SALLY Wainwright first visited the Bronte Parsonage Museum aged six.

“My mum pointed to a sofa and said, ‘That’s where Emily Bronte died’. My sister said, ‘Can we leave now?’” said the Bafta-winning dramatist.

Sally went on to develop a lifelong love of the Brontes’ work. “I’ve been interested in the Brontes as long as I can remember. I’ve got shelves of books about them,” said the writer of hit TV dramas such as Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax and Scott and Bailey.

On December 29 Sally’s interpretation of the Brontes’ own story, a two-hour drama called To Walk Invisible, will be screened as a Christmas highlight on BBC1. There will be a sneak preview of it a day earlier on a mobile cinema coming to Bradford on the BBC’s Red Carpet Cinema Tour, showcasing festive viewing treats. It will visit nine cities in the North, screening selected programmes, from children’s shows to comedy, drama and natural history.

To Walk Invisible was filmed earlier this year, much of it at a full-scale replica of the Bronte Parsonage at Penistone Hill, Haworth. Also featuring Haworth’s Main Street and moorland, it tells how the three sisters went from obscurity, at a time when women weren’t expected to achieve success, to produce some of the world’s greatest novels. Sally set her drama between 1845, when the ‘band of four’ Bronte siblings were reunited at the parsonage after working away, to Branwell’s death in 1848.

I talked to Sally and the cast during a break in filming. Sitting on a double-decker catering bus on the windswept set, Sally said: “There has been so much mythologising about the Brontes. They achieved so much in such little time. What’s interesting to a contemporary audience is their domestic situation. It’s a story of three women living with an alcoholic brother and how they start trying to publish. What became apparent was how dramatic their lives were between the summers of 1845 and 1848. I wanted to be truthful about those three years, exploring how the sisters dealt with Branwell sinking into alcoholism. Women at that time lived vicariously through their brothers. So much was expected of Branwell, but he didn’t have his sisters’ tenacity. He got caught in the spiral of the ‘tortured genius’.

“I’m a huge Emily fan, her writing influenced me more than Charlotte’s. Anne’s often seen as the ‘also-ran’ Bronte sister, but she’s an extremely powerful feminist writer. They were equally talented. Three geniuses under one roof, women in a male world. I feel so privileged, as a Yorkshirewoman, to write about these fabulous Yorkshirewomen.”

For Game of Thrones star Jonathan Pryce, playing Patrick Bronte, it’s a drama about the whole family. “Patrick was pro-women’s education, the books the sisters read allowed their genius to flourish,” he said. “But he didn’t know they were writing. He spent most time with Branwell, the great hope. That was the tragedy.”

Finn Atkins, (Charlotte), says a week of rehearsals in Haworth allowed the cast to become immersed in the Brontes’ world. “It was ‘Bronte Boot Camp’!” she smiled. “It was important to have that bonding process, as the sisters were so close. Their lives were as much a story as their books.”

Added Charlie Murphy, (Anne): “We spent a week having dinner with Bronte experts, it was a process of learning. You don't normally get that in TV.”

Charlie was born with a Bronte connection: “I’m named after Charlotte Bronte; my mum's a big fan. Anne’s work is arguably the first piece of feminist writing. The most tragic thing is that they had so little time to enjoy their success.”

Chloe Pirrie, (Emily), said most people "tend to lump the Brontes together".

"They say 'which one's which?' But they’re so different. Emily was headstrong but introverted, with a vivid imagination. Charlotte gets most frustrated with Branwell because he’s male, with chances. Emily and Anne are more compassionate, they see the pressure on him.”

Branwell is played by Adam Nagaitis who, like Charlie Murphy, was in Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley. “Branwell was an artist and writer but never really honed his skills. He wanted to be Lord Byron, and it wasn’t going to happen,” said Adam. “Sally has written about about three women with everything against them: little money, an alcoholic brother and a father not paying attention to what they do. They’re considered cooks and cleaners - but actually they’re three of the most brilliant writers of all time.”

Sally and the producers worked with the Bronte Society and Haworth’s Parsonage Museum on the Penistone Hill set, built in nine weeks with meticulous attention to detail in re-creating the house, graveyard and surrounding buildings. “The key was to re-create the parsonage and Haworth authentically,” said executive producer Faith Penhale. “It’s a replica of the house when the family lived there. Trees which soften the house today weren’t there then, so our set had no trees. For Sally, it was important to burst some Bronte myths. Life in Haworth was tough and frustrating. The title, To Walk Invisible, reflects expectations of women of their class, whose only options were being a governess or teacher. It wasn’t a chocolate box world. Sally reflects the world they lived in.”

Bradford’s City of Film team was involved from the initial inception. City of Film director David Wilson said: “Once it was confirmed we set about getting permission for the set and ensured that Haworth could be used without too much disruption. Many council departments were involved, including highways, countryside and rights of way, parking services and emergency planning, all co-ordinated by the Bradford Film Office.

“The result is stunning, it will bring the lives of theses incredible writers who were born and lived in Bradford to a whole new generation.”

* To Walk Invisible will be screened at the Red Carpet Cinema on Wednesday, December 28 at 4.30pm. Visit