BBC-Two-mediumToby Jones is to star a one-off film for BBC Two about Neil Baldwin; a man once labelled with learning difficulties whose life has defied expectations.

Award-winning writer Peter Bowker learnt of Baldwin in a 2010 article in The Guardian and immediately felt he had to meet him.

“Neil Baldwin walked into the students’ union in 1960, an engaging schoolboy with learning difficulties from the local town of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and became a fixture.”

Marvellous tells the beautiful funny story of Baldwin, who has worked as a circus clown, lay preacher, and kit man at Stoke City. He is good friends with leading sportsmen and senior clergy and was awarded an Honorary Degree by Keele University for the contributions he had made to campus life there over the last 50 years.

I have long been interested in how we use labels to limit the people we are describing – even, at worse, to dehumanise them. But Neil – despite being labelled and to some extent written off as a young man – struck me as a man who defied those who wished to define him.

It struck me if there was going to be a drama about Neil then it had to reflect his fluid and eccentric story. It is, therefore, part biopic, part musical, part fantasy. It isn’t always an easy story.

It isn’t sugar coated, but I think it is ultimately optimistic and celebratory. And I think that’s important in this era where vilifying and writing off others has become something of a national pastime. – Bowker

Marvellous was commissioned by Janice Hadlow, then Controller BBC Two and Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning.

Julian Farino (Entourage) will direct the 90 minute film which is expected to air later this year.

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