By now everyone will know about the ITV drama series “Home Fires”, a series inspired by Author and Historian, Julie Summers’ book “Jambusters”, a story of the WI during the Second World War. This is a period in history which is seen as probably the WI’s finest hour, when they ran canteens for troops, collected tons of herbs for the pharmaceutical industry and knitted millions of garments to keep solders and refugees warm. By far the most well known activity during that time was the WI’s jam preservation scheme.
This series was filmed mainly in and around Bunbury and the Cheshire countryside. Happily, therefore, when the ITV Production Team decided to film a preview of the first episode within the very beautiful St Boniface Church on 9th April, Members of Bunbury WI were cordially invited as special guests together with everyone involved in the making of the series, including extras from within the WI (not recognisable in the authentic costumes and make-up of the period), and the many villagers whose properties and land had been used during filming.
What a truly amazing evening it turned out to be – a packed Church with a real community spirit watching the first episode of what everyone hopes will be the first series of many more to come.
To quote the Executive Producer of the series “Home Fires has a special place in my heart because it shows the wonderful spirit that these WI women had and the remarkable things they did for the country”.
Julie Summers must feel very happy at the way scriptwriter Simon Block has captured her original story and Bunbury WI are equally proud to be associated with such a wonderful enterprise.
Home Fires is being screened by ITV on a Sunday evening at 9.00 pm from Sunday 3 May.
Daily Mail Interview with Julie Summers
Cast of Home Fires
Acclaimed British actresses Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond will lead an impressive ensemble cast in new six-part drama Home Fires (previously Jambusters) for ITV.
The cast will also include, Ruth Gemmell (Utopia), Mark Bonnar (Line of Duty), Claire Rushbrook (Collision), Mark Bazeley (The Suspicions of Mr Whicher), Frances Grey (The Widower) and Ed Stoppard (Cilla).
ITV commissioned Home Fires earlier this year from producers ITV Studios.
The drama follows a group of inspirational women in a rural Cheshire community with the shadow of World War II casting a dark cloud over their lives. The isolated village couldn’t feel further away from the impending bloodshed and battlefields and yet it is not immune from the effects of war. As the conflict takes hold, and separates the women from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, the characters find themselves under increasing and extraordinary pressures in a rapidly fragmenting world.
By banding together as the Great Paxford Women’s Institute, they will help maintain the nation’s fabric in its darkest hour, and discover inner resources that will change their lives forever.
Created and written by Simon Block (Lewis, The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall, Attachments) with episodes co -written by Mark Burt (Coronation Street, The Dumping Ground), and Tina Pepler (Downton Abbey, Princes in the Tower), Home Fires will be produced by the ITV Studios department overseen by Francis Hopkinson (Wallander, Lucan, Chasing Shadows). The drama has been developed by Catherine Oldfield (Collision, Fingersmith, Foyle’s War) who executive produces alongside Francis. Sue de Beauvoir (Shetland, Strike Back) will produce episodes 1-3 and Jeremy Gwilt (Foyle’s War, Undeniable) episodes 4 – 6.
Home Fires is inspired by the non-fiction book ‘Jambusters’ written by Julie Summers, who is delighted production is about to commence and that she has secured an Alfred Hitchcock style role in the drama.
“I am thrilled to be appearing in a cameo role as a WI county organiser,” said Julie. “My grandmother, a life-long WI member, would undoubtedly approve of me wearing a hat.”
The series has been commissioned for ITV by Director of Drama Steve November and Controller of Drama Victoria Fea.
“We’re really delighted to have commissioned Home Fires,” said Steve November. “Great writing from Simon has given Julie Summers’ wonderful book a fictional life. The women are real and engaging and have fantastic spirit and attitude. With World War II on the horizon, multiple strands of plot interweave to create a period drama full of jeopardy and intrigue, but also great humanity and modernity,” added Steve.
Executive Producer Francis Hopkinson commented: “Thanks to Simon Block’s brilliant script, inspired by Julie Summers’s book, this series will take a fresh look at life on the Home Front, showing both the tragedies and the triumphs, and offering some wonderful roles for Britain’s top actresses. We are delighted that ITV share our enthusiasm for the project.”
The episodes 1-3 will be directed by Bruce Goodison (Our World War, My Murder, 10 Days to War) with Robert Quinn (Death in Paradise, Primeval) directing the final 3 episodes of the series. Filming will take place in Cheshire from September continuing until December.
The drama will also feature Rachel Hurd-Wood (Return of Sherlock Holmes), Leila Mimmack (Law & Order: UK), Claire Price (Doctors), Daniel Ryan (Mount Pleasant), Will Attenborough (Utopia), Clare Calbraith (Vera), Chris Coghill (The Driver), Brian Fletcher (The Passing Bells), Fenella Woolgar (Case Histories), Leanne Best (Lucan), Mike Noble (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time), Jacqueline Pilton (The Royal), Mark Umbers (Eternal Law), Jodie Hamblet (My Mad Fat Diary 2), Adam Long (Happy Valley), Paul Barnhill (Foyle’s War), Anthony Calf (Upstairs Downstairs), Nicola Sloane (Dancing on the Edge), Jim Whelan and Daisy Badger.
Take the WI Quiz
Visitors to Bunbury
Talking to members of Bunbury WI they will tell you that they are starting to get tourists visiting Bunbury to see where the programme was filmed. Haughton Hall is the large house used in the programme – it lost its gates to the war effort!! Visitors are looking for the war memorial – which doesn’t exist in real life and was built for the programme. It is lovely watching the programme and looking out for landmarks like Beeston Castle and our beautiful Cheshire Countryside