Vicar Of Dibley takes the knee: Dawn French to deliver a BLM sermon in BBC show

The Vicar Of Dibley will take the knee and deliver a sermon about Black Lives Matter when the award-winning BBC comedy returns to the screen for a series of Christmas specials.

In a move critics say could undermine the BBC’s impartiality, the Reverend Geraldine Kennedy – played by Dawn French – addresses the killing of George Floyd by American police officers and the broader issue of racism in one of the three ten-minute episodes.

The sketch begins in a typically light-hearted fashion, with the vicar being filmed by farmer and parishioner Owen Newitt as she emerges into the fresh air after lockdown.

The Vicar Of Dibley will take the knee and deliver a sermon about Black Lives Matter when the BBC comedy returns to the screen for a series of Christmas specials. In a move critics say could undermine the BBC's impartiality, the Reverend Geraldine Kennedy (played by Dawn French, above) addresses the killing of George Floyd by US police officers and the broader issue of racism in one of the three ten-minute episodes.

The Vicar Of Dibley will take the knee and deliver a sermon about Black Lives Matter when the BBC comedy returns to the screen for a series of Christmas specials. In a move critics say could undermine the BBC's impartiality, the Reverend Geraldine Kennedy (played by Dawn French, above) addresses the killing of George Floyd by US police officers and the broader issue of racism in one of the three ten-minute episodes.

The Vicar Of Dibley will take the knee and deliver a sermon about Black Lives Matter when the BBC comedy returns to the screen for a series of Christmas specials. In a move critics say could undermine the BBC’s impartiality, the Reverend Geraldine Kennedy (played by Dawn French, above) addresses the killing of George Floyd by US police officers and the broader issue of racism in one of the three ten-minute episodes.

Written by the show's co-creators Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer, each episode sees the vicar delivering a sermon to camera. Ms French, 63, made no secret of her views in the wake of Mr Floyd's killing, tweeting: 'Black Lives Matter. This is a fact not a slogan'

Written by the show's co-creators Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer, each episode sees the vicar delivering a sermon to camera. Ms French, 63, made no secret of her views in the wake of Mr Floyd's killing, tweeting: 'Black Lives Matter. This is a fact not a slogan'

Written by the show’s co-creators Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer, each episode sees the vicar delivering a sermon to camera. Ms French, 63, made no secret of her views in the wake of Mr Floyd’s killing, tweeting: ‘Black Lives Matter. This is a fact not a slogan’

But it takes a more serious direction when Rev Kennedy tells the audience that she has been preoccupied with the ‘horror show’ of Mr Floyd’s death and what she describes as ‘this Black Lives Matter thing’.

While acknowledging that Dibley, a fictional village in Oxfordshire, is not the most ethnically diverse community, she says: ‘I don’t think it matters where you’re from. I think it matters that you do something about it because Jesus would, wouldn’t he?’

Warming to her theme, she adds: ‘Until all lives matter the same, we are doing something very wrong.

Above, George Floyd. In the BBC show, Rev Kennedy tells the audience that she has been preoccupied with the 'horror show' of Mr Floyd's death and what she describes as 'this Black Lives Matter thing'

Above, George Floyd. In the BBC show, Rev Kennedy tells the audience that she has been preoccupied with the 'horror show' of Mr Floyd's death and what she describes as 'this Black Lives Matter thing'

Above, George Floyd. In the BBC show, Rev Kennedy tells the audience that she has been preoccupied with the ‘horror show’ of Mr Floyd’s death and what she describes as ‘this Black Lives Matter thing’

‘We need to focus on justice for a huge chunk of our countrymen and women who seem to have a very bad, weird deal from the day they’re born.’

She then walks to the parish noticeboard and removes two posters, one about decimalisation, the other relating to a missing button.

In what will be interpreted by some as a reference to the removal of statues of colonial figures linked to the slave trade, she says: ‘I think that in Dibley perhaps we should think about taking down some of these old notices like this and that and perhaps we should put up one like this instead.’

She then pins a home-made Black Lives Matter poster to the noticeboard before taking the knee. 

The sketch is markedly different in tone from the rest of the series, which sees Rev Kennedy reflect on the challenges of the pandemic and cracking jokes about online quizzes and the dangers of excess alcohol consumption.

Written by the show’s co-creators Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer, each episode sees the vicar delivering a sermon to camera.

Ms French, 63, made no secret of her views in the wake of Mr Floyd’s killing, tweeting: ‘Black Lives Matter. This is a fact not a slogan.’

Steve Bennett, editor of the comedy website Chortle, said: ‘Making social comments is absolutely what comedy should do and BLM is a commendable cause, but Geraldine’s very earnest speech certainly jars with the tone of the show. 

In June, the corporation told its journalists that while it was 'not neutral on racism', they could not publicly back the Black Lives Matter campaign because it could be perceived as bias. (Above, BLM protesters take the knee in London in July)

In June, the corporation told its journalists that while it was 'not neutral on racism', they could not publicly back the Black Lives Matter campaign because it could be perceived as bias. (Above, BLM protesters take the knee in London in July)

In June, the corporation told its journalists that while it was ‘not neutral on racism’, they could not publicly back the Black Lives Matter campaign because it could be perceived as bias. (Above, BLM protesters take the knee in London in July)

‘In his obvious passion to share his beliefs, Richard Curtis seems to have forgotten the jokes, which makes this a very political moment.’

He said the sketch could undermine the BBC’s claim to be impartial on the issue of Black Lives Matter. 

In June, the corporation told its journalists that while it was ‘not neutral on racism’, they could not publicly back the Black Lives Matter campaign because it could be perceived as bias.

But author Kathy Lette defended the BBC, saying: ‘Good comic writing always has a serious side. True wit requires grit.’

The Vicar Of Dibley was embroiled in an impartiality row in 2005 after including a storyline promoting the Make Poverty History campaign. The BBC found it had breached editorial guidelines.

The BBC said last night: ‘Geraldine is a well-established fictional character of a much-loved comedy who gives her take on the key moments of the year.

‘Audiences understand the difference between news and comedy content and the sermons do not breach the BBC’s impartiality guidelines.’

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