Week 46/21 – week ending 12 November

Lost scripts find a home at BBC Audio

BBC Audio announced, in partnership with Dancing Ledge Productions, the release of Unmade Movies – ‘a series of unproduced screenplays from globally celebrated writers’ – as digital downloads from next February.

According to the publication announcement: ‘These lost treasures of movie history with their spectacular scripts from world-renowned writers could have been classics, had they only been made. These forgotten gems have been brought to life and fully realised as vivid, cinematic radio productions available to download from 10th February 2022.

Unmade Movies features world premieres of unmade movie screenplays by major 20th Century writers, including Harold Pinter, Arthur Miller, Alfred Hitchcock and Dennis Potter.

‘They star a host of A-list actors including Hugh Laurie, Michael Sheen, David Suchet, Tim Pigott-Smith, Meera Syal and Rebecca Front; and are directed by Richard Eyre, Jamie Lloyd, Mark Gatiss, Joanna Hogg and Adrian Noble. All feature richly evocative, atmospheric soundtracks.’

Laurence Bowen, ceo at Dancing Ledge Productions, said: “It’s taken several years to find and secure the rights for these but what a wonderful journey it’s been, bringing to life for the first-time lost treasures from the greatest writers of the 20th century. There are many reasons why screenplays don’t happen – politics, funding, creative differences – and they disappear into cupboards, draws or computer files, never seeing the light of day, but these are absolute gems and can now enter the official canons of their writers.”

The publication announcement continues: ‘Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman’s The Blind Man, written shortly after the duo worked on North By Northwest, is set in 1961 and tells the story of a famous blind jazz pianist who agrees to an eye transplant. The operation is a success, but the eyes are those of a murdered man and on them is transposed the image of his murderer. The script was discovered by Unmade Movies producer, Laurence Bowen, in a research institute in Texas – along with extensive notes and letters exchanged between the two on the ending.

‘Completed, and directed, by Mark Gatiss, the BBC Radio 4 world premiere was initially approved by Hitchcock’s three granddaughters with Hitchcock consultant Laurent Bouzereau, and it stars the inimitable Hugh Laurie.

‘Arthur Miller’s The Hook sees Adrian Noble take on his first directorship in radio drama and David Suchet, Tim Pigott-Smith and Elliot Cowan all-star. The unproduced screenplay tells the story of a 1950s Brooklyn longshoreman who is fired for standing up to his corrupt union boss but decides to fight back.

‘Miller developed the script with Elia Kazan and it was on a trip to LA, to pitch it to Harry Cohn at Columbia Studios, that he met Marilyn Monroe for the first time. Cohn asked Miller to change the script and turn the corrupt union bosses into communists, but Miller refused and the screenplay was shelved. He and Kazan then fell out and went on to create A View From The Bridge and On The Waterfront, respectively – two pieces which both closely mirror The Hook.

‘Also available to download are Harold Pinter’s Victory and The Dreaming Child, Alexander Mackendrick’s Mary Queen of Scots, Hammer Horror’s The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula and Dennis Potter’s The White Hotel.

‘The Unmade Movies productions are available to buy from Audible, Apple and all audiobook retailers from 10th February 2022 and originally began airing on Radio 4 in 2015.’

To mark the release, the Unmade Movies have new audiobook jackets designed by Stuart Manning (The Blind Man & The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula) and Paul Hocking (Victory, The Dreaming Child, The Hook, The White Hotel, Mary Queen of Scots).

Penguin gears up for Peter Rabbit’s 120th birthday

Penguin Random House Children’s UK has announced plans to mark the 120th birthday of Peter Rabbit.

According to the publisher: ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was first published in 1902 and since then the iconic rabbit in a blue jacket has gone on to win the hearts of millions of families around the world.  The original Tale has sold over 46 million copies globally and has been published in 48 languages including Braille and Hieroglyphics.

‘The mischievous Peter Rabbit has captivated generations of children with his antics in Mr. McGregor’s garden and so Penguin Random House Children’s will be celebrating Peter’s 120th birthday with a suitably adventurous, fun-filled campaign, creating a wealth of opportunities for families to party with Peter throughout 2022.

‘To mark this special year, Frederick Warne & Co, Beatrix Potter’s original publisher and an imprint of Penguin Random House Children’s, are delighted to be celebrating with a range of commemorative publishing throughout 2022.

‘This includes a beautiful picture book edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, featuring Beatrix Potter’s original text and iconic illustrations. Never before published in this format, this new edition will be perfect for families to share together, helping new readers discover Peter at his most adventurous, cheekiest and lovable, as he wriggles into Mr. McGregor’s garden – and into reader’s hearts.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit will be released in picture book format in March 2022 and will be supported with a creative Marketing and Publicity campaign – including a Welcome to the World initiative that will gift 120 copies of this iconic tale to new families across the country.

‘The Owned Brands team at Penguin Random House Children’s will be paying tribute to the enduring legacy of Potter’s original Tale whilst engaging family audiences with Peter’s trademark mischievousness.  Alongside the publishing team, a purpose-driven PR and digital campaign will be launched, working with high profile partners and ambassadors in the outdoors space to reaffirm Peter’s continued relevance and appeal to young families.   

‘Peter Rabbit’s role as children’s ambassador for the Queen’s Green Canopy will see Peter supporting tree planting initiatives throughout the year whilst celebratory Picnics for Peter will take place during the summer supported by key partners and at locations throughout the UK.’

Izzy Richardson, owned brands director at Penguin Random House Children’s, said: “With an incredible legacy that has endured since 1902, we wanted to use this milestone for the brand to celebrate Peter Rabbit’s continued relevance and resonance with today’s families. Our ambitious, year-long series of birthday celebrations will enable us to connect parents, young children and fans with The World of Peter Rabbit, helping to continue Beatrix Potter’s legacy for a new generation.  

“Through new immersive experiences, digital and social content, consumer products and publishing, everyone is invited to celebrate with Peter in 2022.”

Other spinoffs via Penguin Ventures, the licensing team at Penguin Random House Children’s, will include new apparel collections, new gardening lines from Jardinopia, DNC launching picnicware and online retailer My First Years lined up for personalised infant product.

Penguin Ventures has also confirmed a programme of experiential activations in the UK offering families immersive events throughout the year.  A brand new Peter Rabbit Story Time Trail will launch in March and tour libraries and gallery spaces across the country, with venues booked up until July 2023 offering little ones the chance to step into The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Meanwhile the first Peter Rabbit themed entertainment parties will launch in 2022, in a new deal with children’s party entertainers, Captain Fantastic, combining party games, magic and plenty of Peter Rabbit’s trademark mischief.

In addition Happy Birthday Peter Rabbit, a brand new stage production will be launching at the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in the Lake District next summer. The show encompasses music, puppetry and live action ‘offering audiences an exciting and memorable theatrical experience.’

Susan Bolsover, global licensing and consumer products director, Penguin Ventures, said: “The birthday moment presents a fantastic opportunity for both our existing licensees as well as new partners in the UK and other key international territories.  

“We have been delighted with the way in which licensees, promotional partners and retailers are supporting this milestone moment helping create memories for existing and new Peter Rabbit fans alike be that through products, experiences or events and there is much more to look out for in 2022!”

Outside the UK, celebrations will include a major touring exhibition of Potter’s original Peter Rabbit artwork in Japan with exhibition partner Toei, marking the first time the collection will have left the UK. The exhibition will tour 3 major cities from March through to November and is expected to attract over 160,000 visitors and will be supported by a national media campaign.  

Additionally, a new permanent Peter Rabbit English Garden will open at Fuji Motosuko Resort in a deal brokered by Sony Creative Products with Fujikyuko Co. Ltd.  The attraction will include a café, shop and museum.  A new Japanese publishing partner, Hayakawa, has also been confirmed, ‘reflecting Penguin Random House Children’s strategy to bring the World of Peter Rabbit publishing to family audiences in this key territory for the brand.’

Hidden Books Game returns for Christmas

The Hidden Books Game, ‘the beloved annual brainteaser from National Book Tokens, which sees upwards of 50,000 entrants every Christmas season’, has returned today for its ninth year.

The puzzle challenges book lovers to identify twenty different book titles fiendishly hidden in an image, with the winner receiving a £500 National Book Tokens gift card. Ten runners up will also receive a £150 National Book Tokens gift card each.

Award-winning illustrator Harry Woodgate has returned to bring the Hidden Books Game to life again this year, with the striking image celebrating our high streets and the bookshops at their hearts. Woodgate was nominated for the V&A Illustration Award 2019 and has worked with Penguin Random House, The Sunday Times, The Big Issue and House of Illustration among others.

For the first time authors, including Adam Kay, Ian Rankin and Dara McAnulty, will support the Hidden Books Game on social media, offering hints in the form of riddles to help players unravel the titles hidden within the image. A quiz will also be available on National Book Tokens’ reward programme Caboodle.

Woodgate said: “As always it’s been a joy to work with the National Book Tokens on the Hidden Books Game. This year’s edition is packed full of some brilliant books and feels like such a lovely celebration of books, bookshops and booksellers everywhere. I hope the illustrations prove sufficiently fiendish whilst helping everyone get into the cosy, festive spirit!”

Stacey Croft, digital marketing and brand manager at National Book Tokens, said: “When people think of the Hidden Books Game from National Book Tokens, they think of Christmas – it’s one of our favourite projects to work on and is an integral part of our Christmas campaign. The game is a celebration of books and the joy that comes with choosing a book as well as the fun of reading it. Harry has done a wonderful job bringing to life our tricky clues, with a bookshop at the centre of the high street. We hope booklovers across the UK and Ireland have a fun (and frustrating!) time playing it.”

Previous Hidden Book Games have been played by over 450,000 people to date, and is a key part of the National Book Tokens Christmas marketing campaign, which emphasises the idea that National Book Tokens gift cards are ‘a gift beyond words’ for booklovers at Christmas.

Developed with creative agency Arthur London and media agency Wavemaker, this year’s campaign will be deployed across print, digital, social advertising and NBT’s Caboodle. The campaign will centre on a media partnership with The Guardian in the UK, and the Irish Independent in Ireland, launching early to drive instore and online sales for bookshops in anticipation of potential disruption for shoppers.

Also this year for the first time, Bookshop.org will announce the answers via a book list on their website, socials and newsletter in January 2022, alongside Caboodle.

Blackwell’s Books of the Year 2021 revealed

Booksellers from Blackwell’s bookshops across the UK nominated and voted on the best titles published in 2021. Nominations were divided into three categories: Fiction, Non Fiction, and Children’s. The three winning titles from each category will now be judged by a jury of Blackwell’s booksellers to name the overall Blackwell’s Book of the Year, with the winner announced at the beginning of December.  

Light Perpetual, by Francis Spufford (Faber), was awarded Blackwell’s Fiction Book of the Year. Spufford said: “I am completely delighted that Light Perpetual has been chosen as Blackwell’s Fiction Book of the Year – all the more so since Heffers, the branch of Blackwell’s in Cambridge, is the bookshop I grew up with, my own home ground of words that taught me to be first a reader, then a writer.”

Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex (Bloomsbury) has been awarded Blackwell’s Non Fiction Book of the Year. Blackwell’s bookseller Charlie Bush said: “This is a major contribution to some of the biggest debates of our time. And is one hundred percent a book that we as booksellers should be sharing with readers.” This is Bloomsbury’s second win Non Fiction Book of the Year in the last two years, having won this category last year with Humankind by Rutger Bregman.

Adam-2 by Alastair Chisholm (Nosy Crow) was the overwhelming winner for Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year, receiving the most votes in any category from Blackwell’s booksellers across the UK. Chisholm said: “This is brilliant news. There are so many great kids’ books out there right now, in so many different styles and genres, that to see mine picked is a real honour. A huge thank you to Blackwell’s for all their support, and to the awesome Nosy Crow gang.”

In 2020, Elle McNicoll’s A Kind of Spark (Knights Of) took the title of Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year and Blackwell’s (overall) Book of the Year.