The lighter side of the (former) Brexit deadline

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Clockwise from left: Richard David Lawman with I Want To Leave This Book, David Walliams and Matt Lucas as Little Britain's Lou and Andy, Kieran Hodgson and artwork for The HustleImage source, WatAdventure/BBC/Channel 4
Image caption,
Clockwise from left: Richard David Lawman, David Walliams and Matt Lucas as Little Britain's Lou and Andy, Kieran Hodgson and artwork for The Hustle

A comedian, author and musician tell BBC News why they wanted to mark the date the UK was to have left the EU.

Before the European Union's offer of a Brexit extension was accepted, the UK had been set to leave on 31 October.

With that in mind, the BBC, Channel 4 and others commissioned works that were intended to coincide with that highly significant date.

The UK's departure has now been put back. Yet that won't stop a one-off, Brexit-themed edition of Little Britain going out later on BBC Radio 4.

Nor will it stop Channel 4 screening How Europe Stole My Mum, a light-hearted documentary about Britain's relationship with Europe.

One Manchester-based publisher will release I Want To Leave This Book! - a 32-page storybook that endeavours to explain Brexit for children - at 23:00 GMT, as planned.

Musician Rhodri Marsden, meanwhile, ensured The Hustle, a Brexit-inspired disco concept album, was completed ahead of Britain's putative Halloween egress.

All the above seek to find humour - satirical and otherwise - in a subject Hodgson's programme freely concedes is "boring, complicated and comedically unpromising".

Yet they also constitute artistic responses to a subject more often seen dominating news channels, bulletins and publications.

Image source, Channel 4
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Hodgson visits Brussels as part of his mix of lecture and memoir

How Europe Stole My Mum, which airs on Channel 4 later at 23:05 GMT, grew out of a one-man show Kieran Hodgson performed last year at the Edinburgh Festival and elsewhere.

The show, then called '75, saw him trace the roots of Brexit by exploring Britain's decision to join the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1973.

"I thought doing a show about 'Brentry' and how going in was almost as fraught as coming out would provide a fresh angle on the subject," says the 31-year-old.

"People will approach it with one view or another, but by retreating into the past it's easier to find that common ground of humour."

The title of How Europe Stole My Mum postulates a conflict between Kieran and his mother, played by Liza Tarbuck, over the different ways they voted in the 2016 EU referendum.

"It tells a very common story of family members or close friends finding themselves on either side of an earthquake crack that divided the nation," he explains.

Image source, Channel 4
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Harry Enfield (left) also appears in the hour-long programme

"I didn't want to hide my own biases," the Remain supporter goes on. "I wanted to acknowledge them, laugh at them and poke fun at myself as a means at poking fun at everything."

Along the way the comic nimbly impersonates such political figures as Tony Benn, Ted Heath and Harold Wilson - with a little help from a protean Harry Enfield.

How Europe Stole My Mum was meant to go out on 29 March, the date Brexit was originally due to happen. But it was put back when Brexit was itself postponed.

"We found ourselves, strangely for a comedy show, at the mercy of developments in Westminster and Brussels," says Hodgson, who admits feeling "slightly nobbled" by the latest postponement.

"Comedians are in their own way artists and it's part of the artist's job description to respond to major events in the life of the nation," the comedian continues.

"I will probably go back to less divisive subject matter in future, but it seemed this was too big a thing to ignore."

Image source, WatAdventure
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I Want To Leave This Book! was conceived and created in 30 days

I Want To Leave This Book! evolved out of co-author Richard David Lawman's uncertainty over how to explain Brexit to his daughter.

"As a father to an inquisitive four-year-old, I started to think how I would explain the current political landscape," says the father of two. "The answer was I couldn't."

Illustrated by Katie Williams, Lawman's solution uses anthropomorphised animals who have differing opinions about the very story they're in.

"The animals represent different groups of the electorate and politicians, and the new book they want to go into is post-Brexit Britain," the author explains.

"The challenge was this is a live, breathing political issue that is highly partisan and hasn't been explained to children in a fictional way before," Lawman continues.

"The idea was to create an allegorical explanation of Brexit that uses metaphorical elements to represent the different aspects."

Image source, WatAdventure
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The book features a large collection of animal characters

Like George Orwell's Animal Farm before it, I Want To Leave This Book! features creatures that clearly represent human players in a real-life drama.

Theresa May is embodied by a timid hamster, Boris Johnson by a hirsute Highland Cow, while David Cameron's stand-in is a pig called Percy Hogtrotter.

"Animals are a familiar medium so it makes it child-friendly," says Lawman. "But there is a light satirical element there for adult interpretation.

"To do a good job we had to not take sides," he goes on. "We had to zoom out as far as we could and place Brexit in its widest context."

Completing the book in time required a Herculean effort. But it was a challenge Lawman and publisher WatAdventure were happy to take on.

"Brexit is a worthy issue to explain to children and picture books are the most creatively free medium," he concludes.

"A lot of authors and illustrators are tempted to comment on world events, and the flexibility of the medium gives them scope to do that."

Image source, PA Media
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The Hustle is described as "a shining disco symphony"

When Rhodri Marsden set himself the challenge of writing a disco concept album about Brexit, he knew the clock was ticking.

"31 October was definitely the deadline," he tells BBC News. "I had a feeling events were moving so fast and were very likely to overtake the creative process."

Released earlier this month, the eight-song record sees the musician and journalist take playful aim at terminology that has become common parlance since 2016.

Its track listing includes titles like Backstop, No Deal and Freedom of Movement - phrases, he says, that "seemed to suit a disco treatment".

"The whole project was more therapy on my part - getting friends together to do something weird and unusual," he explains.

"I suppose it is a protest record in its very mild way, not so much about Brexit as the rhetoric surrounding it."

The response, he says, has been "almost overwhelmingly positive - which is quite surprising given the divisiveness and rancour surrounding Brexit.

"I imagined I would get a lot of flack but I got almost none. Maybe there is a value in approaching the topic in a fun-poking way."

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