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Preston to star in live BBC TV Passion drama to celebrate Guild year

Posted on - 12th December, 2011 - 5:20pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, News, Preston Guild
michael sheen the passion

Hollywood star Michael Sheen took over Port Talbot for three days earlier this year to perform a Passion play, it attracted critical acclaim and involved thousands of people from the town

An ambitious project to screen a live drama set in Preston on the BBC can be revealed.

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The Preston Passion will take place at various locations across the city and be screened live on BBC 1 during Good Friday, and feature the stories of Preston people.

The Passion play will also see 2,000 people creating a giant cross in the city centre and be filmed live from the air by helicopter.

In April Hollywood actor Michael Sheen created a three day Passion play in his hometown of Port Talbot, and religious groups from the city hope to see a similar project created in Preston.

In Sheen’s adaptation the whole town was involved in the drama, which lasted for three days, and was screened on BBC Wales.

In a blog post, Stephen Connolly from St Clare’s Roman Catholic Church in Fulwood, outlines how writers from BBC North have been visiting the city to interview people ahead of the play.

He writes: “Following several site visits, a team of professionals, including two screenwriters, Colin Heber Percy and Lyall Watson, worked on location for around three months with community facilitator, Gerri Moriarty.

“Interviews with historians, the military, social services, charities, churches and individuals yielded a plethora of stories, in a process described by the writers as amongst the most powerful and moving of their career.

“These stories relate to the many themes which reflect and enhance understanding of the Passion of Jesus of Nazareth, themes such as sacrifice, betrayal, unconditional love.”

Question marks remain however about the funding for the project, which will be part of the Guild celebrations.

Tomorrow behind closed doors at a meeting of the Guild Committee a deal is set to be thrashed out.

Blog Preston is not able to see the documents relating to the meeting – as the press and public are banned, but Mr Connolly writes in his blog that the council is expected to provide financial support.

He writes: “The project still needs significant additional funding if it is going to happen. BBC North teams are currently in negotiation with several external funders.

“It is hoped that Preston Council will provide support in-cash and in-kind for the live event, and that local groups may also be able to fundraise towards the non-broadcast costs of staging the live event.”

A spokesman for Preston City Council refused to give any details of the financial deal about the project.

He said: “The BBC and the City Council are working on a programme idea with the Preston Guild, more details to follow in the New Year.”

It is not known who will star in the Preston Passion – which is still a working title – but recruitment is already underway for live performers and choir members.

A memo from the BBC describes how people can get involved.

It states: “This combined event and live BBC One programme will be a contemporary retelling of the Passion story and feature an exciting combination of live performance and innovative new drama.

“Locally recruited performers will help create the live spectacle and a number of specially written new filmed dramas – inspired by the real lives of Preston people through history and today – will depict the core themes of the Passion story.”

The Passion will have promotional support from BBC Radio Lancashire who will build up to the event, featuring stories of those taking part.

It is also hoped flagship shows like The One Show and Songs of Praise will cover the event.

Approval for the ambitious live project was given in June by BBC One controller Danny Cohen.

What is a Passion play?

It is a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ. It is a traditional part of Lent, particularly in Catholic tradition.

Image credit to Cazz Electrohead

What do you think about the Passion coming to Preston? Would you want to take part? Let us know your views in the comments below

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