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BBC live Good Friday event, The Preston Passion

BBC live Good Friday event, The Preston Passion
Staff Reporter
09 February 2012

BBC One is to broadcast live event The Preston Passion on Good Friday, a re-telling of the Passion story, featuring a combination of live performance and spectacle, together with three pre-recorded drama.
Broadcasting from a central Preston location, Fern Britton will anchor The Preston Passion.  She will also introduce three short pre-recorded dramas, which will be shown simultaneously on a big screen in Preston and on BBC One.
The event aims to involve 3,500 local residents as performers and spectators. In addition to local choirs singing traditional Easter music, large-scale choreographed crowd movements across the city will re-create ‘human crosses’.
It will also include contemporary dance pieces and traditional local brass band music. To close Preston Passion’s live programme of performance, M People’s Heather Small will sing Candy Staton’s gospel classic, You Got The Love.
The three 13-minute pre-recorded dramas are the culmination of detailed research into the history of Preston and its community undertaken by the writers Colin Heber-Percy and Lyall Watson (Casualty 1909, BBC One).
Directed by Daniel Wilson (32 Brinkburn Street, Land Girls) and entitled Pilate, Mary and Jesus, the three dramas are inspired by the themes of the Passion Of Christ and are based on the real lives of Preston residents - both past and present. All three dramas will be filmed in Preston and the North West of England in the coming weeks.
Tom Ellis (Miranda, Dr Who, EastEnders), Christine Bottomley (Lost Christmas, Hope Springs), Paul Barber (Full Monty, Only Fools And Horses) and Pooky Quesnel (The Body Farm, EastEnders) are amongst the confirmed cast.
Tom Ellis leads the cast of Pilate and will take viewers back to Preston in 1842, when the town is on the verge of a bloody riot. Confronted by mill workers striking against wage cuts, mayor Samuel Horrocks is torn between self-interest, political pressures and doubt. At the heart of his dilemma is what to do with principled and stubborn strike leader, George Cleasby – should he show leniency or make an example of him? His dilemma echoes the one faced by Pontius Pilate.
In the drama Mary, Mary Melling waves her son Joe (Daniel Dingsdale) off to war in 1914. Whilst he is away serving in the Pals Battalion she volunteers along with friends Amy Cummins (Christine Bottomley) and Betty Cleasby (Pooky Quesnel) serving thousands of off duty soldiers at a local tea room in Preston Railway Station. One fateful night one of the three friends is told the worst news a mother can hear and must come to terms with the burden of her grief.
Set in present-day Preston, Jesus tells the story Bella – a 12-year-old carer of her drunken mother and her vulnerable younger siblings. Bella’s sacrifices symbolise Christ’s final journey – carrying the burden of his cross to the moment of crucifixion. Paul Barber stars as Simon, who looks kindly on Bella as she struggles with her daily burden.
Aaqil Ahmed, BBC commissioning editor religion and head of religion & ethics, says: “I am really proud of this unique partnership with Preston Guild and BBC North which has enabled us to deliver a contemporary take on the universal story of the Passion, which will be brought live to BBC One audiences. This stand-out programme is the centre piece of our religious output this Easter and promises to not only be must see television, but also offers local residents a once in a lifetime opportunity to volunteer to become part of this fantastic live event.”

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