This is the story of Britain told through the family histories of ten of the UK’s most popular celebrities. A groundbreaking TV event that tells the story of who we are and how we came to be, the story of how the rich cultural, ethnic, and social tapestry that is modern Britain was woven.
In ten self-contained documentaries each celebrity embarks on a personal journey to discover their family’s past. After the series we may never think of Bill Oddie, Meera Syal or David Baddiel in quite the same way again.
At the same time the series has a more universal purpose: to offer an alternative way of looking at the history of modern Britain – a people’s history. And to inspire viewers to consider their family’s contribution to making of Britain. For this reason each celebrity has been chosen so that their journey unlocks a different theme in British history.
Bill Oddie – embarks on an immensely personal journey to try and find out what happened to his mother, who was institutionalised for most of his childhood. His journey takes him back into the history of mental health in the post war years, then further still to the gritty story of the cotton mills at the heart of the industrial revolution in the North West of England.
Meera Syal – Meera wants to explore where her rebellious streak comes from; a quest which leads straight back to her grandfathers’ contribution to the struggle for Indian Independence. Meera takes to the roads and railways of India, visiting Hardiwar on the banks of the Ganges, the Punjab where her parents came from, and the Golden Temple at Armritsar. Each location gives Meera further clues as to how her family history is intrinsically linked to the fall of the Raj, the creation of India and Pakistan and migration from the Subcontinent.
Jeremy Clarkson – charts the rise and fall of British manufacturing from mid 19th to mid 20th century, through one company, Kilner Glass. The company was set up by Jeremy’s 4x Great-grandfather, employed more than 500 people by the 1890s, created the eponymous Kilner Glass Jar - and yet had gone completely bust by the late 1930s. Jeremy wants to know what went wrong – and why he’s not the beneficiary of the ‘Kilner millions.’
Moira Stuart – comes from a family of high achievers, a family who’ve been travelling to and from the UK since the end of the 19th century. Moira’s journey takes her to some surprising locations, Kingussie in the Scottish highlands amongst them. Eventually her journey leads back to the Caribbean as Moira hones in one key question: how did her family escape the legacy of slavery so successfully?
Ian Hislop - Ian's parents died young, so he never had the chance to ask them about his family history. Frankly, he admits, back then he wasn't even interested. Now Ian wants to find out more about the grandfathers he never knew - and, specifically, what they did in the First World and Boer Wars. His journey takes him to Scotland, France and eventually South Africa. And it’s there that he receives his biggest surprise about his family’s military roots … On the way, he tries to gauge how he would have coped with the heat of battle, considers the impact of war and empire on individual and national character - and raises questions about his own, very British, identity.
Vic Reeves – is not appearing. Instead Jim Moir, the man behind the comic character, takes us on a very personal journey to the heart of his family. He says unequivocally that there’s nothing he’d like to find more than a bit of scandal. He starts by trying to establish a long-standing family rumour: that his mum’s dad was a bigamist. It ends by examining the rigid class structure of 19th century England and the world of domestic service.