Appearing on Czech TV again!

Being interviewed on Czech Television by Daniela Písarovicová

For the second time in just over a year, last Friday 25th May, I was invited to appear on Czech Television. Whilst my previous appearance was as part of their coverage of last year’s Royal Wedding, this time it was to talk about my home city of Coventry and the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the new Cathedral being marked that day.

Like last year, I appeared on CT24, the rolling new and current affairs channel of Czech Television’. I was part of their morning magazine programme simply entitled ‘Studio CT24’. Last Friday they were covering a number of issues in relation to World War Two, not least because Sunday 27th May marked the 70th anniversary of the assassination in Prague by Czech parachutists trained by Britain’s Special Operations Executive, of Reinhard Heydrich, the acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia,.

The bookmark given to me 50 years ago to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral

The reason I got the invitation to appear was entirely due to Jana Michálková, who teaches at the Janácek Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. I met her earlier this year when one of her students kindly played the keyboard for our January service in Brno. Jana had studied at Royal Holloway College in London where her College Chaplain had been Christopher Cocksworth who she proudly told me, was now the Bishop of Coventry. I in turn told her, that I was born in Coventry and had spent the first eighteen years of my life living in the city.

Jana had encouraged one of her contacts in Czech Radio, to broadcast some of the musical events surrounding the Golden Jubilee of Coventry Cathedral, not least a new performance of Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’. And it was her suggestion to another friend working in Czech Television that led to the feature about Coventry Cathedral on ‘Studio CT24’ last Friday and the invitation for me to appear as a guest on the programme.

Having been picked up by taxi from the Chaplaincy flat and driven to the studio, the procedures that followed were very similar to those I had experienced in 2011 for the Royal Wedding. First there was a quick bit of make-up to ensure I looked my best under the glare of the TV lights! Then there was a cup of coffee to lubricate the throat whilst I chatted with my interpreter Martin, fortunately the same translator as for the Royal Wedding. He remembered me as I remembered him!

Whilst talking with Martin, particularly about any unusual ecclesiological or theological terms I might use, a technician ‘wired me for sound’ with a clip-on microphone on my lapel and the battery pack clipped to my back trouser pocket. I was also fitted with an ear piece through which I would hear what I was being asked in Czech, being translated by Martin into English.

I reminded Martin of the technical problems I had for the Royal Wedding with a loose connection somewhere, which led to me to having a rather intermittent English translation coming into my ear. He too, remembered the problem and insisted we had a thorough technical test of the system before going live on TV.

I have to admit that I still found it quite disconcerting, being spoken to in Czech by the presenter Daniela Písarovicová and hearing a slightly delayed English translation coming into one ear, all at the same time. I roughly knew what I was going to be asked and could also understand some of the Czech being used. But I had to both look intelligently at Daniela, whilst simultaneously concentrating on every word of English entering my left ear. Not easy – I assure you!

I was asked about the bombing raid on Coventry by the Luftwaffe on the night of 14th November 1940. What did I know about it? What parts of the old Cathedral had been destroyed? I explained that whilst I am now sixty years old, I wasn’t alive at the time to remember the events, but rather knew about them from my parents. But I was able to explain that the bombs had been incendiary devices which had destroyed the roof of the mediaeval Cathedral but had left most of the external walls intact and, most surprisingly, also the Cathedral spire.

Answering questions on Czech Television

I was particularly pleased to be able to explain that, not long after the bombing raid that destroyed so much of the mediaeval Cathedral, the Provost had made a cross from two of the charred roof beams and erected it behind the altar and had the words. ‘Father forgive’ carved on the east wall of the old sanctuary. For me, this is such a powerful symbol of the Christian message of reconciliation. Reconciliation between God and humankind – but also, reconciliation between nations and peoples who have previously been at war with each other.

I was also asked about the events of fifty years ago. Had I been at the Consecration Service? Of course, as a ten year-old school boy I wasn’t invited! But as I explained, about three weeks after the Consecration Service, I did attend a service in the new Coventry Cathedral, for schoolchildren from the Diocese of Coventry and was able to show the bookmark given to each of us to mark the occasion. As you will see, it has suffered a little from regular use in one of my Bibles.

After I was interviewed, the presenter Daniela Písarovicová, conducted a telephone interview with Czech Television’s London correspondent. He was asked how the Golden Jubilee of the consecration of the new Cathedral was being celebrated and he explained that there was a special service being held, attended by Princess Anne on behalf of the Queen. But when asked what Coventry was like, he had the audacity to compare it to Kladno, a small industrial town a short distance north-west of Prague.

With sincere apologies to all the residents of Kladno, Coventry is four times bigger by population and I thought his comparison to be both somewhat inaccurate and rather rude. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right of reply!

The interview with me is currently still accessible online though I do not know for how much longer this will be the case. Click on this link and then scroll forwards to 84 minutes.

15 comments to Appearing on Czech TV again!

  • karin shepherd

    Hi Ricky,

    Very interesting interview! A little hard to hear you and the Czech at the same time, but pictures helped. You have a nice voice!

    • Ricky

      Hi Karin – Glad you enjoyed the interview online. Inevitably, the live interview & the recording online are for the benefit of Czech people rather than English-speakers. Having now watched myself a few times, (an interesting experience, I can tell you!), I can pick up a good deal of what I’m saying. Of course, what you don’t get at all is the English translation of the questions which was being spoken into my left ear.

  • What a beautiful post. Knowing the Czech antipathy to religion, it strikes me there could be no Christian message more apropos to share with them than that simple “Father, forgive.” The Czechs have been so wronged over the last 20 years. Your remembrance strikes me as deeply useful.

    • Ricky

      Thank you Karen for your compliments. My friend Katka from Brno expressed her pleasant surprise, saying that it was “…..interesting, that our TV acknowledged this event at all – since it concerns a church,” a reflection on the general Czech antipathy to religion as you accurately describe it.

      I do find the charred cross and the words ‘Father forgive’ very powerful and I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to talk about it through the medium of Czech TV.

  • Hi Ricky,
    As usual a great post. I’m glad you are still willing to blog to us lesser mortals now that you are a TV star!
    Out of interest, did you know that Coventry is twinned with both Lidice and Ostrava? That may explain the reason for Czech TV’s interest.

    • Ricky

      Hi Wissy/Robin – I don’t know about being a TV star. It’s more like just 8 minutes of fame 🙂

      No – I didn’t know about Coventry being twinned with both Lidice and Ostrava. Clearly the former does tie in with the 70th anniversary of the assassination of Heydrich which was the central part of the programme focus last Friday.

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Well done, Ricky. I too am glad the anniversary was marked in this way. I vividly remember being taken on a school history trip from my grammar school in Lancashire to the new Coventry cathedral soon after it was consecrated. I was deeply impressed by both the old and the new buildings. Quite recently I felt sad when I watched a TV programme which showed film of the pre-Blitz mediaeval centre of Coventry. So much beauty and history lost in one night!

    • Ricky

      Thank you Perpetua. Your school history trip would have been quite some journey, bearing in mind that very little of the M6 existed at that time. Or did you travel by train? Like you, I’m always deeply impressed by both the ruins of the old Cathedral as well as being a great fan of the new Cathedral.

      Sadly, not just the old Coventry Cathedral but many other of the city’s mediaeval buildings were destroyed during the Blitz, though some did survive, including the neighbouring Holy Trinity Church. I fortunately do still have a couple of books produced by the Coventry Evening Telegraph with a photographic record of what my home city looked like pre-1940.

  • katarina

    Hi Ricky,

    How are you? TV star again – good for you. You need to watch out with CZ towns like Kladno, the cradle of hockey. Also, CZ has less population than UK. So, one cannot compare cities strictly by population size. And I just looked at picture of Coventry, to my aesthetic eye it is not a pretty city, kind of industrial looking. What parts seemed rude to you? I would really like to know.

    • Ricky

      Hi Katarina – I don’t know about being a TV star. As I said in reply to an earlier commenter, it’s more like just 8 minutes of fame 🙂 I take your point about the Czech Republic having a much smaller population than the UK. But I see Kladno as a small little industrial town just outside of Prague. That isn’t the way I see my home city which has/had industry but still has some nice parts and a modern city centre rebuilt after all the bomb damage of the Second World War. But obviously, I’m biased 🙂

  • It is very common to compare towns and cities and it doesn’t need to be taken too literally. My humble hometown Turku is called “the Paris of Finland” and everyone with an IQ average or above understands that nobody seriously thinks Turku is comparable to any metropolis. Still, we have a bit similar atmosphere here and this is our way to compliment the capital of France.

    We also have “the Manchester of Finland”, Tampere, which is much smaller than the real Manchester. The reason for this is of course Tampere being an old industrial city.

    Well, if your hometown compares to a small industrial town in the mind of a Czech tv reporter, you draw your conclusions. Also in my mind Coventry is rather gloomy, so I cannot see why the comparison would be rude. The population number is not significant here, the Czech Republic is about 10 times smaller in population than the UK, so similar towns cannot have the same population either.

    Besides, to me Kladno looks rather nice, I would take the comparison as a compliment. 😉

    • Ricky

      Hi Johanna – I entirely accept your point about comparing towns & cities without taking certain expressions too literally. Prague of course, is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East’ though it is certainly far smaller than Paris itself. Regarding comparing Coventry to Kladno, see my recent reply to the comment of Katarina. Inevitably, I am a bit biased 😉

  • Dang, Ricky! I’m not giggling that your readers just keep heaping it on Coventry. No, not giggling at all.

  • Tim Taylor

    There is a monument to the Czech partisans who were based here in Leamington Spa, about 8 miles from Coventry –

    • Ricky

      Thanks Tim, for this fascinating link. I didn’t realise that those involved in the assassination of Heydrich had a Warwickshire connection.