Our Friends In The North – the iconic series to be adapted for BBC Radio 4

Posted Filed under

Peter Flannery has retooled his acclaimed television series as an audio drama. 

Taking four friends through three decades, across nine episodes, Our Friends In The North was a major television moment in 1996.

The ambitious BBC Two series tackled several topics as it moved through the years. In the sixties, it looked at corporate, political and police corruption, in the seventies, it was the rise and fall of the Soho porn empires. The eighties considered the nouveau riche and the Miners’ strike, while the nineties looked at the rise of New Labour.

Now writer Peter Flannery has returned to his story, which he once dubbed “a posh soap opera” and adapted it for BBC Radio 4.

The original starred some up and coming actors; the principal cast were Daniel Craig, Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee and Mark Strong… we wonder what happened to them! The radio version has new voices, with four young actors cast in the spirit of the original; James Baxter (Still Open All Hours), Norah Lopez Holden, Philip Correia (Doctors) and Luke MacGregor (The Archers) play the roles of Nicky, Mary, Tosker and Geordie. The show will also have original cast members Tracey Wilkinson and Trevor Fox returning, albeit in new roles.

The cast also includes Tom Goodman-Hill, Eve Shotton, James Gaddas, Tony Hirst, Des Yankson and Maanuv Thiara. It’s produced and directed by Melanie Harris of Sparklab for Radio 4, with lead sound design by Eloise Whitmore.

Bringing Our Friends In The North up to date

The new version of the story goes further than the television series too. Manchester-born writer Adam Usden’s is adding a modern tenth episode, set in 2020. He picks up with several of the characters and echoes of themes from the original series. These include housing conditions, young people’s engagement with politics and father/son relationships.

Speaking about the show, Peter Flannery said:

“You can tell any story you want to if the characters are interesting. The personal and the political are connected. It’s all one world.”

Adam Usden added:

“The show was defiantly, wonderfully unsentimental. One of the things I loved was that even when people failed in the immediate moment, very often we saw how flashes of kindness, warmth and moral courage redeem them in surprising ways, sometimes decades later, even if the people never realised the impact their actions had on others. Legacy hangs over everything and setting a story 25 years after the show ended gives me a real chance to explore that.”

If you want to learn more about the original, there’s an informative BBC Culture piece by Neil Armstrong.

Our Friends in the North comes to Radio 4 and BBC Sounds on Thursday 17th of March at 2.15pm.