The real-life history behind ITV’s Hillsborough disaster series Anne

Maxine Peake plays the late activist Anne Williams, whose son Kevin Williams died at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

Anne

The New Year will see the release of a brand new ITV drama series, based on the life of activist Anne Williams.

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The fact-based drama, titled Anne and created with the support of Anne’s daughter Sara, stars Silk’s Maxine Peake as the titular Anne Williams, whose teenage son Kevin Williams was among the victims of the 1980s Hillsborough disaster.

The official series synopsis states that the real Anne “was determined to unearth the truth about what happened at Hillsborough”.

It continues: “At times to the cost of her own family and health, Anne stood defiant for over 20 years alongside the parents and relatives who fought to prove that their loved ones had been unlawfully killed at a football match.”

Read on for the real life history behind ITV drama Anne.

What was the Hillsborough disaster?

Anne
Anne (ITV Pictures)
ITV

On 15th April 1989, a fatal human crush occurred during a football game at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. In total, 97 people died as a result of the disaster.

The FA Cup match was between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, and the crush occurred in an area allocated to Liverpool supporters.

Four days after the disaster, Liverpool club supporters were falsely blamed for the crush in an infamous article run by The Sun newspaper, under the headline “The Truth”.

The article also falsely claimed that Liverpool supporters “picked pockets of victims” and “urinated on cops”.

The then-editor of The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, would go on to apologise for the article, blaming it on “deliberate misinformation from the South Yorkshire Police”.

In 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel found that 116 police statements were amended “to remove or alter comments unfavourable” to the South Yorkshire Police, with panel chairman Bishop James Jones saying that police and ambulance services made “strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto innocent fans”.

Four years later, in 2016, an inquest found that the victims of the crush were unlawfully killed, and that the behaviour of spectators at the fateful match did not contribute to the disaster.

Who was the real Anne Williams?

Anne Williams
Anne Williams at the High Court in London in 2012 (Getty Images)
Getty Images

Anne Williams was the mother of Hillsborough disaster victim Kevin Williams, who was just 15 years old when he died. He was one of 97 people who died as a result of the disaster.

Anne subsequently became an activist, campaigning to overturn the coroner’s original verdict of accidental death.

According to the ITV series synopsis, the real Anne “sought out new medical opinions, tracked down witnesses who had tried to revive Kevin on the pitch and lobbied ministers for new inquests”.

She died of cancer in 2013, three years before an inquest ruled that the Hillsborough disaster victims were unlawfully killed.

Anne’s daughter, Sara, continued her mother’s campaigning after her death. In a statement released by ITV, Sara (who was just nine years old when her older brother died) said she had thought “very carefully” before lending her support to the series.

“I thought very carefully before deciding to go ahead with the ITV drama, Anne,she said. “Mum’s story was such a powerful and inspiring one, and we all remember how important she felt it was to get the message out there and bang the drum for justice.

“I am excited, as well as a little bit scared, for viewers to see my mum’s story, but I just felt it was the right thing to do. Alongside some very talented people, we have given everything to ensure we produce a series that does justice to my mum, our Kev, the 97, and everyone involved with Hillsborough.”

Maxine Peake, who plays Anne in the ITV series, said: “Anne Williams was an extraordinary woman who spent half her life campaigning for the truth of her son’s death and the other victims who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough. Anne and her family’s story really is inspirational.”

She added: “She was a magnificent role model. Her fearlessness and drive to take on the British Establishment is mind blowing. I hope we can go some way to bringing the story of Anne, the families, victims and survivors of Hillsborough to an even wider audience.”

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Anne will air on ITV on 2nd January at 9pm. While you’re waiting, take a look at our other Drama coverage, or find out what else is on with our TV Guide.