Close to Home is entirely based on true stories. That was an interest from the outset, to make a show based on documentary material rather than fiction. We were also fascinated by the subject of “home” and what it might mean to different people at a time when so many move far from their place of origin during their lifetime. The two seemed to belong together perfectly, “home” being an ideal subject on which to gather first-hand testimony because it’s so close to everyone’s heart.
We sought people who were distant in some way from their origins to ask what “home” means to them. As Salman Rushdie says in his book, Imaginary Homelands, “It may be argued that the past is a country from which we have all emigrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity… I suggest the person who is out-of-country and even out-of-language may experience this loss in an intensified form.” We asked these people some very particular questions and their answers formed the basis of the show.
The people we talked to came from very different backgrounds, did not know each other and answered entirely according to their own perspective. And yet I found it profoundly moving to recognise, as I collated their stories, the extraordinary echoes between them, and how vividly I identified with their experiences myself, having ostensibly lived a very different life.
My job as writer was to weave their stories together in some coherent fashion. Each person’s stories contained an intense nostalgia for the homes and families into which they were born, a sort of homesickness for the irretrievable past. Each spoke of being swept away from one’s starting point in life by an irresistible flow of events. And each expressed an instinctive compulsion to make new homes in new places, even, if necessary, to find oneself at home on the move, at home in one’s heart.
In Close to Home, the characters’ stories become their shelters, structures in which to live. The act of sharing these stories with each other and with us, the audience, becomes an offer of hospitality which might ultimately bind us all, the invitation to feel at home with one another.