BRIAN SIBLEY

Brian David Sibley (born 14 July 1949) is the author of over 100 hours of radio drama and has written and presented hundreds of radio documentaries, features and weekly programmes. He is widely known as the author of many movie 'making of' books, including those for the Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Early life
        
Brian was born in Wandsworth, London, to Eric George Sibley, an architectural draughtsman, and Doris Alice Sibley (née Summers). His uncle was the philosopher Frank Sibley.

His family moved to Chislehurst, Kent when he was five years old where he was educated at St Nicholas Church of England Primary School and Chislehurst Secondary School for Boys (later renamed Edgebury School for Boys).

Following frustrated ambitions to be an actor, cartoonist and animator, Sibley worked first in various clerical capacities for the London Borough of Bromley and then for a shipping and finance company in the City of London as a clerk, office manager and head of department. In his spare time, he began submitting scripts to the BBC and, when his company was taken over, he accepted redundancy and became a full-time freelance writer.

Career – Radio Writing and Broadcasting

Sibley's first radio programme was Three Cheers for Pooh, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 14 October 1976 to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh. The programme was presented by actor Peter Bull, featured the voices of Norman Shelley and pianist and singer Antony Miall and was directed by John Tydeman, later Head of BBC Drama.

Other features quickly followed and, in 1981, he co-wrote (with Michael Bakewell) BBC Radio 4's 26-part adaptation of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings broadcast (and several times repeated) to much acclaim. The series featured Ian Holm, Michael Hordern, Robert Stephens, John Le Mesurier, Peter Woodthorpe and Bill Nighy.


Sibley has also adapted C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia and Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan and Gormenghast for Radio 4, for which he received a Sony Radio Award in 1985. The two 90-minute plays starred Sting as Steerpike with a cast that included Freddie Jones, Bernard Hepton, Sheila Hancock, Eleanor Bron, Judy Parfitt, Stratford Jones and Michael Aldridge. 

He returned to Peake's writings in 2011 with The History of Titus Groan, a cycle of six one-hour plays for BBC Radio 4's 'Classic Serial' based on Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone and Maeve Gilmore's Titus Awakes. Produced Jeremy Mortimer, the series began transmission on Sunday 10 July with a cast headed by David Warner, Luke Treadaway and Miranda Richardson and won the BBC Audio Drama Award 2012 for Best Adaptation.












Other major radio dramatisations by Sibley include: John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress; Tolkien's Tales from the Perilous Realm; Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World; Lucy M. Boston's The Children of Green Knowe, P. L. Travers' The Fox at the Manger, Laurens van der Post's The Night of the New Moon, J. B. Priestley's The Thirty-First of June, Jeffrey Archer's A Matter of Honour, Frank Baker's Miss Hargreaves, James Thurber's The Wonderful O, Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man (as well as two series of Bradbury's Tales of the Bizarre) and a six-part dramatisation of T H White's The Once and Future King starring David Warner as Merlyn.
 

2016 saw the broadcasting by the BBC of his two-part dramatisation of Richard Adams's Watership Down and the J. G. Ballard short story Track 12, starring Anton Lesser.

Original radio plays include the much-repeated Penelope Keith Christmas amusement ...And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree; C. S. Lewis: Northern Irishman with Geoffrey Palmer and It's Too Late Now with Alec McCowen.

As a broadcaster, he was a contributor to and then a regular presenter of the former BBC Radio 4 arts programme Kaleidoscope and the BBC World Service arts magazine, Meridian. He also presented the Radio 4 film programme, Talking Pictures, was a regular presenter of The Afternoon Shift and chaired the radio panel games Break A Leg and Screen Test.

He has also contributed to Radio 4's Last Word, Brief Lives, A Good Read, The Radio 2 Arts Show and Radio 3's Night Waves. He also presented several series of the BBC television programme, First Light.

Radio features and documentaries for Radio 4, Radio 2 and the World Service have included programmes devoted to Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, Robin Hood, Dracula, Peter Pan, Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice in Wonderland and the life and work of Ambrose Bierce, Robert Raikes, Harry Houdini, Terry Pratchett, George Orwell, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, P. L. Travers, Richmal Crompton, Fred Zinnemann, Frank Capra, Jim Henson, Paco Pena, James Galway, Marcel Marceau, Bob Hoskins and Julie Andrews.



Key series for BBC Radio 2, made in collaboration with producer Malcolm Prince, include Ain't No Mickey Mouse Business, Disney's Women, David Puttnam's Century of Cinema, Ain't No Mickey Mouse Music, No Place Like Home: A Judy Garland Story and Showman and Starmaker: A Tribute to Bill Cotton. In 2010, he compiled and wrote a series of eight documentaries on aspects of The Musical. Among his interviewees for these various series were, Michael Caine, Richard Attenborough, Angela Lansbury, Margaret O'Brien, Dirk Bogarde, Roy E. Disney, Robert Wise, Ken Annakin, Richard Curtis, Richard M. Sherman, Leslie Briccusse, Bryan Forbes, Sandy Wilson, Tim Rice, James Rado and Edward Albee.

Sibley's book, Shadowlands, was serialized on Radio 2, read by Ian Richardson in what was one of the actor's last pieces of broadcast work recorded before his death.

The Daily Telegraph radio critic, Gillian Reynolds gave him the accolade "magician of the airwaves".

In 1992, Sibley wrote much of the script for Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of Spartacus.

Career – Publications

Books include The Disney Studio Story , Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Making of the Classic Film and Mickey Mouse: His Life and Times (all with Richard Holliss); The Land of Narnia, illustrated by Pauline Baynes; The Treasury of Narnia (with Alison Sage); Shadowlands: The True Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman; The Book of Guinness Advertising; a biography of Wilbert Vere Awdry, entitled The Thomas the Tank Engine Man; A Christmas Carol: The Unsung Story; Cracking Animation: The Aardman book of 3-D Film-making, (with Peter Lord); Chicken Run: Hatching the Movie; Three Cheers for Pooh; and The Maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth with artist John Howe.

He is also the author of the children's book, The Frightful Food Feud, and has edited, among other books, The Pooh Sketchbook and The Pooh Book of Quotations and The Wisdom of C. S. Lewis.

The author of The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy and other books accompanying The Lord of the Rings, he subsequently published the official biography of the films' director, Peter Jackson: A Filmmaker's Journey.

More recent books include The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – The Official Movie Guide, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – The Official Movie Guide, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – The Official Movie Guide,The Making of The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, Harry Potter Film Wizardry, The Golden Compass: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion, Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen if You Let It (with Michael Lassell) and a retelling of 50 Favourite Bible Stories selected and read on CD by Cliff Richard and illustrated by Stephen Waterhouse.

In October 2016 he was one of four writers contributing new stories about Winnie-the-Pooh for a 90th birthday collection, The Best Bear in All the World.

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His story introduced a new character, Penguin, inspired by a vintage photograph of A. A. Milne and his young son, Christopher Robin, playing with the original teddy bear who became Winnie-the-Pooh and a plush toy penguin. The same month saw the publication of Taschen Books' The Walt Disney Film Archives. The Animated Movies 1921–1968 to which he contributed five critical essays on Disney films.

He recorded DVD audio commentaries for Around the World in 80 Days, Animal Farm and Fantasia.

He has also appeared on the bonus extras to a number of Disney Blu-rays and DVDs, among them Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh as well as being included in the documentaries associated with various DVD releases of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Other Interests

Sibley is President of The Lewis Carroll Society (2014-  ); Honorary Member of The Tolkien Society and The Children's Books History Society; Member of The Inner Magic Circle.

The NEWS...


LAST MINUTE EASTER PRESENT IDEAS!

A new Revised and Expanded edition of CRACKING ANIMATION, the classic book on the films of Aardmann and the history of stop-frame, model animation, written by Peter Lord and Brian Sibley and with a Foreword by Nick Park.


A Double-CD set of Brian's BBC dramatisation of E T A Hoffman's The NUTCRACKER and the MOUSE KING starring Toby Robinson, Edward de Souza and Eric Alllen with specially composed music by Dave Hewson.


Order HERE

The 2016 Official Tolkien Calendar featuring illustrations to The Hobbit by 'Moomins' creator, Tove Jansson. Introduction by Brian Sibley.

Order HERE

ALICE IN CARTOONLAND

Brian's exhibition, Alice in Cartoonland, featuring 150 years of cartoons and caricatures, inspired by Lewis Carroll's famous heroine and her companions from Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land was on show at The Cartoon Museum. from 14 July – 1st November 2015...


BACK ON TRACK!

A revised and updated edition of The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, Brian's 1985 biography of the Reverend W Awdry is now available from Lion Hudson with a new introduction and epilogue and a Foreword by Gyles Brandreth


ORDER your copy here


RECENT RADIO: 
THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING


Brian's most recent radio dramatisation was an adaptation of T H White's fantasy classic, The Once and Future King...

The series of six one-hour plays were based on White's idiosyncratic retelling of the Arthurian legends that was also the inspiration for the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical, Camelot, and the Walt Disney animated film, The Sword in the Stone.

The dramatisation followed Arthur's story from his boyhood as an adopted orphan to his miraculous revelation as 'Rightwise King of All England', the creation of the Round Table and its eventual collapse in the ruins of forbidden love, hatred, deceit and revenge.

The Once and Future King starred David Warner as Merlyn...


...and Paul Ready as King Arthur with Lyndsey Marshal as Queen Guenever


You can discover more about the series and its cast here


OUT NOW!

Brian's latest book The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Official Movie Guide was published on 20 November in paperback and in a limited edition signed by the author...


ORDER your copy here


ORDER your copy here


JUST PUBLISHED!

Also out a new edition of Brian's book, Three Cheers for Pooh...



ORDER your copy here


OTHER RECENT BOOKS!

Click here to order your copy 


Click here to order your copy

Brian's third volume, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies - Official Movie Guide, will be published in November 2014.
The fascinating, fact-filled, behind-scenes story of the making of Aardman Animation's most ambitious feature-length film, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (or for American readers, The Pirates! A Band of Misfits)
Click here to order your copy

THE HISTORY OF TITUS GROAN wins Award

Brian's six-part dramatisation of the 'Gormenghast' novels of Mervyn Peake, The History of Titus Groan received the Best Adaptation Award in the inaugural BBC Audio Awards.

The award was presented by David Tennant. at a ceremony in the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House on Sunday 29 January,2012.

The judges described this as "a brilliant piece of radio drama. It was a hugely ambitious undertaking to adapt the darkly comic, surreal and visual world of Mervyn Peake's novels for sound and this adaptation is faithful to both the spirit and the landscape of the originals.
"


THE HISTORY OF TITUS GROAN available as a DOWNLOAD...


Followers of Brian's recent cycle of radio plays (for more details, see below), may care to know that the complete six-hour series can now be purchased and downloaded from AudibleGo
ORDER HERE


Over six weeks, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Brian's dramatisation, The History of Titus Groan, based on Mervyn Peake's trio of novels Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone with elements of the recently published Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore (see item below).

The cycle of radio plays began with 'Titus Arrives' in which Titus, the 77th Earl of Gormenghast is born to the royal house of Groan and the ruthlessly ambitious kitchen boy, Steerpike, makes a bid for freedom. Here are Carl Prekopp (left), as Steerpike, Hugo Docking,
(right), as young Titus and Luke Treadaway, (centre), as the narrator Titus. The series concludes on Sunday 14 August (repeated Saturday 20 at 21:00) with 'Titus Alive', concluding Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone and an episode from Maeve Gilmore's Titus Awakes.
 Steerpike and Titus x Two
The plays featured a terrific cast including David Warner, Miranda Richardson, James Fleet, Adrian Scarborough, Paul Rhys, Mark Benton, William Gaunt, Tamsin Greig, Fenella Woolgar, Claudie Blakeley, Maureen Beattie and Gerard Murphy.

Here is Brian with members of the cast on the first day of recording...



The plays are now available for purchase on download.

The series' producer, Jeremy Mortimer, writes about project (with a sound clip of Brian talking about the production) on the BBC Radio 4 Blog.

Photos: Islay Bell-Webb and David Hunter


BBC Radio 4 broadcast a half-hour documentary, A Hundred Years of Mervyn Peake, exploring the life of the artist and writer and, in particular, his connection with the island of Sark and its fictional counterparts in Peake's illustrations to Treasure Island (left), The Hunting of the Snark, Swiss Family Robinson and other works.

The programme was presented by Mervyn's son, Sebastian Peake, and featured his brother and sister, Fabian and Clare as well as novelist, Joanne Harris and Gormenghast's dramatist, Brian Sibley.

You can listen to the programme again on BBC iPlayer

Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore based on a fragment by Mervyn Peake from Vintage Books (Random House) with an introduction by Brian Sibley

Mervyn Peake's widow, the late Maeve Gilmore, wrote a conclusion to her husband's cycle of novels about Titus Groan. Lost for many years, the book is now finally published to coincide with Mervyn Peake's centenary.

DOWN THE RABBIT-HOLE...

Brian appears on the Blu-ray 60th Anniversary Edition release of Walt Disney's 1951 animated feature, Alice in Wonderland in a fascinating 76-minute picture-in-picture documentary, Through the Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide to Wonderland.Also... Don't miss Brian's feature-length audio commentary on the Blu-ray release of Walt Disney's 1940 classic, Fantasia.


In the PAPERS...

Brian was featured on the cover of July 2013 issue of The Magic Circular, the magazine of The Magic Circle with a profile interview inside...


On the BOX...

Brian can also be seen on the extras to just-out 70th Anniversary DVD release, Pinocchio





At the MOVIES...

Brian is currently to be seen in a new documentary film, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story which examines the career and the strained sibling relationship between songwriting brothers, Richard M Sherman and Robert Sherman.

The Sherman Brothers wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Slipper and the Rose and provided songs for countless Disney movies - Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Jungle Book, Winnie-the-Pooh to name but a few - as well as many of the Disneyland attractions such as 'It's A Small World'.

On the WEB...

Read Brian's entry on Wikipedia




Read Brian on the BBC Today website talking about Mickey Mouse at 80



Several of Brian's photographs of Venice are now appearing on the website of his favourite hotel in the city, Hotel Ala

In addition to those on the Home Page, others will be found on the pages devoted to 'Location' and 'Reservation'.

Now, scroll down here to the Galleries to see even more photos of this incomparable city.


Brian's book of 50 Favourite Bible Stories (see below) is discussed on the Official Cliff Richard Website and the book gets a nice on-line review at The Good Bookstall



Read Brian's interview on Winnie-the-Pooh's iconic status on ICONS: A Portrait of England


Off the PRESS...

Out of print for several years, Brian's guide to J R R Tolkien's map-making will be republished on 28 May as The Road Goes Ever On and On: The map of Tolkien's Middle-earth.

The revised hardback edition will have new illustrations by John Howe as well as John's colour version of the map in a pocket at the back of the book.

On his web-site, the artist writes: "I did new black-and-white illustrations for the booklet, since I couldn't locate the ones I'd done for the first edition (they were pretty bad; had I located them, I might well have chucked them out and done new drawings anyway)."

You can order your copy here

A new paperback edition of Phantastes, George MacDonald's 1858 novel of the fantastic is published at £7.99 by Paternoster with Arthur Hughes' original illustrations and an introduction and annotations by Nick Page. The book carries endorsements from C S Lewis, W H Auden, G K Chesterton - and Brian Sibley who writes: 'Phantastes is a haunting, provocative and disquieting novel that links the dreams of medieval romance with the new awakenings of the Victorian era and - in opening a long-lost door to the realm of Faerie - stands as a daringly challenging forerunner to the modern fantasy novel.'

50 Favourite Bible Stories retold by Brian, illustrated by the brilliant young artist, Stephen Waterhouse and read on three CDs by Cliff Richard as part of the musical star's celebration of fifty years in show-biz

More...




The Golden Compass: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion Brian's book tells the behind-the-scenes story of The Golden Compass, the first film based on Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

More...



Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It This book chronicles the journey of everyone's favourite nanny from page to stage: P L Travers immortal character as she appeared in the original books, in Walt Disney's unforgettable film and, most recently on the Broadway and West End stage...

More...
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The BIOGRAPHY...


The LIFE and TIMES
Brian Sibley's biography: all you've never needed to know!
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The WORKS...
The BOOKS

The BACK-STORY
How (and Why) those books got written
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The BOOK-LIST
All the Sibley tomes and volumes brought to book -- and listed!
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The SHOWS

The SHOW REPORT
The back-stage, off-air story of Brian Sibley's shows and programmes
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The PRODUCTION NOTES
A full schedule of the Sibley output for stage, radio and television
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The RECORDINGS

The FILM-LIST
Sibley appearances and commentaries on DVD
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The TRACK-LIST
Sibley Works on CD and Cassette
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The GALLERIES...

A series of Photo-Essays by Brian Sibley & David Weeks


The VENICE ALBUMS

Venice Observed View...

Snapping the Cliché-Ridden View...
 

Venice: The Bizarre Bazaar View...

Observed by Venice View...


MORE ALBUMS COMING SOON!

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The FEATURES...


The Ring Goes Ever OnThe Making of the BBC Lord of the Rings
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The Bradbury Machine
Sci-Fi legend, Ray Bradbury, talks about his life and books...
More
...And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree
The script of Brian's popular Christmas monologue
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Meeting Mr Wonka
Memories of encountering Roald Dahl
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How I Got Walt Disney's Autograph

A book-collector's dream story
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Remembering the Bear Necessities
Recollections of Disney's The Jungle Book
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Heaven on Earth
In Praise of Emporios on the Island of Kalymnos
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The BLOGS...

Brian Sibley: the blog
Random Thoughts on the Ups-and-Downs & Round-Abouts
of the Carousel of Life

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Brian Sibley's Likely Stories
A Collection of Terrible Tales and
Freaky Fables

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Ex Libris: Brian Sibley
Volumes taken at idle moments
from my bookshelves

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Window Gazing
A gallery of images looking at, into,
or out of windows...
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button's blog: a rabbit's ramblingsmemorable photo-moments from his globe-hopping life
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Original images © Brian Sibley and David Weeks, 2008/15
All rights reserved