Stockport writer reveals why he penned ‘love letter’ to Manchester in new drama on 1996 Arndale bombing

The story of the 1996 Manchester bomb has been turned into a ‘love letter’ to the city in a Stockport writer’s TV drama.

Peter Bowker’s latest drama ‘From Here to There’ uses the day the IRA bomb went off just outside the Arndale Centre on June 15 1996 as a backdrop for an emotive comedy-drama.

Beginning on the day that the bomb went off, it tells the story of two ordinary families who are brought together as a result of the blast, which injured 212 people.

The bomb, however, is just the catalyst in the story; the real drama is about the aftermath as experienced by these two families.

In the Q&A that took place after an exclusive screening at the National Football Museum, Peter said: “I wanted it to be about the aftermath, and the aftermath in the long term over a number of years.  I wanted a story to already be up and running before the bomb went off, families trying to get reconcile and so on.

“I didn’t want to write a drama-doc, and I didn’t want to linger on the injured and so on.   I wanted to see the fall out, not just for the city but for this fictional family.

“I was interested in getting it right. I was shocked at how quickly stories started to emerge.  Not just stories of how many near misses there were but stories of how the city was going to be re built and the resilience and the rumours that started as well.” 

We follow the lives of Daniel and Joanna from football’s coming home, to New Labour in 1997, through to the hangover of the Millennium, and witness the rebirth of Manchester.

The three part mini-series stars Life on Mars’ Phillip Glenister, who has described Manchester as his ‘adopted home’ and his Life on Mars co-star Liz White. 

Through David Beckham curtains, Walkmans, video cassettes, a lot of flannel and Britpop, Bowker transports us back in time and plonks us right in the middle of 90’s Manchester.

Director James Strong, who was walking down Deansgate the moment the bomb went off, said: “Hopefully it’s a heartfelt and genuine love letter to Manchester.  I was here the day that the bomb went off. And I lived in Manchester for a few years and so we had a responsibility to get it right.”

Executive Producer Derek Wax said: “People thought the bomb was going to be this terrible moment of disaster, and in fact it was quite life affirming moment for Manchester.”

The team studied archive footage and photographs of the city and the aftermath of the bomb, and tried to get it as accurate as they could.

Producer Tim Bricknell said: “There were so many striking images from the day and we tried to sort of recreate those images of the scene of the bomb and the aftermath. 

“Some of those images I hope will make people remember- the post box, the plume of smoke above the buildings, the couple that were getting married, and the baby being held out by the police man.”

The team recreated the immediate fallout of the bomb by building a set on a Northern Quarter street, constructed a scene of devastation and rubble.



Meanwhile the actual Arndale blast was created by CGI based on the real footage. 

Derek Wax added: “I think it is very much a celebration of the Manchester family, Manchester culture.  It’s not trying to be a docu-drama about the suffering on the day.

“The family is a sort of microcosm of the country.  I think it works on different levels, it’s not just trying to represent the victims of the day.”

Homegrown actor Daniel Rigby, who grew up in Offerton, said: “I’ve worked with Peter before and he’s a brilliant writer.  I love the humour that runs through everything.”

Peter added that he hopes the story is ‘universal’ and that audiences, not just in Manchester but across the UK, watch all three hours and take away with them ‘the sense of resilience and human spirit’. 

From Here to There’ is set to air towards the end of May on BBC 1. 

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