top of page

Then Barbara Met Alan | Preview (BBC Two)

The untold love story of two cabaret performers and disability rights activists 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 and 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 1990s, when many disabled people in Britain faced huge barriers in the workplace, lived in poor quality housing and could not even get on inaccessible public transport.

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.

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 people's Direct Action Network. 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.

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 have 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.

Then Barbara Met Alan airs Monday 21st March at 9pm on BBC Two.


bottom of page