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The Convent

Convent opens its doors to BBC TWO



A group of ordinary women are given an extraordinary opportunity to spend 40 days and 40 nights living with nuns for a new BBC TWO series, The Convent.

 

Broadcast from Wednesday 14 June 2006, the series follows four women on a unique spiritual journey to discover if the nuns' traditional religious values can help them to tackle contemporary problems of relationships, achievement, self-esteem, and meaning in their lives.

 

An eclectic mix of personalities, the participants were chosen from more than 500 volunteers.

 

All felt that they had deep seated personal issues which might be helped by a long period of quiet reflection.

 

All understood that they would be sacrificing friends, families and home comforts and that they would have to submit to the strict discipline of convent life.

 

Filmed at the Convent of the Poor Clares, in Arundel, West Sussex, The Convent tracks them on this remarkable voyage to see if the enclosed world of the sisterhood can give them the strength and the will to change their lives on the outside.

 

Debi Ireland is 44 and lives in Scotland with her husband and their five-year-old son.

 

She works as a children's entertainer telling stories about overcoming fears, yet she has spent the past 39 years battling with the sense she is 'not good enough'.

 

Her parents split up when she was five. As she said goodbye to her mother in Australia to move to Britain with her father, her mother promised she would see her again in six weeks. She never appeared.

 

Debi assumed it was her own fault, and ever since has been haunted by guilt and low esteem.

 

She is hoping the convent will help her to overcome her fear that God will punish her and that she will return home as a new mum no longer wracked by rejection.

 

Iona Maclean is 25 and a singer/songwriter living in Chelsea, London. She is the only Christian in the group of volunteers.

 

A former 'party girl' she went through a phase of heavy drinking from which she believed she was saved by God.

 

Nevertheless, she still struggles with the temptations of the modern world, particularly her self-confessed weakness for the opposite sex.

 

She is seriously considering celibacy and thinks that the nuns might be able to advise her how to go about it.

 

Angela Dickson is 43, single, a former police officer, former pub landlord and a successful business development manager in Nottingham.

 

Her career has been her priority and she seems to have it all - a nice house, a second property abroad and a BMW convertible.

 

But recently she has come to ask what any of her material wealth is really worth. Twice divorced, she has no faith, no children, and feels time is running out.

 

She hopes that going into the convent will help her to discover if there is more to life - and more to her.

 

Victoria Bennett is 33. She lives and works as a poet in the Lake District.

 

Brought up an atheist, she completely rejects the idea of a patriarchal God and tries to live her life free of rules.

 

She has an open marriage and she feels everyone should be free to express their sensuality however they see fit.

 

But underneath it all Victoria struggles to reconcile her free spirit with a deep-rooted insecurity.

 

The volunteers will be expected to live as the nuns do - under vows of poverty (not having anything unnecessary), obedience (a regular routine of duties and prayer) and chastity.

 

They will have to spend hours in contemplation, silence and prayer and must learn how to live in a community - sharing their lives totally with others.

 

The experience could prove to be the ultimate personal challenge.

 

The nuns have no idea who their guests will be but they expect them to follow the community's regular timetable of study, prayer, reflection and work duties.

 

In addition their guests must give up all contact with the outside world, their material possessions and, most difficult of all, attempt to follow one of the nuns' core values - abandoning all self-interest.

 

Mother Abbess Angela Lyden of the Poor Clares says: "When first approached about making The Convent we experienced many misgivings at the thought of opening up our home and our lives to the viewing public.

 

"After much discussion, however, we took courage and thought that perhaps this might be a wonderful opportunity to dispel the myths and stereotypes about convent life and let people see that convents are full of human beings like themselves!

 

"Believing passionately that, as followers of St Francis and St Clare, we have something priceless to offer our contemporary society, and wanting to make available to women what Worth Abbey had offered to men in The Monastery, we decided to take the risk and give our wholehearted consent to the making of the programme and all it involved."

 

The series gives viewers a unique window into the previously unseen world of the nuns' community, and is set to be emotionally charged, tense and ultimately moving.

 

Will the four participants wholeheartedly embrace the convent's sense of sisterhood or could it end up being tested to the limit?

 

CR/JC

 

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Category: Factual & Arts TV; BBC TWO

Date: 01.06.2006
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