BBC Radio 2 is making a drama based on Michael Morpurgo’s child migration novel, Alone On A Wide Wide Sea (HarperCollins Children’s Books), starring Toby Jones and Jason Donovan.
The four-part drama, the first ever adaptation of the book, stars Jones and Donovan alongside a cameo appearance from the author himself.
The 30-minute episodes will be broadcast across four days during presenter Jeremy Vine’s show from1.30pm to 2pm running between 7th and 10th August.
Morpurgo (pictured) narrates the story, while Maggie Aderin-Pocock (presenter of the BBC’s "Sky at Night") plays an astronaut in the International Space Station. The drama is directed by Frank Stirling, and edited and produced by John Leonard of 7digital productions and will feature specially curated music. In 2014, Leonard produced a version of War Horse (Egmont) for the network.
Alone On A Wide Wide Sea was published in 2006 and the book’s title is taken from a line in English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s longest major poem, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.
Morpurgo’s story, which was adapted for radio by Ian McMillan, is inspired by the 100,000 British children sent overseas without their parents or consent between 1869 and 1970. It follows two child migrants, Arthur and Marty, who dispatched from London to a working farm in the Australian outback.
Jones plays Mr Piggy Bacon, who runs the farm where the child migrants are put to work on the land, and Donovan portrays Arthur Hobhouse, who as an orphan child was sent from London to Australia as part of a child migration scheme.
Morpurgo said the story explores the plight of children who believed they were travelling to a better life. He said: “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. Some were, but others found themselves living in abject misery and hardship, were exploited and abused, their lives blighted.”
The author 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.”
Lewis Carnie, head of Radio 2, says: “I’m delighted BBC Radio 2 is bringing such distinctive drama and music to the heart of our daytime schedule. The powerful and engaging writing of Michael Morpurgo will be beautifully brought to life by the superb cast.”
Last month Morgugo won the overall Children’s Book Award for a record-breaking fourth time last month. The former children’s laureate has won for An Eagle in the Snow (Harper Collins Children’s Books) alongside illustrator Michael Foreman.
In May last year the author wrote a fairytale for BBC Radio 4 about Leicester City winning the football Premier League, suggesting the club had a helping hand from King Richard III, whose remains were found in a car park in the city in 2012. A recording of "Fox and the Ghost King" (or Uneasy Lies The Head That Dreams The Of), is available online.