They’ll never walk alone
British football changed forever after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which killed 96 Liverpool fans and sparked a fierce debate about who was to blame. With the backing of Hillsborough families, Jimmy McGovern has recreated the tragedy in a controversial TV dramatisation. He speaks to Eddie Gibb, while (over), the father of a Hillsborough victim tell his story.
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ll the major fatal accidents of recent years which came to be known simply by the place in which they occurred — from King’s Cross to Piper Alpha — have had their share of recriminations and allegations of negligence. What they had in common was that those who died were considered to be ‘innocent victims’. This was not the case with British football’s worst disaster, Hillsborough, which uniquely saw the distinction between cause and casualty blurred.
A television dramatisation of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool football fans died was, therefore, always likely to be controversial. But when word first ﬁltered out that Jimmy McGovern was writing the script, the feeling was that if anyone could handle such explosive material, he could. McGovern is one of television’s most respected writers, having gained a reputation for tackling tough social issues with a great deal of humanity as a writer on Brookside.
He had also proved his ability to write popular hits, with his creation of Fitz, the criminal psychologist in Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane, providing [TV with a character that sustained three series of the top- rated drama.
After the success of the first series, McGovern felt confident enough to tackle a subject that he had originally shied away from - the Hillsborough disaster. In a powerful three- parter of Cracker called ‘To Be A Somebody’, Robert Carlyle played Alby, the embittered son
‘There were two tragedles — the tragedy of Hillsborough ltsell and the tragedy of the way the system treated
people who had been through that.’
of a lifelong Liverpool fan who dies in anonymity. After shaving his head — a nod to Taxi Driver ’5 Travis Bickle character — Alby sets out to revenge this unsung working-class hero by taking a life for every Hillsborough victim.
Using Hillsborough as the motivation for a serial killer in what is essentially a cop show must have taken some nerve, but McGovern says simply that ‘I trusted my own reSponses’. Alby’s victims were mainly authority figures — including DCl Bilborough, played by Christopher Eccleston who portrays the father of a victim in Hillsborough. Though psychopathic in Cracker. Alby’s anger was clearly attributed to the way working-class football fans and their families were treated after the disaster. This is pure McGovern, who loads his characters with complicated but justifiable emotions before tipping them over the edge.