Move Over Breaking Bad, Here Comes Bannan

Scotland's Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba is hoping Bannan will appeal to a wider audience.

Scotland’s Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba is hoping Bannan will appeal to a wider audience.

Here’s some great news for my fellow small-screen junkies – a new Scottish series will soon be hitting our screens, filmed entirely in Gaelic and influenced by cult-hit Breaking Bad. Filming of Bannan (trans. The Ties That Bind) has recently begun on the Isle of Skye, with three pilot episodes commissioned by BBC Alba.

Bannan follows the story of Mairi Macdonald, who returns to the island for a funeral having left eight years earlier, and rediscovers the emotional ties that bind her there. The series will be directed by River City actor Tony Kearney and if successful up to 20 episodes per year could be produced. The latest annual report for BBC Alba identified original drama as something that was lacking on the channel.

Chris Young, who produced E4 comedy The Inbetweeners, is working with screenwriter Chrisella Ross and Kearney on the series, and said the soap will be made on a low budget. Mr Young, a Gaelic speaker who lives on Skye, said he wanted Bannan to have the feel and structure of the Danish political drama Borgen or the US crime series Breaking Bad.

“We’re keen to do something contemporary and I think we want to bring a drama in Gaelic to a firmly 21st century audience,” he said. “We want to talk about 21st century Gaels, who are of course living in 21st century Scotland.”

He added that the drama departed from any previous Gaelic productions by being immersed in the language from start to finish. “We originated the script in Gaelic, and I think the big step forward with this is director Tony Kearney directed his actors in Gaelic. And we have a crew that is Gaelic. I think that is revolutionary.”

In other Scottish language news, the latest results from the 2011 Census have revealed the decline in Gaelic speakers in Scotland has slowed. The 2001 Census results recorded an 11% drop in speakers, while the new figures suggest a 1.2% fall from 59,000 to 58,000. The results also showed a 0.1% increase in the number of Gaelic speakers aged under 20.

The Scottish Government called the results ‘encouraging’ and said their investment in the language was paying off. Alasdair Allan, minister for Scotland’s languages, said: “While the census shows a slight fall overall, we can take real encouragement from the growth in Gaelic speakers under the age of 20… Our efforts to support Gaelic and create more learning opportunities for all ages has also significantly slowed down the decline in the overall numbers of speakers, many of whom tend to be in older age groups.”

The Census also revealed that 1.5 million people regularly speak Scots at home. Michael Hance, director of the Scots Language Centre, said Scots had suffered from “centuries of neglect”.

He said: “It is good to see figures being produced for the first time on the number of those speaking Scots and now that we have these figures we are calling on the Scottish government to draw up a Charter for Scots outlining how the language and its dialects can be supported more effectively… The data gathered during the 2011 census means that we can now begin to plan how to support communities of Scots speakers and to encourage those communities to value their language and pass it on to future generations.”


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