Call the Academic: Oxford researcher wins BBC centenary grant for project exploring long-running ‘Midwife’ drama

Wednesday 27th Apr 2022, 12.36pm

Call the Midwife fan and Oxford postgraduate student, Alice Watson, has today been awarded Arts and Research Council funding to develop a podcast series about the cultural impact of the period drama which follows the work and lives of East End-based midwives and nuns in the 1950s and 60s.

To mark 100 years of BBC broadcasting, the AHRC has given seven researchers funds for public engagement activities. Alice’s project was developed in partnership with the BBC History department, and will focus on what is one of the Corporation’s most watched and celebrated television dramas, and which explores Britain’s medical and social history.

Building on her doctoral research on radio broadcasting, the researcher aims to co-produce a special 15-part podcast series with audiences, in an exploration of Call the Midwife.
A postgraduate researcher with Oxford’s School of Geography and a member of St John’s College, Alice said about the award, ‘I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded an AHRC research grant…it is a real privilege to be a part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations this year.’

She adds, ‘I have been a fan of Call the Midwife ever since its first broadcast and feel incredibly lucky to be able to work together with the BBC in producing a podcast that celebrates the programme and its storytelling.

‘Even though it is set in East London in the 1950s and 60s, its subject matter continues to resonate with, and speak to, people and communities in the present day. I am looking forward to meeting audiences and recording the voices and stories of viewers who remember, lived through, or have personal experience of its storylines.’

Each episode will involve two viewers sharing personal experiences of a particular storyline from the show, such as the legalisation of abortion, decriminalisation of homosexuality or the Thalidomide scandal.

Alice’s podcast will ask BBC audiences ‘What does Call the Midwife mean to you?’ and will produce new and diverse storytelling, and elicit untold local stories and intergenerational conversations inspired by watching the drama. Mirroring Call the Midwife’s docklands-setting, Alice aims to recruit viewers from diverse communities in three port cities: Liverpool, Newcastle, and Bristol.

Alice continues, ‘I hope my project will build on recent disciplinary interest in popular culture and advance research in cultural geography by foregrounding audio and methods of listening with the latest ‘creative turn’.’

Notes for Editors

For interviews with Alice Watson and for more information, please email

Alice’s research project – ‘Nonnatus House, Midwife Speaking’: co-curating a new oral history of Call the Midwife with BBC audiences – is due to start on 9 May and will run until the end of October. You can follow the AHRC for updates on Twitter: @ahrcpress

Backed by UK Research & Innovation, AHRC funds outstanding original research across the whole range of the arts and humanities.

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