Then Barbara Met Alan

Ep. 1/1

Alan (Arthur Hughes) and Barbara (Ruth Madeley)

The untold disability civil-rights love story of two cabaret performers, Barbara and Alan, who met at a gig, fell in love, and became the driving force behind an unprecedented campaign of direct action that ultimately led to the passing of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

Written by multiple Bafta-winner Jack Thorne, alongside actor-turned-writer Genevieve Barr, Then Barbara Met Alan stars Bafta-nominated Ruth Madeley (Don’t Take My Baby, Years And Years) as comedian and activist Barbara Lisicki and Arthur Hughes (Help, The Innocents) as singer songwriter and activist Alan Holdsworth.

Their story begins in the early 90s when many deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people in Britain faced huge barriers in the workplace, lived in poor-quality housing, and transport wasn’t accessible. At that time, the idea that the disabled community should be the grateful beneficiaries of charity handouts was commonplace, and far from being equal independent citizens, disabled people had no rights in law.

But then Barbara met Alan…

With their wicked sense of humour and post-punk energy combined, the pair soon decide to take down Telethon, a 28-hour TV charity event that raises funds by pulling on heart strings and wrongly making people feel sorry for disabled people. For the first time in history, they galvanise an army of disabled protestors from across Britain, united under an incendiary Piss On Pity protest slogan, and soon Telethon is no more.

Having shocked a nation and shown what disabled people are capable of, they form DAN, the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network. And soon they head out on tour, with their new baby in tow, to shut down inaccessible bus routes and spontaneously picket cinemas, restaurants, and train stations - anywhere that denies access to disabled people.

Finally, having honed their use of pink-handcuffs as part of their direct-action tactics and after suffering the loss of DAN members along the way, Barbara and Alan embark on a fearless and coordinated plan to bring Westminster to a standstill, until the establishment can no longer stand in their way and disabled people are granted equal rights in law.

This punky and irreverent film is Directed by Bafta-winning Bruce Goodison (Anne, Murdered By My Father) and Bafta-nominated Amit Sharma (Crip Tales) with music by Chaz Jankel (The Blockheads) and Alan Holdsworth.

The unique ensemble cast features emerging and established disabled talent, including Phillipa Cole, Reece Pantry, Fergus Rattigan, Nadeem Islam and Shreya M Patel. Their characters, like the original members of DAN, are with Barbara and Alan every step of the way, through the highs and lows of the movement and their relationship.

At its heart, this is an uplifting and irreverent love story of two extraordinary people, destined to change the world from the moment they set eyes on each other. Through their humour and unstoppable energy, disabled people find a voice and begin a journey towards gaining the rights they’ve long deserved. But as Barbara and Alan devote their lives to the cause, campaign success comes at a personal cost and the pair are eventually driven apart on the eve of their historic, yet bittersweet, victory.

Publicity contact: BDW

DateMonday, 21 March, 2022
Time9:00 pm -
10:10 pm
UpdatesConfirmed for BBC Two on 21 March at 9pm to 10.10pm