Radio dramas by new highland writers air to national audience

An imaginative opportunity created under the aegis of ScreenHI and Amanda Millen will see a series of brand new dramas written by budding writers from the Highlands and Islands broadcast on national radio.

This began with the HI Wireless series, featuring household names such as Daniela Nardini Gary Lewis and Sharon Rooney in the cast lists, which gave would-be scriptwriters their first taste of operating at the sharp end of radio drama – all the way from story idea to studio production.

One of the dramas, Eden, by Jan Storie, aired to great acclaim on BBC Radio Scotland in October. Now, nine further single dramas will be broadcast in December and January during the Janice Forsyth Show on BBC Radio Scotland.

All the HI Wireless radio dramas were created under the auspices of ScreenHI, screen and broadcast wing of creative industries network XpoNorth, which promotes and assists creatives working in some of the remotest parts of Scotland.

Four of the dramas will air every Wednesday in the run up to Christmas 2015.

One Last Push, by Sylvia Hehir [from Strontian in Morvern in historic Argyll], starring Sharon Rooney and Gary Lewis, tells the story of 19-year-old Carly, eager to reconcile with her estranged grandfather, Donald, as she has just given birth and has nowhere to stay. [Airs Wednesday 2nd December – tomorow]

A Door Closed, by Kerrie Noor from Inveraray in Argyll], starring Libby McArthur and Simon McCay, tells how a series of emotional calls to The Samaritans from a troubled middle aged woman leads to a transformative moment in her life and a new friendship with the younger male Samaritan. [Airs Wednesday 9th December]

The Coffin Road, by Iain Hector Ross [from Inverness], starring Allison McKenzie and Gerry McLaughlin, is the story of an engineer and a scientist with conflicting aspirations on a hiking expedition to a remote part of the Highlands. [Airs Wednesday 16th December]

Tears In The Snow by Sophia Heckmann, stars the 20-year-old writer who studied in Inverness, as well as newcomer, Kenneth McKie, and is a story of life imitating art imitating life as a novelist meets his leading character, who unwittingly helps him write his new novel as they try and heal each other’s grief. [Airs Wednesday 23rd December]

The project originated with Euan Martin and Dave Smith of Forres-based Right Lines Productions. Amanda Millen and ScreenHI came on board in 2011 and in September 2012 aspiring writers from across the Highlands and Islands responded to an online call on the ScreenHI  website to take part.

The plan was initially to record dramas written by 11 writers and put them online, but Millen, a former BBC drama producer, who heads up ScreenHI, took the scheme to another level.

She explains: ‘We decided to record all the dramas properly and the BBC offered access to their studios in Glasgow.

‘We brought in well-known writers, Colin Macdonald and Chris Dolan, to mentor our scriptwriters, while Alan de Pellette, who has a strong track record with developing hit shows like Off The Ball, Chewin’ The Fat and Still Game, was appointed director.

‘I produced them and support came from ScreenHI via Highlands & Islands Enterprise [HIE] and the European Regional Development Fund [ERDF], with additional funds from Creative Scotland.

‘It’s taken a while but we got eleven really well-produced radio dramas featuring household names.

One of the dramas, Border Control, by Dave Smith from Tain, was broadcast online at the time of the Referendum because it was time-sensitive, which left us with ten radio dramas that have now been picked up by BBC Radio Scotland.’

According to director, Alan de Pellette, directing the HI Wireless dramas was a revelation.

He says: ‘I’ve spent many years working with new writers and directing their work and it’s testament to the quality of the writing that we managed to attract high quality cast to each project, including some famous Scottish names.

‘It’s great to be part of a project like this that encourages new writers and invests in the process to make them as good as they can be, giving them a top class professional piece of work at the end of it that they can hopefully use to enhance their career.’

Plockton-based Jan Storie, whose comedy drama, Eden, aired in October, says: ‘Eden represents a wonderful calling card for me.

‘It presented a great opportunity for someone like me with no track record. I now have another radio comedy drama in development and I’m also working on a six-part series set in the Highlands. This would never have happened without HI Wireless and ScreenHI.’

More information on this resourceful initiative in a door closed,kerrie noor,inveraray.

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