Pilgrimage Bbc Two

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 5th December 2013


I wasn’t going to write about this programme and how poor I thought it was but having read the critique in The Times, I now feel justified in putting pen to paper!  The Times critic gave it two stars out of five and I totally agree with him.

I have to be careful as to how I criticize TV programmes today having been in the business for decades and also realising that everything has changed beyond recognition. In the old days, the BBC would produce its programmes in house and they were properly researched,

I happened to be on duty in the Cathedral last Easter when a small group who were obviously filming appeared in the Martyrdom. We are usually informed if there are any closures or any filming and nothing had been said so I wondered if they actually had permission but didn’t feel it my role to ask. I do know that they asked some pretty basic questions of one of the Assistants.

So why did I think the programme so poor despite the concept being a good one.
Simon Reeve began his ‘pilgrimage’ at Lindisfarne. Did we see the ruins of the Abbey or the little church - No. We did get some stunning shots of the setting sun on the estuary – the same scene which I experienced when I visited with my friend a few months ago. The Abbey, as a cradle of early Christendom is intrinsic to any story of St. Cuthbert and the early Church. Obviously the cameraman was having a field day.

Next he visited Lincoln Cathedral and spoke with the Dean so we did get some historic facts.

There was what could have been a fascinating interlude on the muddy banks of the Thames where pilgrim badges have been discovered. Here surely was an opportunity for a decent interview – all we got was the ‘wonder’ from Reeve as though he was an 8 year old with a surprise in his Christmas stocking.

In London Reeve met up with a group of modern day pilgrims and accompanied them on part of their walk along the Pilgrims’ Way and spent an inordinately disproportionate time at a Roundabout!

We’d all been informed that Canterbury would feature in the programme and that is why I turned on. So there we were with only a few minutes left till the end of the programme and no sign of Canterbury Cathedral – perhaps the information was incorrect.

But no – Canterbury Cathedral, the seat of the Anglican Communion Worldwide was dismissed in a few minutes. You didn’t even get a really good shot of The Altar of the Sword’s Point in the Martyrdom - the place were Becket was murdered and which led to his Canonisation and the making of Canterbury as a place of pilgrimage.

There was no interview with our Dean just a few shots of the flagstones around the Candle which denotes the spot where the magnificent shrine of Becket stood from 1120 until its destruction in 1538 on the orders of Henry VIII. I was willing them to show a shot of what the Shrine is believed to have looked like – but No.

And then the programme ended. I for one will not be watching the next two in the series. It was an independent production, made on a shoestring and with a presenter who I think was chosen to appeal to the young. I ask you – how many of the young today would be watching a programme about Pilgrimage on mainstream BBC 2 at 9.00 pm. Not a lot I wouldn’t mind betting.

Reeve is actually an engaging presenter and he doesn’t wave his arms around constantly like a windmill (Thank God for small mercies) but he was not the right choice for a programme like Pilgrimage. You didn’t need some grey haired octogenarian but I believe the programme required someone with a trifle more gravitas and a great deal more knowledge or at least a decent researcher.

The BBC was once considered the best in the world and rightly so. And with all the funds at its disposal I would expect higher quality programmes than those we are subjected to nowadays. Actually it is one of the few areas where I thought Margaret Thatcher got it totally wrong. Apparently she wished to break the duopoly of BBC and ITV and now look what we’ve got. – hundreds of channels from which to choose and virtually ‘nothing to watch’.


What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.