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   Inside Out - West: Monday March 6, 2006

Faith and forgiveness

Jennifer Nicholson
Jennifer Nicholson - London Tube bombing victim

In her years as a parish priest in Bristol, Julie Nicholson has met many times with the pain and joys of life and death.

Now she herself is facing a test of faith that for many is unimaginable.

The seeds of Julie's religion were sown in her childhood.

She remembers wandering into a church during a choir practice, being captivated by the smells and sounds, and knowing that it felt right.

Bit by bit, she found herself on the road to ordination.

But on Thursday July the 7th last year the very foundations of Julie’s faith would be shaken to the core when news of bomb attacks on the London Tube came through.

Julie’s 24-year-old daughter Jenny was on the underground heading for work at a music publishers.

After five agonising days it was confirmed that she had been killed.

She says, "I rage that a human being could choose to take another human being's life. I rage that someone should do this in the name of a God. I find that utterly offensive."

Peace and reconciliation

Julie has not only had to cope with her grief but also a struggle to reconcile her feelings with the teachings of her faith.

"All my understanding of what it means to be a priest is tied up with peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.

"It's very difficult for me to stand behind an altar and lead people in words of peace and reconciliation and forgiveness when I feel very far from that...

"I will leave any forgiveness for whatever is after this life - I will leave that in God's hands."

Jennifer Nicholson c/o PA Images
Jennifer Nicholson - full of hope on her graduation day

Julie has made one of the hardest decisions of her life – to give up her work as a parish priest in the St George area of Bristol.

But that doesn’t mean she’s given up her faith.

She’s now working for the Bristol diocese on a youth theatre project.

She sees it as a way of celebrating new life.

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Underground Art

Murals underground
Underground gallery - the hidden murals revealed

Deep underground in Wiltshire, an extraordinary hidden city is finally shedding its secrets.

For years, the Government has kept quiet about a huge network of tunnels near Corsham but now its story can finally be revealed.

In the Second World War it was used as an ammunition store and an aircraft factory.

Then it became the control centre from which the Government would have rebuilt the country after a cold war nuclear attack.

There was room for the Prime Minister, his cabinet and 4,000 civil servants.

It has 60 miles of roads and even its own underground railway station.

But it also harbours an altogether more artistic secret.

Wartime mission

A young mother was spirited away from London in the dead of night for the strangest of wartime missions.

Her name was Olga Lehmann and she was asked to paint a series of murals to brighten up the lives of the workers in the aircraft factory.

Lehmann was an amazingly versatile artist.

Close up of mural
Marvellous mural - uncovering the art of Olga Lehmann

She’d won a scholarship to the prestigious Slade School of Art in 1929, and from 1933 she designed theatre sets and painted murals in hotels, railway stations, shops and nurseries.

But she's best known as a set and costume designer for TV and film.

She painted the stars for the silver screen - Peter Sellers, Dirk Bogarde - and among her many film credits were the Guns of Navarone and Tom Thumb.

Treasure trove

The murals she painted underground are extraordinary and have never been filmed before.

When you see them for the first time, it's a bit like entering Tutankhamen's tomb.

Underground mural
Underground gallery - the hidden murals revealed

They adorn the walls of what would have been a restaurant for the underground workers.

They show scenes of horse racing, cricket matches, socialising, fairgrounds and even a cannibal boiling a missionary.

But despite their vibrancy and historical significance, the future for the murals is uncertain.

The MOD is selling the site and it's not clear what will become of Olga Lehmann's amazing underground gallery.

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Plus a special report on patient care at the Oxford John Radcliffe heart surgery unit.



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