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Urban Myths returns to Sky Arts this April, and it’ll be shining a light on yet more unlikely and unusual tall tales from the past – including everyone from Princess Margaret and Diana to Donald Trump.
Season 3 of Emmy-nominated comedy was announced last year, with Stephen Mangan confirmed to star as Charles Dickens in the story of how his ‘friend’ Hans Christian Andersen came to visit for a prolonged stay. Now, Sky has unveiled the remaining stories for the upcoming season , including the unlikely decades-long friendship between Princess Margaret and Mick Jagger, the bizarre night out shared between Freddie Mercury and Princess Diana, the day a burglar stumbled upon Grace Jones and artist Jean-Paul Goude’s New York apartment, Madonna’s short but passionate and influential relationship with Jean Michel Basquiat, the infamous trial of Joan Collins vs. Random House, how Paul McCartney was inspired to write Yesterday, and how Andy Warhol came to judge a cheerleading competition for Donald Trump.
Each of the eight episodes puts its own spin on extraordinary events, taken with more than a pinch of salt, and are performed by a selection of great actors, including Mat Baynton, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Hugh Dennis, Kelly MacDonald, Stephen Mangan, Jack McBrayer, Gloria Onitiri and David Walliams.
Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, says: “You might regard our Urban Myths series as a bit of ‘Fake History’ but as all history is totally made up anyway we should regard these eight perfectly formed comedies as films of historical record, sort of. This series is one of the jewels in the crown of Sky Arts and with totally true (ish) tales from everyone from McCartney and Madonna to Dickens and Trump – our loyal band of discerning viewers are in for a treat.”
The series will premiere on 10th April on Sky Arts, but will also be released as a box set to stream on-demand alongside the broadcast of its first episode. Here’s the rundown of the eight chapters:
Urban Myths: Princess Diana, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett
This story is a fictionalised account of an event that’s part of the folklore of the Vauxhall Tavern. It features a night that Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett put a disguise on their good friend, Princess Diana, and took her out for a night on the town, ending up at a club which results in a fictionalised encounter with Gareth, a drag artist with a painful secret.
Starring Mathew Baynton (Kenny Everett), David Avery (Freddie Mercury), Richard Gadd (Gareth) and Sophie Rundle (Princess Diana). Written by Pete Jackson and directed by Sean Foley. Produced by Zoe Rocha at The Fyzz Facility.
Urban Myths: Donald Trump and Andy Warhol
In 1984, property magnate and entrepreneur Donald Trump bought an American footballteam. In an attempt to stir up some publicity, he held cheerleader auditions in the basement of Trump Tower with a panel of celebrity judges, including Andy Warhol. Though initially reluctant to take part, Warhol had some unfinished business with the tycoon, who had previously commissioned some artwork which he never paid for. So Warhol decided to use the opportunity to confront the future US president about the debt.
Starring Jack McBrayer (Andy Warhol), Anthony Atamanuik (Donald Trump), Natasia Demetriou (Agnieszka), Rich Hall (Jimmy Gould), Pearl Mackie (Kay), Paul Putner (Howard) and Mike Wozniak (Leroy Nieman). Written by Ben Boyer. Produced by Charlie Laurie and directed by Molly Manners. Clelia Mountford and Sharon Horgan are the Executive Producers for Merman.
Urban Myths: Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Anderson
Bleak House Guest tells the story of when Danish author and Dickens superfan Hans Christian Andersen turned up unexpectedly on Charles and Catherine Dickens’ doorstep, quickly proving himself to be the most impossible (and unshakeable) house-guest imaginable.
Starring Stephen Mangan as Charles Dickens, Ian Hart as Hans Christian Andersen and Monica Dolan as Charles Dickens’ long-suffering wife, Catherine. The episode is directed by Robert Delamere and is a collaboration between SLAM Films and the NFTS. Louise Delamere and Catherine Gosling Fuller are the Executive Producers. Bleak House Guest is written by NFTS Screenwriting MA alumna Jess Jackson and produced by Producing MA alumni Laura Jackson, Rob Darnell and James Jose Walker. The crew includes a substantial number of NFTS students and graduates in key creative roles including producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, designer, composer and sound designer.
Urban Myths: Joan Collins
This story revolves around the trial where Joan Collins went head-to-head with Random House in the mid-nineties. The author and actor was paid a large advance for her novel, which the publishers claimed was unpublishable, leading to one of the most extraordinary – and glamorous – trials of the decade.
Starring Victoria Hamilton (Joan Collins), David Walliams (Monty, Joan’s boyfriend), Mark Heap (Ken Burrows), Haydn Gwynne (Joni Evans) and Leo Wringer (judge). Written by David Walliams & Dawson Bros. Produced by King Bert Productions
Urban Myths: Grace Jones
This is the story of a burglar who stumbled into Grace Jones and artist Jean-Paul Goude’s New York apartment, armed with a very small gun. When he inadvertently chose to break into Grace and Jean-Paul’s home (with a little interruption from Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol), he ended up with more than he bargained, having to deal with these two flamboyant, volatile lovers. Veering from desperate and dangerous to awe-struck and bemused, this was an afternoon which none of the three were expecting, least of all the burglar.
Starring Gloria Onitiri (Grace Jones), Joshua McGuire (Jean Paul Goude), David Ajala (The Burglar), Emily Atack (Debbie Harry) and David Mills (Andy Warhol). Written by Grace Ofori-Attah. Produced by Tom Thostrup and Michael Livingstone at 2LE Media.
Urban Myths: Madonna and Basquait
Before she was famous, Madonna had a short but passionate and influential relationship with Jean Michel Basquiat, a pioneer and darling of the 1980s New York art scene. Basquiat was riding high while Madonna was a coat check girl, but she already had the self-belief to know she had something special. This myth takes place across one night on the New York subway, just before she infamously door-stepped music producer Seymour Stein at his hospital bedside where he signed her on the spot. This is a poignant moment, before Basquiat’s untimely death and just before Madonna broke through to “take over the motherfucking world”.
Starring Sophie Kennedy Clark (Madonna), Calvin Demba (Basquiat), Paul Kaye (Tramp) and David Bamber (Drunk). Written by Sarah Solemani. Directed by Adam Wimpenny and Sarah Solemani. Produced by Adam Morane-Griffiths & Joe Hill at Wildcard Films.
Urban Myths: Paul McCartney
Telling the incredible tale of how Paul McCartney dreamt the melody of ‘Yesterday’. With a dollop of creative licence from writer Simon Nye, this is a heartfelt comedy drama showing how one of the greatest songs of the 20th century came to be. A deeply affectionate look at one of the greatest musicians, and his partnership with John Lennon, examining the cracks that may have changed their musical partnership forever.
Starring Tom Connor (Paul McCartney), James Coward (John Lennon), Joran Scowen (Ringo Starr), Simon Goron (George Harrison), Rosie Day (Jane Asher) and Hugh Dennis (Richard Asher). Written by Simon Nye, produced by Spelthorne Community Television and directed by Simon Delaney.
Urban Myths: Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret
Examining the decades-long friendship between Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret, we find out that Tony Blair submitted Jagger’s name for the Queen’s Honours’ List annually, from 1997 to 2002. However, every year the Queen turned him down. This comic tale travels from London to the Caribbean and dives head-first into the worlds of rock and royalty to ponder exactly why that was.
Starring Jamie Campbell Bower (Mick Jagger), Kelly MacDonald (Princess Margaret). Written by Neil Forsyth. Directed by Ben Palmer. Produced by Jane Bell at Happy Tramp.
Sky teams up with NFTS for Urban Myths Season 3
31st December 2018
Sky Arts has greenlit Urban Myths for a third season.
The anthology series, which takes an offbeat look at real people through imagined scenarios, has seen such notable outings as Gemma Arterton playing Marilyn Monroe, Noel Clarke as Muhammad Ali, Anna Maxwell Martin as Agatha Christie, David Suchet as Salvador Dali and Noel Fielding as Alice Cooper.
Now, some equally creative decisions are taking place behind the camera. The next episode of the series will see students from the National Film and Television School (NFTS) take over the creative reigns. The NFTS have been commissioned to make Season 3’s opening chapter as part of the school’s Bridges to Industry scheme.
The instalment, titles Bleak House Guest, will star Stephen Mangan as Charles Dickens. It will join the already announced Mick and Margaret, which charts Princess Margaret’s 30-year friendship with Mick Jagger.
Morwenna Gordon, commissioning editor for Sky says: “We’re incredibly proud of Bleak House Guest and thoroughly enjoyed the process of working with SLAM and the NFTS on this project. With Stephen Mangan, Ian Hart and Monica Dolan in front of the camera, and a talented crew of NFTS alumni, It will make a world class addition to our next series of Urban Myths.”
Jon Wardle, NFTS director, adds: “We are extremely grateful to Sky Arts for giving our graduates and students this opportunity to create an episode for such a high-profile series. Our Bridges to Industry scheme is such an important aspect of what we do at NFTS, and we couldn’t give our students and graduates this career enhancing experience without the continued support of our industry champions like Sky.”
Bleak House Guest is written by NFTS Screenwriting MA alumna Jess Jackson and produced by Producing MA alumni Laura Jackson, Rob Darnell and James Jose Walker. The crew includes a substantial number of NFTS students and graduates in key creative roles including producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, designer, composer and sound designer. The episode is directed by Robert Delamere and made in collaboration with Slam Films. It stars Stephen Mangan as Charles Dickens, Ian Hart as Hans Christian Andersen and Monica Dolan as Charles Dickens’ long-suffering wife, Catherine. It will air in spring 2019.
Remain protesters clashed with members of a march launched by Nigel Farage today aimed protesting against a perceived Brexit“betrayal”.
The March to Leave set off from Sunderland on Saturday morning, and will make its way down to London over a 14-day period, arriving in the capital on March 29, where a mass rally will take place on Parliament Square.
Leading a contingent of protesters, Nigel Farage said: “The will of the people is very clear.
“If you see what has been happening in Parliament this week, we may well not be leaving the EU.
“If politicians think they can walk all over us, then we’re going to march back and tell them they can’t. Simple as that.”
The event has been arranged by the Leave Means Leave campaign, and will proceed towards Hartlepool on Saturday, a trip of around 20 miles, before proceeding on to Middlesbrough on Sunday.
The campaign’s website says tickets to be “core marchers”, who pay £50 to get fully-paid accommodation, breakfast and dinner for the duration of the 14-day event, have sold out.
Angry rows broke out as the march started, with several counter-protesters assembling in order to get their views across. Anti-Brexit campaigners have dubbed Mr Farage’s march the “Gammonball run”.
They were carrying love hearts bearing messages like “we love workers’ rights” and “we love to have a say”, but some marchers responded by calling them “EU money grabbers”.
The counter-protesters were also told to respect the 2016 referendum result, with one man waving a fake blue passport in their direction.
As Mr Farage arrived, a flare was set off with the EU colours, with shouts of “exit Brexit” emanating form the counter-protesters.
It is understood that two two advertising vans, made by the anti-Brexit grassroots campaign Led By Donkeys, will also be following the march.
Barry Lockey, who arrived in Sunderland carrying a flag with the message “Get Britain out: Time to leave the EU”, said that the event is about supporting democracy.
He said: “The democracy in the Parliament building has been spot on. They’ve got their no-deal taken off the table by four votes.”
Mr Lockey pointed out that this margin was much smaller than the 4% margin of victory during the EU referendum, which he said is now being discredited.
He added: “I’m sorry, but that really riles me. And they’re not going to get away with it.
“They’re going to get kicked out, them people, and they’re an absolute damned disgrace.”
In contrast, one counter-protester told the Press Association “it’s going to be a disaster if we leave.”
Frank Hindle, 66, said: “We’re here to point out that not everybody agrees with this crowd, who think it’s going to be wonderful if we leave.”
Discussing the no-deal Brexit that many of the marchers are calling for, he said: “The impact that will have on businesses and on prices, and on the availability of things like medicines and so forth, it doesn’t bear thinking about.”
The terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday hit too close to home for me.
Every day I drop my child off at an Islamic school that invites its students on Fridays to attend the beautiful communal prayer services held in the mosque that adjoins it — the same Friday prayer services that worshippers have been attacked at by a white supremacist gunman in Quebec City, and now in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In the weeks and months after the Quebec City shooting, I would sit in my car for a few moments after dropping my daughter off at school, in a cloud of jumbled thoughts. What if a deranged shooter entered the school or mosque? Were the administrators prepared to respond to a terror attack? Why was I even choosing to send her to an Islamic school if I knew the risks that came along with it? But if I pulled her out, wouldn’t I be caving into the fear that white supremacists wanted me to feel?
The mosque adjoining the school has been the target of hateful vandalism once before. As upsetting as that incident was, I never felt the community was under threat. But if it happened in Quebec City, why couldn’t it happen in Toronto?
I have no doubt that people across New Zealand and Australia are wondering the same thing. Police in Christchurch called for all mosques in the city to shut down after 49 people were killed and at least 48 were seriously injured, including children, in the shootings at two mosques. Reports indicate that one gunman is an Australian who is believed to have written a manifesto outlining his intentions. In it, he espouses far-right and anti-immigrant ideology.
WATCH: World leaders react to Christchurch mosque attacks
As with coverage of all terror attacks, the narrative — the way a story is shaped and told by the politicians, police and the news media — is crucial to how the public understands it. Importantly, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the shootings as a terrorist attack. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the suspected attacker as an “extremist right-wing violent terrorist”.
Why does this matter? Because attacks committed by Muslims are often immediately reported as a terrorist attack, whereas attacks by non-Muslims are pretty much never perceived to be.
Take the example of a shooting at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017 that killed 58 people and left 869 injured. The gunman was a 64-year-old white man. According to the Las Vegas Sheriff, this was clearly a case of mass murder, and although he personally called it a terrorist attack, it didn’t meet the federal definition of one.
A day before that, a police officer in Edmonton was thrown into the air after being hit by a U-Haul truck driven by a Somali Muslim man. Abdulahi Hasan Sharif allegedly stabbed the officer with a knife before running off and hitting four other people with a second car. Police in Edmonton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian news outlets quickly referred to this story as a terrorist attack, largely because police found what appeared to be an ISIS flag inside the driver’s car. But more than a year later, the suspect has still not been charged with terrorism-related offences.
In other words, if it had been a Muslim gunman, motivated by religious or political ideology, that had attacked a church in New Zealand, the words “terrorist” and “terror attack” would have been used a lot more liberally.
WATCH: Ardern condemns ‘extreme’ ideology of shooting suspects
Muslims have good reason to be wary of the first words that come out of a politician’s mouth (or Twitter feed) after a terrorist attack. After the New Zealand tragedy, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer was the first Canadian party leader to respond. But his words felt far from empathetic.
“Freedom has come under attack in New Zealand as peaceful worshippers are targeted in a despicable act of evil,” he posted. “All people must be able to practice their faith freely and without fear.” Writer Andray Domise responded: “You haven’t even named the religion being practiced, or the type of house of worship wherein the people in Christchurch were attacked. Why is that?”
Paul Adams, a journalism professor at Carleton University, noted the aloofness of Scheer’s statement. “By framing this as an attack on freedom, Scheer tries to disassociate himself with the general disgust and condemnation of the incident but direct that feeling away from its obvious target – Islamophobia – to a value associate with his rhetorical line,” he said.
Freelance journalist Davide Mastracci also responded to Scheer by posting an image of him being interviewed by Rebel Media, an overtly racist Canadian far-right political and social commentary site. “Who you choose to spend time with says a lot more than this tweet, where you conveniently leave out that the attack happened at a mosque,” Mastracci wrote.
Words matter — including the ones that are not used.
It’s always worth remembering that horrific events motivated by hate often have a ripple effect, even if they are oceans away. It’s something I’ll be thinking about as I drop off my daughter again to school next week with a heavy heart. But I must also recall the words and acts of compassion our community received after the Quebec City mosque attacks — the protective ring of peace that people of all faiths and none formed around our mosque in freezing temperatures for example — and the subsequent one we formed around a local Toronto synagogue after the Pittsburgh attack.
Love can overcome hate. And if anyone can demonstrate that, it’s Canadians.
Shenaz Kermalli is a freelance journalist and journalism instructor at Ryerson University.