The latest slate from the UK government-funded Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF) has been unveiled today, revealing two brand-new and distinctive commissions, three recommissions and nine new development awards from across the UK.
Factual series Breaking Bristol (w/t) for E4 and Cùm Sùil Orm, a Scottish Gaelic film shining a light on refugees for BBC ALBA make up the brand-new commissions. Meanwhile, the slate boasts three recommissions: for CITV’s revamped HOW series, which launched earlier in 2021, interactive game show Don’t Unleash the Beast also for CITV, which proved hugely popular to young viewers at home, and the critically-lauded Teen First Dates for E4. To date, seven YACF-supported programmes (17%) have been recommissioned on the strength of their performance, with the strong prospect of further recommissions as other fund-backed shows, delayed by COVID-19, start to air.
The slate is released as Jack Rooke’s previously announced YACF-financed dramedy Big Boys (Channel 4), starring Dylan Llewellyn (Derry Girls) and Jon Pointing (Plebs), starts production, eccentric cult comedy Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (Channel 4) wraps filming and CITV’s sustainable craft show MakeAway Takeaway makes it to air.
This latest slate is testament to the vital role the YACF is playing in the UK TV landscape as it approaches the final quarter of its three-year pilot. Financed by the UK government with a clear remit to nurture and support the creation of distinct, high-quality content for children and young audiences to be broadcast on free-to-access platforms, the fund has promoted innovation, new voices, diversity and plurality whilst creating skilled work opportunities, training and professional development for UK talent within the children’s media industry.
In the first two years of operation, the YACF support has delivered 150 hours of new, UK-originated content that would not otherwise have been financed by the market. During this period, £30m has been awarded to 156 projects (42 production projects and 114 development projects). Underlining the fulfilment of its remit, to date 83% of YACF-supported production projects and 75% of development projects involve at least one type of innovation in their content (e.g. new format; novel story, setting or characters). Meanwhile, 62% of production projects and 70% of development projects involved the representation of identifiable communities in the UK, including urban, rural and coastal communities across all four home nations as well as under-represented and disadvantaged groups.
Projects backed by the fund are also being created by production companies spanning the whole of the UK, supporting representation across the country. More than half of the companies involved in production (56%) and development (51%) projects were based outside London and the South East.
To further qualify the quality of the projects backed by the fund, six programmes that were granted production funding in years 1 and 2 have been nominated for a total of eleven major industry awards so far including Rose d’Or Awards 2020, Children and Youth RTS Awards 2021 and Broadcast Awards 2021. Two of these titles won in their respective categories; Sol, in the Stanford St Martin 2021 Awards, Children’s Broadcasting, and HOW, in the RTS Southern Awards 2021, Factual Entertainment.
Additionally, the YACF’s See Yourself on Screen Challenge – a UK-wide competition for 4-18 year old TV stars of the future, launched for a second year by TV presenter Konnie Huq in June — will see original TV shorts created by young viewers at home premiere across five national channels this October.
The Young Audiences Contend Fund has awarded production funding to the following projects within this slate, listed by broadcaster:
10x30’ ‘HOW’ recommissioned for a second series, produced by Terrific TV
HOW Series 2 will build on the success of the first re-booted series, highlighting more amazing facts, science and historical stories in a fun, fast paced, hands on format. The presenters from Series 1 have confirmed their participation in the new series and Fred Dinenage is on board again too. For Series 2 the producers will continue to explore additional larger scale HOW demonstrations with more traditional HOWs demonstrated in the HOW Hub. Each episode will also feature a range of viewer contributions, which were a central component of Series 1 — offering the audience the opportunity to see themselves on screen and participate in their own HOW DO YOU..? segment.
13x23’ immersive game show Don’t Unleash the Beast recommissioned for a second series, produced by CPL Productions and Tiny House Productions
CITV’s immersive game show, Don’t Unleash the Beast is back for a second series and this time Halian is more challenging than ever! With the Beast hot on their heels, the brave Treasure Seekers must navigate their way through this ancient cave system, using strength, brains and teamwork to release the Sacred Stones, enter the Cave of Treasures and find those precious Artefacts!
The tasks are devilishly tricky, they must begin by passing the Pit of Doom, a mega-sized ball pit with tricky obstacles. A successful crossing stands them in good stead; if only the ropes were sturdier, bridges less rotten and webs less tangly! Then there’s the Halian Escape Room where clues are everywhere but only the cleverest are able to decipher them and crack the code. And finally the skill game, knocking skulls off perches and destroying a Halian version of the Terracotta Army. The Treasure Seekers feel the presence of the Beast throughout, it’s watching, waiting and ready to attack. Will they hold their nerve, think fast and get out…without becoming the Beast’s dinner?
The tension mounts as they enter The Cave of Treasures, search hard in slime and beast snot for the artefacts and try their luck at that Rancid Ramp, desperate to escape the Beast and return safely to the Professor’s camp. Don’t Unleash the Beast 2 is high drama! More immersive, more tense and even more exciting!
Brand new 6x60’ factual series Breaking Bristol (w/t), produced by Proper Content
E4 is stepping into the world of Bristol-based dance crew and reigning world hip-hop champions, the Dark Angels in ‘Breaking Bristol ‘(W/T), as they fight to achieve what no others have ever done — defend their UK title and win back-to-back gold medals at the National Dance Championships.
In this new 6x60’ factual series for E4 produced by Proper Content, we dive head-first into the intimate personal stories of the 30 strong dance troupe, who juggle full time jobs or education with their passion for dance. Bound by strong friendships and the familiarity of growing up in the tight knit community of Knowle West, we’ll follow their ambitious journey through the season and onwards to Bournemouth and the UK Championships, as they dance for their lives to defend their title and solidify their impact in their small South Bristol town, where everyone knows everyone.
The personal journeys and stories of the participants, combined with the goal to defend their World Championship title, offers a wealth of opportunity to connect with these characters and invest in the success of the dance team. The production style will also provide audience appeal, highlighting the dance routines and rigorous training, thus shining a light on hip-hop and dance in an original and entertaining programme.
Recommission of 20x60’ Teenage dating series Teen First Dates produced by Twenty Twenty
Turning a popular dating format for general audiences into one aimed at teenagers, Teen First Dates, has been recommissioned after achieving huge ratings success and critical acclaim for its first series. The six-part programme will again delve into the sometimes-choppy waters of dating and love as we follow a group of singletons aged between 16 and 19 who are navigating the world of dating, some for the very first time. Each episode will feature a number of brand new teen first dates, from initial impressions, through all of the awkward, heart-warming and funny moments, to the all-important question — is a second date on the cards for our hopeful teens?
Cùm Sùil Orm film for BBC ALBA produced by Corran Media
Brand new film ‘Cùm Sùil Orm’ has been commissioned by BBC ALBA to shine a light on a refugee’s story, exploring the themes of empathy, community and acceptance, and stars Abdullah and Ousama Al Nakeeb, who fled the war in Syria to make their own home in the Western Isles.
When tools and materials go missing in a little Scottish island village, suspicion falls on Abdullah, a recently arrived Syrian refugee boy. His classmates in school are quickly divided between those who believe him and those who don’t; winning round the latter looks difficult, until Abdullah gets a shot at redemption.
The YACF has awarded development funding to the following projects within this slate. The development funding provided by the YACF continues to support production and broadcaster communities in achieving gold standard new innovative content for young audiences.
Naked – Hillbilly Television
Naked tackles today’s current obsession with body image head on, following Simone’s journey of self-discovery through her transformative experiences life modelling for students at art school.
Attention Ayshia – Three Stones Media
Attention Ayshia is an animated series about a trio of young toy fixers. Ayshia, Jada and George usually find it is the human circumstances behind a toy emergency that need fixing, and this will form the core story of every episode. The series focuses on emotional intelligence with the protagonists using their skills in diplomacy, listening and compromise to solve the problems of the toys and their owners. Toy owners will not always be children, parents and grandparents will also provide encounters with a variety of moral issues relevant to Ayshia and her friends. The series will touch upon themes of self-esteem and body positivity, consent, as well as loss and rejection. Creator Rasheka Christie-Carter hopes to challenge the idea of disposable toys by using these objects as a means to explore moral lessons as well as the potential for longevity and recyclability for much loved items.
Deepfake – RubyRock Pictures
Deepfake is a coming-of-age teen thriller that considers the power of reputation, the divide between Gen X and their parents and the secret lives that play out in our new, digital lives. In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, 15-year-old Amy is targeted by an anonymous online profile who releases increasingly shocking, perverted and extreme deepfake videos that undermine her reputation and threaten to destroy the good opinion of everyone around her. As Amy and her shrinking circle of friends try to get to the bottom of who is creating the vile content, they uncover a series of appalling secrets that destabilise everything they thought they knew about their families, friends and teachers.
Libby’s Silent World – Slick Films
Libby’s Silent World is an animated series from the team behind Oscar-winning short film, The Silent Child. Inspired by the story of the short, the series will see a young deaf child Libby and her day-to-day adventures and challenges at an old-fashioned school at risk of closure. The series will be representative of D/deaf audiences and their world, with 78% of deaf children in the UK attending mainstream school with no specialist support in place. The producers wish to incorporate comedy to allow them to cover some more difficult subjects, highlighting the hidden challenges D/deaf people face as well as educating hearing audiences. The project has backing and guidance from Deafkidz International. The characters will be animated in 3D using motion capture, as the most cost effective way to accurately portray sign language, which has not yet been done before for television.
I’m Not Gonna Lie to You by Natalie Mitchell – Bryncoed Productions
Inspired by the dramatic increase of suicide rates in young women and girls, ‘I’m Not Gonna Lie to You’ is the story of one of these young women, Rose, aged 13. The producers aim to produce a series that helps audiences understand mental health struggles in a truly empathetic way, showing the inside track for a young teen audience. The series will take the audience into the life and mind of Rose, represented through rotoscope animation, as her world unravels and anxiety and depression leads to suicidal thoughts. Although tackling a heavy subject, where Rose comes to view daily life as a constant threat of failure and trauma, ultimately the series is about the life of 13 year-olds, and will demonstrate all the fun and humour that comes with that.
Bunty – Beano Studios
‘Bunty’ is the name given to a new AI robot created by American tech company, IO, who have recently set up in a small Northern Irish town. Disguised as a teenage girl, but designed by a bunch of older tech-dudes, Bunty struggles to fit in at the local school where she is sent to test her ability to pass as human. Luckily she is taken under the wing by the group of misfits, who very much adopt her as one of their own even when the community unearths IO’s real intentions. From Northern Irish writer Emma Moran, the series reflects the under-represented area and explores themes around surveillance capitalism, globalisation, and specific issues facing young women in Northern Ireland today: the oppression of old ways from their own community and new arising problems with social media, the internet and AI robots.
Staff of Oranyan – Ardimages UK
Staff of Oranyan is a fantasy adventure, teen coming of age series created and written by Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini and Samuel Babajide Ibini, set between Hackney’s British Nigerian community and the Yoruba afterworld.
When childhood friends Remi and Jude lose their best friend Idris to a tragic event, their grief propels them on an adventure they never saw coming. With help from Remi’s grandma, they sneak into the afterlife to save Idris’ spirit from a vengeful Nigerian deity who sets out to reconnect and re-establish a lost community of followers.
Inspired by their experiences of growing up in East London, the creators want to make a show that showcases their Hackney roots and Yoruba ancestry in a compelling and thoughtful way. The story will examine the lack of support for young Black people experiencing grief, particularly under the lens of a racist media through the reporting of their friend’s death. Ultimately, this is a show that will uniquely explore the themes of grief, friendship and Yoruba culture.
The Bridge – Rainbow Trout Films
This project is inspired by a real bridge that connects two towns local to the producers, known by residents as the place where a high number of individuals lose their life to depression. The series will follow a group of teenage friends from a small Northern village who have recently finished school. As his friends prepare for their exciting new lives ahead of them, we see Harry’s increasing struggle with his mental health. The producers wish to challenge assumptions around those who suffer with poor mental health and will attempt to provide a unique and innovative insight into how these conditions feel through visual effects. The story has been informed by research and collaboration with a local mental health charity.
The Boy in the Tower – Last Conker Ltd
The Boy in the Tower is a live action sci-fi television drama, adapted from the award winning book by Polly Ho Yen and produced by Last Conker, a BFI Vision awarded production company, helmed by producer, Chi Thai.
It tells the story of Ade, a 10-year old boy who is trapped in the last standing tower in a city that is being taken apart brick by brick, by unexplained plant forms that literally digest buildings, turning steel, glass and concrete into rubble and ruin. Furthermore, the spores released by the plants prove deadly to humans. Due to his mum’s agoraphobia, Ade and his mother find themselves the last occupants of this building that was once their home but now their prison. The Boy in the Tower aims to be a parable of our times, an indictment against economic injustice and social inequities, whilst nurturing ideas of unity, love and kindness.