Banijay Rights today announces its partnership on Runners, a new returning drama series about the world’s first police force from the team behind Stonehouse and The Dig.
Writer John Preston and Executive Producer Ellie Wood of Clearwood Films are once again joining forces for the multi-part drama that chronicles the creation of The Bow Street Runners at one of the most pivotal points in British history, with Banijay Rights on board to distribute globally.
In the late 1740s, London was the most rapidly expanding city in Europe and engulfed by a colossal crime wave. With the city sliding ever closer to anarchy, author Henry Fielding, then Chief Magistrate of London, did something no one had previously dared to do before: he founded the world’s first-ever police force, The Bow Street Runners.
This extraordinary story will tell of how a group of just six police officers, none with any training or experience, set about imposing law and order on a completely lawless society and embarked on solving one of the strangest cases of its time – one with momentous political and social ramifications.
John Preston, Writer and Executive Producer, said: “The founding of the first ever police force is one of the most astonishing stories I have ever come across. The idea that a band of six people could take on the might of London’s underworld is so rich and dramatic that it often beggars belief. But it just goes to show that history is often made by people doing extraordinary things in the face of what appear to be insurmountable odds.”
Ellie Wood, Executive Producer, said: “It is thrilling to be working with John Preston again on this phenomenal real-life story. This show is deeply researched, packed full of character, humour and written in John’s inimitable tone. The fact that the philandering novelist who wrote Tom Jones also created the world’s first police force is just one of many surprises in this fascinating drama.”
Simon Cox, EVP Content & Acquisitions at Banijay Rights, said: “Runners is lined up to be a terrific tale – set at the moment where organised law and order were introduced to Britain for the very first time, a juxtaposition of cultural change that would set the country to a new order for centuries to come. To work again with John and Ellie on a project of this stature is exciting and we’re in no doubt the story of The Bow Street Runners’ early years will be a gripping one for global audiences to enjoy.”
This is the third collaboration between Preston and Wood. Wood produced Preston’s novel, The Dig, which was adapted into a major feature film in 2021 for Netflix. Starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, it received multiple BAFTA nominations. Wood has also produced Preston’s forthcoming screenwriting debut, the ITV/BritBox International TV drama Stonehouse, which tells the remarkable story of the disgraced Labour politician and stars Matthew Macfayden as Stonehouse and Keeley Hawes as Stonehouse’s wife Barbara. Banijay Rights handles global distribution for the series.
Preston, former Arts Editor for the Sunday Telegraph and London Evening Standard, is author of a number of acclaimed books. A Very English Scandal, the story of the political scandal involving Jeremy Thorpe, was adapted into the BAFTA award-winning TV drama in 2018, starring Hugh Grant and Ben Wishaw and directed by Stephen Frears. His latest work, Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell, won the 2021 Costa Prize for best biography of the year.
Wood previously worked on a number of award-winning dramas at the BBC, including Bleak House and The Line of Beauty, and later as executive producer at Clerkenwell Films and Tiger Aspect Productions. In 2019, she signed a first look development deal with Banijay Rights, the global distribution arm of Banijay.