BBC’s 2020 religious Easter programming announced

The BBC’s religious programming over Easter 2020 will offer a rich mix of brand new and live content across its TV and radio channels, to mark the celebrated Christian holiday and provide companionship, shared experiences and a sense of connection to the outside world for all.

Published: 27 March 2020

Daisy Scalchi, Commissioning Editor BBC Factual, says: “From our specially-recorded worship programmes reflecting the unusual times we face, to brand new series celebrating this special time of year, the variety of religious content on offer means there will be something for everyone this Easter on BBC TV.”

Christine Morgan, Head of Radio Religion & Ethics, says: “Our 2020 Easter programming on BBC radio offers everything from a spectacular Good Friday concert with spiritual and traditional music on Radio 2, to a special Easter Sunday edition of clerical shoptalk from the Three Vicars on Radio 4. Our aim is to uplift our listeners throughout this important time of year during such unprecedented circumstances."

Starting from Good Friday, Easter on BBC One sees a brand new religious programme launch, Heavenly Gardens (main picture). This new two-part series sees former chorister and garden lover Alexander Armstrong, along with garden designer Arit Anderson, visit six spectacular gardens across the United Kingdom, which are all steeped in faith and spirituality.

Also on Good Friday, the concluding episode of Pilgrimage: The Road To Istanbul on BBC Two follows the seven well-known pilgrims on the final leg of their journey along an ancient military route to the historic city of Istanbul, which has been transformed into a modern-day path of peace.

Airing across the weekend, Easter From King’s on BBC Two sees music and readings from the fan-vaulted Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, with the world-famous choir singing some of the best-loved choral music for the season. On Easter Sunday a special edition of Sunday Worship will air on BBC One, with an Easter service coming from Bangor Cathedral in Wales, led by the Dean of Bangor, the Very Reverend Kathy Jones. And on BBC One, Urbi et Orbi will show Pope Francis deliver his Easter Message and Blessing live from Rome.

On BBC radio, Dan Walker brings an assortment of spiritual and traditional music to Radio 2 on Good Friday with At the Foot Of The Cross, recorded at Maida Vale Studios, which also features a dramatic retelling of the crucifixion by author Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

The Three Vicars are back on Radio 4 on Easter Sunday for a special episode of Three Vicars Talking, with the Revs Richard Coles, Kate Bottley and Giles Fraser talking all things Easter, from Ash Wednesday through to the Resurrection. Elsewhere, the Archbishop of Canterbury leads Radio 4's Easter Sunday Worship, and Prayer of the Day will continue throughout Easter, broadcasting a range of multi-faith contributors and reflecting on the mood of the moment.

During the Coronavirus crisis, as previously announced, we have launched a virtual church service on Sunday mornings across local radio in England, led initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In addition, we are broadcasting a weekly Sunday morning church service on BBC One and are exploring how to support other religions and denominations across television and radio, including in the run-up to Ramadan. Further details will be announced shortly.

BDW

Heavenly Gardens

BBC One

Britain’s love affair with sacred gardens is ancient; these glorious spaces represent hope and expectation and have long been spiritual places that can have a profound impact on our heart and soul. To celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday this year, former chorister and garden lover, Alexander Armstrong, along with garden designer Arit Anderson, visit six spectacular gardens steeped in faith and spirituality. These beautiful landscapes are bursting with new life that symbolise beauty, joy and hope.

From The Bishop’s Palace in Somerset to Pluscarden Abbey in the Highlands of Scotland; from Cambridge University’s stunning Botanic Garden to Alnwick Castle’s newly transformed garden in Northumberland; from Scone Palace’s gardens of kings in Perthshire to Sudeley Castle’s sacred connections in the Cotswolds, Alexander and Arit celebrate the significance of gardens in the Easter story itself. They will get hands on in these sacred places, meeting the custodians of these glorious gardens to pick up gardening tips and discover the very special and surprising spiritual significance of each place.

Alexander Armstrong says: “I’ve always loved gardens. They’re beautiful places to enjoy plants, flowers, fruits and nature’s changing seasons. Most of all though, for me, they’re spiritual retreats from the modern world. This is a dream programme for me, celebrating some of the UK’s most sacred gardens and meeting the amazing people whose physical and spiritual lives are intertwined in them.”

Heavenly Gardens (2x60') with Alexander Armstrong was commissioned by Carla-Maria Lawson, Head of BBC Daytime and Early Peak, and is a Tern TV production. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Daisy Scalchi and it is Executive Produced for Tern TV by Harry Bell.

BBC One

Live from Rome, Pope Francis delivers his Easter Message and Blessing Urbi et Orbi - to the city and to the world. BBC Religion Editor Martin Bashir, will provide commentary.

Urbi et Orbi (1x25') is a BBC Studios, Salford Production. Hugh Faupel is the Executive Producer and the Producer/Director is John Kirby. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Daisy Scalchi.

BBC Two

With music and readings from the fan-vaulted Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, the world-famous choir sings some of the best-loved choral music for the season, directed by Daniel Hyde, in his first year directing the Choir. The story of Jesus’s death and resurrection will be told by members of King’s College from the Bible and poems written by Patrick Carey and Malcolm Guite. The congregation will join in with popular Easter hymns including Ye Choirs Of New Jerusalem and Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.

Easter From King’s (1x60') is a BBC Studios, Salford production. Hugh Faupel is the Executive Producer and the Director is Pamela Hossick. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Daisy Scalchi.

BBC One

A special edition of Sunday Worship, with an Easter Sunday service coming from Bangor Cathedral in Wales, led by the Dean of Bangor, the Very Reverend Kathy Jones.

Sunday Worship (1x60') is an Avanti Media production. Emyr Afan is the Executive Producer. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Daisy Scalchi.

BBC Radio 2
Friday 10 April, 7pm - 9pm

Recorded at Maida Vale Studios, join Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir and Euphony Voices for an assortment of spiritual and traditional music. The programme will feature a dramatic retelling of the Crucifixion and the events leading up to it, written and narrated by author Frank Cottrell-Boyce. With special guest performances from the BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year 2019, singer/songwriter Lucy Grimble, and spoken words from poet and theologian Siku.

The programme will be presented by Dan Walker. The producer is Alexa Good.

Words And Music

BBC Radio 3
Sunday 12 April, 5.30-6.45pm

Words and Music presents an Easter Sunday special celebration of music, prose and poetry on BBC Radio 3. Music and readings on the theme of Eastertide, Spring and the Passover. Including prose by Tolstoy, Richard Yates and Jane Austen, poetry by TS Eliot and Christina Rossetti, and music by Wagner, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Judy Garland.

The producer will be Nick Holmes for BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3

Repeat programmes which reflect the liturgical year as it moves from Lent into Easter:

  • Wednesday 1 April - Magdalen College, Oxford (2016)
  • Wednesday 8 April - Westminster Cathedral (1998)
  • Sunday 12 April - Easter Day from Norwich Cathedral (2017)

Beyond Belief: Sin

BBC Radio 4
Monday 6 April, 4.30-5pm

Easter is the most important time in the life of the Church. It’s the time when Christians retell the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Christians believe that Jesus died to atone for the sins of the world. But what does that actually mean and how do we define what a sin is?

Ernie Rea is joined in the studio by Dr Gemma Simmonds, Director of the Religious Life Institute in Cambridge; Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Rabbi at Manchester Reform Synagogue and a former human rights lawyer; and Davinder Panesar, transpersonal psychologist and author.

The presenter will be Ernie Rea and the producer is Amanda Hancox for BBC Radio 4

Lent Talks

BBC Radio 4
Wednesday 8 April, 8.45-9pm

Lent Talks is a personal perspective on an aspect of the story leading up to Easter. This year’s theme is identity - losing and gaining identity; struggling with identity; accepting and owning identity. In today’s episode, Bishop of Loughborough Guli Francis-Dehqani reflects on her journey of identity as an Iranian-born British Christian.

The producer is Dan Tierney for BBC Radio 4

Good Friday Meditation

BBC Radio 4
Friday 10 April, 3-3.30pm

Baptist minister the Revd Richard Littledale presents a personal reflection for Good Friday. Richard considers why Christians see beauty and love in an instrument of torture central to their faith - the cross. Richard meets artists and commentators whose work has been much affected by this iconic Christian imagery. Historian Iszi Lawrence finds the cross a challenging image which nonetheless has influenced the whole iconography of Western art. Neil McGregor has been enthralled by Salvador Dali’s depiction of the cross since he was a boy.

The producer is Andrew Earis for BBC Radio 4

Easter Sunday Worship

BBC Radio 4
Sunday 12 April, 8.10-9am

In a specially-compiled studio service, pre-recorded close to transmission, the Archbishop of Canterbury leads a meditation to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

BBC Radio 4
Sunday 12 April, 1.30-2pm

Three Vicars Talking is back for an Easter special. The programme brings together the Reverends Richard Coles, Kate Bottley and Giles Fraser to swap curate shoptalk. Easter is the busiest time of the Church’s year - from Ash Wednesday through to the Resurrection, these three vicars share their stories and experiences.

The presenters will be Rev. Richard Coles, Rev. Kate Bottley and Rev. Giles Fraser. The producer will be Neil Morrow for BBC Radio 4