Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

News 40 may be Lynda's finest hour on TV to date

HELLO, good evening, and welcome to the programme. The main headlines tonight... Air defences are tested to the limit as the Battle of Britain enters its third day.GONG! Thousands of evacuated children in danger as holiday resort targeted. GONG! Propaganda war hots up as Germans lie about their losses. GONG!

HELLO, good evening, and welcome to the programme. The main headlines tonight... Air defences are tested to the limit as the Battle of Britain enters its third day.GONG! Thousands of evacuated children in danger as holiday resort targeted. GONG! Propaganda war hots up as Germans lie about their losses. GONG!Flick channels on the television this evening and you might just, for a few scary moments, shrink back into the armchair, wondering what on earth is going on out there.

In fact, you'll have tuned into the latest instalment of a great little TV series - and Northern Ireland's Lynda Bryans has a starring role in it as a war correspondent.

News 40: The Battle of Britain, which runs all this week, reports on the famous wartime victory as if it were happening today.

Like the team's two previous productions, Bethlehem Year Zero and Dateline Jerusalem, which recreated the birth and crucifixion of Christ, it's compelling viewing.

Sixty years ago this week, with dogfights over Dover and airfields in the south hit by Heinkels and dive bombers, there were fears it was the start of the German onslaught.

Britain was facing the full might of the Luftwaffe as Berlin threatened a decisive war in the skies, codenamed Operation 'Day of the Eagle'.

Lynda, who filmed footage on a remote RAF base in the south of England, admits she became caught up in the atmosphere of the historic battle.

"I'm supposed to be with the 11 Group Fighter Command, a key defence unit of the home battle front," she explained. "I'm reporting on the sorties as each day of the battle goes by - how many hits they have made, how many fighters they have lost. Even details such as what was the visibility like for flying are taken into account. It's impossible not to be transported back to that very moment, to think of what those men - and women - were going through."

In another Ulster connection, News 40 is presented by former BBC newscaster Martyn Lewis, who grew up in Portrush. The other reporters are Andrew Harvey, David Jessel and Richard Lindley.

"The fact that Martyn is so well-known from reading the news for the BBC only adds to the authenticity," said Lynda.

News 40 is the latest in a long line of national exposure for the UTV Live presenter, one of the province's best-loved faces. Previously she worked on the BBC's successful Animal Hospital. And she currently anchors the ITV religious weekend programme Sunday Morning with husband Mike Nesbitt, also a UTV Live presenter. The couple have two sons, PJ (5) and Christopher (3).

Although Lynda enjoyed making News 40, the earlier series, Bethlehem Year Zero and Dateline Jerusalem, have a particular place in her heart. A keen churchgoer, she said: "I thought it was very apt when Martyn Lewis, who once famously called for more good news to be reported, was presenting a programme about the greatest news of all, the birth of Jesus."

Lynda was also thrilled to make her first trip to the Holy Land. "It was wonderful to see these places that you read about in the Bible. We'd be travelling along and suddenly someone would say 'Oh, look, it's Jericho'. It was awesome.

"Bethlehem made a profound impression upon me. I'd never been anywhere else in the world where it felt like such a home from home. There was a peaceful feeling there... that's not to say some of it isn't very touristy. I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is said to be the site where Jesus was born. It was thronged with visitors. Of course, it's right to preserve such places but I couldn't help but think of Jesus and the moneylenders in the Temple and what He would think if he came back now and saw it..."

Unlike the previous two productions, News 40 has been able to use archive footage which, said Lynda, makes it seem even more real.

Mind you, Bethlehem Year Zero certainly got one man thinking. With a smile, Lynda revealed: "When that was on last Christmas Julian Simmons, the UTV personality, rushed up to me. He said 'Lynda, you'll never believe this, but I got a taxi last night and the driver was so excited. He said 'here mate, have you heard what's happening in Bethlehem? A baby has been born. He's called Jesus. It was on the telly! And, guess what? They've sent yer woman Lynda Bryans out to cover the story!'" Let's hope somebody warns the cabbie about News 40.

News 40, 12.05-12.20pm and 11.30-11.45pm, Mon-Fri, this week, ITV.

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