New Gaelic drama confirmed for BBC Alba

Debbie Mackay from Inverness, who plays Mairi Macdonald (26) with D�mhnall Eoin MacFhionghain from Harris, who plays Alasdair Black (27), Mairi's boyfriend. In the background is Alasdair Mackay originally from London with an Irish and Highland background, who plays Donneil Mackinnon (28). Photo: Paul Martin
Debbie Mackay from Inverness, who plays Mairi Macdonald (26) with D�mhnall Eoin MacFhionghain from Harris, who plays Alasdair Black (27), Mairi's boyfriend. In the background is Alasdair Mackay originally from London with an Irish and Highland background, who plays Donneil Mackinnon (28). Photo: Paul Martin

The producer behind The Inbetweeners – one of Britain’s most successful comedy series – is to make a Gaelic drama for BBC Alba.

Chris Young has started work on three pilot episodes of Bannan (The Ties That Bind) centred around a fictional Scottish island with plans for the series to go long term.

The Skye-based producer has teamed up with Lewis screenwriter Chrisella Ross, who penned the script, and director and former River City actor Tony Kearney on the series which will follow the story of a woman’s return to the island community she had left several years previously.

And speaking to the Gazette this week, Young revealed his hopes of catching the interest of both native Gaelic speakers and non-speakers.
“We are going for authenticity. Chrisella wrote it in Gaelic, Tony is directing it in Gaelic and we want to appeal to our core audience of Gaelic speakers. But we are quite confident we can appeal to a wider audience with it being subtitled.

“It isn’t really genre based as it is contemporary family drama. As this is the first of its kind made for BBA Alba we were given the freedom to let it be character-based.

“We have very strong characters which we hope will lead to the audience rooting for the characters.

“The Danish show Borgen is a good example in that it was subtitled and it wasn’t a traditional soap.

“We are aiming Bannan as a high-end production value drama around a half dozen really strong characters which we hope will keep the audience coming back to see how it develops.”

Having strong characters is a point Young continues to underline when he reflected on the success of The Inbetweeners to make a comparison to how to appeal to a wider demographic.

“Our main character is a 26 year old woman, the second character is an 85 year old woman, there is then the main character’s father, partner and ex-boyfriend, so we have a huge range of ages within the story and it is not aimed at a specific age range.

“When we commissioned The Inbetweeners it was specially aimed at 18-25 but it ended up appealing to way beyond that. We deliberately put the parents in the expand things. It was great for me to hear a 60 year old taxi-driver saying how much he loved it.

“12 year olds loved The Inbetweeners because they hadn’t lived it yet bet were vowing not to end up like them, those the same age found it horribly true while those the ages of the parents liked it because they either felt their kids were like that or they had been themselves.”

Bannan isn’t scheduled to air until September next year, but Young hopes by then he will have a further 15 episodes in the can as he aims to plug what he believes is a gaping gap in the market.

He added: “Gaelic is definitely under used but it has been a vicious circle.

“Often a lack of money and resources has been blamed with claims there are no Gaelic actors, Gaelic directors etc, but of course there are they just haven’t been given a chance.

“We hope to break the cycle and I hope this is just the beginning of a long running series which can help create a generation of actors, directors and also behind the camera talent too – a more makes more idea.”

Bannan is the story of Mairi Macdonald’s return to the islands she left at eighteen.

She initially comes back just to attend a funeral and intends to return straight afterwards to her job in the city but she had forgotten about the ‘bannan’ – the family and emotional ties that bind her to the island.