Hillsborough the drama-documentary - Christopher eccleston

Hillsborough remembrance and related information

Postby RED BEERGOGGLES » Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:52 pm

Liverpool Echo 30th November 2010

Christopher Eccleston says Jimmy McGovern’s Hillsborough is most important work he's ever done

A FEW months before it was first broadcast, 14 years ago, Christopher Eccleston told the ECHO of Jimmy McGovern’s Hillsborough: “This will show what television is really for.”

Today, as he looks forward to attending a special screening of the drama-documentary at Fact in Liverpool, followed by a question and answer session, he stands by that quote – and another one: “Hillsborough is the most important piece of work I’ve ever done and ever will do.”

The families of those who died and the survivors may still be waiting for justice, but this 102 minutes of television had a major impact on the country.

Recalling its power, Christopher – who played Trevor Hicks, the then chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support, whose two daughters, Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, died in the 1989 disaster – says: “Beyond Merseyside, no one knew the truth about what happened at Hillsborough. People had swallowed the lies that the right-wing Press told, together with what the government and the police put out there.

“Jimmy wrote it to correct those lies and, most importantly, to allow the families to grieve – because the lies devastated and destroyed the grieving process.”

Before he could take the part, Christopher had to speak to the man he was portraying: “I did feel a great deal of responsibility and the first thing I did was visit Trevor Hicks to get his blessing.”

Christopher, who was Trevor’s best man when he remarried, in March 2009, adds: “He has said to me since that he was initially sceptical about the whole enterprise. He gave me quite a rigorous interview – he wanted to know what my motives were for doing it. Then he gave me his blessing, I accepted the role and he gave me total access to his life and his experiences.

“All the actors met the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which was completely involved – they visited the set and gave us information and opened their hearts to us.”
But despite the weight of responsibility, Christopher reveals: “In the build-up to its broadcast, I felt very confident because I knew there wasn’t a word of untruth in the piece. Jimmy made sure of that because the lawyers were watching.”

His fellow cast members included Ricky Tomlinson, Mark Womack and Annabelle Apsion. Did a strong bond and camaraderie develop between everyone, or is “camaraderie” the wrong word given the nature of the work? “It does sound like the wrong word, but everyone was on the same money and we had just one caravan on set for 15 women and one caravan for 15 men, so there were arms and legs coming out of the windows as everyone got dressed.”

And although the actors were portraying the Hicks, Glover and Spearritt families, they and the drama-documentary, itself, were, of course, representing all 96 families, although Christopher says: “I know it was agonising for Jimmy that he couldn’t tell every story. Jimmy is a sensitive bloke – that’s why he’s a writer.”

After it was broadcast at 9pm on Thursday, December 5, 1996, Hillsborough was debated on phone-ins across the country – many callers said it was the first time they had been presented with the full truth about the disaster – and thrust back onto the news agenda as the government and South Yorkshire police came under new pressure.
But Christopher admits: “I’m not sure I expected the reaction it got – I’m not sure any of us did. I think I was surprised at the scale of it. I know Jimmy had something powerful to say but I was surprised, though heartened, at the strength of the reaction.

“It was doing two things – addressing the nation’s conscience and demonstrating the power of television. There is a sense now that television has, largely, turned into an idiot box – and it certainly wasn’t that when I was young.”

But countless TV executives, motivated by the three Rs – ratings, ratings, ratings – have since gone down the reality show route, or, in ITV’s case, as Christopher puts it: “Idiots in the jungle wearing bikinis and eating cockroaches.”

He adds: “Jimmy had just given ITV Cracker and they asked ‘What do you want to do next?’ He could have done anything, but he wanted to tell the truth about Hillsborough.”

Five months after it was screened, Labour came to power and new Home Secretary Jack Straw ordered a “scrutiny of new evidence”.

Christopher says: “The drama-documentary played a small part but, really, 90% of it was down to the efforts of the Hilsborough Family Support Group from 1989 onwards.”

Regarding future prospects of justice for the families, he says: “I’d like to think it’s inevitable but I don’t want to jinx it.”

And now, almost 14 years on from the original broadcast, Christopher is delighted to be heading to Fact next Monday for the special screening, with proceeds going to the Clapperboard Youth Project.

Clapperboard UK Ltd is a non-profit-making and charitable organisation which works with people aged from 12 to 19 to help bring creativity into their lives.

Christopher says: “It’s a great project and when Clapperboard director Maureen Sinclair asked me to pick a piece of work I didn’t want it to be about me. I thought it would be appropriate if it was something about Liverpool.”

CLAPPERBOARD Presents... Hillsborough, followed by a Q&A with Christopher Eccleston, 7pm, Monday, December 6 at picturehouse@fact, Wood Street, Liverpool. Tickets: £11, concessions £8. Box Office: 0871 042063.
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