The Big Questions
Sunday morning saw The Upper abuzz with activity; the media had descended. The Big Questions – the BBC’s religious and moral discussion programme which airs directly after The Andrew Marr Show – was being broadcast live from the sports studio. Keen to get in on the action, and always on the lookout for its big break into show business, the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department secured tickets for a select group of sixth formers to become part of the audience.
With only days to go before the big day, news was received via Twitter that Richard Dawkins (former Professor in the Public Understanding of Science and “ayatollah of atheism”) would be one of the guests debating two questions: ‘Is Britain a Christian Country?’ and ‘Should it be easier to harvest organs?’ Dog-eared copies of The God Delusion were unearthed and re-read, shirts pressed, and witty comebacks rehearsed.
As well as managing to place staff and pupil in the audience, The Perse was proud to gain work experience opportunities for two pupils (Emily Roberts and Edward Christie) to work as runners for the production crew over the weekend. They directed crew and guests, liaised with producers and cameramen, and were a credit to the school for their contribution to the show whilst seeking none of the limelight.
After a warm-up debate in which Big Questions regular and Religious Studies and Philosophy Society President Charley Fowler enlightened and entertained the audience with her thoughts on transgender parenting, the Daily Mail, and the Tory Party, the lights on the cameras went red and the broadcast began. Dawkins was true to form; at times representing his cause admirably, and with the judiciousness expected of one of the country’s leading scientists, at others making outlandish claims about fundamentalists “throwing bombs.” The debate was heated and yet polite, and we were pleased to see that, of the five unscripted audience contributions, two of them came from Perse pupils (Charley Fowler and Stephen Osuobeni).
The hour’s debate passed quickly and drew few conclusions, as regular followers of the programme will recognise. Whilst 54% of the British public surveyed by IPSOS Mori would state that they were Christian, it was unclear what being ‘Christian’ in 21st Century Britain was. Similarly, whilst three people die a day in the UK whilst waiting for donor organs, no consensus could be reached as to whether keeping patients on life support until all their organs could be removed for others was a moral solution. What was clear, however, was that – as always, students at The Perse School could be relied upon to shine at the highest of levels, whether in front of the camera or behind it.
From left to right: Sophie Flynn, Mrs Gardom, Mr Kinsey, Stephen Osuobeni, Charley Fowler, Mr Woolner, Alice Precious, Ruby Carmichael.
You can watch the programme again on BBC iPlayer.