Real-life concerns of scientists inspire Val McDermid drama on deadly outbreak

Val McDermkd took part in a workshop with scientists & medical experts before writing the Radio 4 thriller "Resistance."
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Leading Scottish crime writer Val McDermid has written a new BBC drama about an apocalyptic epidemic - based on the real-life concerns of scientists.

Their concerns about the rise of antiobiotic resistance across the planet will be replayed out in the Radio serial about a mystery illness which engulfs a music festival.

Our Friends In The North actress Gina McKee plays a journalist caught up in a deadly outbreak in Val McDermid's latest thriller.

McDermid took part in a two-day workshop attended by scientists, academics, writers and radio producers which she says left her “profoundly shocked.” Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, was among those to give a presentation,

Fife-born author McDermid, who is best known for her series of books on the criminal psychologist Tony Hill, pitched the idea of an “uncontrollable epidemic.”

Gina McKee, star of Our Friends in the North and Notting Hill, plays a journalist caught up in the outbreak when she attends the music festival in the north-east of England.

The three-part serial, Resistance, will be broadcast on 3, 10 and 17 March on Radio 4.

McDermid said: “Drama makes the science behind Resistance impossible to ignore because it puts us in the shoes of those who are affected.

“Radio drama in particular is intimate and immediate and nimble - it can react quickly to events because we don’t need to build sets and design costumes.

“We just let the actors give the words their full weight and the listeners become part of the story.

“I was profoundly shocked about what I learned about antimicrobial resistance at the workshop.

“We’ve not developed any new antibiotics since the 1980s. We’ve just gone to the cupboard and taken out the next one – to the point that the cupboard is now bare.

“Trying to convey the scale of something like this while still keeping the drama on a human level is very tricky. Listeners have to engage with the characters. They have to care about them. Combining that with the urgency of such a global threat is really challenging.”

One of those who too part in the workshop, Christopher Dowson, professor of microbiology at Warwick University, said: “This fantastic production presents in an emotionally engaging manner some of the important issues that have given rise to our current predicament – ever rising resistance and fewer effective antibiotics.

"My hope is that listeners will go on to ask ‘what can I do to be part of the solution’?”

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