Radio 4 orders surreal Irish sketch pilot Parish Is Burning

ExclusiveFriday 18th March 2022, 8:41am by Jay Richardson

Parish Is Burning

Radio 4 are piloting a sketch showcase of upcoming Irish talent from former Radio 1 DJ Phil Taggart and musician Michael McCullagh, aka Son of the Hound, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Airing on April 11th, Parish Is Burning is described as "wild, silly and surreal ... from the flatlining, radio desert somewhere near the Irish border".

Featured alongside writers Taggart and McCullagh, the cast, who also contribute to the script, includes character comic Michael Stranney, a former New Acts of the Year award winner and creator of the Hidden Ireland podcast; social media sketch sensation Michael Fry, currently making his television debut in ITV's Holding; Mary Flanigan, who features in Radio 4's upcoming Celtic stand-up showcase The Rest Of Us; plus Republic Of Telly's Peter McGann, stand-up and actor Hannah Mamalis and online comic Ciara Knight.

Parish Is Burning is "a genuine metaphysical anomaly, a mysterious broadcast from an alternative universe (near Omagh) with that uniquely warped, unpredictable, big-hearted, Northern Irish whiff and featuring new comedy talent from all over Ireland" say Radio 4.

The pilot invites listeners to visit Mo Farragh's Ostrich Farm, eavesdrop on the parish helpline, find out if Sargent Gerry Rafferty can crack the case of the man beaten to death with his own kettle, experience "Rural Fury" at the Parish youth club and catch up on Belfast soap opera Van Dad.

Parish Is Burning is produced by Keith Martin (Soft Border Patrol) for his new Belfast-based company Fabel Productions, a recipient of Channel 4's Emerging Indie Fund.

Omagh natives Taggart and McCullagh were originally in the band Colenso Parade together, supporting the likes of Richard Hawley, Dirty Pretty Things and The View.

As well as being a dance music DJ and running the record label Hometown Records, Taggart has numerous presenting credits for BBC television and Channel 4, while McCullagh, in addition to playing guitar pop as Son of the Hound, co-hosts the comic Mad Notions music myths podcast and wrote and starred in online sitcom The Also Rans.

"Thank you Radio 4 for the opportunity to turn what started as writing sketches to stave off the existential dread during lockdown into this pilot" said Taggart and McCullagh. "Making a sketch show for Radio 4 with my best friend has been a lifelong pub dream. Whether we're a 'credit to the Parish' or not is up to the listener. Thanks to Keith and Fabel for working so hard with us, we'd love to do more."

Martin added: "I couldn't be prouder to help make Mick and Phil's ideas into a show for Radio 4. Feeling very lucky to be working with this rare mix of writer-performers with great ideas and excitingly original voices, the toughest part was fitting all the good material in one ep."

Parish Is Burning is executive produced by Victoria Lloyd and was commissioned by Radio 4's commissioning editor Sioned Wiliam.

"This show is buzzing with energy, stupid ideas, and silly characters" said Lloyd. "I think people are going to love it. And who hasn't looked at a 1980 Ford Transit Mk2 and thought - that looks a bit like my dad?"

Wiliam added: "This is such an original and funny show with a strong sense of place, which takes some fantastically unexpected turns."

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