Michael Morpurgo child migration novel turned into BBC Radio 2 drama series

The children's author will narrate the four-part series, set to air in August.

Toby Jones and Jason Donovan will lead a new BBC Radio 2 drama based on children’s author Michael Morpurgo’s novel about child migration, Alone On A Wide, Wide Sea.

The four-part series will mark the first adaptation of the book, which was released in 2006 and was inspired by the history of around 100,000 British children being sent to live overseas between 1869 and 1970, without their parents or their consent.

Morpurgo’s story tells the tale of Arthur and Marty, two migrants who were sent from London to a working farm in the Australian outback.

Toby Jones
Toby Jones (Ian West/PA)

The radio play sees Infamous and Sherlock actor Jones portray Mr Piggy Bacon – the man who runs the farm where the child migrants are put to work – while singer and former Neighbours star Donovan takes on the role of Arthur Hobhouse, along with two other actors.

The play will cover 50 years of Arthur’s life from his time as an orphan child, sent from London to Australia as part of a child migration scheme, to his adulthood, but Donovan’s voice as ‘old Arthur’ is to remain constant throughout.

Maggie Aderin-Pocock, presenter on the BBC’s Sky At Night, will play an astronaut in the International Space Station.

Morpurgo, who will narrate the series, said: “What is hard and uncomfortable to remember and believe, is always salutary and important to acknowledge.

“The migrant crisis the world faces today is not new. Wherever there has been war or hunger, homelessness or poverty, there will be refugees seeking sanctuary, seeking to survive. Among those who suffer most in such circumstances are children, children alone or unwanted in the world.

Jason Donovan
Jason Donovan (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“After the Second World War, there were thousands of such children in this country in need of homes and in need of the security and love only a family can provide. Many of these children were sent away to the other side of the world, separated from all they knew, to Australia, and elsewhere, where it was thought they would be well looked after.”

He said: “Some were, but others found themselves living in abject misery and hardship, were exploited and abused, their lives blighted.”

The former Children’s Laureate added: “Alone On A Wide, Wide Sea traces the lives of these children, of one in particular, and of his family. He struggles all his life to come to terms with his isolation and banishment, as he and his daughter try to rediscover their roots, to find a way back to their family and a sense of identity.”

Michael Morpurgo
Michael Morpurgo (Yui Mok/PA)

Donovan said it is an “absolute pleasure” to be invited to portray one of Morpurgo’s characters, praising the play as a “moving, beautiful” story.

The radio drama is being edited and produced by John Leonard, with whom Morpurgo worked on a BBC Radio 2 dramatisation of his War Horse book in 2014.

Alone On A Wide, Wide Sea will feature original music from the album The Ballads Of Child Migration.

The four 30-minute episodes will air during Jeremy Vine’s show at 1.30pm across four days, from Monday August 7 until Thursday August 10.

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