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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Mixed Race Britain – Shirley

Ruth Negga as Shirley Bassey

Ruth Negga (Misfits, Criminal Justice, Five Daughters) leads an all star cast in Shirley, an intimate and revealing drama that looks at the life of Dame Shirley Bassey – one of Britain's national treasures and one of the world's most enduring and successful divas.

The film charts Bassey's early career, from her humble roots in Wales in the 1930s to the start of her rise to international stardom in the Sixties. But this is no ordinary rags to riches story.

Born in Tiger Bay in Cardiff, Shirley was one of eight children from a poor mixed-race family. An audition with struggling London agent, Mike Sullivan, puts Shirley firmly on the path to success, as he grooms her into a solo performer fit to take on the world.

But Shirley is hiding a secret – she's an unmarried teenage mother. Persuaded to give her daughter, Sharon, to her elder sister to look after, Shirley works day and night to perfect her routine, and complete the transformation from the poverty stricken girl from Tiger Bay, to the star she so desperately wants to become.

With a hit song soon under her belt, and a controversial marriage to her first husband Kenneth Hume, a small-time assistant film director from South London, Shirley couldn't have been happier. But beneath the wealth, diamonds and furs, her life would swing between triumph and tragedy as she catches her husband with another man.

The supporting cast includes Lesley Sharp (The Shadow Line, Scott & Bailey) as Eliza Bassey, Shirley's tenacious mother; Charlie Creed-Miles (Five Days, Injustice) as Mike Sullivan, her domineering manager; and Henry Lloyd-Hughes (The Inbetweeners, The Milibands) as Kenneth Hume, her soon-to-be personal manager and husband.

Shirley was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, the BBC Commissioning Editor for Documentaries and the BBC executive producers are Maxine Watson and Eleanor Moran. The drama is made by Prospect Cymru, the Welsh arm of DCD Media. It is written by Shelagh Stephenson, produced by Kath Lannon, directed by Colin Teague and executive produced by Charles Thompson.

Shirley is also simulcast on the award-winning BBC HD channel, available through Freesat channel 109, Freeview channel 54, Sky channel 169 and Virgin Media channel 187.

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