Anne: Interviews

“PEOPLE felt so passionate about filming this drama and so involved and engaged in it.

“They just wanted to be a part of it. We all knew how much it meant.

“We must remind people of what happened. We must never forget.”

Maxine Peake talking to me about her role as Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams in four-part ITV factual drama Anne, directed by Bruce Goodison.

Filmed towards the end of 2018 but with broadcast delayed due to court hearings, it begins on ITV at 9pm this Sunday (Jan 2) and continues over the following three nights.

Anne’s 15-year-old son Kevin went to the April 1989 FA Cup semi final between his team Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough ground in Sheffield.

He never returned. But could have been saved. Just one of the, now, 97 lives lost as a result of the disaster.

Anne Williams died in April 2013 having never given up on her fight for the truth after refusing to accept the coroner’s original verdict of accidental death.

Twenty-five years ago I was privileged to watch a preview of Jimmy McGovern’s 1996 drama Hillsborough with some of the families.

Thinking that standard of film-making and storytelling about the disaster and injustice that followed would never be matched in power and poignancy.

Anne does just that.

Written by Kevin Sampson, who attended the semi final as a Liverpool fan and later interviewed Anne Williams for his book ‘Hillsborough Voices’.

Maxine Peake as Anne Williams

Having reported on this story and followed it over the decades, it was a real honour to spend a considerable amount of time in the last year working on interviews with just some of those who helped bring this production to the screen.

Including extensive background research, reading the scripts, talking to those involved and watching final edits of this exceptional drama.

You can read my interviews for ITV with writer Kevin Sampson, Maxine Peake (Anne Williams), Stephen Walters (Steve Williams), Anne’s daughter Sara Williams, executive producer Simon Heath and producer Julia Stannard at the below link.

(Simply click / tap on the link to read. No need to download)

As a Newcastle United fan, I attended an FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough in 1974 when I was the same age as Kevin Williams.

Already having experienced some of the unsafe situations at football grounds that we all just took for granted in those days, even before fans were fenced in at grounds, including Hillsborough.

In the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster the authorities and some sections of the media shamefully and disgracefully sought to blame Liverpool fans.

Those who were there knew the truth. That, as was later officially confirmed, they were totally blameless. Many had tried to save lives on the pitch that day with 42 ambulances held outside the ground because of incorrect police reports of crowd trouble.

Just one of a shocking number of fatal failings by the authorities along with false accusations.

Stephen Walters plays Anne’s husband Steve and also took the role of young victim Ian Glover in Jimmy McGovern’s film.

He told me: “And some people still don’t understand what actually happened and deny the facts.

“I don’t believe ignorance is bliss. I think ignorance is just stupid.”

Anne Williams was an amazing woman – one of so many truly amazing and inspirational people involved in seeking justice for those who died and their families.

Not forgetting the 766 who were injured and others impacted by what happened to this very day, as we approach the 33rd anniversary of Hillsborough.

Every single person involved in this mini series, so carefully and sensitively made by award-winning World Productions, should be very proud of the end result.

Anne is simply must watch television about truth, justice and a mother’s love.

Please do not miss.

Recommended reading:

Manchester Evening News December 1996