ITV marks First World War centenary by telling the people’s story in partnership with Imperial War Museums
The extraordinary stories of ordinary people whose lives were transformed during the First World War will be told in their own words in a landmark new series for ITV, made in partnership with Imperial War Museums
Marking the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 1914, the experiences of men and women, young and old, from across Britain and the social classes that divided society at the time, are vividly brought to life in 4x60 series The Great War: The People’s Story, produced by Shiver [ITV Studios].
As part of ITV’s partnership with IWM, a book accompanying the series will also be published as well as three e-books. In addition to its partnership with IWM, ITV is also announcing two other programmes to mark the First World War centenary.
With narration from Olivia Colman, The Great War: The People’s Story tells the real-life stories of soldiers, from privates to officers, their wives and girlfriends left behind, and people from Britain’s villages and cities. They are portrayed by a cast of actors including Alison Steadman, Daniel Mays, Claire Foy, Brian Cox, Romola Garai, MyAnna Buring and Matthew McNulty, who speak their words as they were written in their diaries and letters.
These moving accounts, revealing their intimate thoughts and feelings offer a raw insight into the profound impact of being caught up in a conflict that would change their lives – and Britain – forever. Sourced from archives and libraries across the country, selected in partnership with Imperial War Museums, which provided much of the material, and brought to life by actors – each story conveys the hopes, fears, heroism and tragedies of countless ordinary British people… made all the more powerful by the fact that every word is real.
Diane Lees, Director General of IWM, said: “IWM is pleased to have worked in partnership with ITV on the development of The People's Story - The Great War. The Imperial War Museum was established while the First World War was still being fought, to ensure future generations would remember those who contributed during the conflict. This series, featuring a number of people whose diaries and letters are held in the museum's archives, gives an insight into some of the experiences and innermost thoughts of individuals from the time. Now that the war is out of living memory, it is up to our generation to ensure that their stories are and continue to be told - the stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.”
Richard Klein, ITV Director of Factual, said: “This programme gives the stage to the authentic voice of the British people as they endured over four years of the greatest violence in human history. The diaries, letters and memoirs of privates and officers, wives and mothers, working class and the well-to-do all brilliantly and emotionally document the journey from the patriotism and positivity at the start of war to the gradual understanding of the deadly and mind-shattering realities of modern warfare to the final days of simple endurance and exhaustion. This is a beautifully composed portrait of a country during a war that changed everything for everyone.”
Ollie Tait, Executive Producer of The Great War: The People’s Story for Shiver added: “Alongside the heartbreak and horror of war, Britain was changing at an amazing pace for everyone and there is something hugely powerful about reliving this through the people who never thought their voices would be heard. We really wanted 'The People's Story' to be a world apart from the usual approach to the First World War and to make it about us, to bring to life the treasured letters that are tucked away in attics across the nation.”
ITV has commissioned two other films to mark the centenary.
Starring John Hurt, The Pity of War: The Lives and Loves of the War Poets [1x60], also produced by Shiver, provides an intimate and revealing account of the relationships between Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves, men who chartered their experiences of World War One with such power, beauty and brutal honesty that their words went on to define a generation.
Played in his later years by John Hurt, Siegfried Sassoon reflects on his life and these key relationships. Using the same dramatic device as The Great War: The People’s Story, the film also draws on a selection of key poems, letters, diaries and other written accounts to bring to life Sassoon’s recollections, as well as his contemporaneous accounts during the war. With a tapestry of archive, imagery, actors in dramatic sequences, the film is a vivid and moving portrait of the young men behind the most powerful poetry of the last century and how their lives touched one another’s.
The Pals Army [WORKING TITLE, 1x60], produced by Testimony Films and directed by award-winning Harry Hook, tells the story of the million young men who, encouraged by the high profile recruitment campaign fronted by Lord Kitchener at the very start of the war volunteered alongside their friends, neighbours and workmates to serve in the new Pal's Battalions, most of which were in the North. These were young men, boys even, who joined out of the spirit of adventure, on the promise of glory. And it was as friends together that this army of pals encountered and endured the carnage and the squalor of this war. The Pals Army uniquely documents this story through a rarely seen archive of testimony from these young men themselves.
ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE) and Imperial War Museums have signed a deal with Random House for The Great War: The People’s Story, a hardback non-fiction book to accompany the TV series. Written by Izzy Charman, the TV series producer, and published in partnership with Imperial War Museums, the book provides a narrative of the war years as seen through the eyes of the people featured in the show. The book will be available from 31st July.
ITVS GE will also be publishing three e-books based on three of the individuals in the TV series. Written by daughter Pamela Campbell, Reg Evans DCM – A Hero’s War In His Own Words is about a young soldier who was one of the first people to undergo facial surgery in Britain after a gunshot wound to the face. In Alan Lloyd – The Lost Generation, Izzy Charman tells the story of the just-married officer, a member of the privileged Lloyds banking family, who died in battle. Author Elizabeth Crawford explores the story of a working suffragette in Kate Parry Frye – The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette whose suffrage society turned to war work. All three e-books will be available from 31st July. Shirley Patton, ITVS GE’s Head of Publishing, negotiated all of the publishing deals.