Entertainment

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS review: How relentless anger soured a heroic disability campaign


Then Barbara met Alan

Rating:

Killed by a rich kid

Rating:

Anger is the most selfish emotion. It takes friendships and love, and burns them as fuel.

No matter how much anger you get, it always leaves far more ugliness than inspiration.

A story from the 1990s campaign for disability rights, Then Barbara Met Alan (BBC2) was an hour and a bit of unrelenting anger.

The effect was like punk rock. A quick explosion is great fun, uplifting and energizing. A whole album just gives you a headache.

Writers Jack Thorne and Genevieve Barr set out to tell an untold piece of history – how a fiery young couple attacked the condescending convention that people with disabilities should be grateful for any charity they could get.

Instead, they demanded equal rights.

Then Barbara Met Alan is a 2022 British television drama film about Barbara Lisicki and Alan Holdsworth, the founders of DAN, a disability activism group.

“I want what you have!” was one of Alan and Barbara’s protest songs, aimed at anyone without a wheelchair who took for granted how easy it was to get around.

Barbara Lisicki was a comedienne who did a double act with a fiberglass boy called Chip, one of those collectible box figures with sad eyes and a crutch that stood outside store doors.

She met Alan Holdsworth, a singer and trumpeter, at a concert.

They fell in love, had a child and decided to vent their frustration at ITV’s annual Telethon – a showbiz fundraiser that, in hindsight, was rather too smug about its good intentions.

“Pity wrapped in a pretty pink bow,” Barbara called it, in one of her most printable bashings.

This unique drama alternated between reconstruction and archive footage. He enjoyed capturing the unease of Telethon presenters Michael Aspel and Chris Tarrant, as if it were some sort of victory in itself.

This kind of bitter jubilation is the epitome of ugliness triumphing over inspiration.

The film is written by Jack Thorne and Genevieve Barr and stars Ruth Madeley and Arthur Hughes.  It aired on BBC Two on March 21, 2022

The film is written by Jack Thorne and Genevieve Barr and stars Ruth Madeley and Arthur Hughes. It aired on TSWT Two on March 21, 2022

In this dramatized tale, Ruth Madeley played Barbara, with Arthur Hughes as the charismatic but self-pitying Alan. Sitting in a graffiti-covered bus shelter, Barbara told us about the campaign and the love story.

In her story, she was the strong, uncompromising woman who ultimately couldn’t cope with her boyfriend’s immaturity.

I can’t help but wonder how different the story could be, told through Alan’s eyes.

The real Barbara joined the actress who portrayed her, along with the rest of the cast, on a bus at the end. The actors wanted to pat each other on the back – the activist didn’t have that.

Within 30 seconds, she was scolding Ruth for a perceived platitude. “People with disabilities have the right to inhabit every corner of society,” she said.

There’s no arguing with that, even if he’s a brave person who would argue with Barbara about anything. I would argue the title, Then Barbara Met Alan, though. It’s lazy and meaningless.

The title of Killed By A Rich Kid (C4) was also bizarre, implying that it was somehow worse than being killed by a teenager on the benefits.

Filmmaker Tom Reeves went to great lengths to interview everyone connected to the murder of Manchester schoolboy Yousef Makki, 17, who was stabbed to death by a youngster he considered a friend.

Paramedics, reporters, family and school pals tackled the tragic events from every angle, with CCTV and police body camera footage adding layers of detail.

But the account was inconclusive as neither the young man cleared of murder and manslaughter charges nor another acquitted of perverting the course of justice was willing to speak on camera.

The 2019 murder made national headlines, but not the sad aftermath. In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Yousef’s mother, Debbie, died.

Doctors called it organ failure. His family said it was a broken heart.

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