Jimmy McGovern Creating BBC2 Series on First Australian Convicts

Simon de Bruyn, Contributing Writer
Almost as soon as it was established as a British outpost, Australia became a giant prison for all manner of serious and petty criminals. This has provided lots of fodder for Australian storytellers over the years, most recently seen in Twitch favourite Van Diemen's Land (pictured).

Now the gaolers and wardens feel it's time to face up to their bizarre social experiment, or at least make a popular TV series about it. So they will, with BBC2 announcing that BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jimmy McGovern is writing an 8-part drama about the first convicts transported from Britain to Australia in 1787. According to The Guardian:

McGovern said: "In 1787 Britain banished its petty thieves, whores, orphans and highwaymen to Sydney Cove - a place so hot and barren and hostile that very few people had ever set foot there.

"It was an audacious social experiment, unparalled before or since. Yet these rejects from Britain, accompanied by soldiers, officers, a vicar and a doctor, survived against all the odds. In spite of famine, drought, escapes, hangings and floggings, the colony thrived. This is their story."

The eight-part fictional drama will begin several months after the arrival of the first fleet of convict ships, and will be told through the eyes of three convicts, James Freeman, Tommy Barrett and Elizabeth Quinn. Their friendship is described as a "rollercoaster of survival set between the deadly bush and the infinite blue of the mighty Pacific Ocean".

This is probably a good place to also give a nod to upcoming Australian TV production, The Outlaw Michael Howe, which has just wrapped filming. From the team behind The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce, this TV movie is shaping up to be another fantastically well recreated look at the rebellion between convicts and the government in 1815, lead by young prisoner Michael Howe and his gang of outlaws, deserters and bushmen. 

Something to tide us over until the BBC2 series arrives on our shores.
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  • Grace Karskens

    'Sydney Cove - a place so hot and barren and hostile that very few people had ever set foot there'. Are you kidding? Have you been to Sydney? Why do people persist with the nonsense of the 'barren' land ? As for' 'few people', have you not heard of the Aboriginal groups that lived and thrived in the Sydney region?
    Convicts themselves loved the climate and the fact that they were fed properly for the first time in a long while, could hunt and forage for fish, meat, vegetables and oysters. When are we going to see the real story in film?

  • mightyjoeyoung

    "So they will, with BBC2 announcing that BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jimmy McGovern is writing an 8-part drama about the first convicts transported from Britain to Australia in 1787."

    McGovern usually delivers, great writer......thanks for the info, Mr de Bruyn.

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