Oakes in 2011
Rowan David Oakes
14 October 1983
|Alma mater||Bristol Old Vic Theatre School|
University of Manchester
|Occupation||Actor, Artist, Presenter|
Rowan David Oakes (born 14 October 1983) is an English actor and environmentalist. He is best known for his roles in the series The Pillars of the Earth, The Borgias, The White Queen and Victoria and for his discursive Natural History podcast, Trees A Crowd.
Early life and education
Oakes was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire in 1983, the son of Jeremy Charles Oakes, a Church of England canon and Fiona Brockhurst (née Cunningham), a professional musician. He grew up in Fordingbridge, Hampshire.
Oakes was head boy at Bishop Wordsworth's School, in Salisbury, where he was also heavily involved with the Salisbury Playhouse and their youth theatre, Stage 65. He graduated with a First in English Literature from the University of Manchester.
David began his career at Shakespeare’s Globe, before taking roles at the Almeida Theatre and the Old Vic, but he came to prominence when he played the villainous William Hamleigh in the television miniseries The Pillars of the Earth (2010), produced by Ridley Scott's production company. David was present to accept the Jury Prize at the 2011 Romy Awards in Vienna alongside Donald Sutherland and Natalia Wörner.
The following year, Oakes was cast in the television series The Borgias (2011), airing on Showtime. He played Juan Borgia opposite Jeremy Irons. Whilst shooting the second season, David performed a cameo in the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End (2012).
In an attempt to distance himself from his "TV Period Bad Boy" image, in 2013 David played Mr Darcy in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park. He said, "I've been playing bad guys back to back, so Darcy's a bit of an antidote!" He followed this by more stage work, appearing in the world premiere of Shakespeare in Love at the Noël Coward Theatre as Christopher Marlowe.
The role of Prince Ernest, brother of Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, went to Oakes in 2016 in the ITV series Victoria. The role reunited Oakes with his Trinity co-star Tom Hughes, and Pillars of the Earth co-star Rufus Sewell.
In 2017, Oakes starred in the film adaptation of Albert Sánchez Piñol's novel Cold Skin, directed by Xavier Gens and co-starring Ray Stevenson and Aura Garrido. He also starred as Thomas Novachek in the London West End premiere of David Ives's play Venus in Fur at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. This production was directed by Patrick Marber and co-starred Natalie Dormer as Vanda.
In 2019, Oakes continued his love for playing in open air venues by playing Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, York. Critics were united in their praise of his Hamlet, saying that he “plays Hamlet with natural ease: he is clearly comfortable with the cadences of the language and he conveys meaning well.” “David Oakes’s interpretation of the Danish Prince is charming, clever and quick-witted...”, “...establishes an excellent rapport with the audience... and his final rising to the role of hero-avenger is splendidly done...” and that his performance was ”...elegant in movement, golden tongued, sometimes still, yet as likely to surprise as quicksand, witty, bright yet brittle.”
|2008||Bonekickers||Alfred, Lord Tennyson||Iain B. MacDonald||BBC One||Episode 6 "Follow the Gleam"|
|Walter's War||Oswald Hennessey||Alrick Riley||BBC Four||Television movie|
|2009||Henry VIII: The Mind of a Tyrant||George Cavendish||Channel 4||Episode 3 "Lover"|
|Trinity||Ross Bonham||Colin Teague||ITV2||Episodes 1, 2, 3|
|2010||The Pillars of the Earth||Lord William Hamleigh||Sergio Mimica-Gezzan||TV miniseries nominated for several TV Emmys and Golden Globe Awards|
|2011–2012||The Borgias||Juan Borgia||Neil Jordan, John Maybury, David Leland, John Amiel, Kari Skogland, Jeremy Podeswa et al.||Season 1 & 2|
|2012||World Without End||Bishop Henri||Michael Caton-Jones||Channel 4||The sequel to The Pillars of the Earth. David appears as a secret cameo alongside Charlotte Riley. David was back in Budapest filming The Borgias, so the producers of World Without End thought it would be a fun 'nod' to the original series.|
|2013||Ripper Street||Victor Silver||Andy Wilson||Episode 8 What Use Our Work?|
|The White Queen||George, Duke of Clarence||James Kent, Jamie Payne and Colin Teague||Episodes 1 - 7|
|2014||Kim Philby: His Most Intimate Betrayal||Kim Philby||BBC2||Two-part drama documentary by Ben MacIntyre|
|2015||Endeavour||Jocelyn "Joss" Bixby||Sandra Goldbacher||ITV & Mammoth Productions||Season 3: "Ride"|
|The Living and the Dead||William Payne||Sam Donovan||BBC||Episodes 4 - 6|
|2016–2017||Victoria||Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha||Tom Vaughan, Sandra Goldbacher, Oliver Blackburn, Lisa James Llarsson, Geoff Saxe, Jim Loach & Daniel O'Hara||ITV & Mammoth Productions||Season 1 and 2|
|2012||Truth or Dare||Justin||Corona Pictures / Rob Heath||Also known as "Truth or Die" in the USA|
|100Dniowk@||David Potter||Agresywna Banda / Alessandro Leone||Polish-language feature film – for which David learned Polish|
|2013||Love By Design||Adrian||Solar Junction / Michael Damien||Romantic comedy with Jane Seymour and Olivia Hallinan|
|Goblin?||Harry||Multi Story Film / Christian James||Short film with Holliday Grainger|
|Who Shall I Play With Now?||Gregory||Dog Ate Cake / Henry Bell||UK premiere on 29 June 2013 at the Wimbledon Shorts Festival|
|2014||Sins of a Father||Martin||Sea Lion Films / Andrew Piddington||A partially re-shot, re-edited version of the 1991 film Shuttlecock with Alan Bates and Lambert Wilson|
|2015||Night Feed||Husband||Channel 4 / Christian James||A short film made by Channel 4 with Alice Lowe for Film Four Frightfest|
|2017||Cold Skin||Friend||Babieka / Xavier Gens||An adaptation of the novel co-starring Ray Stevenson|
|2018||The Garden of Evening Mists||Frederick||HBO Asia / Tom Lin||An adaptation of Tan Twan Eng's Booker Prize winning novel, also starring John Hannah, nominated for 9 Golden Horse awards|
|2019||You||Brandon Miller||Moolmore / Nicola Abbatangelo|
- Oakes has performed with The Fitzrovia Radio Hour
- 2008: A Dance to the Music of Time as Charles Stringham (BBC Radio 4)
- 2017: Foiled as Richie (BBC Radio Wales)—written by David Charles and Beth Granville, based on the Edinburgh Fringe show of the same name
- 2018: Season two of Foiled
- 2019: Season three of Foiled
- In 2006, David performed a 90-minute abridged version of Much Ado About Nothing as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's "Complete Works" festival along with his final year graduates from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He alternated between playing Claudio and Verges alongside fellow graduate Matt Barber.
- Since appearing at Shakespeare's Globe at the outset of his career, David has frequently performed in numerous rehearsed readings as part of their "Read Not Dead" initiative, including their landmark 200th reading of Philip Massinger's A New Way To Pay Old Debts; David played Wellborn alongside a cast including Benjamin Whitrow, Alan Cox, and Nicholas Rowe.
- Other performances between 2008 and 2013 for "Read Not Dead" include an early quarto edition of Henry IV: Part One as Prince Hal opposite Benjamin Whitrow's Falstaff, Calderon's Life is a Dream (La Vida Es Sueno) as Segismundo, Taming Of A Shrew as Aurelias, The Spanish Tragedy as Lorenzo, The Return from Parnassus as Ingenioso, Bassianus as Geta, Gorboduc as a "smooth, almost oily" Arostus, John Lyly's Love's Metamorphosis as Montanus, and Thomas Middleton's Your Five Gallants as Tailby.
- Oakes set up a theatre company called Dog Ate Cake with a long-term theatrical collaborator, Henry Bell
- David was nominated for both WhatsOnStage and Broadway World awards for his performance in Shakespeare in Love in 2015. The production was also nominated for an Olivier Award.
- In 2015 David starred as Banquo in a charity fundraiser for the Shakespeare Schools Festival. The event was largely improvised by the actors and lawyers involved, but based on a framework written by Jonathan Myerson. The cast also included Christopher Eccleston as Macbeth, Haydn Gwynne as Lady Macbeth, Paterson Joseph as MacDuff, and Pippa Bennett-Warner as one of the Weird Sisters. The event interrupted the events of the original play following the death of Duncan, placing Macbeth on trial for murder. David, Patterson, and Haydn appeared as witnesses for the prosecution and Christopher and Pippa as witnesses for the defence. The event was overseen by High Court Judge, Sir Michael Burton; the QCs were John Kelsey-Fry, Jonathan Laidlaw, Dinah Rose, and Ian Winter, and the foreman of the jury was Jeremy Paxman.
Oakes has directed a number of theatre pieces alongside his acting career. In 2003 he took a stage adaptation of The Wicker Man to the Epping Forest Theatre Festival. Rehearsing in and around his hometown of Salisbury, Oakes "got kicked out of the [Cathedral] Close for rehearsing pagan rituals for [his] open-air production of The Wicker Man."
Also whilst at University in 2005, Oakes assisted director Natalie Wilson on a production of Smilin' Through that was co-produced by the Truant Company, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Contact Theatre, Manchester. Later that year, Oakes once again turned to literary adaptation, taking a production of Stephen King's The Boogeyman to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Oakes frequently directs at Shakespeare's Globe extending their "Read Not Dead" series, a study devoted to performing fully staged readings of the entirety of the Early Modern Canon of Drama. Most recently Oakes directed Robert Greene's The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and Lewis Theobald's "Happy Ending" version of John Webster's Duchess of Malfi, "The Fatal Secret".
David recently directed an extract of Robert Daborne's A Christian Turn'd Turk as part of a special "Read Not Dead" event at Shakespeare's Globe. Four directors with four scholars were teamed up with actors and presented their arguments and selected scenes at a special hustings event on Thursday 29 May 2014. Winning the event, teamed with Dr Emma Smith of Oxford University, Oakes directed the full play on Sunday 5 October 2014 in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
In February 2018, David was interviewed for the PBS Masterpiece Podcast in relation to his role in Victoria. On 17 February 2019 David appeared on the ‘Smashing Sundays’ podcast - hosted by Lucy Pinder and, David's Co-star from ‘Foiled’, Beth Granville.
In 2020, David narrated an episode of Historic Royal Palaces' 'Outliers' podcast. He appeared as Thomas Phelippes, a spy and code breaker in the court of Elizabeth I plotting the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots.
The 'Trees A Crowd' Podcast
- 25 February 2019 - Mark Frith, BAFTA-winning documentary maker and Artist
- 11 March 2019 - Polly Morgan, Artist and Taxidermist
- 25 March 2019 - David Fettes, Wildlife Photographer
- 8 April 2019 - Astrid Goldsmith, Animator and Model-maker
- 15 April 2019 - Dr Katherine Brent, amongst other things, a morris dancer and badger saboteur. This episode was released as a thematic response to the interview with Astrid Goldsmith.
- 22 April 2019 - Dr Steve Etches MBE - Fossil collector
- 29 April 2019 - Dr Ellinor Michel, molluscan systemetist and ecologist at the Natural History Museum
- 6 May 2019 - Dr Fay Clark, animal welfare scientist at Bristol Zoo
- 20 May 2019 - Dr Guy Stevens, CEO and Co-Founder of the Manta Trust.
- 3 June 2019 - The Maldives Underwater Initiative, which includes a dozen Marine Biologists based on Laamu Atoll including some that work for the Blue Marine Foundation, the Manta Trust and the Olive Ridley Project.
- 17 June 2019 - Bella Hardy, folk singer and songwriter.
- 1 July 2019 - Wolfgang Buttress and Dr Martin Bencsik, co-creators of numerous multi-sensory artworks including the bee-inspired HIVE and BEAM.
- 15 July 2019 - Beccy Speight, the then CEO of the Woodland Trust, now the CEO of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
- 29 July 2019 - Dr Terry Gough M.V.O., Head of Estates and Gardens at Hampton Court Palace.
- 12 August 2019 - Dr Jess French, television presenter, veterinarian and author.
- 26 August 2019 - Chris Watson (part one), musician and sound recordist specialising in natural history.
- 9 September 2019 - Chris Watson (part two).
- 23 September 2019 - Tannis Davidson, curator of Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at University College London.
- 7 October 2019 - Harry Barton, CEO of the Devon Wildlife Trust.
- 14 October 2019 - Recorded live at the 70th Cheltenham Literature Festival in partnership with the Woodland Trust, a discussion on “The Art of Trees” with Prof. Christiana Payne and Dr Angela Summerfield.
- 21 October 2019 - Amanda Owen, the 'Yorkshire Shepherdess'.
- 4 November 2019 - Sir John Lawton, Biologist, fellow of the Royal Society, president of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and chair of the Endangered Landscapes Programme.
- 18 November 2019 - Dr Jo Elworthy, botanist and head of interpretation at the Eden Project, Cornwall.
- 2 December 2019 - Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of the Wildlife and Countryside Link
- 16 December 2019 - Victoria Bromley, wildlife filmmaker and documentary maker.
- 23 December 2019 - Joanna Lentini, wildlife photographer.
- 6 January 2020 - Mark Carwardine, zoologist who achieved widespread recognition for his Last Chance to See conservation expeditions with Douglas Adams. Since then he has become a leading and outspoken conservationist, and a prolific broadcaster, columnist and photographer.
- 20 January 2020 - Dr Catherine Barlow of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project.
- 3 February 2020 - Dr Bryce Stewart, marine ecologist and fisheries biologist, currently a lecturer for the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York.
- 17 February 2020 - Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of PETA.
- 2 March 2020 - Rob Rose and Natalie Stoppard of Rosewood Farm on the Yorkshire Ings.
- 16 March 2020 - Tim Pears, novelist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
- 30 March 2020 - Dr Helen Pheby, head of curatorial programming at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
- 13, 15 & 17 April 2020 - Three interviews from the Castle Howard estate, with Nick Howard (the castle's inhabitant), Nick Cooke (the head of forestry) and Alastair Gunn (head of landscapes and gardens).
- 27 April 2020 - Alastair Humphreys, adventurer and writer.
- 11 & 18 May 2020 - Eanna Ni Lamhna, Irish environmentalist, educator and broadcaster (a two-part interview).
- 25 May 2020 - Dara McAnulty, writer and naturalist who, at 15 years old, was the youngest recipient of the RSPB Medal.
- 8, 15 & 22 June 2020 - "Wildflower Women"; three interviews with ethnobotonist Jennie Martin, the founder of the Woodmeadow Trust, Rosalind Forbes Adam, and shakespearian actor, Serena Manteghi.
- 6 July 2020 - Dr William C. Tweed, writer, historian and chief naturalist of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
- 20 & 27 July 2020 - Prof. Kate Jones, Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London with a special interest in bats, and past chair of the Bat Conservation Trust.
- 5 Aug 2020 - Prof. Rowan Lockwood & Dr Bryce Stewart of William and Mary University and University of York respectively, talk of the benefits of preserving the world’s Oyster population.
- 17 Aug 2020, Will Travers, OBE, President and Co-founder of the Born Free Foundation.
- 31 Aug 2020, Georgina Lamb, CEO of David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, and granddaughter of David Shepherd.
David is an environmentalist and an ambassador for the Woodland Trust. His podcast Trees A Crowd is a series of informal conversations with artists, scientists and enthusiasts; a mutual celebration of the beauty of the environment and the way it inspires them as human beings. Each episode explores how the countryside has inspired their careers as they reflect on how growing up within the natural world became working for the natural world. Growing up in the New Forest and the Purbeck Jurassic Coast, David Oakes launched this podcast as a passion project to explore his lifelong fascination with the wild people and the wildlife that makes our planet its home.
Oakes is an avid fine line sketcher. He is increasingly known for sketching on-set animals upon coloured pages of script reissues and giving them to production members. In May 2015 he exhibited as part of the Dulwich Artists Open House Festival alongside artist and designer Sarah Hamilton. He has also contributed a chapter on Charity Cards for Ms Hamilton's book, House of Cards.
Charity Work and Advocacies
David, following his infant niece being diagnosed with a lung condition, has been heavily involved with raising awareness for and fundraising on behalf of the British Lung Foundation.
In 2013, Oakes collaborated with his Borgias castmate Holliday Grainger to make the short comedy film "Goblin". Directed by Christian James, the film was screened at the 2014 Film 4 Fright Fest in their Shorts Showcase, and all profits from the sale of this film were donated to the British Lung Foundation.
Later in 2014, Oakes ran the length of the country to raise awareness for infant lung diseases for both the British Lung Foundation and ChILD Lung Foundation UK. More recently he joined with the BLF to promote their new Children's Hub to provide families with information and support.
Alongside this, in 2016, 2017 & 2018 he created the charity's Christmas card.
Arts charities: Anno's Africa & Shakespeare Schools Festival
Since 2014, Oakes has also been a friend of Anno's Africa, an arts-based charity working with Kenyan orphans and slum children, and has supported the UK based Shakespeare Schools Festival, most notably with and surrounding their "Trial of Macbeth" and "Trial of Richard III". In 2019, David helped organise, and alongside Michael Palin, Twiggy and others, appeared in the ‘Just A Book’ poster campaign on the London Underground. The campaign was created to support independent businesses and bookshops on British highstreets and also to raise funds for Anno’s Africa.
The Woodland Trust and Environmental Activism
Since 2019, David has been an Ambassador for the Woodland Trust. On October the 9th, 2019, David hosted a discussion at the 70th Cheltenham Literature Festival on the subject of "The Art of Trees". In the press release for the event, David said:
Books and woods are entwined throughout history – literally the word book descends from the word for beech. Symbolically, both offer an opportunity to escape, to switch off from the pressures of the manufactured society around us and free our senses to dream, imagine and think. A woodland walk is an opportunity to immerse ourselves in places where myths, legends and stories are born. Our ancient trees and forests, and the wildlife that lives within them, are irrevocably bound up in tales from the past and will continue to feature as long as they exist.
Writing in an editorial for the Sunday Times on the 2nd of November, 2019, David said:
Trees give us so much: if you can come up with a better technology and material that is cheap, enhances wellbeing, stimulates happy childhood memories, sequesters CO2, boosts biodiversity and even just looks as pretty as a copper beech, a hawthorn or a horse chestnut, then I’ll bow to you.
On Thursday the 30th of January 2020, David was a co-signatory, with the CEOs of The Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Buglife and Butterfly Conservation, and other notable environmental ambassadors and activist, on a letter written to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and published in The Times, to get the UK government to rethink its stance on the second UK High Speed Rail Link along environmental and biodiversical lines.
On the 21st June, 2020, David co-hosted the live-stream event, The Big Wild Quiz, for The Wildlife Trusts as part of their “30 Days Wild” campaign. And 9 days later, on the 30th of June, alongside environmentalists and activists, including Chris Packham and Ellie Goulding, David took part in the Climate Coalition's mass virtual lobby to focus the MPs to put people, climate and nature at the heart of the British nation’s recovery.
- "Q&A with actor David Oakes". Salisbury Journal. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
- "Interview for 1883 Magazine from 2011". Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "Interview for Emma Hartley entitled "Desert Island Folk Discs"". Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "List of graduates from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School since 1984". Archived from the original on 8 May 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- Press release (n.d.). "Ian McShane, Donald Sutherland, Rufus Sewell, Matthew Macfadyen, Sarah Parish, Hayley Atwell, Eddie Redmayne and Gordon Pinsent Headline Star-Studded Cast for Screen Adaptation of Ken Follett's Bestselling Masterpiece The Pillars of the Earth". Tandem Communications. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
- Vlessing, Etan (10 June 2010). "David Oakes, Holliday Grainger join 'Borgias'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
- "Brief Encounter with David Oakes". Whats On Stage. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
- "Natalie Dormer will star in erotically charged West End production of Venus in Fur" by Alistair Foster, The Evening Standard, 12 May 2017
- "The Stage, Hamlet Review". Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- "British Theatre Guide, Hamlet Review". British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- "WhatsOnStage, Hamlet Review". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- "York Post, Hamlet Review". YorkPost. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- "UK Theatre Database: RSC's Much Ado About Nothing". Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "The 200th Read Not Dead". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "The Marlowe Society Research Journal - Volume 05 - 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "David Oakes' Spotlight CV". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "Interview for Fault Magazine 2011". Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "The Trial of Macbeth: Photos". Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- "Guardian - Trial of Macbeth". Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- "Interview for Wiltshire Life 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 March 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "Theatre Credits Prior To Drama School". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "Dog Ate Cake". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "Bacon and Bungay Review". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "Globe Read Not Dead 2014". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "PBS Masterpiece Victoria Interview". Retrieved 14 February 2019.
- "Smashin Sundays with David Oakes". Retrieved 20 February 2019.
- "Outliers: Seal of Fate". Retrieved 14 January 2020.
- "Trees A Crowd". Retrieved 14 February 2019.
- "Wildlife Photographer of the Year Official Facebook". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
- "The Etches Collection". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
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- "Prof Kate Jones". UCL Division of Biosciences. 4 March 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
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- "Woodland Trust Ambassadors". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
- "Trees A Crowd". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
- "David Oakes Prints". Retrieved 5 June 2015.
- "Dulwich Open House". Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- "David Oakes Portraiture". Retrieved 3 August 2020.
- "Goblin Film Four Fright Fest Review". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "BLF Patrons". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "David Oakes Runs for Charity". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Josie was the Strongest". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Anno's Africa Patrons". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Just A Book at The Bookseller". Retrieved 17 June 2019.
- "Official Twitter for the Woodland Trust". Retrieved 3 July 2019.
- "Chelt Lit Festival Website Details". Retrieved 10 October 2019.
- "Link between trees and literature explored at Cheltenham Festival". Retrieved 30 January 2020.
- "Conkering hero David Oakes on planting trees". Retrieved 2 November 2019.
- "HS2 should not get the green light in current form". Retrieved 30 January 2020.
- "Big Wild Quiz". Retrieved 26 June 2020.
- "Climate Coalition Virtual Lobby". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
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