BBC ALBA’s Autumn schedule – and a new pilot drama

BBC ALBA launched its Autumn schedule in Glasgow earlier today and, as usual, its programming is fresh, novel  and compelling.

As it celebrates five years on screen, the channel is delighted to announce details of the first ever Gaelic pilot drama for a long running TV series to be broadcast on BBC ALBA.

Still in its initial stages of production, the three-part drama titled Bannan / The Ties That Bind is a collaboration between BBC ALBA and Creative Scotland. It is being produced by Christopher Young of Young Films, the man behind the hugely successful TV comedy and film, The Inbetweeners.

Joining Chris on the drama project is new Gaelic screenwriter Chrisella Ross as well as actor turned director Tony Kearney.

Bannan follows the story of Mairi Macdonald’s return to the island she left eight years ago aged 18. Mairi left to escape both her family and the place – its claustrophobia and its customs. She initially comes back just to attend a funeral but realises she had forgotten about the ‘bannan’ – the family and emotional ties that bind her to the island.

This promises to be a complex and gripping drama – and it will be interesting to see how this first initiative succeeds.

In the new schedule, there’s more traditional music than you can rattle a bodhran at. There are highlights from musical events as diverse as the World Pipe band Championships and the Belladrum Heart of Tartan Festival – you might catch Highlands and Islands MSP, Jamie McGrigor’s Jazz and Blues set at Bella – in his other persona as Th Singing Shepherd.

There are three or four programmes focused on famous murders.

The variety of the attractive offerings in the schedule can be summed up by a few thumbnails on programmes we’ve already slated for viewing.

SWAGS – and no, this is not about pantomime burglars. It’s about – SHINTY Wives and Girlfriends. BBC ALBA says: ‘Forget Louboutin heels and Louis Vuiton handbags – on match day the Shinty Wives and Girlfriends are more likely to be found in Hunter wellies. There’s no denying that shinty players are an impassioned and dedicated bunch but turn the camera away from the pitch and you’ll find a team every bit as passionate. SWAG’s – the sensational story of the women behind the camain. [We have asked for the transmission date for this and will add it when we get it.]

From Harris with love – This airs on Monday 16 September at 8.30pm. Ten years ago, the people of North Harris took ownership of the land on which they live and the North Harris Trust was formed to run the estate on behalf of the community. It is sparsely populated with around 700 residents who live in villages dotted around the area. Each week, we follow the stories of some of the most engaging characters who live in this unique island community.

Trusadh – BBC ALBA’s new documentary series kicks off though with Half a Life Away – a sensitive insight into a selection of contrasting families throughout Scotland, and in particular the West coast, where women in isolated communities have historically been left holding the fort for extended periods with the men working away. The series starts on Monday 16th September at 9pm.

Another Trusadh gem coming up is Donald and the Cargo Boats – The story of the CalMac cargo-ships which served the Inner & Outer Hebrides in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s – direct descendants of the famous puffers. A warm story narrated by CalMac enthusiast Donald Meek, as we follow him in his boat- building hobby, and hear some of the engaging and funny tales from former crewmen as they recount their time on board. [Again, we have asked for the transmission date here and will add it when we get it.]

My Brother the Ark Raider – a painfully poignant show, this airs on Thursday 3rd October at 9pm. Scotsman Donald Mackenzie was hunting for the remains of Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey when he vanished three years ago. His family has heard nothing since and several searches by Turkish authorities failed to discover any trace of him. My Brother the Ark Raider, follows Donald’s brother Derick as he leaves his family in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and travels across Europe to Dogubayazit, a Kurdish town on the border with Iran at the foot of Mount Ararat. Here, somewhere, Donald’s remains most likely lie. Derick goes in search of answers. But who can he trust and how close will he come to the truth?

Buskers – airs on Thursday 31st october, 10pm. Buskers is back showcasing new talent and revisiting a few of the original buskers to see what’s happened over the 12 months we last saw them. Buskers delves into the lives of current and former street artists with input from recording artists and the public. From young to, well, not so young, you can find every form of street artist, whether solo artists to full bands, fire jugglers to dancers. In this new series, Buskers will visit the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Dublin, where the Street Performers World Championships is held.

In search of solitude – airing on Friday 13th December, 9pm. Niall Iain Macdonald’ solo crossing of the Minch in a rowing boat seemed like a very big challenge at the time. In fact it was to be only the beginning as he then set his sights on the North Atlantic and making the journey from New York to Stornoway. This documentary follows his preparation for the crossing, the fund-raising and training and the ongoing personal struggle of mind over matter as Niall Iain tries to see his dream through to fulfilment.

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