Up the Women Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_the_Women

Up the Women
Up The Women.jpg
Up the Women title card
Created byJessica Hynes
Written byJessica Hynes
Directed byChristine Gernon
Opening theme"Nana Was a Suffragette"
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes9 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Mark Freeland
  • Henry Normal
  • Lindsay Hughes
ProducerEmma Strain
Running time30 minutes
Production companies
Original networkBBC Four
Picture format
Original release30 May 2013 (2013-05-30) –
25 February 2015 (2015-02-25)

Up the Women is a BBC television sitcom created, written by and starring Jessica Hynes. It was first broadcast on BBC Four on 30 May 2013. The sitcom is about a group of women in 1910 who form a Women's Suffrage movement. Hynes originally planned to write a comedy film about a suffragette plot to assassinate H. H. Asquith, but after realising the plot had turned quite dark, she decided to write a sitcom instead. Christine Gernon directed the three-part series, which became the last sitcom to be filmed before a live audience at BBC Television Centre and the first to be commissioned for BBC Four. A second series was commissioned in June 2013 and aired on BBC Two from 21 January 2015. Up the Women was not renewed for a third series.


The sitcom is set in 1910 and focuses on the women of the Banbury Intricate Craft Circle and their level of commitment to the women's suffrage movement.[1] Having seen the Women's suffrage movement in London, Margaret (Jessica Hynes) returns to Banbury and asks the ladies of her local craft circle to support the cause. The group start up their own suffrage league called Banbury Intricate Craft Circle Politely Requests Women's Suffrage (BICCPRWS), but the league faces opposition from Helen (Rebecca Front).



Jessica Hynes created, wrote and stars in Up the Women.

In February 2013, the BBC announced that Richard Klein and Shane Allen had commissioned the three-part comedy Up the Women, which was created and written by Jessica Hynes.[2] Up the Women was the first sitcom filmed in front of a live audience to be commissioned for BBC Four.[3] Andrew Williams from the Metro revealed that should the pilot series of Up the Women do well, then there would be a possible re-commission, which would see where the character's stories go.[4]

Hynes came up with the idea for Up the Women in 2009 after she read a piece about a suffragette plot to assassinate former Prime Minister H. H. Asquith.[5] Hynes thought it would make a good comedy film and sold that idea to the BBC.[1] However, when she came to research it, she realised that the plot was quite dark and felt that she had written "a probably quite dull, tediously worthy drama", which the BBC passed on.[1][5]

Hynes found that she could not let go of the characters she had created and thought the BBC might want a comedy instead. In 2011, Hynes wrote a new treatment, which focused on her characters and their craft circle in a Banbury church hall.[5] She said "I thought, it would work if you went really retro with it, to make it much easier to relate to these women, who are warm, who are failing. Comedy only really works if you are failing. I made it deliberately restrictive, a church hall and a kitchen, nowhere to go to, nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. I just loved that."[1]

On 31 May 2013, Hynes revealed that Up the Women had been picked up for a full series of six episodes.[6] This was confirmed by the BBC on 12 June.[7] Series two was broadcast on BBC Two and controller of the channel, Janice Hadlow, stated "I'm delighted to welcome the Banbury Intricate Craft Circle to BBC Two. With brilliant writing from Jessica Hynes and a fabulous cast including Rebecca Front, Judy Parfitt and Adrian Scarborough, Up The Women is a wonderful addition to comedy on the channel."[7] The series began airing from 21 January 2015.[8]

On 31 March 2015, the BBC confirmed that they would not be renewing Up the Woman for a third series.[9] A spokesperson for BBC2 commented, "After two great series, sadly there won't be any more Up The Women on BBC2 as the channel looks to bring new comedy shows through."[9]

Cholesbury Village Hall


Christine Gernon directed the series, which was set in two locations; a church hall and the kitchen.[5][10] Hynes wanted the show to have "a deliberately retro-sitcom feel" and explained that writing and filming a show set in a studio was unlike anything she had previously done.[5] The first series was recorded on 3, 10 and 17 March 2013 in Studio 3 (TC3) at BBC Television Centre.[11] Up the Women was the last sitcom to be filmed before a live audience at BBC Television Centre.[3] The Village Hall in Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire was used for the external view of the Hall shown at the start of each episode,[12] and the dimensions and layout of the main room of the Village Hall are reflected in the show set.[citation needed]

Cast and characters[edit]

Hynes plays "bright-but-stifled matron" Margaret.[13] The actress told Vicki Power from the Daily Express that her character was inspired by Christabel Pankhurst.[13] Comedian Rebecca Front portrays the group's president and antagonist Helen.[13] Judy Parfitt stars as Helen's mother, Myrtle.[13] Vicki Pepperdine is Gwen, a spinster, while Emma Pierson is Eva, a mother of fourteen.[13] Adrian Scarborough appears as the church hall caretaker Mr Miller.[14] Georgia Groome and Ryan Sampson also appear as Emily and Thomas.[15][16] Sandi Toksvig appeared in the third episode as Emmeline Pankhurst.[17]

Theme music[edit]

During the titles the song "Nana Was a Suffragette" is played. It was written and performed by Jules Gibb.[18][19]


Series 1 (2013)[edit]

Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK viewers
(in millions)
1"Up the Women"Christine GernonJessica Hynes30 May 2013 (2013-05-30)0.390[20]

Margaret returns from London, where she has witnessed the Women's suffrage movement first hand, and asks the ladies of the Banbury Intricate Craft Circle to support the cause and begin their own suffrage league. However, Margaret's idea receives opposition from Helen, who decides to set up an anti-suffrage league.

Additional Material: Barunka O'Shaughnessy, Dan Swimer, Adam Kay, Fraser Steele
2"Picket"Christine GernonJessica Hynes6 June 2013 (2013-06-06)0.366[21]

The Banbury Intricate Craft Circle Politely Requests Women's Suffrage league create placards for their planned picket outside the Post Office. When the statue of Venus in the library is vandalised, seemingly by a group of Suffragettes, PC John Thackery is sent to investigate and interview the members of the Craft Circle.

Additional Material: Barunka O'Shaughnessy, Dan Swimer, Adam Kay
3"The Poem"Christine GernonJessica Hynes13 June 2013 (2013-06-13)TBA

Emmeline Pankhurst comes to visit the Craft Circle, after Margaret writes her a letter and a poem, with a view to inducting the group into the league of the Women's Social and Political Union. Emmeline's visit brings back bad memories for Helen, who has a rivalry with the suffragette leader.

Additional Material: Barunka O'Shaughnessy, Dan Swimer, Adam Kay

Series 2 (2015)[edit]

Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK viewers
(in millions)
4"The Romance"[8]Christine GernonJessica Hynes, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Morwenna Banks21 January 2015 (2015-01-21)1.50[22]
The members of BICCPRWS attempt a hunger strike, but struggle to uphold it when Gwen brings cheese to a meeting. Helen plans for Emily to be married to Bertie Smuth (Tom Stourton), prompting Thomas to try and tell her how he feels. Myrtle realises Bertie is gay and encourages him to leave for a Sicilian island where homosexuality is welcomed.
5"Strike"[23]Christine GernonJessica Hynes, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Morwenna Banks28 January 2015 (2015-01-28)0.870 (overnight)[24]
When the female workers from Helen's factory go on strike, Margaret tries to convince them to join the BICCPRWS. She plans a speech about the cause, but no one turns up. Emily secretly joins the striking women, while Gwen struggles with the various tasks given to her. Eva and Myrtle share a bottle of Dr Hamm's Invigorator, which promises to make the drinker feel better. After drinking the invigorator, Gwen gives a rousing speech about how badly she is treated by the others.
6"Bowls"[25]Christine GernonJessica Hynes, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Morwenna Banks4 February 2015 (2015-02-04)0.812 (overnight)[26]
Inspired by mountaineer Annie Smith Peck, Margaret decides to create a pamphlet about women's exclusion from sport. She purchases a camera to take photographs of the ladies with sporting equipment, but struggles to work it. When an international bowls match is moved to the village hall, the suffragettes refuse to leave and meet New Zealand bowlers Hilary (Jarred Christmas) and Leslie (Bruce Mackinnon), who inform them that in their country women can vote and play sports.
7"Train"[27]Christine GernonJessica Hynes, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Morwenna Banks11 February 2015 (2015-02-11)0.810 (overnight)[28]
Margaret and her friends are planning to go to London to meet the notorious anti-suffragist Sir Bismuth Albemarle. However, the train station is closed to women after an attempt to attack Winston Churchill with an exploding pie by the Banbury Free Suffrage Army. Although their trip seems thwarted, Gwen arrives in male disguise and they follow her lead. Getting onto a train, they meet Eva and Helen's husbands and Winston Churchill himself (Harry Peacock).
8"Vote"[29]Christine GernonJessica Hynes, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Morwenna Banks18 February 2015 (2015-02-18)TBA
The village hall is turned into a polling station for the general election. The women are taken hostage by renegade suffragette Betty (Rebekah Staton), who locks them in the hall. When Officer Thackeray (Dominic Coleman) threatens to arrest them all, Helen wrestles the key away from Betty and opens the door. Eva gives birth to a daughter in the polling booth.
9"Panto"[30]Christine GernonJessica Hynes, Barunka O'Shaughnessy and Morwenna Banks25 February 2015 (2015-02-25)0.460 (overnight)[31]
The BICCPRWS are planning to stage a pantomime written by Margaret, but she reveals that she burnt her script following criticism from her husband, Osbert (Paul Putner). Eva announces she has a script and the women agree to perform it, even though Margaret points out that it is plagiarised from Cinderella. Margaret decides to stage her own improvised play. After learning several suffragettes were injured during a protest, the women reconcile and perform their plays to applause led by Osbert.


Jane Simon from the Daily Mirror commented "This is gentle, ever-so-slightly earnest comedy. The fact that it's played more or less dead straight, rather than being a knockabout gag-fest, means it might struggle to find an audience. But it's all the more impressive for its approach."[32] The South Wales Evening Post's Kathy Griffiths chose the first episode of Up the Women as her TV highlight of the week. She quipped that the episode contains some good lines and hinted at becoming better in future episodes. Referring to the placement of Up the Women in the schedules Griffths said "And far better a smaller debut and potential to grow a following on BBC4 than a big trumpeted arrival on mainstream station only to be greeted by dismay and criticism, that poor Vicious has faced."[16] Rachel Aroesti from The Guardian called the third episode "the best" of the first series.[17]

Up the Women was shortlisted for the Best TV Situation Comedy accolade at the 2014 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards.[33]

Home media[edit]

Series 1 and 2 were released together on DVD on 2 March 2015.[34]


  1. ^ a b c d Williams, Zoe (30 May 2013). "Jessica Hynes on her new Suffragette sitcom Up The Women". Radio Times. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  2. ^ "BBC Four announces two new comedies - Up The Women and Quick Cuts". BBC Media Centre. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b Plunkett, John (30 May 2013). "Jessica Hynes and Doon Mackichan star in new BBC4 sitcoms". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  4. ^ Williams, Andrew (29 May 2013). "Twenty Twelve with a new sitcom Up The Women". Metro. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e Hynes, Jessica (30 May 2013). "Jessica Hynes: it's OK to poke fun at suffragettes". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  6. ^ Walker-Arnott, Ellie (31 May 2013). "Jessica Hynes Suffragette sitcom Up The Women gets full series". Radio Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Jessica Hynes' sitcom Up The Women commissioned for second series on BBC Two". BBC Media Centre. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  8. ^ a b Graham, Alison. "Up the Women Series 2 – 1. The Romance". Radio Times. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  9. ^ a b Dowell, Ben (31 March 2015). "BBC axes Jessica Hynes comedy Up The Women". Radio Times. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  10. ^ Vincent, Alice (19 May 2013). "Jessica Hynes's suffragette comedy to be BBC Four's first ever studio sitcom". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  11. ^ "Up The Women – Production Details". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Local Landmarks — Hawridge and Cholesbury Commons". Hawridgeandcholesburycommons.org. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  13. ^ a b c d e Power, Vicki (25 May 2013). "Jessica Hynes chooses an unlikely subject for seriosuly funny new comedy Up The Women". Daily Express. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  14. ^ "New role for Gavin and Stacey actor". Leicester Mercury. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  15. ^ Rhodes, Ella (27 March 2013). "Derby actress Georgia Groome is appearing in a new film to be shown nationwide". Derby Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  16. ^ a b Griffiths, Kathy (25 May 2013). "Up The Women - Kathy Griffiths picks her TV highlight of the week". South Wales Evening Post. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  17. ^ a b Aroesti, Rachel (13 June 2013). "TV highlights 13/06/2013". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  18. ^ Barratt, Peter. "Alice Hawkins Montage". YouTube. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  19. ^ "About Us". The Lovenotes. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  20. ^ "BBC4 w/e 2 Jun 2013". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  21. ^ "BBC4 w/e 9 Jun 2013". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  22. ^ "BBC2 w/e 25 Jan 2015". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  23. ^ Graham, Alison. "Up the Women Series 2 – 2. Strike". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  24. ^ Rigby, Sam (29 January 2015). "Midsomer Murders tops Wednesday ratings with 4.8m". Digital Spy. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  25. ^ Webb, Claire. "Up the Women Series 2 – 3. Bowls". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  26. ^ Eames, Tom (5 February 2015). "Midsomer Murders beaten by live FA Cup football on Wednesday". Digital Spy. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  27. ^ Webb, Claire. "Up the Women Series 2 – 4. Train". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  28. ^ "Episode 2.4 - Train". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  29. ^ "Up the Women Series 2 – 5. Vote". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  30. ^ "Up the Women Series 2 – 6. Panto". Radio Times. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  31. ^ Rigby, Sam (26 February 2015). "Brit Awards 2015 enjoys ratings boost with 5.4m on ITV". Digital Spy. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  32. ^ Simon, Jane (30 May 2013). "Jessica Hynes' Up The Women may not be the knockabout gag-fest some may expect, but it is still impressive". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Writers' Guild Awards: winners announced". Writers' Guild of Great Britain. 19 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  34. ^ "'Up The Women' Merchandise". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 22 February 2015.

External links[edit]