THE beautiful beaches on the scenic isle of Arran – and the array of weird and wonderful “treasures” which get washed ashore – are the inspiration behind a new children’s animation series launching today.
Lily’s Driftwood Bay was created from characters dreamed up by artist Joanne Carmichael, who moved to the Scottish island seven years ago.
It has an impressive voice cast which includes QI’s Stephen Fry, Scottish actor Peter Mullan, who starred in the last two Harry Potter films, and actress Jane Horrocks.
The pre-school cartoon airs for the first time on Nick Jr this afternoon and tells the story of Lily, a seven year old girl who lives in a beach hut on the shore with her Dad.
Every day, the sea washes up a curious new treasure which sparks Lily’s imagination about what might be happening ‘across the way on Driftwood Bay’.
And so, with her best friend Gull, the clever seagull, an adventure begins as they head off to Driftwood Bay – and its cast of colourful inhabitants.
The £2.5million series was created by Belfast-based TV production company Sixteen South and is based on an original idea of artist Joanne Carmichael.
It is expected to be distributed globally by the Jim Henson Company, famous for the Muppets, to over 100 countries by the end of the year.
Originally from Darlington, the 43-year-old who studied theology at university in Aberdeen, bought a cottage on Arran in 1997.
She created the beach salvage characters using pottery, driftwood and other items found on the island’s coastline.
After many months of filling her pockets and cottage with wave washed glass, ceramic and wood, one day she sat on the sand and her first “Beach Fragment Dog” was born.
Birds, trees, flowers and other characters soon followed which she sold as pictures in Scottish galleries.
Joanne said: “I just started scribbling down ideas for a children’s story inspired by my own creative journey.
“I am a trained artist and I love mixed media.
“I created this story about a wee girl Lily who lived in a beach hut, who made characters from beach salvage.
“Each new day would see a new sea treasure washed ashore for Lily, inspiring her next adventure with her beach salvage friends.
“After 250 Beach Fragment pictures, I pictured the characters moving and having a life of their own and I dared to dream that they might work as a pre-school animation show.”
A whole team of designers and artists have now created environments and props completely made from beach salvage, with the majority of the objects used in the show from the Isle of Arran.
Game of Thrones’ Richard Dormer voices Lily’s Dad, Mullan voices Salty Dog the sailor while Stephen Fry plays Lord Stag, a deer with ‘a taste for the finer things in life.’
Elsewere, One Foot in the Grave’s Annette Crosbie plays Nonna Dog, Tameka Empson plays train-driving Hatsie Hen and Father Ted’s Ardal O’Hanlon voices a bull called Bull.
Lily, meanwhile, is voiced by Belfast schoolgirl Orlagh O’ Keefe.
Peterhead-born actor Peter Mullan, who played Yaxley in the last two Harry Potter films and has also starred in Trainspotting and My Name is Joe, said: “Any actor would give his right arm to be doing a series like Driftwood Bay.
“It’s sweet, innovative, funny and gentle with a good heart and a great sense of collective responsibility. I’ve never done any voice work on animation so I thought this was a nice chance to do something that my children can actually see me in for a change.”
Sixteen South producer Colin Williams said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine attracting a cast of this magnitude to Driftwood Bay.
“These incredibly talented people have taken our characters off the page and made them come alive in the most wonderful, creative way”.
Meanwhile Joanne, who has two children Matthew, 15, and 12-year-old Anna with husband Dan, a Church of Scotland minister who works in Lenzie, has now joined forces with the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) to campaign for cleaner beaches and seas around Arran.
She added: “I have always regarded Arran’s treasures washed ashore as a ‘gift from the sea’ for me as an artist, but I have been acutely aware all along that whilst to me the salvage is ‘sea treasure,’ for seabirds and marine life, they can prove to be deadly.
“I am delighted to be able to give something back to Arran, the place where it all began and to allow Arran to benefit from any success the show might have.”
COAST is recognised worldwide as one the UK’s leading community marine conservation organisations.
The organisation was responsible for the establishment of Scotland’s first No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay and is currently campaigning for a marine protected area (MPA) around the south of the island of Arran.
Lily’s Driftwood Bay will air on Nick Jr at 5.45pm today.
It will also air on RTE in Ireland, Sprout in US, ABC Australia, Kika in Germany, MTV in Finland, NRK in Norway, SVT in Sweden, and HOP! in Israel later this year.
Broadcasters in Australia and the US are keeping the original voices to the series.
The Jim Henson Company’s third party licensing label, HIP holds the exclusive worldwide television distribution and ancillary rights for the series.