This new documentary follows one of Britain’s most extraordinary families. On 18 November 1983, Janet and Graham Walton made history, becoming parents to the world’s first surviving all female sextuplets. Their childhood was documented on film up to the age of 18, when they retired from the spotlight, and they haven’t been featured on television for almost a decade. This film explores how the girls have now grown into independent young women of 27, and the close bond that their family shares.
The programme includes archive footage of the girls and an intimate look at their upbringing. It also features the family watching the old footage of themselves, their reactions to it and speaking about the memories that it evokes. Graham and Janet speak about the unique challenge of bringing up sextuplets and their parenting philosophy. Janet says: “I think if your children have got individuality you’ve succeeded, because that’s what you want for them.”
Janet and Graham Walton feared that they may never have kids, but after 13 courses of fertility treatment their daughters were conceived on what was to be their final attempt. As well as devoting her life to bringing up the girls, Janet has worked for the past 15 years as the principle fundraiser for the neo-natal unit at the maternity hospital where the girls were born. She says: “The job is for me really because every day when I’m in and out of the unit it reminds me of how lucky we were that the girls were all so fit and well.”
Remembering the time shortly after the girls were born Graham says: “I got terrible stick off all my mates, particularly when we did the first documentary and they saw me changing nappies and feeding babies. [But] I wanted to be there, I felt quite proud, proud of myself for doing it.”
The film reflects on Janet and Graham’s unique experience of raising six girls all the same age, and uncovers the very individual personalities of the sextuplets . At 27 they’re now looking to the future. Two of the girls, Jennie and Luci, have moved out and live with their boyfriends, but return home regularly.
Jennie is off to spend the summer working in Majorca and is considering moving there permanently in the future. One of the more outgoing sisters, she says: “When you’ve got five sisters if you don’t speak you’re not heard, so I tended to shout to get noticed. I had a lot of confidence from a young age.”
Luci has recently got engaged – the first of the sisters to do so. She says: “I think I’ll need seven bridesmaids! I’d have all the others and my two best friends… I’d say now it’s like best friends, more friends than sisters, we’ve been like that for a couple of years now.”
Sarah is saving up to buy a house with her boyfriend of four years but says she doesn’t know what her parents will do when all of the girls have moved out: “I can’t imagine those two living in a little house on their own. I just don’t think they’ll like it because there wouldn’t be the banter and wouldn’t be something going on.”
Ruth also has a boyfriend of seven years but is living at home to save money. She has refused to be filmed since her 18th birthday until now and says: “I don’t really like the term ‘one of the Waltons’. Well no, I’m Ruth – we’ve got our own personalities, our own views and opinions we’re not one person. We are 6 people, completely different.”
In contrast, Kate is more shy and, while she loves living at home, she’s saving to buy her own place. She says: “[The others] would probably say I’m quite quiet cause I am. I’m quite a serious person but I’m trying to let my hair down now.”
The final sister Hannah is the only one of the group who has been to university and she is currently training to be a primary school teacher. She says: “It’s a lot calmer when the others aren’t here because me and Kate are quite quiet, quite shy. And when you get Ruth and Luci together or Jennie and Ruth together… it is funny but they’re just more mischievous when Jennie’s home, getting into trouble!”
All the girls are on the cusp of the next chapter of their lives and the programme follows them as they contemplate moving out, settling down and maybe starting families of their own.
Monday, 13 June 2011, 9:00PM – 10:00PM