BBC Radio 4 presents On Kosovo Field: a drama inspired by PJ Harvey’s Kosovan notebooks
On Kosovo Field shows how drama can get underneath the news headlines and explore with real emotional depth how the politics we hear about in the news affects real peopleJeremy Howe, Commissioning Editor
On Kosovo Field is a new drama written by Fin Kennedy that grew out of the body of work created by PJ Harvey on and after a journey to Kosovo, told over five episodes this January and featuring unreleased song demos from the musician woven through. It stars Michelle Keegan (Our Girl) and Nico Mirallegro (Rillington Place, Common).
Harvey’s latest album The Hope Six Demolition Project and her book of poetry The Hollow Of The Hand draws from several journeys undertaken by Harvey over a four-year period from 2011-2014; one of those journeys was to Kosovo. The inspiration and starting point for the drama came from Harvey’s notepads from her trip to Kosovo, her poetry and song lyrics and her Kosovan song demos.
BBC Radio Producer Nadia Molinari and writer Fin Kennedy used the materials to develop a drama about two Kosovan siblings and their journey.
Commenting on her process of gathering materials during her trips, PJ Harvey has said: “When I’m writing a song I visualise the entire scene. I can see the colours, I can tell the time of day, I can sense the mood, I can see the light changing, the shadows moving, everything in that picture. Gathering information from secondary sources felt too far removed for what I was trying to write about. I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with.”
Writer Fin Kennedy’s starting point was Harvey’s rich material, and the images from the songs and poems are weaved through the drama as well as the song demos themselves. Kennedy and producer Nadia Molinari also travelled to Kosovo, where they retraced some of Harvey’s steps and also spent time talking to journalists, politicians and human rights activists currently working on conflict resolution and reconciliation in Kosovo.
On Kosovo Field is the search for an identity via a road trip back through a lost heritage. The two central characters are two Kosovan-born siblings Rebeka (played by Michelle Keegan) and her younger brother Dardan (played by Nico Mirallegro) who were brought to Manchester as unaccompanied minors under a special evacuation programme during the conflict in 1999. The siblings, now adults, return to Kosovo after a mass grave is discovered close to their native village.
They discover a young nation striving to forge a path for hope and reconciliation and realise that they too must journey into their past to move on. They carry a set of keys, given to them by a neighbour before they left, offering the chance to unlock their home and, with it, their memories. They are forced to confront the painful truth of what happened to their parents.
Writer Fin Kennedy says: “The 'play cycle' as an idea takes its inspiration from the traditional song cycles of the Albania/Kosovo region. By the end of the cycle we come to understand that the siblings are a metaphor for Kosovo itself, the newest country in Europe, poignantly searching for an identity after centuries of conflict.”
Jeremy Howe, Radio 4 Commissioning Editor for Drama, says: “Seventeen years ago Kosovo, a place that few of us had ever heard of, was all over the headlines, then the news juggernaut moved on and the place was forgotten. On Kosovo Field shows how drama can get underneath the news headlines and explore with real emotional depth how the politics we hear about in the news, the war that is glimpsed in thirty second bulletins, affects real people.”
On Kosovo Field is broadcast on Radio 4 Monday 9 – Friday 13 January at 10.45am and the five episodes are repeated each day at 7.45pm. It’s produced by Nadia Molinari, BBC Radio Productions and written by Fin Kennedy.