Our story

“The Specials” has come a long way since we launched it as a web series back in 2009. We've had some incredible ups — winning a Webby Award, being backed by the creators of “Game of Thrones” and making the transition to television in the USA — and we've had our fair share of lows. Here's our story.

August 1989

Carol gives birth to her third child, Hilly, who is diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.


Hilly begins at Court Meadow School where she is in the same class as Megan & Lewis and meets Sam & Lucy who are a few years older.

Sam and Hilly as children.
Megan and Lewis at primary school hugging.
Lucy in her Brownie outfit.

Watch Home at Last — Part 2 where everybody talks about their school days.


Dafydd smiling at the Court Meadow party

Dafydd at the Court Meadow school party.

Dafydd begins working as a teacher at Court Meadow School. Hilly is now a teenager and Carol begins to think about her transition to adulthood. Hilly says she would like to live with her friends. Carol talks to Social Services and realises the only option on offer is for Hilly to be placed in a shared home with people she has never met before.

Sam, Lucy wearing a ballon hat, Hilly and Lewis

Watch Home at Last — Part 2 as the guys’ parents begin to think about life after school.

Carol shares her frustrations with Dafydd and they decide to look into setting up a supported living home for Hilly & her friends.

19 September 2007

Hilly and Sam on the sofa.
Lucy and Hilly in the kitchin.
Lewis and Megan putting on a duvet cover.

Home at Last — Part 3 is coming soon where Hilly moves into her home with her friends.

After 2 years of struggle, Hilly finally moves into her own home with her friends. They have 24 hour live-in support.

Carol and Dafydd on honeymoon.

In May 2008, Carol & Dafydd got married.

December 2008

Dan and Katy.

Dan and Katy.

Katy meets the housemates when they were chosen as the potential stars of an observational documentary series for Channel 4. They spend a wonderful week filming together and the pilot is loved by many at the channel. Sadly though, the head honchos decide not to commission it.

Katy is gutted and while drowning her sorrows at the pub, her partner Dan, a computer programmer, suggests they make it anyway for the web, funding it themselves. Katy talks to Carol & Dafydd, the housemates and their parents and everyone agrees to go for it.

April 2009

Lucy putting on her radio microphone.

Lucy putting on her radio microphone.

Dan & Katy buy a handheld camera and Katy begins filming “The Specials” while Dan builds the edit suite in their spare bedroom. The housemates share their lives on a nearly daily basis, with Katy filming everything from the queue for the shower, to the guys going to work & college and falling in and out of relationships. During filming, the housemates also collaborate in setting up the website. The housemates and Carol & Dafydd watch each episode as it is ready and they are discussed and signed off before the guys do their voiceover. The guys' parents also see all the episodes. Find out more about how we collaborate to make “The Specials”.

2 September 2009

Hilly, Lewis, Megan, Sam and Lucy at the premiere in Brighton.

Hilly, Lewis, Megan, Sam and Lucy at the premiere at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton.

Season 1 launches on the web and gets a whole lot of press coverage. 10×10 minute episodes are released every 2 weeks until December.

We also organised a red carpet premiere at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton!

The release of the web series was featured on ITV Meridian Tonight!

April 2010

Lucy, Megan, Sam, Hilly and Lewis in Times Square NYC.

Lucy, Megan, Sam, Hilly and Lewis in Times Square NYC.

“The Specials” is nominated for Webby Awards in both the ‘Reality’ and ‘Documentary’ categories, going on to win both the Webby Award and People's Voice in the ‘Reality’ category. The guys go to New York for the awards ceremony. Find out more about our Webby Awards adventure.

June 2010–March 2011

Despite the success of “The Specials” on the web, Katy & Dan go back to their day jobs. They've run out of money and “The Specials” is reluctantly put on ice.

March 2011

We get an email from Carolyn Strauss. When we look her up we can't believe it — she's the former head of HBO Entertainment and commissioned all our favourite shows from “The Wire” to “Sex and the City”! She is now Executive Producing “Game of Thrones” and tells us she has been watching “The Specials” with D.B. Weiss, the creator of “Game of Thrones”, while editing their series. They love it! A few months later Katy & Dan meet Carolyn & D.B. Weiss in London to discuss making the show for television and turning the webisodes into half hour episodes. Find out more about how Carolyn & Dan saved our show.

Carolyn Strauss

Carolyn Strauss.

Dan Weiss

Dan Weiss.

August 2011

Carolyn speaks to Rosie O'Donnell who has been speaking about how much she likes “The Specials” on her radio show. Rosie takes the show to Oprah Winfrey who loves it and says she wants to put it her own network, OWN and also asks us to shoot a second series! We agree to license the series to OWN, not sell it, so we can ensure that the series continues to be available to other fans around the world. Not our finest decision financially, but crucial to our show's continuing existence worldwide. Carolyn & D.B. Weiss stay on as Executive Producers and are immensely helpful and supportive.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey.

Rosie O'Donnell

Rosie O'Donnell.

September 2011–October 2012

Sam in the voiceover booth.

Sam in the voiceover booth in his bedroom.

We re-edit Season 1 into 6×21 minute episodes with additional footage, re-recording all voiceover in a booth built by Dan that could be put up in Sam's bedroom. We also shoot Season 2 from October 2011–August 2012.

November 2012–July 2014

Katy editing.

Katy editing in the spare bedroom.

There follows an extensive editing & post-production period for Season 2. We don't know why it took so long, we were peddling like crazy!

September 2014

Here's the trailer OWN made for the Season 1 and 2 marathon.

OWN marathon poster.

Every episode of “The Specials” was shown in a marathon on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

Season 1 & 2 are broadcast on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Channel as a back-to-back marathon. We get lots of press in the US including People Magazine, CBS News and Entertainment Weekly and a lot of love from our fans online.

“The Specials” was licensed to other countries including: Spain, Sweden and parts of Latin America.

July 2015

Lucy and her mum Joan.

Every episode of “The Specials” was shown in a marathon on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

Our Lucy decided to move out of “The Specials” home and go back to Burgess Hill to be closer to her family. But don’t worry Lucy will always be one of “The Specials” and we will continue to film her life. We love you Lucy! xxx

October 2014–2017

We decided to relaunch the website as a subscription channel so that our fans around the world can finally see the broadcast episodes (we couldn't afford to give the series away for free anymore). It's an exciting time for the site as we are also creating the Xtra Special Zone, which will have lots of new educational content that will be useful to people with intellectual disabilities, their families and support network. We are continuing to film with Sam, Hilly, Lucy, Lewis and Megan but are also making films with families who have younger children with intellectual disabilities such as the gorgeous Audrey Emily.

Megan, Lewis, Sam holding Audrey, Lucy and Hilly.

Megan, Lewis, Sam holding Audrey, Lucy and Hilly.