Gaelic TV drama Bannan wins new four-year deal

Debbie Mackay and Dol Ian MacKinnon are two of the main stars of the BBC Alba series Bannan.
Debbie Mackay and Dol Ian MacKinnon are two of the main stars of the BBC Alba series Bannan.
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The company set up on the Isle of Skye by the producer of the hit comedy The Inbetweeners has won a new four-year deal to continue making a Gaelic drama series there.

Chris Young, who relocated to the island to create Bannan for BBC Alba, has negotiated a £4 million deal to secure its long-term future.

The new contract with channel funders MG Alba, announced at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, has been hailed as a “game-changer” for television production in the Higlands and Islands.

Speaking before the premiere of three new episodes of the show, Young said the move would allow Skye to capitalise on a current “golden age for long-form television drama.”

BBC Alba has broadcast 18 episodes to date, with another five which were filmed on Skye last year due to go on air in the autumn.

But Mr Young said production on the show had been “ad-hoc” to date due to the lack of a long-term commitment.

Aroud 100 people actors, writers, directors and technicians currently work on Bannan, which started production in 2013 and will develop into a murder mystery.

He said the new deal would allow “more risks” to be taken with Bannan, with a new team of writers, directors and producers able to take the show in “exciting new directions” over the next four years.

Mr Young said the deal would also allow him to pursue a host of other projects from Skye, including a feature film about the conspiracies over the Lockerbie disaster and a big-screen version of the classic novel The Silver Darlings.

His company, Young Films, has already signed a distribution deal to sell Bannan to overseas broadcasters.

Mr Young said: “We are living in a golden age for long form television drama. Never has there been such an appetite from audiences, combined with such a wide range of possible platforms on which to watch it.

"It is to MG Alba’s great credit that they have stepped up to embrace this unique moment and opportunity.

"This game-changing decision will follow through on our hard-won, but still fragile, success.”

Maggie Cunningham, chair of MG ALBA, said: “The development of drama was a key milestone for BBC ALBA and since it was first broadcast in 2014, Bannan has proved popular with both our core Gaelic audience and non-Gaelic speakers alike.

"The four-year deal with Young Films will provide longer-term certainty for Bannan’s ongoing development.”