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St Peter’s Church in Sheringham hosts BBC’s Question Time

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When I noticed that the ‘Any Questions’ production team were looking for new venues to host them, I followed it up. We applied in 2019, with the view that it would be good for our congregation, and good for Sheringham.

After one or two false starts due to the pandemic, the date was finally confirmed for a live broadcast to take place in our church at 8pm on Friday 22 April 2022. The hard work started in February as we began to prepare for the event. There was a lot of administration involved, with both myself and Jenny our administrator fully engaged in publicity, taking bookings, arranging for collection of tickets, liaising with the BBC co-ordinator to ensure that insurances, agreements etc were in place, meeting the engineer who came to work out logistics and technical details in advance of the event, allowing access for special phone lines to be installed, and putting a team together who would set up tables and chairs, be stewards, provide first aid, security, and offer hospitality on the day.

The church hall was to be used as the production room and for the outside broadcasting equipment, the choir vestry was to be the ‘green room’ for the panellists. We arranged for someone to be with the team in the church all day on the Friday, from 10am until 11pm.

The tickets were provided by the BBC. They were free of charge, and were very popular. We had to compile a reserve list. The panellists were not announced until a few days before the broadcast. While they might guess as to topics which might arise, they didn’t know what would be asked. Questions were brought on the night by those attending, and taken in batches to the production team who read every single one and selected the best to use. The team and the panellists were kept in separate rooms until just before the programme was to be broadcast, when they were conducted to their seats.

Queues formed outside the church ready for when the doors would open at 6:30pm, so that they would get the best seats. Front rows had been set aside for the production team, and for those whose questions had been selected. It was a full house of 200 lively people, ready to laugh, groan or applaud as appropriate. Following a warm welcome by the Vicar, The Revd Canon Christian Heycocks, the BBC warm-up man briefed the audience and there was a practice question before the live broadcast began.

Every question asked brought up ethical concerns. Interestingly, the last one asked whether it was right for the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak out on government policy – did religion and politics mix? We already had a poster outside quoting Desmond Tutu: “When people say that the Bible and politics don’t mix, I ask them which Bible they are reading.”

The BBC will pay £200 for use of the venue, which should cover our costs. They decided to also broadcast their Radio 4pm programme from St Peter’s, for which they will give an extra £100. The PM team spent their day talking to people in the area, picking up on local concerns and highlighting the beauty and attraction of North Norfolk.

It was good for St Peter’s, and it was good for Sheringham – a worthwhile venture. If you have the space and the people to host it, go for it!

All photos are courtesy of Julie Rubidge.