Emily Watson as Julie Nicholson, conducting a church service.

7th July, 2005

themedianet coordinator Paul Arnold reflects on the day of the London bombings, and the BBC film ‘A Song For Jenny’.

7th July, 2005. Ten years ago. I remember it very clearly. It was due to be an unusual day for me anyway. For one thing, the news that London was to host the 2012 Olympics was just sinking in. Secondly, I’d worked with Bill Nighy from time to time on radio dramas, and he’d agreed to come in and talk about his radio work for a season we were doing on the station then called BBC7 (now Radio 4 Extra). Of course the interview was postponed, though we spent some anxious time unsure of whether he’d set out to meet us. Instead I spent part of the day in meetings with station controllers, as for a while at least I was the most senior member of staff available in BBC7.

Staff safety was the top priority. Happily we didn’t lose anyone, but when Rev Julie Nicholson finally got through to her daughter Jenny’s office that day, she didn’t get such good news. Everyone was at work. Apart from Jenny.

A drama adapted from Julie’s book, A Song For Jenny, was broadcast on BBC TV at the weekend. It details the events of that day and the weeks following from Julie’s perspective. From initial concern, to confirmation of the terrible truth that Jenny had been killed in the bomb explosion at Edgware Road.

The overall feeling one is left with is, of course, sadness at the loss of life, and empathy for what the family went through. But I was also left wanting to know more about Julie’s spiritual journey, as she eventually came to resign her priesthood. It’s part of her particular landscape of grief, outlined in an interview with the Scotsman on the publication of her book, and presumably part of the book itself. This is clearly a woman who has thought a great deal about forgiveness.

But spiritual matters received little attention in the film. Remarkably, the word ‘prayer’ was not mentioned once. Criticising the film feels a little like criticising someone’s funeral, but understanding and shedding light on faith would seem to be a necessary part of preventing more tragedies such as 7/7 and the recent shootings in Tunisia. And those of us who work in the media have an important role to play.

A Song For Jenny is available on BBC iPlayer until August 3rd.

Paul Arnold
  • Naomi Smallwood

    It was an absolutely heartbreaking piece of television. Although her faith may have had very few direct mentions, and I agree it would have felt right if they’d braved to swim a little deeper into what many see as the murky waters of religion, I feel it did touch on many matters of faith in a more broad sense. The moment where she realised she couldn’t let hatred for the perpetrators destroy her love for her daughter was particularly poignant.
    I was only 14 at the time but I remember the day so clearly – I think the programme makers did an excellent job at portraying the impact of those terrible events beyond the headlines.