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Call the Midwife series eight returns this weekend with scenes filmed at Chatham Historic Dockyard

By Angela Cole

After a dramatic Christmas episode, excitement levels are raised even higher for series eight of Call The Midwife. But the wait is over: here’s what you can look forward to in the new series, that starts this weekend, filmed partly at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham. Set in 1964, it will see familiar faces in Poplar’s Nonnatus House joined by two new nuns.

TRIXIE FRANKLIN

We saw Nurse Trixie, played by Helen George, 34, return unexpectedly from Italy in the Christmas episode.

Helen George will be back as Nurse Trixie Franklin for series eight of Call the Midwife. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Neal Street Productions
Helen George will be back as Nurse Trixie Franklin for series eight of Call the Midwife. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Neal Street Productions

Refreshed and seeming to have left her troubles behind her, series eight sees her be part of something pioneering - the first smear test in London.

“The doctor starts to do it and she takes over from his lead,” said Helen.

“It was really interesting to push that story forward and think, ‘Gosh it was the 60s and that’s not actually that long ago!’ There’s a ‘really interesting’ hermaphrodite storyline Trixie is involved in too. With my modern eyes, it felt like a modern storyline. But that’s what we are dealing with in the early 60s. Call The Midwife is always timely.”

SISTER JULIENNE

Writer Heidi Thomas never shies away from difficult subjects which were during the time period of Call The Midwife. This series there’s a focus on the very early days of the welfare state, and the amount of social deprivation.

The Call the Midwife cast at the Nonnatus House dining table at the dockyard in Chatham Picture: Daniel Turner
The Call the Midwife cast at the Nonnatus House dining table at the dockyard in Chatham Picture: Daniel Turner

But Jenny Agutter, 66, who has been in Call The Midwife since it started in 2012, says the world of Poplar is different from when it started. “One of the big changes...is having come from a world where you don’t have anything, to having a world where suddenly it seems like there are many more choices,” she said. “The nuns do remain the same in as much as they always have their faith, but they’re also working with midwives who are embracing this new world.”

Stephen McGann as Dr Patrick Turner and Georgie Glen as Miss Higgins in the new series of Call the Midwife. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Neal Street Productions/Ollie Upton
Stephen McGann as Dr Patrick Turner and Georgie Glen as Miss Higgins in the new series of Call the Midwife. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Neal Street Productions/Ollie Upton

NURSE VALERIE DYER

Jennifer Kirby, 28, who plays Valerie, reveals there’s an abortion storyline in the first episode, leading to the issue being a definitive theme across the series. “Valerie takes it to heart in a way, because she is so connected to that community. It’s where she’s from, it’s where she’s lived most of her life.”

Of her role she adds: “I’ve really delved into Valerie’s story more - who she is when she’s from Poplar, and who she is when she’s around her family, not just in her professional sense. It’s been amazing.”

Jennifer Kirby as Valerie Dyer. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Neal Street Productions/Laura Radford
Jennifer Kirby as Valerie Dyer. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Neal Street Productions/Laura Radford

SISTER HILDA

You might still be recovering from Charlotte Ritchie’s departure (her character, Nurse Barbara Hereward, died from sepsis in the last series). But the exciting news is there are a few faces we first saw in the festive episode.

Miriam Margolyes plays Sister Mildred, whose character is bound to shake things up as Mother Superior at the Order’s Mother House. Friends Sister Hilda (Fenella Woolgar) and Sister Frances (Ella Bruccoleri) are two nuns who have been living together in the Mother House, and are now moving to Nonnatus house. Fenella said of filming her first birth scenes: “I’ve had children, but I’ve never had to do it the other way. We have this wonderful midwife who looks after us and holds our hand through those scenes. But it’s such a special and lovely atmosphere.”

It’s often a real newborn, too. She added: “Having the real mum and dad there can be stressful - unless they are on baby No.3, in which case they are like, ‘Get on with it!’”

The Call the Midwife cast at the Nonnatus House dining table at the dockyard in Chatham Picture: Daniel Turner
The Call the Midwife cast at the Nonnatus House dining table at the dockyard in Chatham Picture: Daniel Turner

Call The Midwife returns to BBC1 on Sunday, January 13 at 8pm.

You can book to take a Call the Midwife tour at the dockyard when they start again in March. Visit thedockyard.co.uk for more information and watch our video about the launch of the tours with Neal Productions:

The Call the Midwife cast helped launch the series tours at Chatham Historic Dockyard
The Call the Midwife cast helped launch the series tours at Chatham Historic Dockyard

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