Richard Farmbrough Launches Somersault Studio


Richard Farmbrough, former Reef Television CEO, has teamed up with executive producer Owen Rodd to launch the new factual indie Somersault Studio.

Farmbrough and Rodd have known each other for 14 years, having met at Reef Television, which Farmbrough launched and ran for 15 years. Their new studio has already scored its first commission, with BBC Wales and BBC One ordering Gareth Malone’s Passion.

“It is immensely exciting to be back in the production game with the multi-talented Owen Rodd, this time with a remit to create factual content for a truly broad range of customers,” Farmbrough said. “The opportunities to reach audiences in this continually fragmenting market are huge, but as producers we need to be more nimble and agile than ever before—somersaulting our way through the media landscape.”

“Richard and I first met at Reef in 2010—the first of a great many stints for me there,” Rodd added. “He and I share a clear sense that the story is everything. We both love the challenge of applying that to new genres and platforms and that is where we are headed with this exciting new venture.”

Their first commission, Gareth Malone’s Passion, will follow as the eponymous choirmaster and broadcaster takes eight untrained singers and stages his own performance of Bach’s St John Passion on the 300th anniversary of its first performance.

Malone will invite people from all walks of life, with the only requirement being that they have a good voice but very little or no experience singing in a classical choir. With Malone’s help, alongside the BBC Singers and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, they will undergo eight weeks of intense rehearsals before the final performance.

“It’s been so exciting to bring together the forces of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the BBC Singers and a stellar cast of soloists and to give eight local people the chance to sing one of our great choral masterpieces,” said Christina Macaulay, commissioning editor for BBC Wales. “The audience will discover the work through their eyes. There’s been a lot of laughs along the way and a few tears too. And working with Gareth has been such an inspiration for them.”

Daisy Scalchi, the BBC’s head of religion and ethics for television, commented, “By telling the Passion story through extraordinary music and with such talented novice singers, Gareth is emulating what Bach intended to do 300 years ago in making this story accessible to a wide audience. This is a brilliant way to bring both the Passion to everyone, religious and secular alike.”

“When I realized that 2024 was the 300th anniversary of the first performance of the St John Passion, I knew we had to bring it to a modern audience, and there is no one better to do that than the inspirational Gareth Malone,” Farmbrough said. “Gareth has taken eight wonderful individuals with no experience of Bach and made them fit to sing alongside a world class choir and orchestra. It has been a transformative journey for all involved.”