Welcome to the ‘Ten Pound Poms’

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Sunday: Ten Pound Poms (BBC1, 9pm)

We have long had a soft spot for our Antipodean cousins and vice versa. The ties that bind our two countries run deep and, between 1945 and 1972, more than one million British residents chose a new life Down Under as part of the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme.

They were affectionately known as ‘ten pound poms’, and are at the heart of this new six-part drama, created by Bafta-winning Danny Brocklehurst.

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It follows a group of Brits who, for just £10, were promised a better house, better job prospects and a better quality of life by the sea in sun-soaked Australia.

Annie, Pattie, Terry and PeterAnnie, Pattie, Terry and Peter
Annie, Pattie, Terry and Peter

Among those grabbing the chance to change their lives are Annie and Terry Roberts, played by Faye Marsay and Warren Brown. They try to make the best of the situation after leaving behind dreary post-war Manchester, but the poor living conditions at the hostel and local attitudes towards immigrants test them in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

Meanwhile, young nurse Kate (Michelle Keegan) arrives without her fiance and will do whatever it takes to try and rewrite her devastating past, and Bill (Leon Ford) is so desperate to prove he’s living the Australian dream he will stop at nothing to get a lifestyle he can’t sustain.

Teenager Stevie, played by Declan Coyle, comes from a troubled background and hopes to use this new adventure to escape his oppressive father, and Ron (Rob Collins) is an indigenous Australian war veteran, struggles with feeling like an outsider in his own country.

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Speaking about creating the series, Danny Brocklehurst said: “I’ve not written a period drama before, for good reason, because they’re generally quite tricky to make good. But I was drawn to the themes of escape, of no matter where we go, we take our problems with us – something which is ever present in my work – and the fact that this was a piece of our history that I didn’t know much about.

“It’s a period piece that isn’t all bonnets and frocks – and the more I looked into it, the more I thought: ‘yeah, there’s definitely a TV series here’.”

He revealed how the technicolour promo films of the time showed golden beaches, beautiful houses with picket fences and big gardens, as well as attractive, suntanned people water-skiing and playing volleyball. But in reality, many immigrants were housed in post-war steel Nissen huts with outdoor showers, no flush toilets and terrible food.

This drama reunited Danny with Ordinary Lies and Brassic star Michelle Keegan, and Warren Brown, who he worked with briefly on Shameless.

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For the latter actor, who knew nothing about the ten pound poms, there was a surprise in store: it emerged his family has a link to the scheme.

He explains: “Back in the 1960s, my mother’s family were living in Manchester and were all set to move out to Australia. They’d packed up and sold everything but at the very last minute my grandmother panicked and bottled out. So, it could have been a very different story if they had gone through with that.

“The Ten Pound Poms scheme is a part of British and Australian history that a lot of people haven’t heard about, certainly not the younger generation. The series sheds light on what could have been some of those people’s stories.”

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