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Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell present a brand new series of the Bafta award winning series Long Lost Family, which traces and reunites families who have been apart for most of their lives.
Across eight episodes, viewers are taken on a moving journey, from the moment relatives reveal how they lost contact with a family member, to being told their loved one has been traced, to their eventual reunion.
Series four features mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers searching for loved ones who they are desperate to find. The programme travels as far as South Africa and Australia and with the help of Nicky and Davina, families are guided through the heart-rending reunion process.
Davina said: “Long Lost Family is unlike anything else I've ever been involved in - it's emotional, it's heart-warming and it's life changing for the people we reunite. It's such a huge honour to be a part of their stories and ultimately to help them find loved ones.”
In each programme, Long Lost Family explores the background and social context of each family’s estrangement and why it occurred. Many of the people in the series were adopted or gave children up for adoption when they were younger and Nicky Campbell has personal experience of this. He was adopted as a child, before searching for and being reunited with his birth mother and father as an adult. Nicky is now a patron of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.
Nicky said: “The previous series have been compelling and emotional and unmissable but I think in this series we have some of the most extraordinary stories that we’ve ever told, from some of the most amazing people.”
During production of Long Lost Family, producers Wall to Wall worked closely with adoption expert Ariel Bruce, a leading independent social worker who specialises in tracing people. The protocol devised and worked to throughout the making of Long Lost Family complies with current adoption legislation and was modelled on the protocols and best practice that leading Ofsted-inspected adoption support agencies work to when searching for, contacting, reuniting and supporting adopted people and birth relatives.
Ann Munro and Colin Hayter
Sixty-three year old Ann Munro lives a happy life with her husband, Geoff in the small town of Ringwood, Hampshire, but she has never forgotten the trauma of events that took place over forty years ago.
At the age of twenty-one Ann gave up her first son for adoption and ever since, her life has been overshadowed by guilt and the longing to ask for his forgiveness. Ann had a difficult upbringing, raised within a strict Catholic family in County Durham. At the age of sixteen she left home and moved on her own to Dorset. Ann settled quickly into her new life and began a relationship with a young man. However, a year in, she discovered she was pregnant and the news was not welcomed by her boyfriend who didn’t want either Ann or the baby in his life.
Devastated, Ann knew that she could only turn to her family, so she summoned all her courage to tell her mother and father about the pregnancy. She has never forgotten her father’s words to her, he said ‘you’ve ruined your life - get on with it… but you do not come home.’
With nowhere to turn, Ann was forced to go through the pregnancy alone and in October 1972, she gave birth to a son who she named Mark. Not long after his birth, Ann remembers a visit by a lady who told her that adoption would be the only way that she could give her son a better life. To this day she remembers the desperation she felt in hearing this.
She says: “I remember hugging him and going ‘I can give you lots of love but I can’t give you anything else’ so [it was] the hardest decision of my life.”
Having clung onto her baby for two months, Ann made the heart-breaking decision to give up her son. In the dark days following the adoption, Ann was offered a ray of hope in the form of her husband to be - Geoff. He helped Ann move on from the trauma of the adoption and they were soon married. Their relationship went from strength to strength and they were soon expecting their first child, but exactly a year to the day after having Mark, Ann gave birth prematurely. But, their baby didn’t survive the birth and exactly one year on from having Mark, Ann lost a second child.
She says: “I really did think god is punishing me. I was devastated.”
Fate was to deal Ann another cruel blow. When the post arrived that day a letter came addressed to Ann containing a picture of a little boy of one year old. It was a picture of Mark. Consumed with grief, Ann ripped up the photograph and in that moment destroyed the only physical connection she had to the baby she had given away.
For forty-one years Ann has lived with pain of giving up her first child and has believed that if she could only find him, she could explain that she gave him up out of love and alleviate the guilt she has lived with.
She says: “I need to tell him that I didn’t part with him because I didn’t love him, I parted with him because I did love him. I had no choice.
“I want to tell him why I did what I did. If he can understand and forgive me I would be at peace. Because I’m not at peace until I tell him.”
With the help of specialist adoption support agents, Long Lost Family was able to track down Mark, who had been renamed Colin. Nicky travels to the Isle of Wight, where Colin lives.
Colin is honoured that his birth mother has been searching for him and, knowing nothing of her difficult circumstances, is stunned to hear of her tragic story. He instantly feels that he must see her.
When Davina meets Ann she presents her with a photo of Colin as a baby – the image she has held in her head for so long.
“This is everything to me – I can’t stop looking at this photograph.”
Ann and Colin meet for the first time in forty-one years at Avon Beach in Mudeford. Colin assures Ann that he has never held a grudge against her and that he has had a happy life. Hearing this, Ann is finally able to rid herself of the guilt that has dominated her life.
When Ann and Colin met they instantly knew there was a bond between them and began to lay the foundations for their future relationship.
She says: “I felt as though I had known him all my life. This tiny little baby that I left and gave away and cried over for forty years, that I’ve dreamt about… he has grown up into this wonderful, wonderful young man.”
Louise Kendall and Stephane Le Postollec
Louise is a twenty-eight year old nurse who lives in Bradford, Yorkshire with her four year old son, Noah. A hard working and devoted mother, Louise is longing to share her life and family with the father she has never known.
Louise was raised by her single mother and never had a father figure as part of her life. However, growing up Louise was always told by her mother that she had a French father, called Stephane, who she had a relationship with when she worked as an au pair in France. After nearly a year together, Louise’s mum had discovered she was pregnant but, at only seventeen years old, Stephane felt unable to be a father and asked her to terminate the pregnancy.
On a visit to Dijon, the city where her parents fell in love, Louise recounts the difficult truth revealed to her by her mother.
She says: “Being a seventeen year old and then being told that somebody is having your child must have terrified him.”
Unable to go through with a termination, Louise’s mum returned to Bradford and Louise was born not long after. Her mother maintained contact with Stephane for a short period, sending photos of Louise to him and even affirmed the connection between father and daughter by having Louise christened with her father’s last name - Postollec.
Louise says: “It is a sense of belonging that I do belong to my dad. Although he may not be in my life we are still connected, even if it us just by a surname it’s still there.”
Apart from her name, the only connection Louise has to her father is a single passport photo she received in September 1986; a small picture of a curly haired, seventeen year old boy. Louise has treasured the photo throughout her life.
She says: “I just look and think that is my dad but he is just a stranger isn’t he. You just long to meet them.”
Although Louise has always been aware of the fact that her father didn’t want her, she has held out the hope that this might be a decision he has regretted.
“I do love him, I’ll always love him because he is my dad…it breaks my heart to think that my dad didn’t want me,” she says.
Over the years Louise has never stopped thinking of her father and has done everything she could to discover where he was - even contacting the French embassy and Interpol, but always came up against dead ends.
Using professional social networks, Long Lost Family discovered Stephane Le Postollec living in the French Alps. As a fluent French speaker, Davina makes the trip to meet him at his home.
Stephane confides in Davina that he has feared searching for Louise because of his shame and guilt about asking her mother to terminate the pregnancy. He shows Davina baby photos of Louise that he has kept with him through the years.
He says: “I have dreamt a few times that she came to me. So now we are in the reality, I don’t dream anymore”
Reading a letter from Louise, Stephane is touched by her warmth and love. As he reads on, his joy becomes utter amazement in the discovery that he is a grandfather. “A father and grandfather in the same day…it’s crazy!” he says.
When Davina tells Louise her father has been found, she is overwhelmed with emotion. Upon seeing a photo of Stephane, Louise cannot believe the man staring back at her is her dad.
“It is just so strange because I have seen him as a boy and in my head that is always how he has [been], he is like Peter Pan, he has never grown up, in my head he has always been that same man, so to see him as an adult is just so weird!”
She is thrilled to finally get to meet her father, after a lifetime as strangers. The reunion takes place at St. Pancras station, London. As Stephane’s train arrives in, Louise waits anxiously at the gate. Emotions are high as the pair set eyes on each other for the first time in twenty eight years. What follows is perhaps the series’ most raw and emotional of reunions, as both father and daughter lay their feelings bare. After living for years in fear of how she would react to him, Stephane is moved by Louise’s understanding and compassion.
For the first time Louise has a father in her life and both look forward to a new chapter, as father and daughter.