Voices of a People's History
Voices of a People's History


London, UK
September 14, 2010


A stage show bringing the past to life and broadcast exclusively on HISTORY™

Featuring Sir Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kelly Macdonald, Joss Stone, Noel Clarke, Celia Imrie and many more

Tuesday 14 September 2010: Some of the most celebrated artists of the day, including Sir Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kelly Macdonald, Joss Stone, Noel Clarke, Celia Imrie, Arundhati Roy and Mark Steel, have joined forces with Colin Firth and AETN UK for a unique stage performance and documentary film THE PEOPLE SPEAK. The project celebrates extraordinary moments in UK history when ordinary people have spoken out for change.

The UK production of THE PEOPLE SPEAK brings history to life in a unique and powerful live performance narrated by BAFTA-award winning actor Colin Firth. The live performance and documentary will be co-directed and co-executive produced by Firth and Anthony Arnove, who was co-director and co-executive producer of the U.S. production broadcast on HISTORY™ in 2009. Conveyed through dramatic readings and musical performances in front of a live audience, THE PEOPLE SPEAK will capture the individual voices that have shaped this nation.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK live performance will take place on Sunday 19 September 2010 at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London’s West End. The performance will also be filmed in HD for a documentary to be broadcast on HISTORY™ on Sunday 31 October.

Speaking about the project Colin Firth said: “To me THE PEOPLE SPEAK is the perfect response to the abject misery of my history class as a school boy. Considering the immense riches that history offers us in terms of the best and worst of human behaviour – corruption, sexual deviation, rebellion, struggles for power – none of that made it into my history lessons. There is absolutely no reason why history should be dry and I’m delighted to be working with HISTORY on an initiative that takes history beyond the classroom; democratising our own legacy and providing a unique voice that resonates as much today as it did when it was first spoken.”

Inspired by the 2009 U.S. production of THE PEOPLE SPEAK which featured Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Springsteen, Viggo Mortensen and many others, leading names from British stage and screen will perform material based on themes of continuing struggle in the UK. Themes brought to life on stage will address suffrage and hereditary rule, the formation of the British nation, war and colonialism, immigration, women’s rights, crime and punishment, social justice, and ecological sustainability. The letters, speeches, diary entries, court transcipts, and songs were written, spoken and sung by the rebels, dissenters and visionaries of their day—some famous, some forgotten. These are the voices often left out of standard textbooks in favour of history from the point of view of leaders and politicians. THE PEOPLE SPEAK brings alive these rarely heard words from our collective past.

Tom Davidson, MD AETN UK said: “History is delighted that this successful format has come to the UK for the first time with so many of our most celebrated artists of today. It is set to be a very special performance. The documentary we will create based on the performance will bring THE PEOPLE SPEAK to television audiences throughout the world.”

Anthony Arnove, executive producer and co-director said: “I’m thrilled to be working with Colin and such a remarkable group of UK actors and musicians. This is the first version of THE PEOPLE SPEAK to follow on from the U.S. production. We couldn’t have a better partner than HISTORY in taking the next step in bringing this project to an international level.”

THE PEOPLE SPEAK project in the United States was initially inspired by the work of the late eminent American historian Howard Zinn: his best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and its primary source companion, Voices of a People’s History of the United States, co-edited with Anthony Arnove. Zinn’s work celebrated “troublemakers of all kind” who helped bring about democratic transformation and secured individual rights in the United States. Zinn, along with Arnove, producer Chris Moore and actors Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, co-executive produced THE PEOPLE SPEAK documentary for HISTORY™ in the United States, which aired in December 2009. The programme featured dramatic performances chronicling the history of the U.S. dissent from such actors including Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Viggo Mortensen, David Strathairn, Marisa Tomei, Don Cheadle, Rosario Dawson, Q’orianka Kilcher, Morgan Freeman, Kerry Washington, and musical performances from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Allison Moorer and John Legend.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK live performance on 19 September is supporting youth charity The Prince’s Trust, which helps change young lives. It gives young people practical and financial support, developing key workplace skills such as confidence and motivation. It works with 14 to 30-year-olds who have struggled at school, have been in care, are long-term unemployed or have been in trouble with the law.

In conjunction with THE PEOPLE SPEAK, HISTORY™ launched an education programme in April that is encouraging young people to revisit history and see it as social change rather than textbook theory. In the last three months of the 2009/10 academic year over 1,200 schools signed up to be part of the programme and in the coming months over 400,000 teachers in schools across the country will have access to multi-media resources from The People Speak event on September 19. Attending the event will be seven winners from Our Vision, a competition, which challenged 7-18 year olds to speak out to change issues facing today’s civil society.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK is being executive produced and co-directed by Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove. Stuart McDonald is the OB Director and the executive producer for AETN UK is Delissa Needham. The documentary will be screened on HISTORY on Sunday 31 October at 9pm.

Please find below the full list of talent participating in THE PEOPLE SPEAK (additional performers may be announced):

Arundhati Roy
Benjamin Zephaniah
Celia Imrie
Colin Salmon
Ian McKellen
Juliet Stevenson
Kelly Macdonald
Laura Marling
Mark Steel
Mark Strong
Noel Clarke
Nonso Anozie
Omid Djalili
Owen Teale
The Unthanks
Saffron Burrows
Sir Ben Kingsley
Sophie Okonedo
Stephen Rea
Teddy Thompson
Tom Hickey
Tom Robinson

AETN UK is a joint venture between A & E Television Networks and BSkyB. The company operates the following factual documentary channels in the UK, Ireland, Africa, Greece, Benelux, Scandinavia and Central Europe: History™, History HD™, Biography™, Biography HD™, Crime and Investigation Network™ and Crime and Investigation Network HD and Military History™.

For further information contact:

Joanna Mitchell, PR Manager, AETN UK
00 44 (0) 207 941 5199

Kerry Monighan, Premier PR
00 44 (0) 207 292 8346