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New BBC Two drama to tell true story of the battle for disabled civil rights in Britain

Then Barbara Met Alan. Pictured: Emily Ambrose, Fergus Rattigan, Arthur Hughes, Josh Merritt, Reece Pantry, Ruth Madeley, Nadeem Islam, Philippa Cole - (C) Dragonfly Film & Television Productions Ltd - Photographer: Samuel Dore
Then Barbara Met Alan. Pictured: Emily Ambrose, Fergus Rattigan, Arthur Hughes, Josh Merritt, Reece Pantry, Ruth Madeley, Nadeem Islam, Philippa Cole - (C) Dragonfly Film & Television Productions Ltd - Photographer: Samuel Dore

A new BBC drama is to share the true story behind the battle for disabled civil rights in Britain.

Titled Then Barbara Met Alan, the one-off factual drama will tell true story of the people behind an irrepressible campaign of direct action that lead to significant steps forward in the battle for disabled civil rights in Britain.

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Written by multiple Bafta winner Jack Thorne and award-winning actor-turned-writer Genevieve Barr, the film tells the story through the eyes of Barbara Lisicki (played by Ruth Madeley) and Alan Holdsworth (Arthur Hughes), two disabled cabaret performers who met at a gig in 1989 and would go on to become the driving force behind DAN - the Direct Action Network, whose fearless and coordinated protests pushed the campaign for disabled rights into the spotlight.

Ruth Madeley said: “To have the opportunity to play such an incredibly powerful character and tell such an important story is honestly a dream, especially within the context of disabled, deaf and neuro-diverse history.

Then Barbara Met Alan. Pictured: Arthur Hughes, Ruth Madeley - (C) Dragonfly Film & Television Productions Ltd - Photographer: Samuel Dore
Then Barbara Met Alan. Pictured: Arthur Hughes, Ruth Madeley - (C) Dragonfly Film & Television Productions Ltd - Photographer: Samuel Dore

"As soon as I saw the script I knew this was going to be something so special and I am couldn't be happier to work with Jack and Gen on a drama that deserves to be front and centre on screen.”

Further casting includes Emily Ambrose, Fergus Rattigan, Arthur Hughes, Josh Merritt, Reece Pantry, Ruth Madeley, Nadeem Islam and Philippa Cole.

Then Barbara Met Alan will air on BBC Two and iPlayer in 2022.

Patrick Holland, Director, Factual, Arts & Classical Music, commented: “This is an incredible group of creatives who have come together to tell a remarkable and groundbreaking story. We couldn’t be more proud to commission this film for the BBC.”

Jack Thorne, writer added: "Ruth Madeley is one of those rare actors who take scripts and turns them into something else. She does things with words and makes human and fragile, even the smallest thing like putting on a kettle.

"I emailed two people when I was offered the chance to tell this incredible story - one was Genevieve and the other was Ruth. We wrote every word for her and we love her and I’m so excited to work with her again.”

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Then Barbara Met Alan. Pictured: Arthur Hughes, Ruth Madeley - (C) Dragonfly Film & Television Productions Ltd - Photographer: Samuel Dore
Then Barbara Met Alan. Pictured: Arthur Hughes, Ruth Madeley - (C) Dragonfly Film & Television Productions Ltd - Photographer: Samuel Dore

Tom Pullen, executive producer, said: “It’s such a privilege to see Ruth and our incredible directing team coming together to bring Jack and Genevieve’s extraordinary script to life. Their combined creativity, talent and personal passion for the subject matter is certain to make this an unmissable film.”

The film will be directed by Bruce Goodison and Amit Sharma.

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