TOP TV presenter Fern Britton is to front a major religious extravaganza which is coming to South Tyneside.
The Great North Passion is a retelling of the last hours of Jesus Christ, which will be broadcast live by the BBC from Bents Park, South Shields, on Good Friday.
Fern will join local community participants, including a 1,000-strong choir, and 12 artists who have created new work inspired by the stations of the cross, which will be housed in 12 shipping containers.
These containers will join more than 50 others on Good Friday – April 18 – to form an iconic installation in the shape of a cross.
Fern, who also presented The Preston Passion in 2012, said: “The Passion is an incredibly powerful and enduring story to which we all can relate, one of human endeavour, of burden, loss, kindness, hope and resilience.
“We best remember the trials of Jesus Christ by bringing his last moments to life, and I am hugely excited to be part of such a spectacular event.
“Whether you are joining us in person or watching at home, The Great North Passion is set to be a remarkable experience of the Easter story.”
The Great North Passion is a BBC Religion and Ethics commission for BBC One, supported by BBC North in partnership with The Cultural Spring, which is a £2m, three-year scheme – funded by the Arts Council – and operating in five wards in South Tyneside, and five in Sunderland.
Each is decorating and using a container at the event – transforming them into individual works of art, before being joined together to form a huge cross-shaped installation.
Organisers are expecting 3,000 people to take part in the event.
Rebecca Ball, project director of the Cultural Spring, said she was delighted at Fern’s appointment.
She said: “She is one of the UK’s most popular presenters with a very loyal following.
“Her involvement should attract more viewers to the live broadcast as well as raise the profile of The Great North Passion, which is the launch event of the Cultural Spring.”
The Cultural Spring’s three organising partners are the University of Sunderland, the Customs House, South Shields, and Sunderland’s Music, Arts and Culture Trust.
The event will be ticket-only, but the tickets will be free.
To apply for a maximum of six tickets per household, go to bbc.co.uk/greatnorthpassion before registration closes at 10am Monday, March 24.