BBC Enlists Idris Elba to Narrate a Soothing Poem to Uplift the UK

Film highlights its role as a public service in a time of crisis

Footage from news and user-generated content anchors the visuals of the BBC's supportive message. BBC Creative

The BBC has enlisted Idris Elba–the famed British actor who revealed in March that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, to narrate a poem over a 90-second spot that highlights its role as a public service broadcaster.

Elba, who has since recovered from the virus that causes COVID-19, reads the poem Don’t Quit by Edgar Guest, which urges people not to give in to defeat, even when times are as tough as these.

The moving words are spoken over a video montage of footage from the British broadcaster, which includes news and candid self-shot footage of doctors, nurses and other workers on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with scenes from society such as empty supermarket shelves. It also shows clips of popular British comedies and stars from TV shows.

“When things go wrong as they sometimes will; when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill; when the funds are low but the debts are high; when you want to smile but you have to sigh; when care is pressing you down a bit, rest if you must but don’t you quit,” Elba reads.

The poem concludes by reminding us all that despite the hardships we face right now, “we must not quit” and delivers the message that “together, we’ll get through”.

The BBC said the film is designed to demonstrate its important role in keeping the country “informed, educated and entertained,” which, it adds, has never been more vital in this time of unprecedented crisis.

The spot was produced by BBC Creative and launched on social media. Over the coming weeks, the work will evolve to include two new iterations of the video, featuring voiceovers from the well known British actors including Vicky McClure (star of BBC series Line of Duty and Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure) and Stephen Graham (star of dramas including This is England, Accused, Line of Duty and Taboo).

The films will be shown across assorted BBC platforms including TV, radio, and on demand.

“This is a time when everyone is pulling together to get through this crisis,” said Helen Rhodes, executive creative director of BBC Creative. “We really hope we’ve managed to capture the emotion of that and show the ways in which the BBC is trying to help by using all our resources to keep us connected and bring us closer.”

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.