How to give birth in the East End

By Giles Broadbent on January 12, 2012 4:31 PM |


The East End at the height of its post-war powers, with working ships unloaded by dockers living in crowded cottages neighbouring recognisable squat warehouses is brought vividly to life this weekend.

Poplar, at the heart of the thriving docks of the '50s, is the setting for Call The Midwife, a new Sunday night drama on the BBC which calls on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth.

Mrs Worth sold a million copies of her stories of the tough conditions in the East End before legalised abortion and contraception. She died last summer shortly before filming began.

The drama has a star-studded cast as newly-qualified midwife Jenny (Jessica Raine) becomes attached to the Sisters of St Raymond Nonnatus. Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris and Miranda Hart line-up beside the newcomer.

Executive producer Pippa Harris said: "I loved the fact that Jennifer's writing gives you an insight into a recent, yet long vanished world.

"Although she was only writing about the late '50s, this post-war period in the East End was extremely tough.

"Surrounded by bomb damage, and sometimes living in slum conditions, women gave birth to baby after baby often with no running water, clean bed linen or pain relief.

"Yet despite the hardship, Jennifer's books are filled with warmth and humour and show the powerful bonds of family and community that held people together."

Pam Ferris said: "One of the statistics which just blew my mind away was that in this area of Poplar, there were between 150 and 200 births every month. After the pill, that dropped to four or five."

Jennifer, a mother of two, eventually became a staff nurse at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel and then a ward sister in Euston and Hampstead.

Call The Midwife starts on Sunday, BBC1, 8pm.


Gina Kerrigan said:

Delighted to see this wonderful book is now a T.V. Series. I read the book 4 years ago while staying with a good friend of mine, also a midwife. The story evokes the reality of the era very well. Despite colourful descriptions of poverty, overcrowding and V.D, the family support and community spirit show what is lacking in current times. Look forward to watching.