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32 Brinkburn Street

Karen Laws Karen Laws | 11:06 UK time, Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I pitched the idea for 32 Brinkburn Street in November 2009 as part of a brainstorming session in Newcastle held by the Writersroom. We met Phil Collinson, Hilary Martin and Simon Judd who were interested in daytime drama ideas. I'd just been co-writer in residence for Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival and the theme was the family, so that was very much in the back of my mind, plus I had other family things going on at the time. I wanted to do something where the audience knew more about the family's history than the family did itself. This meant doing something historical but I knew the costs involved might make that a non-starter.

Image from drama series, 32 Brinkburn Street.

Initially I pitched the idea of three generations living in one house over a century but quickly cut it down to two timeframes. Our pitches then went to Liam Keelan, Controller of Daytime in December 2009, but a couple of months later I got an email to say although he'd been really keen on the idea it wasn't going to go any further due to lack of slots and finance.

I was trying to work out how to turn Brinkburn Street into a play when I got a call in March 2010 to say that the idea might have some life after all; a series of programmes were being planned around the census and there was a chance of a tie-in. It was one of those times when luck really plays a part and suddenly there was a chance to move forward. Between April and June we started mapping out a potential series and I started work on the first episode. We chose 1931, not only because it was within living memory but also because in many ways it's our parallel decade historically.

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The first draft went through a lot of changes, partly because we kept discovering things about the characters and partly because the shape of the series was changing as well. A draft of episode one went with the final outline for the series to Liam in August 2010. The show was greenlit in September; by then Alice Nutter had joined us to write two episodes. All five scripts were finally locked off by the 25th October to give the director, Dan Wilson, the chance to shoot the contemporary stuff first and then go on to the period material. We always knew our deadline for transmission had to be census week so time was always going to be an issue. I was thrilled when we got such a strong cast, absolutely delighted. Shooting was finished on 17th December, one year after the initial pitch in Newcastle.

It's wonderful seeing it on the screen; I'm still getting over the surprise of having it commissioned never mind seeing it finished. The past fifteen months have been intense, no doubt about it; sometimes it was fantastic and other times you'd be tearing your hair out, but then, that's what families are all about.

Watch 32 Brinkburn Street at 2.15pm on BBC One from 28th March - 1st April.

Read the script for Episode 1 of 32 Brinkburn Street in the BBC writersroom script archive.

Andrea Hughes, set designer for 32 Brinkburn Street, has written a blog post about her work designing the set for the series on the BBC TV blog.


  • Comment number 1.

    This drama is absolutely brilliant. Well thought out and leaves me waiting in anticipation to watch the next episode! Brilliant well done Karen :))

  • Comment number 2.

    What a fantastic drama,I was actually scared to watch todays episode as I was convinced that there would be scenes of an illegal Abortion but her mother Grace caught her with her grandmother before this happened,I only wish someone had been there to stop my Mother!
    I never knew my mother as she was butchered by a back street Abortionist when I was only 6mths old,you have portrayed it so well in your writing Karen bringing it to the present day showing that a young girl can now get the pill,you know it was only thanks to David Steel in the 60s and the abortion act that stopped hundreds of women losing their lives in this way,we must never go back to those dark ages.
    Can't wait to find out who is behind the wall!

  • Comment number 3.

    "It's wonderful seeing it on the screen"............ you can say that again!
    I simply adore the series, and want to thank everybody involved. It is a brilliant idea and it works so well on T/V. I hope it catches on and has great viewing figures, for it deserves to run and run........ into the next generation or even look further back than 1931.
    All the best to you ALL.

  • Comment number 4.

    I am really enjoying this series. It is really intriging and at work we are already discussing who the body belongs to. It is a shame that it is not on of an evening

  • Comment number 5.

    Just love watching 32 brinkburn street, so good viewing.

  • Comment number 6.

    best piece of drama on t.v for a long time, have thoroughly enjoyed it and the switch between times are amazing especially the colours and decor, well done.

  • Comment number 7.

    Best daytime drama in a very long time. Fantastic work!

  • Comment number 8.

    Having really enjoyed The Indian Doctor my wife and I tuned in to Brinkburn Street with high expectations.
    Oh dear - it is not in the same league : amateur writing, clunky plot, awful acting (especially from 'Frank' in the wheelchair) all gave it an air of a community theatre production. The 'clever' jumps between the two eras just grate and I have never seen so many poor performances from a cast in one show - it makes 'Doctors' look like the RSC !
    Every cliche in the book is thrown in - all so very obvious : comparisons of the extended family in the 30's to the fractured and remarried reality of the present, teenage pregnancy, the Irish experience being the forerunner of that of black people today and it just goes on...
    And did they really have English Heritage blue plaques in the 1930's like the one on the neighbouring building ?

  • Comment number 9.

    This is a brilliant drama, but what a shame it is on during the day when I am at work!!! If it had been put on Sunday evening in the Larkrise to Candleford time slot I think it would've been a great success. I nearly missed it, but luckily I saw it advertised and used the "catch up" system to watch in. I was hooked immediately - it is fabulous - please write more of the same - I love the way it flicks forward and back in time and highlights the issues of period such as unemployment, fertility and love comparing today and yesterdays attitude - just brilliant!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Fantastic drama; I was totally involved with both famalies, well written, great props, some fantastic actors (love Maggie Steed) really good storyline - only complaint, it was too short - you could have kept this going for another few weeks then another series!!

    Keep the dramas coming - we need more of this please.

  • Comment number 11.

    A brilliant series and worthy of being aired at a later time and catching a wider evening audience. I hope it will be repeated.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just watched the final episode - bloody fantastic! This show NEEDS to be recommissioned for a second series!

  • Comment number 13.

    I posted more or less the same in the other blog - but another Hearty CONGRATULATIONS to all the cast and producers/directors.

    YOUR writing is absolutely brilliant.

    No excuse in this world should prevent this series picking up where it finsihed.
    The stories that exist behind so many 'items' MUST be born again.

    A stunning progrmme that MUST continue - or I'm not paying my licence !!!

  • Comment number 14.

    It's dramas like this that make me realise why I pay my tv licence!
    But why show it in the afternoon and not the evenings when so many people have missed out on a brilliant show! Not everyone can access iplayer so please repeat it and show it in the evenings! Especially for all my family and friends who I have told about it who also missed it!
    I only caught the first episode as I had the day off work and was hooked for the rest of the week!
    I didn't want it to finish and as others have written it really should be picked up for a second series so that we can learn more about what happened to each character. I especially would like to find out more about what happened to the 1931 characters! How did Norah, the younger daughter, die? Did Walter ever find out about Gracie's affair?
    Please BBC - if ever there was a time that you need to justify the licence fee...repeat this, make another series and make more tv dramas like this!

  • Comment number 15.

    Can't remember when I enjoyed anything so much on TV. It was wonderful, the acting, the script, the set. I recorded it and couldn't wait to get home. Thank you BBC. Please make another series I need to know what happened to all of them.

  • Comment number 16.

    This was just up my street. I love the writer JoJo Moyes who flits from a past era to present day, and this really reminded me of her. Just to repeat whats been said already, could easily have been a evening slot and would love to see a second series please. Congratulations to all. Really good stuff.

  • Comment number 17.

    This has been one of the most interesting and imaginative mini series I have seen and is a credit to BBC Northwest Drama Production but why was it scheduled for daytime? ,we recorded it and watched it at night. Will there be a 2nd series as the ending leaves it wide open for another ,I hope so and well done

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks to everyone who watched 32 Brinkburn Street last week and thank you for all your comments. I was really touched by Carol's story (though I have to confess Carol that I didn't write episode 3, the wonderful Alice Nutter did so I've passed on your comments to her). Thanks again to everyone who took time to post a comment, they really are very much appreciated!

  • Comment number 19.

    Brilliant series I stumbled upon by accident as I am not a daytime viewer so recorded it. Please add my name to the many who would love another series - but let the night-time viewers know to record it at the very least ... should be prime time tv!

  • Comment number 20.

    Brilliant series, really enjoyed watching it, but I missed the last episode!!
    PLEASE can someone tell me what happened in the end??

  • Comment number 21.

    32 Brinkburn Street street was excellent and authentic to the times in which is was set. Covered a multitude of situation and human feelings sensitively acted out by the actors. A good storyline. I sincerely hope there will be a new follow -up series. Would be suitable for any viewing times.

  • Comment number 22.

    I have just found out about this programme.....what a shame I have missed it. I have been reading the blogs for this programme and it sounds really good. BBC, please re-run perhaps on a Sunday evening.


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