UK filmmaker Shane Meadows is to make his first-ever BBC television drama with The Gallows Pole, produced with UK-Irish producers Element Pictures.
The series, based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Benjamin Myers, fictionalises the true story of 18th-century ironworker David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners.
Scheduled to shoot later this year, The Gallows Pole will be produced by Element Pictures, and executive produced by the BBC’s director of drama Piers Wenger and head of development and drama commissioning Tom Lazenby.
Set against the backdrop of the coming industrial revolution in 18th-century Yorkshire, the drama follows Hartley as he assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers for a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history.
Shaheen Baig Casting is leading the casting; it put out a call for first-time non-professional actors in March for the project, looking for men and women to play between 25-45 years old. It has also been considering professional actors.
“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,” said Meadows. “I’ve never made a period drama before so I’m absolutely buzzing, and to be doing it with Piers at the BBC, his incredible team, and Element Pictures is nothing short of an honour.”
Myers’ novel on which the series is based won the 2018 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, which is one of the largest literary prizes in the UK. It has previously been won by novels which have subsequently been adapted for the screen, including Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Andrea Levy’s The Long Song and Robert Harris’ An Officer And A Spy.
Meadows made his name with low-budget features in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Twenty Four Seven and A Room For Romeo Brass, made with BBC Films; and then Once Upon A Time In The Midlands, Dead Man’s Shoes and This Is England, made with Film4.
He expanded the latter feature into three mini-series – This Is England ’86, ’88 and ’90 – and most recently made three-episode series The Virtues, starring Stephen Graham, all for Channel 4. Meadows’ last feature was 2013 documentary The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone.