales, named runner up in the ‘Interview of the Year’ category! Much to my surprise, I’d been nominated twice in this, brand new for 2016, category, and the other nominees were of a very high calibre indeed - I was astonished to be nominated at all, let alone actually recognised as runner up. My show ran for 18 months on Premier Christian Radio….but Travellers Tales had actually run for 700 shows before I took it on, with Patrick Forbes at its helm. In a wonderful bit of circularity, Patrick was the person who’d given me my first steps in radio, 30 years ago, as a horribly keen teenager. I’m so grateful that when he felt ready to hang up his headphones, he suggested I took the show on. It’s been an absolute joy. At first glance, it’s a simple programme….a half hour interview with a Christian about their life/faith journey.
What I’ve been privileged to hear are hugely inspiring stories of love, dedication, grace, courage, sacrifice and hope. And everyone I’ve interviewed has been open about the joys and challenges of their faith journeys in a way that has encouraged me on mine and fed my soul.
The show that won the award went out on Easter Sunday 2015 – an interview with Royal Navy chaplain Stu Hallam. Now serving as the ‘vicar’ of RN flagship HMS Ocean, he’s done 2 tours of Afghanistan with the Royal Marines, ministering as a friend, advisor and priest to all ranks….and, as he’s commando-trained, going out on patrol as just one of the lads, not knowing whether he’s about to step on a landmine or be attacked by the Taliban…..
He finds it a huge privilege to minister in an environment where people talk about the big stuff very easily…..confronting the ultimate questions of life and death on a daily basis. So he’s there alongside them confronting those questions too….praying with a horrifically injured friend as he dies, and finding a way to tell the lads, and share their grief.
You can hear the interview here: https://soundcloud.com/user-535044630/travellers-tales- with-stuart- hallam
Lambeth Palace is a quite lovely, holy, place, one of those where you can feel, very tangibly, the centuries of prayer soaked into the bricks.
I met Justin Welby (who as well as being a rather wonderful Archbishop of Canterbury, is also a very funny storyteller…who knew?), had a very chatty chat with Heidi Thomas, creator of Call the Midwife (winner of the Radio Times Award) and her husband, Stephen McGann (aka Dr Turner), was inspired by the words of Dame Joan Bakewell who won the Trustees Award, and moved (sometimes to tears….thank you Sandford photographer for capturing that moment….) by the work of so many fabulous programme makers, with whom I was honoured to stand.
And I’m so grateful for an organisation like the Sandford St Martin Trust, working so hard, under the chairmanship of the splendid and very lovely Nick Baines, Bishop of West Yorkshire and the Dales, to promote excellence in faith broadcasting, and stand up for it in these times when religious literacy feels more important than ever.