Producer of Gaelic drama Bannan warns show has reached a "crossroads"

Just 18 episodes of Gaelic drama Bannan have appeared on screen since filming began on Skye in 2013.

Just 18 episodes of Gaelic drama Bannan have appeared on screen since filming began on Skye in 2013.

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The man behind the BBC’s flagship Gaelic drama wants to boost production of the show to up to three times its current level to secure its future and help sell the show around the world.

Christopher Young, who produced the hit comedy The Inbetweeners before starting work on Bannan, wants to make up to three series a year at its base on the Isle of Skye.

Gaelic drama Bannan is filmed almost entirely on the Isle of Skye.

Gaelic drama Bannan is filmed almost entirely on the Isle of Skye.

Young, who has overseen the filming of 23 episodes of the show over the last three years, has outlined ambitions to “get it on a regular footing” to help capitalise on a new international distribution deal secured earlier this year.

He wants to establish regular broadcast slots for the drama – which is set amid the fictional island community of Camus and filmed on Skye – and a rolling production schedule in contrast to the annual screening of five new episodes.

Young is trying to secure a new “game-changing” three-year deal for the show from the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and MG Alba, the operators of Gaelic channel BBC Alba, which screens Bannan.

He says such backing would trigger other film and TV productions being made on Skye and maybe even the creation of its own studio. But he warned Bannan has reached a “crossroads” and could “wither and die” without a firm commitment over its future.

Young was particularly critical of Creative Scotland for withdrawing financial backing from Bannan for the fourth series and has been lobbying chief executive Janet Archer for a rethink to help secure the show's future.

Bannan, which features a mix of professional and first-time actors, took a much darker turn in its most recent series, and will see a major murder mystery plot in the next batch of episodes, which have just been filmed on Skye and will air next year.

However Young, whose company is developing a string of other film and TV projects from its base on Skye, said he had no guarantee that any future episodes of Bannan will be made.

He said: “We’ve made nine hours of drama, we’ve got international sales distribution set up, it’s delivered on all the fronts we said it would, we’ve got fantastic roots and infrastructure on Skye, and we’ve brought a huge amount of money into the island.

"Either it is going to wither and die now or it’s going to be something that will take root to a point where will will never look back. That’s the crossroads we are at.

“The ideal scenario would be to get Bannan on a regular footing. The real problem for us is that it’s been stop-start. At no point has anyone said to us: ‘We’d like to do 18 episodes.’

“From now we have to go into a three-year production cycle on Bannan and really ramp it up. If I knew today that was happening there would be a game-changing effect.

“I would comfortably create another couple of dramas on the back of that and suddenly you’d have a whole industry here. You might have a situation in five years where Skye had a proper studio because lots of film and television was being made. It would be almost recognisable."

Young said he was disappointed not to have Creative Scotland on board after initial backing to get Bannan off the ground.

He added: "What we really need is a commitment over time. As soon as you get that you can bring more money in. If I have MG Alba committed for three years I can build on that and we can get up to 10 or 15 episodes a year.

"We had support from Creative Scotland for the first 18 episodes, but it was quite tough getting it. It's not really that obvious to them and Gaelic is probably quite low on their agenda, but it shouldn't be.

"We had support from Creative Scotland for the first 18 episodes, but it was quite tough getting it.

"I saw (chief executive) Janet Archer recently and told her they have to be involved going forward.

"We're not spending huge amounts of money but what we're doing is just not happening anywhere else in this part of Scotland."

A spokesman for MG Alba said: “Bannan has been an outstanding success since it was first broadcast two years ago.

"We continue to look for ways to support and develop new programming on BBC Alba, as evidenced by our request for the BBC to commit to 10 hours of new programming per week under the next Royal Charter."

A spokeswoman for the government said: “ We’re very pleased to see the success that Bannan is having attracting an audience at home and abroad and welcome the social, cultural and economic impact for Gaelic broadcasting. This is why we’ve pressed the BBC to increase its commitment to BBC Alba in order that this sector can continue to grow.

“We’re aware of the calls for more support to develop programming and this will be considered as part of the forthcoming spending review.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: "We supported the first three series of Bannan over the past four years, contributing a total of £956,333, the highest amount of funding we have ever invested in any production.

"This support was, in part, awarded to enable the producer and MG Alba to establish a sustainable future funding model as well as supporting training and skills development.

"As demand for our funding is extremely high it is not appropriate for us to fund further series from the limited lottery funds that we have available."

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