Jemma Rodgers, producer of 'the Railway Children Return'

Review of ‘Railway Children Return’

Film Screening for the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Bamber bridge, Thurs 22nd June 2023

By Bernie Velvick, Preston Black History Group, photos by Tony Maiden and Bernie Velvick, Preston Black History Group.

Visit our Battle of Bamber Bridge webpage to find coverage of the rest of the anniversary weekend events

We kicked off our weekend of commemoration of the anniversary on Thursday evening 22nd June 2023 at the Bamber Bridge Methodist Church with a free showing of the film from 2022, ‘The Railway Children Return’. We had a small but very appreciative audience comprised of Bamber Bridge residents (Briggers), Local History enthusiasts and members of Preston Black History Group (PBHG).

We were delighted to have the film’s producer, Jemma Rodgers, who, with Clinton Smith, chair of PBHG, introduced the film and shared the fascinating journey of how this film helped spread the word about the events in June 1943 in Bamber Bridge. Jemma told us of her journey of discovery in melding the true events into a fictional updating of the story of the Railway Children by E Nesbit. She shared her conviction that the story she wanted to tell was in the spirit of the original story from 1905 that also includes an element of political awareness. She expressed her relief that both Studio Canal, who helped her make the film, and Jenny Agutter, the actress who played the main character of ‘Bobbie’ in the 1970 film adaptation and who plays the Grandmother of one of the children in the ‘Railway Children Return’ both shared her excitement in telling this new story.

Jemma Rodgers, the Railway Children Return producer relates her journey in creating the film

Jemma consulted Prof Alan Rice from UCLAN, IBAR (Institute for Black Atlantic Research) and MIDEX (The UCLan Research Centre for Migration, Diaspora and Exile) to make sure she had the facts correct and made us all laugh when she related her nervousness at the first showing of the film to Alan and Clinton, both of whom were ‘blown away’ by the way this film carries such an important and sensitive story in a way that is suitable for children.

This film is set in Yorkshire during WW2, where a group of young children evacuated to a small village encounter a young African American soldier (Abe) who, like them, is far away from his home. The film is based loosely on the real-life incident in Bamber Bridge in 1943 which left one soldier dead.

Our audiences’ older members enjoyed all the ‘wartime’ aspects of the film with much mirth but there were also teary eyes at times. Rev Karen Le Mouton from Bamber Bridge Methodists shared in an interview with PBHG how much Jemma’s introduction deepened her appreciation of the film and the story being told. Eunice Evans, the niece of Eunice Byers, aged 106 – the last known witness of the Battle of Bamber Bridge – came to see the film with her Grand daughter. She told us how the film helped her talk about events during WW2 with the 8 year old youngster. You can listen to the interviews with Jemma, Karen and Eunice below.

The film was reviewed in the Daily Mail in 2022 which caught the attention of Aaron Snipe, spokesperson for the American Embassy in London. Aaron visited Bamber Bridge in November 2022 and pledged his support to PBHG, UCLAN and South Ribble Borough Council which has all helped us get the story of the events in Bamber Bridge in 1943 out into the wider world.

Thanks to Jemma Rodgers and Studio Canal for allowing us to show the film. And thanks to Bamber Bridge Methodist Church for hosting the event.

Bernie Velvick from Preston Black History Group interviewed partners and participants from the weekend of commemoration.

Jemma Rodgers, Producer of ‘The Railway Children Return’ Film

Rev Karen Le Mouton, Minister at Bamber Bridge Methodists Church

Eunice Evans, ‘Brigger’ (Bamber Bridge resident), niece of Eunice Byers (aged 106, last known witness of the Battle of Bamber Bridge)

Visit our Battle of Bamber Bridge webpage to find coverage of the rest of the anniversary weekend events

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