Radio 4 presents Pearl: Two Fathers, Two Daughters, featuring a rare interview with Gerry McCann

A programme weaving together two voices of grief - one from 600 years ago and one of the present day, in Gerry McCann - comes to Radio 4 this September, in a reflection on loss and consolation

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Alongside this in-depth interview given by McCann, Simon Armitage (pictured), one of the country’s premiere poets, has dramatised Pearl - a medieval poem recounting a father’s grief from the loss of his daughter. The poem will be performed by Iain Glen (Game Of Thrones) and Grace Doherty (Casualty) and intercut with McCann’s interview.

The medieval poem is combined with unprecedented insight into the life of Madeleine’s father.

Gerry McCann’s daughter Madeleine disappeared from an Algarve holiday apartment in May 2007. In an honest, personal and sometimes painful terms, Gerry reflects on the special bond between fathers and daughters, the difficulties men have in articulating sorrow, and his absolute determination to keep looking for Madeleine.

The Middle English poem Pearl sees a father lamenting the loss of his daughter, who returns to him in a dream to help him come to terms with her absence. The anonymous Pearl poet demonstrates that grief for loved ones is the hardest grief of all as he seeks consolation in the idea of heaven and the power of prayer. The original manuscript, now held in the British Library, has been dated to the late 14th century.

Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, the recipient of a Bafta and numerous other awards, Simon Armitage is one of the most respected modern-day literary talents. In addition to poetry, Armitage has written for radio, television and film. In 2010 Armitage wrote a poem titled The Beacon, read at the event marking 1,000 days since Madeleine’s disappearance.

Gerry McCann says: “As a family we'd worked with Simon Armitage before and know what a sensitive, thoughtful writer he is. When I read the Pearl poem, I could see echoes in it with Madeleine's situation and our loss. I decided it was a good opportunity to say something about the special bond between fathers and daughters, thinking that speaking openly might help other men in similar positions. It feels like the right time.”

Simon Armitage says: “Pearl is one of the most moving poems in the language, written by a man grieving over the loss of his young daughter. While translating it into modern English I kept thinking of the McCann family and their daughter Madeleine. I’d written a poem for the family to mark the one thousandth day of her disappearance, spending some time with Kate and talking to her about life without Madeleine and the campaign to find her.

"Gerry’s voice hasn’t been heard as much, and after reading the poem he agreed to give an extended interview, to tell his side of the story in terms of how men deal with loss and grief in a world where they’re usually expected to stay strong and silent. I knew that religion plays an important part in the McCann’s family life, as it does for the author of Pearl, who seeks consolation through his faith.”

TX details:

Pearl: Two Fathers, Two Daughters

Saturday 29 September 2018, 2.30pm - 3pm
Performed by Iain Glen and Grace Doherty
Translated and dramatised by Simon Armitage
Producer: Susan Roberts for BBC Radio 4

September 14, 2018 10:00am by BBC Radio 4  

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