We get the lowdown on The Bay, the new ITV drama set in Morecambe.
When is it on television? Wednesday, March 20, ITV, 9pm
What is it? A six-part drama starring Morven Christie and Jonas Armstrong, set in the coastal town of Morecambe in Lancashire (The Bay).
What’s the story? When twins Holly and Dylan Meredith go missing, Family Liaison Officer Lisa Armstrong realises her connection to the family might be more than just professional.
What’s her character like? As a Family Liaison Officer, she’s trained never to get emotionally involved. Her job is to support families during the worst time of their lives, whilst also to be the eyes and ears of the police investigation; a cuckoo in the nest.
What happens next? There’s something very different about this particular case. With horror, Lisa realises she’s got a personal connection with this frightened family; one that could compromise her and the investigation.
Who are the main characters?
Lisa Armstrong played by Morven Christie: As a Family Liaison Officer with Morecambe CID, Lisa is the point of contact between the victim’s family and the police investigation.
She’s not there to just make the tea and pass the tissues, although she can and will do both if the need arises; she’s primarily a detective – finding out as much as she can about the family and friends of a victim. She will witness things behind the scenes that most other officers never come across – she holds the hands of the family when identifying a body, she’ll support them through press conferences, a trial – and she’ll learn more about the victim’s life than their nearest and dearest ever did. After all, most crime against persons is perpetrated by someone known to them. This means at times she will have to ask some pretty searing questions and dig into the family history – often uncovering the sort of dark underbelly of modern family life that people would much rather stay hidden.
Lisa is naturally warm and approachable, but she doesn’t suffer fools and has a seam of steely determination running through her. Born and bred in Morecambe, Lisa’s friends and family are very important to her and she has never felt the need to move away to a more adventurous city life. Though that’s not to say that Lisa doesn’t sometimes crave a bit of adventure in her own life - something that is only for her, a brief moment of respite from her responsibilities.
Sean Meredith played by Jonas Armstrong: Morecambe born and raised, Sean is a man who desperately wants to live a good life as a family man. When he met Jess, he was kind and affectionate towards her and for a brief time, the family lived a contented life with Sean as protector, provider and an enthusiastic patriarch.
Sadly, it didn’t take long for the cracks to appear. Working tirelessly on the fishing boats out on the bay, Sean increasingly found his hours getting longer and harder in an industry where it’s becoming more and more difficult to make any money.
Sean hates the fact that he can’t give his family the life and comfort that he wants to, and this occasionally manifests itself in an aggressiveness that is out of kilter with the Sean that Jess fell in love with. He’s not about to walk out on his family, but he craves a little bit more. Whilst the procedural element of The Bay focuses on the search for what happens to the twins, the emotional heart of the story is about Lisa and Sean. What they have to learn from each other and about themselves.
Writer Daragh Carville on setting the drama in Morecambe: "I wanted to write something set in Morecambe, very specifically. I live in Lancaster, which is just inland from Morecambe, and a couple of years ago I came across a post doing the rounds on social media. It was a map of the UK made up of TV shows. London was dense with show titles; Glasgow had Taggart, Liverpool had Brookside, Manchester had tons of things. The whole country was covered in drama and comedy except this corner that I happened to live in around the bay. I wanted to write something that’s set in this place where I’ve lived for the last ten years. It’s an interesting place and it’s beautiful but it’s also a place with problems. It’s somewhere that’s suffered a great deal from austerity. I love Morecambe and I’ve spoken to lots of people in Morecambe, since we’ve been filming there, and they’ve been incredibly accepting and warm, and excited about the show. I’m from Northern Ireland, but I’ve lived in Lancashire for the last 15 years. When I stand in that seaside town looking out across the Irish Sea it reminds me of my childhood and going to places like Warrenpoint which have that similar seaside vibe with a slightly faded grandeur."
What did you want to achieve by setting the story in Morecambe? "I wanted to tell a story within that community which is the community that I live in and I’m very close to. The landscapes there are absolutely stunning. It’s one of the things that instantly strikes you, the vistas out across the bay with the hills of the Lake District in the distance, but also the beautiful Edwardian architecture of the promenade itself, in Morecambe. It’s a very beautiful place, and it has the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen. So, I know we’ve captured a lot of the beauty of the place, while at the same time telling a gritty and sometimes dark, story.
"There is a danger in the tide as well and it all ties in. It’s so alluring and gorgeous to look at but then it shifts. Morecambe Bay is famous for its shifting tides and dangerous quicksands and what’s beneath the surface
"The Bay is not just the title of the show; it’s thematically and in every sense the heart of the show. And also, it has its metaphorical depths, about what’s happening under the surface. I hope that is all at play in the story we’re telling."
Executive producer Catherine Oldfield on the Morecambe location: “I was really excited about basing The Bay in Morecambe as I have a connection to the town and it really appealed to me to go back there. I have an aunt that lived there for many years and I’ve never seen it on screen. No one’s ever set a drama there and it is an exceptionally beautiful place. When scriptwriter Daragh Carville said it was set in Morecambe, which he can see out of his writing room on the top of a hill in Lancashire, where he lives, it was a no-brainer. There was no point looking anywhere else. Morecambe was it.
“The practicalities of filming in Morecambe are that you’re not near any crew bases, so we have to take everybody. The crew mostly came from Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. It’s a case of the whole circus going on the road and all the logistics of making that happen. But the value of what you get on screen in terms of the visual scale of Morecambe means it’s definitely worthwhile.
When you were going through the script did you need to make changes based on what’s possible in the locations you were filming? "You’ve always got to factor in the weather and in Morecambe Bay the weather changes very quickly. We also learnt some valuable lessons like filming on a boat is very difficult and very complicated. That was a lesson learnt and we won’t be doing anything else on a boat for a while."
Morven Christie says: “Morecambe is a unique backdrop and I hope audiences get how much soul the town has. It felt like a really unique choice for our setting, not least because our writer, Daragh Carville, lives nearby and knows the area really well. Morecambe reminds me a lot of the towns I grew up in. The Bay looks into the heart of what crime does to people and is a story about two women whose lives both could have turned out really differently and the connection they make in this really extreme circumstance.”
Jonas Armstrong on his character: “Sean is a hard working fisherman and a grafter, he’s a decent family man. They live on an estate and work hard. Like everyone else, they haven’t got a lot of money and struggle to make ends meet. He works with his brother-in-law Ryan and a friend, Krzysztof, and they hang out and socialise together. He has four children with Jess and another on the way, and life is tough for them. Sean finds himself in this situation whereby he can either suffer or he can try to enjoy life a bit."