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Faith on the Air

Faith on the Air: a religious educational broadcasting history, c.1920-present

Funded by a Research Project Grant from the Leverhulme Trust, 2014-2016, Grant Number RPG-2013-162

This research focuses upon a neglected aspect of religious, educational and media history – religious educational broadcasting on radio and television - from its beginnings on radio in the 1920s, through the television era to the digital-present. This project is reconstructing this aspect of broadcasting and educational history, mapping and detailing the purpose and nature of broadcasts to children and young people across a period of technological development, increased religious pluralism, and wider religious and cultural change.

The project lead, Professor Stephen Parker, writes: ‘as recent as 2004,as a classroom practitioner, I was using the marvellous BBC 1980s and 90s ‘Everyman’ and ‘Heart of the Matter’ series with my sixth form students to explore things like near death experiences, miracle and arguments for the existence of God. It was then I began to wonder about the whole issue of religious broadcasting in schools. From some initial research it soon became clear that religious (educational) broadcasting had a history stretching back as far as the history of radio itself, and alongside the development of religious education as a serious subject in schools. One of the architects of religious educational broadcasting was the Reverend John Williams, a pioneer religious broadcaster for children. This research project has already enabled a detailed study of Williams’ work and influence.

Thanks to the generosity of the Leverhulme Trust we are now able to research and reconstruct the history of religious educational broadcasting in more detail. Their funding of this three-year project which will enable myself and my colleague researcher, Dr Amanda Bloore, to explore why and how broadcasts were made, who had a say in what went into them, what shaped policy and practice around this, and how broadcaster and religious educationalists worked together to aid teaching and learning in the subject. Additionally, work is being carried with schools to examine how broadcasts are being used now, and what impact these have upon the attitudes towards religion amongst children and young people.

During this time I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has any memories of broadcasts, or reflections on their use as a practitioner. Do be in touch. My email is s.parker@worc.ac.uk

The Faith on the Air blog