A new BBC drama will chronicle the closing years of the 20th century, beginning with the Manchester bombing in 1996 and ending with the post-millennium hangover, with an all-star cast led by Philip Glenister and Bernard Hill.
From There to Here is described by its author, Peter Bowker, as a "love letter to Manchester – warts 'n' all" – and will begin on the day that an IRA bomb ripped through its city centre.
The three-part BBC1 drama, which began filming last week, will also encompass Tony Blair's triumphant entry into Downing Street and the subsequent fate of the New Labour project.
"The story of how Manchester rebuilt and reinvented itself yet again was a microcosm of what came later," said Bowker. "[The bomb] was a terrible event, but it allowed something phoenix-like to rise from it."
Bowker's story begins with an attempted family reunion in Manchester city centre at the time the bomb went off, on the morning of 15 June 1996.
More than 200 people were injured by the largest peacetime bomb detonated in Britain, but remarkably no one was killed. On the afternoon of the same day, England played Scotland in the Euro 96 football championships at Wembley.
"I wanted to write about that summer because I thought that was where it all began," said Bowker. "Although it was the fag end of the Tory government it felt like a new Labour summer, it felt like we had already got a new dawn."
Hill – who played Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale's 1980s drama Boys from the Blackstuff – and Life on Mars star Glenister play father-and-son owners of a sweet factory. Hill's character falls out with his other son, played by Steven Mackintosh, who owns a nightclub. Saskia Reeves and Daniel Rigby, who played Eric Morecambe in Bowker's acclaimed BBC biopic of Morecambe and Wise, also star.
Stockport-born Bowker, whose other credits include Occupation, about three soldiers adjusting to civilian life after Iraq, and Blackpool, the 2004 series starring David Morrissey as a deluded amusement arcade owner, said at its heart it was a story about family, but also politics.
"One of the characters gets very politically involved in New Labour and there's an attempt to explore some of the contradictions at the heart of that project," he said. "I am always fascinated by how political arguments are played out in families; what people say and imagine their politics to be, and how that contradicts with their day-to-day lives."
Made by Kudos Film and Television, which produced ITV's hit murder mystery Broadchurch, it is being directed by James Strong (who also directed the ITV drama). Executive producer Derek Wax said Bowker "brings to life a family, city and era with complexity, originality, scale and humour".
Bowker said: "I wanted to do in contemporary drama what costume drama is given the room and latitude to do: to explore something that is simultaneously about character and informed by bigger events and issues of the day. I think I said the same thing when I was pitching Blackpool years ago. In one sense, 1996 makes it a costume drama."
But Bowker played down comparisons with another BBC state-of-the-nation drama, Peter Flannery's acclaimed Our Friends in the North, from 1996, which spanned four decades rather than the four years of From There to Here. "That's one of the great TV dramas of all time, it's a big shadow to carry," said Bowker. "[My drama] may sound slightly grim, but there's lots of humour in it – gallows Mancunian humour."
Glenister said he was "really excited … to be working alongside such an outstanding cast and crew. And of course to be back filming in my adopted home town of Manc."