About three years ago, before Joe was even published, I got a phonecall from a TV producer who had got hold of the manuscript, read it in one sitting, and was determined to persuade CBBC to make it into a drama series. Things move slow in telly – like wading through treacle – when they happen at all. But happen it has, finally. Zodiak is filming in Belfast this summer with the brilliant cast, directed by BAFTA-winning Beryl Richards, with scripts from BAFTA-winning Guy Burt, with the series to be aired next year.
Zodiak Kids Studios announces today a brand new commission for CBBC Joe All Alone. The series will consist of 4 x 30 minute episodes filming this summer in Northern Ireland for delivery later this year. Zodiak Kids Studios UK Creative Director Steven Andrew (Secret Life of Boys/CBBC, The Lodge/ Disney) will executive produce.
The series will be adapted for television by Guy Burt (Harriet’s Army) from Joanna Nadin’s book Joe All Alone, directed by Beryl Richards (Secret Life of Boys) and produced by Nadine Marsh-Edwards (Been so Long). The story is a powerful and moving story of a boy who manages – despite the odds – to find optimism, adventure and friendship in deprived circumstances. The series will rely on Joe’s strong first-person narrative voice, shot through with flights of fantasy, moments of escapism, and wry commentary on his life. Joe shows us that no matter how tough life gets there is always room for hope.
Joe Holt is thirteen. When his mum and her unsavoury boyfriend Dean suddenly announce they’re going on holiday, Joe’s thrilled at the prospect of a break from trouble at school and tension at home… until it becomes clear that while his mum and Dean are heading off for Spain, Joe’s being left behind in their Peckham flat. His mum calls it “a holiday at home”. Dean calls it “a secret”, and says Joe needs to keep out of sight for a week or face some nasty consequences.
Left ‘all alone’ with £10 for the electric meter and a fridge half-full of leftovers, Joe plays X-box, stays up all night (and regrets it), makes a surprise friend in a girl called Asha who also seems to be parentless for the week, counts off the days… and discovers a sealed bag lodged in the lavatory cistern. Inside the bag is £20,000 in used cash. However, that’s only the start of Joe’s troubles. When the week’s over, his mum and Dean don’t show up and Joe knows life’s about to get a whole lot more difficult…
The novel Joe All Alone was nominated in 2016 for a CILIP Carnegie Medal, the oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards.
Steven Andrew, Executive Producer, said: “I am delighted that CBBC have decided to commission this compelling and important story, Joe All Alone. Joe is an engaging and resilient 13 year old boy whom, despite his circumstances never stops believing that life can be better. His story is powerful and moving, but, sadly not unique. This commission allows us to shine a light on those children who really deserve better.”
Cheryl Taylor, Commissioning editor CBBC, said: “Our ongoing aim at CBBC is to reflect the diverse lives of our audience. We want to open windows on a wider world with content that is brave, innovative, challenging and above all gets everybody talking. I’m delighted that Steven, Nadine, Guy, Beryl and the team are bringing Joanna Nadin’s wonderful book to the channel – we have all been fully engaged by Joe’s story and feel sure that our audience will be too.”
Zodiak Kids owns worldwide distribution rights to Joe All Alone.