On the afternoon of Wednesday 11th May 2016 news started to break on Twitter that both enraged and distressed thousands of loyal ITV viewers, Home Fires had been axed!
One of these viewers, Kerryn Groves, was sitting in a car scrolling though Twitter when she noticed the announcement from cast members that the show had been axed. Like so many that day, and subsequently, she was in utter shock at the decision, and more than a little angry that the show was cancelled leaving some pretty major cliffhangers unresolved. But unlike most she didn't just carry on her day as usual, mourning the loss of a great show, no she went on to change.org and started an online petition to Save Home Fires. Little did she know what would happen next!
Within hours, the number of signatures was going up by hundreds and people were sharing the petition all over Twitter – and not just fans either, writers, producers, cast and crew all helped spread the word. That night a movement was born, the #savehomefires movement to be precise. An eclectic, determined bunch, women and men of all ages and from all backgrounds, brought together by the love of 'our' show. In the first week alone the petition had risen to over 20,000 signatures, recieved support from the mothership aka – The Women's Institute – mainstream press attention and trended at No. 4 on Twitter during a rather epic Twitterstorm on 15th May. The campaign has quite the party atmosphere, experiencing amazing support from cast, crew and many other big names. Basically, it's one giant Home Fires love in, think Woodstock with more victory rolls and less nudity.
"Furious fans flaming mad at ITV's sudden axing of WW2 drama Home Fires as last episode finishes on cliffhanger"
- Dan Wootton, The Sun
"Home Fires AXED by ITV as furious fans accuse broadcaster of making ''huge mistake''"
- Danny Walker, The Mirror
"Home Fires fans launch petition and slam ITV for cancelling show but keeping The X Factor"
- Emma Powell, Evening Standard
What many of us find particularly troubling about this whole situation is the almost blanket dismissal of such a powerful drama that places an important focus on strong female characters, let’s be honest, we’re not exactly embarrassed with a surfeit of strong female-led drama to begin with. If only this was an isolated incident, but it’s almost as if some executives across all networks are saying ‘Well that was fun what’s the next craze we can latch on to’, to put it quite plainly women are neither a trend or a fad, they are over half the world’s population. The female contribution to society is so often hushed up, written over or undervalued.
At 20,000 plus signatures, time came to print off the petition's progress and share the sincere and passionate public outcry with ITV. A pretty daunting task I think you'll agree, but one Kerryn Groves took in her stride, particularly impressive considering she suffers with chronic illness. So 1½ reems of paper, 4 ink cartridges, 6 hours of non-stop printing and 56 miles later a 610 page petition was hand delivered to ITV's front door in London. Unfortunately, a friendly welcome was not forthcoming, the PA to ITV's CEO Adam Crozier refused to collect the petition and Kerryn was directed to their deliveries building....we were not best pleased. Soon realising their mistake ITV publically apologised to Kerryn on Twitter, an apology which to some small credit Adam Crozier reiterated in his reply to the petition. A reply which has done little to expand the reason for the show's cancellation beyond the original "ITV commissioning team continues to refresh the channel's drama portfolio, hence the decision not to commission a further new series."
For those who may say it’s just a TV show, there are far more important things to worry about, with all due respect you're missing the point. It is often through shifts in cultural attitudes that we can effect greater social change. When all people are presented with are photoshopped cookie cutter ideas of female identity, that is what people, particularly young girls, will think that they’re expected to be. An image with no basis in reality and impossible to achieve, just look at what damage such expectations have already done. We’re not supposed to be all the same that’s kinda the joy of being on this planet, difference. If we all looked the same it’d be like eating chocolate cake for every meal, a great novelty for 5 seconds but we’d all end up sick pretty damn sharpish.
Gender politics aside this is just a throughly good show. Acting, writing, design, cinematography, music etc. are all first class. You don’t have to just take our word for it, the show was consistently winning it’s time slot and averaging 5.9 million viewers, an advertiser’s dream no?
Our campaign continues to go from strength to strength, channeling the 'can do' wartime spirit that the show championed so beautifully. Our many wonderful and talented campaigners have an endless supply of creativity when it comes to #savehomefires just take a look at the Operation Jam, Twitterstorms, Poster Campaign pages in our 'Get Involved' section and our 'Campaign Gallery' for more details.
If the response to #savehomefires can teach us anything it’s that quality programming shines through to everyone and networks like ITV take viewers like us for granted at their peril.