BBC One has given the green light to a three-part adaptation of Andrea Levy’s epic, award-winning novel about the dying days of slavery in Jamaica, The Long Song.
A follow-up to her 2004 historical fiction novel Small Island, which was also adapted for the small screen (starring Naomie Harris and David Oyelowo), the British-Jamaican author’s Long Song (published in 2010) is written as a memoir by an elderly Jamaican woman living in early 19th century Jamaica during the final years of slavery, and the transition to freedom that would follow. It tells the story of a young slave girl named July who lives at Amity – a sugarcane plantation – through the bloody 1831 Baptist War, and the violent end to slavery that led to the beginning of freedom.
Three hundred years of slavery finally came to a chaotic end on the British-ruled Caribbean island in 1838. It is a rarely-acknowledged part of British colonial history. And though Abolition may have been the first step on the road to racial equality, it’s a very long road still travel today. But The Long Song offers a story of hope, passion and determination that’s full of insight and humor.
Sarah Williams (Small Island) has been tapped to script the adaptation which will be produced by Heyday Television (Harry Potter, Gravity).
“I am particularly happy to have my novel, The Long Song, adapted by Heyday and the BBC. This untold story from Britain’s complex past in the Caribbean will be a period drama like no other,” novelist Andrea Levy said.
Screenwriter Sarah Williams added: “I’m thrilled to be adapting Andrea’s powerful novel. It’s a cracking good story told from a female point of view and also serves as a tribute to the wit, ingenuity and resilience of generations of British slaves in Jamaica.”
David Heyman, executive producer and Heyday Television founder, said: “Andrea Levy’s revelatory novel The Long Song cries out for dramatization, uncovering as it does a wholly unexplored side to our history. It’s a novel full of surprise and unpredictable twists, upending any easy stereotypes of slave and master. We’re delighted that writer Sarah Williams has been able to capture the wit and verve of Andrea’s fiercely original heroine, July. And we’re excited to be making this for the BBC, with our partners at NBCUniversal International.”
The BBC plans a 3-part mini-series for The Long Song produced by Heyday Television for BBC One. Executive Producers are David Heyman and Rosie Alison for Heyday Television, and Elizabeth Kilgarriff for BBC One, alongside Andrea Levy and Sarah Williams. Roopesh Parekh serves as producer and the series will be distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution.
Further details on the project, starting with casting, will be announced later.
The Long Song novel was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and longlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize. It was the recipient of the 2011 Walter Scott Prize.