‘Call the Midwife’ 10th anniversary: Show’s creator reveals her proudest moments

Call the Midwife returned to BBC One last weekend with a tenth season.

Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the hit period drama series about a group of nurse midwives in the East End of London premiered back in January 2012.

79 wonderful episodes later, the show is now celebrating a decade on our screens.

Adding to the celebrations, the BBC confirmed last week that Call the Midwife has been renewed for another three seasons, with the series continuing until at least 2024!

Marking the launch of Season 10, creator/writer Heidi Thomas and executive producer Pippa Harris took a look back at the past ten years.

Pippa Harris recalled: “I can still vividly remember discussing Call the Midwife with Heidi Thomas for the first time, even though it was over 10 years ago.

“We had both fallen in love with the world of nuns, midwives, and healthcare on the cobbled streets of 1950s Poplar, which Jennifer Worth depicted in her memoirs. However, we weren’t convinced we could persuade the BBC that these were the ingredients of a prime-time drama. Luckily for us, the BBC also saw the potential, and here we are a decade later about to launch Series 10.”

Harris continued: “People often ask what is the key to the show’s longevity?

“Could it be the strength and variety of the ensemble cast, or the wealth of period detail in design and costume, or perhaps the many complex medical issues we’ve covered. But for me, it is one simple factor, and that’s Heidi Thomas’s screenwriting.

“Heidi manages to write about challenging, and at times disturbing issues with such sensitivity that the audience are drawn in, and empathise immediately with the characters she creates. She also has an almost unique ability to move from sorrow to joy within the same episode, creating an emotional rollercoaster for those watching.

“Her writing is full of warmth and emotion, but it’s never sentimental – she perfectly embodies the old saying of being an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

Heidi Thomas explained: “People always ask me where all these stories come from, and I always say the same thing “They come from the lives of women, and the working class.”

“I find endless inspiration in the simple power of ordinary lives, and Call the Midwife draws from a bottomless well of human experience – birth and death, love and despair, hope and community.

“Women and the working classes matter, and our show celebrates them and treats them with respect. Not many shows do that. And interestingly, not many shows run for ten years. Maybe that should give us pause for thought!”

Pippa Harris said: “Looking back over ten years of Call the Midwife, there are countless stories which make me proud of the show and the impact it’s had.

“We’ve made a point of shining a light into some of the darkest recesses of recent medical history – the terrible legacy of thalidomide, the impact of illegal abortions, the treatment of gay people at a time when homosexuality was still illegal, as well as highlighting perennial medical traumas such as still-birth, sepsis, disability, miscarriage, STDs, cancer, cystic fibrosis, FGM and sickle cell.

“But it’s not just the onscreen portrayal which makes me proud, it’s the way in which we’ve been able to support and promote a diverse workforce behind the camera.”

She added: “From the start, the show has been led by women, not only Heidi Thomas and myself, but also Ann Tricklebank our wonderful fellow Executive Producer, and a legion of other female writers, directors and crew members.

“At a time when only 14% of prime time drama is written by women 73% of our episodes were written by women, and similarly when only 14% of mainstream drama is directed by women 74% of our episodes have been directed by women.

“The show stands as testimony to the talent and creativity of women in the UK TV industry, and proves if proof were needed that drama made by and about women is cherished by a huge worldwide audience.”

Heidi Thomas commented: “I sometimes think of Pippa Harris, Ann Tricklebank and myself as the Three Musketeers of Call the Midwife – a trio of swashbuckling, mature ladies who write our own rules, and fight for what is right and true.

“Well, we do the next best thing which is to get terribly vexed about unfairness and injustice, and try to do something about it.

“Basically, if you are poor, or scared, or sick, in labour, in a new country, or disabled by society, our show will see your value and let your voice be heard. We will love, unreservedly, everything you are.”

Pippa Harris said: “Call the Midwife is a show which, thanks to Heidi Thomas’s skill, presents difficult medical stories in such a way that the whole family can watch together – it’s a light touch history lesson as well as being an engrossing character drama.

“It’s particularly poignant for all of us to be presenting this tenth series at a time when the NHS has been put under such pressure by the pandemic, for, whatever else Call the Midwife might be it is above all a love letter to the NHS, and all those who devote their lives to the service of others.”

Heidi Thomas concluded: “I feel incredibly fortunate to have been immersed in this wonderful world for so long.

“Anyone who has a job they enjoy is lucky – but to be able to laugh, cry, love and learn while you are sitting at your desk is a privilege beyond all others.

Call the Midwife has been a bit like raising an unruly child at times. There have been long days, and sleepless nights, and there is always something to fret about or plan for. But it is also funny and beautiful and full of surprises.

“It has been worth every groan, every push, every gulp of gas and air – quite simply, a labour of love.”

Season 10 continues in the UK on Sunday nights at 8pm on BBC One, and it’ll premiere in the US later this year on PBS.

Call the Midwife resumes production this spring as filming begins on the eleventh season, which will air in early 2022.

Season 9 is available on DVD on Amazon.