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BBC One takes shopkeepers back in time for new documentary series

Update – 23 August 2010: this press release posted on 4 March 2010 has been updated to reflect a change in programme title, from The High Street to Turn Back Time.


BBC One brings the history of the high street to life in a new six-part documentary series that will take one parade of empty shops back to the 1870s and propel it through 100 years of change.

From the makers of Who Do You Think You Are?, Turn Back Time will see five shopkeeping families from a variety of trades travel back to the 1870s to experience the heyday of the British high street.

Over 10 weeks they will face the challenge of running their shops in six very different eras of British history, from Victorian Britain and the birth of the British high street right through to the 1970s.

The modern-day shopkeepers will take on the traditional roles of butcher, baker, grocer, ironmonger and dressmaker. Their historic shops will be kitted out exactly as they would have been in the past and they'll trade as authentically as possible.

So alongside all the usual pressures of running a business, they'll have to learn old-time skills and make their own produce by hand, while each programme will throw new challenges their way as the high street marches on into the modern era.

The families will also live the life of each period, dressing, eating and playing as they would have done in six iconic eras of British history. They'll have to deal with whatever history throws at them, from gaslight to 18-hour working days and from rationing to evenings of entertainment sitting around the wireless.

These are no museums. The shops will be serving modern-day customers who are used to the pace and convenience of 21st century shopping. While the shopkeepers struggle with pounds, shillings and pence, will their customers welcome the old-fashioned delights of personal service and hand-delivered goods or will queuing, weighing and hand-wrapping tax their patience? 

Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One, says: "The rise and fall of the high street is the story of all of our daily lives – touching on the history of technology, family relationships, work, food, fashion and community. This series is a fantastic opportunity for BBC One to witness 100 years of British history through the shop window."

Turn Back Time will transmit later this year on BBC One.

Turn Back Time is produced for BBC One by Wall to Wall, a Shed Media Group Company.

It was commissioned by Martin Davidson, BBC Commissioning Editor for History & Business.

The BBC executive producer is Cassian Harrison and the Wall to Wall executive producer is Leanne Klein.

CD4

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