A new Shane Meadows drama is in the works – and this time he’s working with the BBC to dramatise an “remarkable true story” of a “revolutionary criminal enterprise” from 18th century Yorkshire.
The filmmaker and screenwriter has previously worked with Channel 4 on his 2019 series The Virtues, and on the This Is England TV spin-offs. But now he’s off to the BBC to tell a very different kind of story, titled The Gallows Pole.
Based on the novel by Benjamin Myers, it fictionalises the rise and fall of David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners. Or as the BBC puts it, “Set against the backdrop of the coming industrial revolution in eighteenth century Yorkshire, the compelling drama follows the enigmatic David Hartley, as he assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a revolutionary criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history.”
Meadows said: “The Gallows Pole is an incredible true story, little known outside of Yorkshire, about a group of very naughty men and women who started clipping and counterfeiting coins out in the Moors, as a way to keep themselves and their community alive. I’ve never made a period drama before so I’m absolutely buzzing, and to be doing it with Piers [Wenger] at the BBC, his incredible team, and Element Pictures is nothing short of an honour.”
For his part, the BBC’s drama commissioner Piers Wenger described the drama as “destined to feel utterly of the moment”. At an online press event, he added: “Shane Meadows… is one of the most utterly British, unmissable filmmakers that we have, and he wanted to come and work for the BBC because he wanted to tell a particular story.
“And his story is Gallows Pole, which is set in the 18th century in Yorkshire and pre-industrialised Yorkshire and is about a rural bunch of weavers and farm-workers who, in the face of the oncoming storm of the Industrial Revolution, wanted to hold their ground and to protect their livelihood and the way of life that they’d known for generations. And they became counterfeiters, they took coins and they clipped them to make new coins and to distribute that wealth amongst the community.”
The cast has yet to be announced. However, in March 2021 an open casting call went out for an “untitled Shane Meadows project”, seeking “confident, charismatic, ambitious and witty people to play roles in an upcoming BBC drama set in the North of England”, aged 25-45 and of all ethnicities.
It added: “These characters will be from Yorkshire, so you must have a natural Northern accent, ideally Yorkshire.”
The announcement comes as part of a wave of new BBC commissions, including a new project from I May Destroy You’s Michaela Coel; a second season of Noughts + Crosses; and a drama by Cash Carraway, starring Daisy May Cooper.