A Kind of Spark author Elle McNicoll - "It’s a story of sisterhood, neurodiversity and standing firm in the face of a mob"

A Kind of Spark interweaves the past and present in ten action packed episodes full of the joys of friendship, sisterhood, the drama of growing up, mystery and magic

Published: 13 March 2023
Two teenage girls holding hands on the grass
Addie (Lola Blue) and Keedie (Georgia De Gidlow) (Image: BBC/9 Story Media Group)

A Kind of Spark is a powerful, heart-warming live action series about friendship, courage and self-belief based on the award-winning book by neurodivergent author, Elle McNicoll.

Coming to BBC iPlayer on 31 March and CBBC from 17 April, it tells the inspirational story of an autistic teenager Addie. When she learns about the witch trials that happened centuries ago in her hometown of Juniper, Addie knows that there’s more to the story of these ‘witches’, just as there is more to her own.

Her desire to be herself becomes entwined with the historical mystery of Maggie and Elinor, two sisters who lived in the 16th Century. Maggie was accused of witchcraft and mysteriously vanished before she could be brought to trial while Elinor struggled with her true self.

As Addie tries to unravel what happened to Maggie, she discovers an even more surprising connection to Elinor and embarks on a journey of self-discovery while campaigning for a memorial in Maggie and Elinor’s honour. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her and make her voice be heard?

Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award and the Overall Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, A Kind of Spark interweaves the past and present in ten action packed episodes full of the joys of friendship, sisterhood, the drama of growing up, mystery and magic.

Filmed in Knutsford, Manchester, A Kind of Spark has authentic representation throughout its production with the three lead characters of Addie, Keedie and Nina played by neurodivergent actors.

A Kind of Spark is created for television by Anna McCleery (Free Rein, Secret Life of Boys) and produced by 9 Story Media Group. Lead writers are Anna McCleery and Elle McNicoll (A Kind of Spark, Show Us Who You Are) with Karissa Hamilton-Bannis and Vicki Lutas. It is executive produced for 9 Story by Gráinne McNamara.

A Kind of Spark will be available on BBC iPlayer from 31 March and CBBC from 17 April.


Meet The Characters

Addie (Lola Blue)

Girl in school uniform holding a witch jar
Addie (Lola Blue) (Image: BBC/9 Story Media Group)

Addie is a bright and sparky autistic girl. She has a naturally optimistic nature and a good sense of humour, both of which are encouraged by her loving, supportive, slightly chaotic family. To others, Addie may seem quite blunt, saying things out loud which other people might hold back, although she is a genuinely kind and thoughtful person who also notices small things that other people might miss. Addie is a girl on a mission; smart, determined, and with a strong moral compass. Nothing can stop her!

Keedie (Georgia De Gidlow)

Teenage girl looking hopeful
Keedie (Georgia De Gidlow) (Image: BBC/9 Story Media Group)

Addie’s older sister and Nina’s twin. Keedie is funny, outspoken, and fiercely protective of her little sister Addie. She’s also autistic and is usually loud and proud about it, but this school year she has chosen not to share this information with some new friends. Keedie seems strong and sure of herself, but she has a vulnerability that will become increasingly clear across the episodes.

Nina (Caitlin Hamilton)

Teenage girl smiling
Nina (Caitlin Hamilton) (Image: BBC/9 Story Media Group)

Addie’s older sister and Keedie’s twin, Nina is neurotypical. She is popular, has her own makeup tutorial vlog and is very concerned about her ‘brand’ and being perfect. She loves her sisters, but often feels excluded from their special bond.

Audrey (Eve Midgley)

Teenage girl smiling.  Poster in background with painted tree and Juniper Witch Memorial in yellow text
Audrey (Eve Midgley) (Image: BBC/9 Story Media Group)

Audrey recently relocated from the city to Juniper, where her mum was raised. Confident and unapologetic, she becomes a great, loyal friend to Addie. But since arriving in town, she has been feeling a bit weird and discovers she’s connected to this town more than she knew.

Maggie Fraser (Hattie Gotobed)

Teenage girl in old fashioned nightgown writing in candlight
Maggie (Hattie Gotobed) (BBC/9 Story Media Group)

Maggie is Elinor’s sister and is bright and curious, with a sharp sense of humour and a strong sense of justice. She is determined to use her status to do good in the world, even if it puts her in the path of danger.

Elinor Fraser (Ella Maisy Purvis)

Teenage girl with hooded cloak in a field
Elinor (Ella Maisy Purvis) (Image: BBC/9 Story Media Group)

Elinor is a somewhat uptight young noblewoman who is obsessed with appearances. She is determined to protect her family’s status and position in the village while hiding a secret that could put her entire family in jeopardy. Elinor is autistic but, with no context for this in her 16th century world, is scared the strange feelings she is experiencing could mean she is a witch.

Adam Quinn, the 16th century Witch Hunter (Ben Willbond)

Man in 17th century clothing walking through village with lamp
Adam Quinn (Ben Willbond) (BBC/9 Story Media Group)

Adam is the 16th Century pompous Witch Hunter who has come to Juniper to persecute as many ‘witches’ as he can. He truly believes he is on a mission to make Juniper a better place and his zeal makes him a dangerous man.

Interview with Elle McNicoll


Elle Mcnicholl in a pink dress sitting on a blue sofa with blue stone wall in background
Elle McNicoll (Image: Aashfaria A. Anwar)

Elle McNicoll is a bestselling and award-winning Scottish children’s author. Her debut novel, A Kind of Spark, won the Blue Peter Book Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Her second novel, Show Us Who You Are, was Blackwell’s Book of the Month and one of The Bookseller’s Best Books of 2021.

Elle is also co-writer for the A Kind of Spark TV series. Neurodivergent herself, she is an advocate for better representation of neurodiversity and disability in publishing and the media, and founded The Adrien Prize, to recognise children’s fiction that explores the disability experience. She currently lives in North London.

Tell us about AKOS?

A Kind of Spark is the story of Addie, a young girl in a small and sometimes small-minded community, who learns about the historic witch trials of the past. She decides to campaign for a memorial in their honour but comes up against many obstacles, from a reluctant parish council to a sometimes cruel teacher. It’s a story of sisterhood, neurodiversity and standing firm in the face of a mob.

Why did you feel it was important to write a book – and now be involved in a TV series – that features neurodivergent characters, and in particular female ones?

Autistic women and girls are massively underrepresented in all factions of media and art. Autistic people in general are commonly misrepresented. I wanted characters, on the page and on the screen, who can make vibrant, bright and lively autistic girls and young people feel that their way of being is something to celebrate and find joy in, not something to disguise or suppress. That they should never let the narrow expectations of others define their worth or happiness. They are to be the main character, not something on the periphery.

Why is it important for neurodivergent children to see themselves and their lives represented on screen?

I’ve been asked this question more than any other since writing this book and my answer is always the same: because we don’t ask if neurotypical children need to be seen. They just are. They are considered the default. And those who are considered the default have been the central character in every narrative for a very long time.

What are the key themes explored?

I think finding your voice or your own agency is a massive underpinning theme. Sisterhood and family. Historic “witchcraft”, the power of a lie. And, of course, neurodiversity.

What are they key challenges for writing for this age group but also when it comes to accurately representing neurodiversity?

I’ve just turned thirty, so my schooldays are getting more and more behind me! But I think the challenge is making sure you stay connected to those core memories of childhood, the universal ones that every generation shares. Mean children at school, shifting friendship groups, sibling fights, etc. As for neurodiversity, I always write from my own experience. If I haven’t had it in my own life, it doesn’t go in the book. Literally. I also make sure to be specific. It won’t represent every person under the umbrella but it will be the truth.

Why did you choose to merge the present with the past in AKOS?

I think we knew that readers, and new audience members, would be interested in the “witches” Addie is researching. So, we decided to flesh out their stories and make them a large part of the narrative. I think remembering that these people of the past were just like us is very important, an essential aspect of the story. Maggie and Addie have a kinship in A Kind of Spark and it was beautiful to have that shown in full for television. It's a show about young people trying to make the world kinder. They just happen to have a few centuries between them.

Tell us about the casting process and why it was important it was authentic?

All of the autistic characters from the book are being played by autistic actors, and many of the wider cast and crew are neurodivergent. A great actor can obviously play any role but people need to appreciate that being autistic is not having a slightly different personality to a non-autistic person. There are mountains of things for people to understand about being autistic, and it would take years to fully comprehend and portray without unconscious bias. Besides, there are so many talented disabled actors in the UK, it never occurred to me to cast someone who did not share the character’s diagnosis. The neurodivergent cast and crew have their roles in the show because they are the best and they brought the most to the casting process. Lola, Georgia and Caitlin embody the three sisters, they are my book brought to life. No one else could do what they’ve done. I’m so proud of this show for having authentic casting. It was the one condition I was always adamant about.

Why should people watch?

They should watch because there’s a runaway tortoise. Because it has adventure, mystery and young girls righting wrongs. Because the cast, but especially the young cast are SENSATIONAL and about to take over the world. Because there are witch-hunters who may not look like your typical witch-hunter. It’s diverse and representative. It’s fast-paced and packs an emotional punch. It explores neurodiversity in a way that I genuinely don’t believe we’ve seen on UK television before. And because it reminds young people that they have the power to make amazing change. Just the way they are.

If you could change one thing about representation of neurodivergent people in the media/on screen what would it be?

I would love if we could stop telling autistic people that they’ve “overcome” their autism. I’ve never had to overcome my difference, just other people’s prejudices towards it. I’d love if we could live in a place between “inspirational legend” and “object of pity”. The nuanced stories in the middle are far more interesting.

Anything else you would like to add/messages you would like to get across?

I think, the one thing I’d like to say, is that there is a reason I write stories for young people. Being neurodivergent as a young person was very hard. There was a lot of physical and emotional bullying. A lot of cruel names. But now, I get to create stories that have agency and autonomy for children like me. It feels like a strange sort of homecoming. Turning a lot of pain into joy and celebration has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And I’m grateful to anyone who has joined me along the way.

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