Fans of Shane Meadows's work, from A Room for Romeo Brass through to This Is England, may be surprised that his latest project, The Gallows Pole, is a period drama.


However, it seems no one will perhaps be as surprised as Meadows himself, who when speaking with and other press about the three-part series, admitted he was unsure about adapting Benjamin Myers's book – until he saw the psychedelic front cover.

"When the book actually came, the first thing with the book is that it's got a cover very much unlike… it felt like Trainspotting in the 1700s," he said. "If you want to grab my attention, and I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but it was vivid lime green, these gold coins, this sort of silhouetted face.

Michael Socha as David Hartley with the Stag Men in The Gallows Pole
Michael Socha as David Hartley with the Stag Men in The Gallows Pole BBC/Element Pictures (GP) Limited/Objective Feedback LLC/Dean Rogers

"And I remember, you read the letter and think, 'Why does someone want me to do a period piece?' That’s obviously my problem because I'm sort of assuming it's going to be all frills and carriages, and then obviously read the book and was like, 'Oh my God.'"

Like the book before it, The Gallows Pole is based on the true story of David Hartley, who in 18th century Yorkshire assembled a gang of weavers and land-workers to produce fake gold coins, in what was a revolutionary criminal enterprise.

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Meadows continued to explain his attraction to the project, saying: "You read the book and then you go online to check if it is true. And you realise not only is it true, it's one of the biggest crimes in British history that no one's ever heard of. I mean, the Bank of England nearly collapsed towards the sort of final stages of what was going on.

"But more importantly than that, I could see within the book that there was a community and I'm always drawn to stories, right from sort of 24/7, Romeo Brass, This Is England particularly. You've obviously got your leading characters that people will identify with, your Lol and Woody, David and Grace, but there's also this beautiful bedrock of a community which I was really drawn to.

"So I think the initial thing was, 'Why on Earth has this story not been told, and how lucky am I to have a chance to maybe work on it?' because I was imagining with my track record, which is nil in period dramas, I'll be getting really weird stuff set in just a prison cell that can be done for a fiver.

"So this seemed way beyond what I would have imagined someone would think I was capable of."

The Gallows Pole premieres on BBC Two on Wednesday 31st May at 9pm, when all episodes will also arrive on BBC iPlayer. For more, check out our dedicated Drama page or our full TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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