ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill, has commissioned life affirming drama, Three Little Birds, written by Sir Lenny Henry, inspired by his mother’s stories about leaving Jamaica in the 1950’s for Great Britain, which became her lifelong home and where she raised her family.
Sir Lenny has written each of the drama’s six fictional episodes, which his production company, Douglas Road Productions will produce in association with Tiger Aspect Productions. Both companies are part of the Banijay UK group.
Sir Lenny has been working in consultation with scriptwriter, Russell T Davies, who will be an executive producer on the drama alongside Sir Lenny, Angela Ferreira from Douglas Road Productions and Tiger Aspect’s Head of Drama, Lucy Bedford.
My mother spoke often about how difficult life was back in the day when she first arrived in Britain to begin her new life. The stories she told and indeed the narratives my brothers and sisters beguiled me with over the dinner table made me think about writing a fictional account of three Caribbean women; all with differing yet complementary attributes - a serious tenacious one, a quick witted flibbertigibbet and a Christian prude. They all get to the UK with one thing on their minds - a new life. Although these are fictional accounts, my mother’s narrative will run throughout these stories and hopefully, the stories of other post Windrush arrivals will trigger memories, smiles and tears too.Sir Lenny Henry
The drama narrates the adventures of gregarious sisters Leah and Chantrelle, who hail from St Anne’s district in Jamaica, and their virtuous, bible-loving acquaintance, Hosanna as they board a cruise ship heading for a new life in Great Britain.
They are an effervescent mix of forceful personalities, and have very different reasons for leaving their family and friends behind in Jamaica. Unquestionably, they are embarking on a voyage of discovery, as the ladies leave the Caribbean island in search of new horizons and beginnings.
At the instigation of their older brother Aston, who asks if they’ll visit him in Britain and bring him a potential wife from back home, Leah and Chantrelle put his unusual proposition to Hosanna who is prepared to give up her job as a trainee nurse and embark upon the journey ‘to the mother country.’
On arriving in London’s Notting Hill they quickly realise the capital is not the home for them and flee to the Midlands. The road ahead is not a smooth one for our trio, and although we learn some shocking truths about the lives they left behind in Jamaica, we will also cheer them on to succeed, as they overcome the obstacles of racism and integration and build a life in Britain.
I fell in love with Leah, Chantrelle and Hosanna the moment I read Lenny’s script and I think the audience will want to go on their journey with them. Lenny has written a funny and moving, but most of all life affirming drama, that is a tribute to his mother and all those who came to Britain and made it their home.Polly Hill