Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Real-Life Manc Inspiration for Smash-Hit TV Show

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Real-Life Manc Inspiration for Smash-Hit TV Show

Article excerpt

THE creator of World On Fire has revealed the incredible family story that formed part of his inspiration for the BBC One drama.

Peter Bowker's series, starring Sean Bean and Helen Hunt, follows ordinary civilians across Europe caught up in the war - including a family from Manchester.

Eagle-eyed viewers will already have noticed several locations over the first two episodes, including Strangeways, Castlefield, and John Rylands library.

But as well as setting many of the scenes in his native Greater Manchester, Peter said two characters in the programme were inspired by his own family history.

Factory girl Lois Bennett, played by Julia Brown, is a singer at a local bar with her piano playing co-star Connie Knight, played by Yrsa Daley-Ward.

Peter revealed that Lois - daughter of Sean Bean's character Douglas - is actually based on his own grandmother Rowena Mostyn, who was in a duet with her best friend Anna Littlewood, who was originally from the West Indies.

"The Manchester scenes are based on my own family, specifically my mum's mum, my grandmother," he told us.

"She was in a singing duo with a West Indian woman called Anna in the 1930s called the Two Shades - not the most politically correct name by today's standards.

"They used to sing in clubs in Levenshulme such as the Palais De Danse."

In the series, Lois and Connie can be seen performing together in the club, and have their sights set on serving their country using their musical skills.

Episode two, which aired on October 6, saw Lois and Connie auditioning for ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) in a bid to be selected to entertain the troops as part of the war effort.

Peter said: "As well as performing, my grandma and Aunty Anna were volunteer ambulance workers during the Manchester Blitz.

"They also worked in the munitions factory. Sadly my grandma had a stroke when she was just 46 so I never actually met her.

"She died just after the war ended, which is a sad irony. But Anna was part of the family until the early Eighties when she died. …

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