IT'S rare a TV drama is so powerful it can actually influence a change in the law but that could well be the case with ITV's Anne.

Airing over the new year, it told the story of Anne Williams, whose 15-year-old son Kevin died at the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989.

Mrs Williams, who is played by actor Maxine Peake, fought to find out the truth of what happened to her son but died in 2013, before the start of the new inquests which concluded the 96 victims were unlawfully killed at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield.

There are now renewed calls for key changes to the legal system to prevent others going through what the bereaved families of Britain's worst sporting disaster experienced over decades.

"The response to the programme has been staggering," said Birkenhead-born novelist Kevin Sampson, who wrote Anne. "The series seems to have resonated far and wide and I honestly didn’t expect that. "I’ve had messages from people all over the world – literally everywhere. And had the slightly unreal phenomenon of seeing football heroes tweeting about the drama. So, yes I'm very satisfied with the way it’s been received."

Kevin, who is best known for his novels Awaydays (1998), Powder (1999) and Stars Are Stars (2006), became involved with efforts to tell Anne's story when she was still alive.

"In 2012 I was asked to compile Hillsborough Voices, a volume of first-hand accounts about the disaster from people who were there on the day, and took on the fight to establish the truth," said Kevin.

"I interviewed Anne on a number of occasions, really liked her and jokingly said that her story would make a brilliant movie. So it all started from there.

"Obviously the new inquests that the families fought for took many years to conclude, followed by various criminal proceedings against David Duckenfield (the police officer in charge of the match who was cleared of gross negligence manslaughter in 2019), meaning that we were all effectively gagged, for years.

"So, although Anne had been in the making for quite some time, we were only free to broadcast the drama in the last few months. The sad thing is that Anne herself isn’t here to experience the impact she’s had on so many people."

Kevin himself was at Hillsborough that fateful day and puts his survival down to simply choosing to turn left rather than straight on to the Leppings Lane terrace where so many Liverpool supporters died.

"It’s bittersweet, you know," he replied when I asked if writing Anne helped his ongoing attempt to deal with the tragedy.

"You have the purgative benefits of being able to get something out of your system and onto the page but it brings everything back too. The rage. The injustice. It just didn’t have to happen – any of it."

Kevin is full of praise for Peake's performance as Anne describing it as "phenomenal".

"I was lucky enough to see Maxine’s portrayal of Anne evolve, and have been telling everyone I know that it was performance of a lifetime," he said. "Anne’s daughter Sara said that, for those few months when we were filming the series, it felt like she had her mum back."

Kevin's debut novel Awaydays was a coming of age story about a group of teenage Tranmere fans defined by their interests in fashion and music.

The book was made into a film in 2009 and continues to resonate with Rovers supporters thanks to a huge mural outside Prenton Park depicting its Adidas trainer wearing characters.

Kevin said: "I’ve never viewed being a writer as being more important than being a bricklayer or a teacher or a taxi driver so I tend not to take any praise or criticism too seriously, but the mural just blew me away.

"It’s just that thing of something that starts off as a mad idea in your own little head being blown up into something huge and celebratory. I think it’s ace!"

Kevin, 61, is currently working on a movie project about the true story of a teenage Courtney Love coming to Liverpool in the early 80s, long before she met and married Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

"She met the Teardrop Explodes, Pete Burns and Echo and the Bunnymen," he added. "It's a brilliant excuse to cram a film full of my favourite music!"

Anne is available to watch on ITV Hub.