Sir Lenny Henry writes TV drama inspired by mother

Sir Lenny Henry writes TV drama inspired by mother

Sir Lenny Henry has written a TV drama inspired by his mother’s move from Jamaica to England in the 1950s.

The six-part ITV series, titled Three Little Birds, is based on the stories his mother Winifred would tell about forging a new life in Britain.

It will follow three fictional Jamaican women who face racism and other obstacles in the Midlands.

Sir Lenny said it was a “tribute to the giants who came before us and walked cold streets to create new lives”.

He explained: “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.”

ITV described the series as “life affirming”, and former Doctor Who and Years and Years writer Russell T Davies has advised Sir Lenny on the script.

Sir Lenny has previously described his mother’s first few months in England in 1957 as “awful”, sleeping on her brother’s floor and facing frequent racism.

He has also spoken about their complicated relationship, with his mother hitting him with a frying pan and other objects. In his memoir Who Am I, Again?, which was published last year, he said “she could punch you and knock you through a brick wall”.

“Now, social services would be round,” Sir Lenny told Louis Theroux’s BBC podcast Grounded earlier this year.

“You got the feeling that it was the way she’d been brought up in Jamaica, and she would show us what that was like and how that felt…

“When you reflect on it and read it back to yourself, you go, ‘Oh, OK, this woman was physically abusing me, and how do I feel about that?’ And then in the end what you do is you go, ‘Well, that’s what mum was like’.”

His mother died in 1998.

ITV has also announced a new version of The Darling Buds Of May, with Bradley Walsh playing Pop Larkin, the role filled by Sir David Jason in the original hit TV adaptation in the early 1990s.

The new small screen take on HE Bates’ 1958 novel will this time carry the title The Larkins.

ITV said it hoped to capture “the warmth, optimism and escapism of the Larkin family for a modern generation”.

Joanna Scanlan will play Ma Larkin. It’s not yet known who will play the Larkins’ eldest daughter Mariette – the role that made Catherine Zeta-Jones famous in the original series.

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