Broken wins the 2018 Sandford St Martin Awards

The BBC One series Broken wins the 2018 Sandford St Martin Awards, as announced at yesterday’s awards ceremony at Lambeth Palace.

Broken was scripted by Jimmy McGovern, a well-known Liverpool writer and alumnus of St Francis Xavier College. Much of the series was filmed in the Jesuit church of St Francis Xavier in Liverpool and saw the strict collaboration of Fr Denis Blackledge SJ as religious advisor for Sean Bean in his role of Fr Michael Kerrigan, a parish priest in a northern urban setting serving individuals in their trauma and brokenness while coping with his own. The actor - best known for his roles in Sharpe, Lord of the Rings and, most recently, Game of Thrones - has recently also received a Bafta TV Award for Best Actor.

“I felt as honoured as he was, and he was profoundly grateful to me in an email when he was first nominated for the BAFTA” Fr Denis comments. “As Sean said: ‘I'm honoured by having you by my side as I created Fr Michael during that magical time in your church in Liverpool. Can't thank you enough for all the knowledge and honesty you shared with me. I'm delighted to have received a BAFTA nomination, and hope you feel proud too for having played a major role in his creation’”

Fr Denis says the actor approached the role throughout with great humility. He adds: “I spent a couple of hours with him and one of the Directors before we started filming, and he came to our Sunday family mass in the front row the day before he had to put on his mass vestments. He spent nine full 12-hour days at the altar! And so much trust was given me by all the team, not least by writer Jimmy McGovern, who made me go meticulously through the wording of the mass texts. And Directors and Producers alike regularly consulted me to see if everything was ok, even the tiniest details on set.”

The programme was produced by LA Productions and was first aired on BBCOne last summer. The six episodes tell the moving stories of a priest and his parishioners of a Catholic community in the north of England. The poverty, grief, crime and family troubles that afflict the people of the parish all evoke the compassion of Fr Michael, who seeks to help those around him while he faces his own personal struggles.

Writer Jimmy McGovern is in no doubt about how he wanted the audience to feel about his main character: ‘He’s a fantastic priest. He totally believes in the power of prayer… but he also believes that God helps people who help themselves.’

Sandford St Martin Awards, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, celebrate the best TV and radio about faith, belief and ethics, and it is chosen by Radio Times Readers.

“Now that Broken has won the prestigious Sanford St Martin Trust award, it puts the cream on the cake.” Fr Denis Blackledge SJ comments. “Sean has done us Catholic priests a great favour and grace, and I feel so privileged to have had a part in his role.”

Read Fr Denis's account of the filming


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