BBC One announces adaptation of The Long Song

I am particularly happy to have my novel, The Long Song, adapted by Heyday and the BBC. This untold story from Britain's complex past in the Caribbean will be a period drama like no other.Andrea Levy
Date: 28.11.2017     Last updated: 28.11.2017 at 15.30
BBC One has today announced a three-part adaptation of Andrea Levy’s epic and award-winning novel about the dying days of slavery in Jamaica.

Written by Sarah Williams (Small Island) and produced by Heyday Television (Harry Potter, Gravity, Paddington, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), the drama has been commissioned by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content.

Novelist Andrea Levy, says: “I am particularly happy to have my novel, The Long Song, adapted by Heyday and the BBC. This untold story from Britain's complex past in the Caribbean will be a period drama like no other.”

Screenwriter Sarah Williams, says: “I’m thrilled to be adapting Andrea's powerful novel. It’s a cracking good story told from a female point of view and also serves as a tribute to the wit, ingenuity and resilience of generations of British slaves in Jamaica.”

Three hundred years of slavery finally came to a chaotic end on the British-ruled Caribbean island in 1838. It is a shameful and rarely-acknowledged part of British colonial history. And though Abolition may have been the first step on the road to racial equality, it is a very long road and one upon which we still travel today.

But far from being a harrowing tale of violence and misery that one might expect from such a history, The Long Song is in fact a story of hope, passion and determination, full of insight and humour.

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, says: “July’s story is heart-breaking, inspiring and utterly unforgettable. Sarah’s script perfectly captures the unique tone of Andrea’s novel and skilfully brings this story of slavery in a British colony to life.”

David Heyman, Executive Producer and Heyday Television Founder, said: “Andrea Levy’s revelatory novel The Long Song cries out for dramatisation, uncovering as it does a wholly unexplored side to our history. It’s a novel full of surprise and unpredictable twists, upending any easy stereotypes of slave and master. We're delighted that writer Sarah Williams has been able to capture the wit and verve of Andrea’s fiercely original heroine, July. And we’re excited to be making this for the BBC, with our partners at NBCUniversal International.”

It follows a strong-willed young female slave (July) on a Jamaican plantation in the 19th century. She is a natural survivor, who begins her story as a slave, but ends it as the mother of a gentleman.

Told from July’s perspective as she looks back over her life, the tone is funny, defiant and indomitable.

Above all, it’s a powerful story about love and survival, with vivid set pieces of social unrest and turmoil, and characters who change and develop in unpredictable ways. It’s also a story about the injustices which humans inflict upon each other, and the unexpected ways in which people’s humanity sometimes overrules their prejudices.

The Long Song (3x60’) will be produced by Heyday Television for BBC One. Executive Producers are David Heyman and Rosie Alison for Heyday Television, and Elizabeth Kilgarriff for BBC One, alongside Andrea Levy and Sarah Williams. Roopesh Parekh serves as producer and the series will be distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution.

Further details will be announced in due course.

The Long Song novel was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and longlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize. It was the recipient of the 2011 Walter Scott Prize.