‘Deeply upsetting’ but ‘inspirational’ Hillsborough drama ’Anne’ strikes emotional chord with viewers

TV tonight Maxine Peake as campaigner Anne Williams
Maxine Peake as campaigner Anne Williams (Image credit: ITV)

The harrowing drama Anne, about the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster in which 97 football fans lost their lives in a crush, has resonated deeply with viewers, with people describing it as a ‘hard watch’, ‘deeply upsetting’ and ‘moving’.

Not many TV programmes have the kind of impact that episode one of Anne has had, with many calling it a ‘must-watch’ and ‘utterly heartbreaking’.

Another viewer tweeted: “#anne was so harrowing but an inspirational story which needs to be told. It will educate people not just about the tragedy but the vile corruption which followed & the incredible fight for justice. As Bill Kenwright said, they took on the wrong City & the wrong Mums”.

Anne stars the powerful Maxine Peake as Anne Williams, a real-life crusading mother who lost her son Kevin when the gates at Hillsborough Stadium were opened by police, leading to a stampede that left so many Liverpool football fans dead.

Anne Williams fought tirelessly to get justice for the 97 who lost their lives amid an official cover-up, an inquest that ruled them as ‘accidental deaths’, and abhorrent media coverage portraying the dead as the perpetrators of the disaster rather than the victims of terrible decisions by the authorities.

Anne had a deep effect on viewers on ITV: “Watched the first episode of the excellent #Anne last night and tbh I didn’t sleep well. Anguish and simmering anger following that dreadful day in 1989 so poignantly portrayed by @MPeakeOfficial

Another wrote: “Just unfathomable to kiss goodbye to your boy at a football match to never see him again, and then to cope with the heartaches of all the injustice”

Of course the crusader at the heart of the drama, who died in 2013, was utmost in people’s thoughts.

A viewer paid tribute to her: “Knowing how inspirational and relentless Anne Williams was in her fight for truth and justice for her son Kevin I was hesitant to watch the TV drama based around the Hillsborough disaster. It is heart breaking and infuriating but necessary for the world to see!”

Anne screenwriter Kevin Sampson tweeted: “Thanks Alison, and everyone who watched last night. The response has been incredible - I’m grateful for your support & humbled by it.


It’s worth remembering also that families of the victims still suffer 30 years after the disaster, as the daughter of one wrote: “I'm not ashamed to say that I too am anxious about tonight's screening of #Anne. #Hillsborough is a trigger for many of us. Please don't struggle alone, I learnt about that the hard way! can provide support. - 116123 C.A.L.L (wales) - 0800132737 @HillsboroughSu1 @samaritans”.

Anne continues on ITV tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday.

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.