Tuesday 2 April 2013, 17:28
What Peter was interested in was living memory, a history that wasn't coming from history books but from oral history, from real people who lived ordinary lives.
Peter feels passionate that if you write about the past you must write about it as if you are writing about the present.
In our first episode of The Village set in 1914 on the week that war is declared with Germany, the big event in the village is the arrival of the first ever bus, meaning that people would be able to travel more.'I don't know why, but it was a solemn occasion and that made it even more exciting'
They didn’t know that all the young men of the village were about to travel further than most of them could have imagined - to the front - and most of them would never come back. They thought the war would last just a few months.
They were only thinking about the immediate day to day grind of their lives, not global political events, just like we do in our lives now. This how we wanted this drama to feel.
We needed, then, to learn about history through anecdotes as though they happened just the other day, not through books written decades later with all the terrible distortions of hindsight.Joe heads off to the front line: 'It's as if you were there'
This gave me the task of finding lots of people who experienced that time for Peter and me to talk to.
I contacted some local historians in the Peak District, where we had decided to centre our drama, and up we travelled for three days of intensive interviews in people’s homes around Stoney Middleton and Eyam.
What is fantastic about talking to elderly people is that while their memories of the last few weeks or years can sometimes be very vague and sketchy, when you ask about their childhood, often, their memory is incredibly sharp.'My name is Bert Middleton. I'm the second oldest man in Britain.'
This I knew to be the case with my own 94-year-old father who can talk endlessly about the 1920s and what his school years were like, but not have a clue what he had for breakfast.
And they loved talking! And we loved listening, and it was fascinating the things we heard.
The single most important thing I came away with was that none of them talked about rural life back in the day before electricity and hot water and indoor loos as being a better time.
Life was clearly tough back then and they didn’t miss it!Grace Middleton (Maxine Peake), John Middleton (John Simm), Young Bert (Bill Jones) and Joe
I have to confess my favourite recollection of those early meetings. Most of the people we met were women and one of the great things about elderly ladies is that they serve cake when they have visitors.
Though Peter got to eat a lot more cake than I did, I thank them all for their fine stories and their fine cake.
More on The Village
The Derby Telegraph: More than six million viewers watch two rising Chellaston stars
The Guardian: We long for a sense of belonging that village life offers
The Telegraph: The Village: The most accomplished new drama of the year so far
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