Philippa’s direction to television success

Philippa Lowthorpe
Philippa Lowthorpe

MANY Rasenites will have watched TV shows like 1950s drama series Call the Midwife and Five Daughters – an award-winning tale about the five young women murdered in Ipswich in 2006.

But what most people will not know is that these shows – and many others to grace our television screens – have been directed by a former Market Rasen schoolgirl.

Talented director Philippa Lowthorpe went to De Aston School in the 1970s – and says even to this day she draws on skills learned from her “amazing” teachers.

She said: “My English teacher Mr Hiley was just a fantastic inspiration. He really got me interested in telling stories – he gave us encouragement and made you feel that you could be a creative person.

“He was brilliant at analysing scripts – I always draw on the stuff he taught us when I’m working with writers. He once said to my mum, ‘Philippa could be a writer’ – directing is very close.”

Philippa – who has a classics degree from Oxford University – started her career as a researcher for Yorkshire Television working on prime time ITV show Where There’s Life – a programme about health and illness.

“It was a really good introduction to TV – as a researcher I had to go around the country finding people who were interesting to appear on the show,” she said.

Philippa then started her own documentary company with a friend. “As a woman, it was very hard to get a job as a director then, even as a man it was difficult.

“My friend and I were very determined – and we made a a lot of documentaries about women working in men’s worlds. We did one about a woman bull fighter in Madrid – that was quite an amazing experience.”

Since then Philippa has worked on several hit TV shows, including the BBC’s Call the Midwife – a drama based on the memoirs of a newly-qualified midwife working in London’s East End in the 1950s. This show has been one of her biggest achievements to date.

“I never thought I would be working on a show like this. It was a huge surprise that it was so popular, but it was a wonderful surprise,” she said.

“I was out walking my dog when my mobile phone beeped with the viewing figures for the first episode. It was eight million – I couldn’t believe it. And then they just climbed up and up each week.

“I’m just about to start working on the next series of Call the Midwife. I really loved making it and it was beautifully written. Plus it was a very wonderful team of people and a fantastic cast – that’s quite rare.”

Philippa, who now lives in Bristol with her husband Stephen and their children, Maeve, 15, and seven-year-old Daniel, said the hardest part about her job is juggling her career with her family life.

She said: “I love everything about my job. The hardest part is combining being a director and a mum – there aren’t that many woman directors and not many of them are mothers.”

For any Rasenites thinking about a career in television, Philippa had the following advice: “If you’re a young person starting out, the first thing do to is watch a lot of films and get a job as a runner – whether you want to work in documentaries or dramas.

“You meet amazingly talented people but you must be prepared to work unsociable hours and 12-hour days. But overall it’s good fun, really exciting and a brilliant career.”