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RTÉ religious programme wins American award

By Ann Marie Foley - 12 March, 2020

RTÉ’s Life & Soul has won a Wilbur Award for religious programmes and articles completed in 2019. America’s top religious media awards chose the RTÉ programme as a winner in the main TV & Cable Category for a documentary over 30 minutes long.

“I was really pleased,” the Senior Production Executive and Commissioning Editor of Religious Programmes at RTÉ, Roger Childs, told CatholicIreland.net.

“There is a certain irony in that because of RTÉ’s current financial situation, the series that won the award has not been re-commissioned, much to my regret,” he added.

He is currently exploring other ways of continuing Life & Soul – possibly through co-production – in the future. The series, produced by Scratch Films for RTÉ, was commissioned to take a new approach in exploring Christianity in a non-liturgical way and looking at faith as a lived and living entity.

“It was story led, with two young presenters, Colm Flynn and Áine O’Neill, travelling the country, encountering people for whom faith has a measurable impact on their lives – either ordinary lives in extraordinary situations or extraordinary lives in ordinary situations. It really resonated with people and clearly resonated with the jurors of the Religion Communicators Council in the States, which runs its annual awards programme, the Wilburs,” added Roger Childs.

The Award will be presented at the Religion Communicators Congress, which runs from 17 to 21 March in Washington DC.

The four episodes are available on RTÉ Player and they will be repeated on RTÉ in the future. These episodes and other religious programmes may be repeated in the next few months if religious services are cancelled because of Covid-19.

“At the moment I am having to examine how we can continue to fulfil our religious worship obligations if there are restrictions on gathering in the RTÉ studios or in churches, or Easter ceremonies, but that has not happened yet,” said Roger Childs.

This is the second year in a row that RTÉ Religious Programmes won the main TV category in the Wilbur Awards. Last year Jesus: Countdown to Calvary” won the award. Its presenter, Hugh Bonneville, is best known for playing Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, in the ITV historical drama series Downton Abbey. However, he is also a Cambridge theology graduate and well qualified to present the programme.

Life & Soul is an occasional series on RTÉ One Television and RTÉ Radio 1 Extra/Longwave 252. The presenters/producers are Colm Flynn and Áine O’Neill; Liam McGrath is producer/director; Roger Childs executive producer; Greg Fromholz, associate producer; Lanka Perren director of photography; and Elisanne Pires production co-ordinator.

The Wilbur Award for Life & Soul was for the special episode on the 50th Anniversary of the start of the Northern Irish Troubles. In this episode Colm Flynn met Bridie McGoldrick, a Catholic mother whose only child was murdered by paramilitary terrorists, but whose faith inspired her, not only to forgive the killers, but to begin prayer gatherings with both her Catholic and Protestant neighbours.

Life & Soul presenters, Colm Flynn and Áine O’Neill

Áine O’Neill interviewed Jasper Rutherford, who resisted the paramilitaries’ recruitment efforts and now feels God has called him to help other teens resist the same pressures today.

Also featured was the story of David Williamson, a Northern Irish ex-police officer who escaped death three times and credits God as being the reason that he is alive today so that he can share a message of love and forgiveness.

The documentary also features contemporary worship music performed by internationally acclaimed Northern Irish bands who span the Catholic/Protestant divide: Rend Collective and I Am Worship.

Francis Brennan, Katie Taylor and Ireland hockey star Elena Tice were among guests in the Christmas episode of Life & Soul.
See https://www.rte.ie/player/series/life-and-soul/.

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