Following on from an item on BBC Breakfast about plans to close the BBC Big Swing Band, the damage limitation team under Ian Fletcher is under huge pressure to limit the damage.
A twitter campaign led by Jools Holland, #JeSuisBigSwingb and #boycottBBC, is gathering support from music royalty such as Sir Bob Geldof, Sir Tom Jones and Bono. And as the much-loved Big Swing bandleader Ray Fredericks is both black and 75, there are a growing number of accusations of discrimination and ageism.
BBC News outlets are keen to report the latest developments but exacerbate the problem when Syncopatico, the new News subtitling software, continues to systematically misspell the names of the key players involved – including Jools Holland.
It is felt that an appearance from one of the BBC senior management team on the News at One would be a helpful way of clarifying the BBC’s position – but when head of better Anna Rampton unexpectedly rules herself out, it falls to Ian Fletcher to face the music.
Meanwhile, the campaign to launch new online platform BBC Me continues and ex-intern Will Humphries is still standing at his station in reception trying to persuade passing celebrities to record themselves saying ‘me’ into his phone.
Welcome back! It’s been a couple of years so some of you may not remember the site from before, but it was originally Ophelia Lovibond Online (
ophelia-lovibond.net) and was online from 2011-2015. Now that the site is back in action there is a lot of content to catch up on and to kick off the gallery updates, some new W1A promotional photos and screencaps from the latest episodes have been added. Enjoy the new additions and look for more to be added soon!
The search for new ways of saving money at the BBC continues – particularly important in the light of charter renewal.
As head of better Anna Rampton says, ‘The fact is this is about finding more ways of doing less of what we currently do better.’
Having dismissed the idea of losing programmes about gardening as a possible solution the renewal team propose that the cutting of the BBC Big Swing Band might send out a useful message – after all, does the BBC need six orchestras?
When news gets out that this is on the agenda the BBC start to get what head of communications Tracey Pritchard calls ‘heavy incoming’. A situation exacerbated by the fact that Ray Fredericks, the much-loved Big Swing Band leader, is about to celebrate his 75th birthday with a special anniversary concert. What had started in a strategy meeting as an idea with potential has turned into a major PR disaster.
In this context the BBC head of values Ian Fletcher’s first visit to the Department of Media, Culture and also Sport – the government department responsible for negotiating the BBC Charter renewal – does not get off to the best of starts. Especially when it is revealed that the minister is a ‘keen trombonist’.
Continue reading ‘W1A’ 3.03 Preview & Synopsis
Cross-dressing ex-Premier League footballer Ryan Chelford’s appearance on a late-night, midweek edition of Match of the Day did not go well. Host Gary Lineker and pundit Alan Shearer were literally lost for words. But the BBC in general and, in his role as head of values Ian Fletcher in particular, are under pressure to find an on-screen role for Ryan as quickly as possible. A summit meeting is arranged to include heads of football, inclusivity and a late curve ball in the shape of head of diversity to try and find a solution to a problem that is getting increasing attention on social media.
To complicate matters, Fiona Craig, the senior civil servant with responsibility for charter renewal negotiations, is visiting the BBC to see what a normal day in the life of the corporation looks like.
Meanwhile, the campaign to launch user-generated content platform BBC Me gathers pace with David Wilkes still keen to take ownership of the idea he originally borrowed from ex-intern Will Humphries.
Ophelia Lovibond is expressing her disappointment that Sky1 dropped her series Hooten & the Lady after a single series.
The news came from US broadcaster The CW last month that Sky would not be ordering a second series of the eight-part adventure series that starred Lovibond and Michael Landes as globe-trotting adventurers.
That was obviously an unfortunate development for Lovibond, who has praised Hooten & the Lady as being a necessary alternative to the many issue-oriented dramas on telly these days.
“I was a bit disappointed – Mike [Landes] and I both were, because it was really fun,” she told Digital Spy. “Hooten & the Lady, I felt, filled a whole different need, it was just pure escapism – The Handmaid’s Tale was phenomenal, but not every single piece of television needs to be The Handmaid’s Tale.
“I think it’s nice to have something that’s like Romancing the Stone – just very light-hearted escapism. I don’t really know why it didn’t [continue] – it got great numbers, great viewing figures, and we loved filming it, going all around the world. It was a dream, really.
“I loved doing the action scenes – I would love to do more. They’re talking about Idris Elba for the next Bond – I’m like, excuse me, hello?”
The barmy Hooten & the Lady has a tremendously impressive A-list cast, including comedy favourite Jessica Hynes, W1A’s Jonathan Bailey and legendary former Bond Girl Jane Seymour.
Luckily, Ophelia Lovibond is back on telly this autumn in W1A, which is airing on Mondays at 10pm on BBC Two.
While it would be amazing to see many more incompetent adventures of the Way Ahead Task Force and Perfect Curve, it seems not everything is built to last.
W1A finally returns to our screens this evening (September 18), though star Ophelia Lovibond – who plays Izzy Gould – has backed up series creator John Morton’s hint that it will end after the new series.
“I haven’t spoken to John about it, but I think it’s just such hard work,” she told Digital Spy.
“There was a bit of a gap between the second and third series, because it does take a long time to put it all together. We all love doing it, but we got the vague sense that it was the last one [while filming].”
Over the past two series, one of the best things about the show has been the hilarious meaningless media-speak and perfectly timed one liners.
Lovibond revealed that pretty much every aspect is scripted beforehand – as opposed to improvised – which can make it tricky to learn.
Continue reading DigitalSpy Interview with Ophelia Lovibond
Ophelia Lovibond talks about W1A and her role in Goodbye Christopher Robin, and Victoria Coren Mitchell discusses the Only Connect book, TV series and Women Talking About Cars. Plus there’s the Factoids, Non-Stop Oldies and the latest entertainment and lifestyle news.
It is the year of charter renewal and a critical time for the BBC. The renewal group under head of values Ian Fletcher is tasked with identifying what the BBC does best and finding more ways of doing less of it better.
A new challenge comes in the shape of a Channel 4 documentary about a cross-dressing ex-Premier League footballer Ryan Chelford, which alleges that the BBC rejected Ryan as a potential pundit on Match of the Day because of his unconventional private life. The fact is he was auditioned and it turned out he was not very good. In the face of a huge groundswell of public support for Ryan Chelford and the need for the BBC to appear inclusive, Ian and his team have to find a presenting role for Ryan while not forcing the hand of the BBC’s flagship sports show.
Over in the Perfect Curve PR office, things have changed. They have been bought by media giant Fun Media, who are keen to come up with new ideas for their BBC account. Siobhan Sharpe is equally keen to take credit for the result of their latest brainstorming – the idea for a new online platform called BBC Me – a new home for user-generated content. After all, according to Siobhan, conventional television is dead.
Meanwhile, newly promoted junior development producer Will Humphries’ idea for a new interview format On Your Bike is in danger of being appropriated by commissioning editor daytime factuality David Wilkes and pitched to the head of TV output as The Great British Bike Off.
n a house in Surrey in 1911, the small talk is about newfangled electric lighting, and yet for a modern audience Githa Sowerby’s superb and seldom performed The Stepmother (1924) takes place in what we might like to think of as a dark age, in which English women were treated with condescension by men and unenlightened on the subject of money. This is a play about the various ways in which women were subjugated. The action takes place in a sombre drawing room where everything has weight: furniture, conversation, atmosphere (design by fastidious Tim Hatley, master of mahogany).
On press night, when Will Keen’s Eustace took a bow, he was – and I’ve never heard this happen outside pantomime – booed. A better compliment than applause, this was in response to his outstanding performance as a manipulative, abject, self-serving husband. Eustace (married to the stepmother of the title) is a cad and a bounder, and Keen comically covers for his character’s morals with a delinquent’s prancing, a defensive quickstep – he is a middle-aged, not-so-artful dodger. He smokes his pipe luxuriously, laughs mirthlessly, and does shock as well as any actor I have seen. When he hears that he is not inheriting his aunt’s money and, later, when he understands his wife has been unfaithful to him, there is something comically clockwork about Eustace’s gait as he staggers away from blows.
Richard Eyre is at his masterly best as an orchestrator here, harmoniously overseeing moral chaos. Sowerby – best known for her 1912 play Rutherford and Son – shows that it is not enough to have a purse of one’s own; a woman must have control of the purse strings (Eustace yanks at these). The play reminds us that money is always about more than money – control, for instance. Eustace’s old aunt (Joanna David) has made her peace with financial incomprehension. For her, ignorance is, if not bliss, preferable to the truth of understanding Eustace’s profligacy.
Continue reading The Guardian Review of ‘The Stepmother’
After its premiere one Sunday evening in January 1924, The Observer glowingly suggested that Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother was too interesting not to be given a further life. Yet it languished unperformed for the best part of a century.
With Rutherford and Son (1912), the Gateshead-born Sowerby (only revealed as a woman after her debut was already acclaimed) became the darling of the Edwardian theatre. Yet within a decade her star had waned and she was so irked that in 1970, the year of her death, she destroyed all her private letters and photographs, insisting that no one would ever be interested in them.
Bearing shades of Ibsen, Strindberg and Shaw but with a personality of its own, The Stepmother was effectively rediscovered in the UK in 2013 at the Orange Tree in Richmond. And now Richard Eyre might just have delivered the boost needed to give Sowerby’s penultimate work a place in the 20th-century canon. I say “just”…
Although the piece is confirmed, in his accomplished revival, as an immensely engaging and faintly shocking indictment of the lot of women before the coming of emancipation, it does so by means of a male protagonist so dastardly in his deviousness he might have escaped from a Victorian melodrama.
Continue reading The Telegraph Review of ‘The Stepmother’
It seems astonishing that The Stepmother has languished unperformed and quite forgotten for nearly a century. Githa Sowerby’s play, although written at a time when women had little financial independence, still has some uncomfortable resonances today. And her depiction of how seemingly stable and respectable businesses can be built on an edifice of debt and deceit has some stark parallels with the collapse of Enron and the Robert Maxwell empire.
But it’s the “massive injustice” done to women that fired up director Richard Eyre. That, and the possibility of reviving another forgotten masterpiece, as he already had done with the same author’s Rutherford and Son. The story of how Lois is exploited and betrayed by her husband sometimes makes uncomfortable viewing but Eyre’s assured production ensures that it’s always compelling.
Key to this is Will Keen’s performance as the manipulative and scheming Eustace, Lois’ husband. It’s an astonishingly unsympathetic role: a pathetic, venal bully and it would be easy to make him a stereotypical pantomime villain. But Keen’s performance, all smirks, giggles and smiles gives us a man whose stock-in-trade is emotional blackmail, whose whining voice hides his own inadequacies and who presents himself as victim, even when all his deceit is laid bare.
It’s an astonishing performance and while it’s the centrepiece of the production, Ophelia Lovibond’s Lois, the eponymous stepmother, is a powerful counterpoint. She visibly grows from a shy teenager to a successful business woman and family head.
There are strong performances too from Eve Ponsonby as Monica, the step daughter growing up all too quickly, Simon Chandler as the upright solicitor who sees through Eustace’s misdeeds and Joanna David as a befuddled matriarch.
If there’s a downside it’s that Sowerby is infuriatingly vague on some of the financial details. How does Eustace lose so much money? Would a woman of Lois’ undoubted business sense and financial acumen be quite so uninterested in the state of her own finances? What comes out strongly is the burning anger as to how women are held back when it comes to economic power, an anger that still carries on until this day.
Ophelia Lovibond’s powerful portrayal of Lois Relph would have surely met with the approval of Githa Sowerby, who wrote The Stepmother, showing at the Chichester Festival Theatre until September 9.
Lovibond’s exquisite performance exudes the requisite strength to tackle head-on challenges facing women from a century ago, such as equal pay; yet, sadly, they remain pertinent today.
Opposite her, Will Keen, as her bit-of-a-scoundrel husband, was brilliantly animated and this enraged flamboyance, along with some superbly delivered lines, was a highlight.
Sowerby’s work has up until recently been consigned to history and those who sat before Richard Eyre’s production at the Minerva must be puzzled as to why this has been the case.
Her best-known play, Rutherford and Son, is acknowledged as one of the 100 most influential plays of the 20th century. Here, in her lesser known yet not unworthy work, we are taken to 1924 and a comfortable abode in Surrey.
Orphaned Lois weds the older Eustace Gaydon (Keen) in the mistaken belief that he has her concerns at heart. Of course, he doesn’t. Far from it, in fact. He wants her money; an inheritance from his sister who had clearly seen through his devious ways.
But he gets his hands on the loot ably assisted by the convenience of marriage and a younger, naive bride — before his wife goes on to build up a thriving dress designing business.
The money is forgotten about as far as the now independent Lois is concerned until one of her devoted step-daughters needs some financial assistance and she seeks a slice of the fortune; and it is here where the true motives of the manipulative and conniving Eustace come to light.
Source: Chichester News