Flagship Gaelic drama tackles dangers of online teenage relationships in sexting storyline

The BBC’s flagship Gaelic drama is to turn the spotlight on the dangers for teenagers in online dating with a storyline focusing on a schoolgirl drawn into sending explicit images of herself to someone she has never met.

Meredith Brook's character Ceitidh is at the centre of the storyline in the new series of Bannan.

The next series of Bannan, which has been filmed on Skye for the last seven years, will see its youngest regular character caught up in a sexting storyline that will take the long-running show into its hardest-hitting territory yet when it returns later this month.

Fifteen-year-old Ceitidh, who is played by Skye actress Meredith Brook in the BBC Alba programme, becomes involved in an intense online relationship shortly after suffering at the hands of female school bullies.

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But she then discovers that Calum, the boy she has been sharing explicit selfies with via an online app, is not who she thinks he is.

The makers of Bannan say they want to depict the “darkness” which is often lurking in remote communities, but is rarely depicted on film or television.

They also hope the new series, which will get underway on 21 September, will highlight the potential pitfalls and dangers for young people who are growing up in remote communities in the Highlands and Islands, but are immersed in a world of social media and online dating apps.

Chris Young, who set up a production company in the Sleat area of Skye to get Bannan off the ground in 2013, said there was a desire for the show to provide an alternative to the “cosy and nostalgic” depictions of the Highlands and Islands.

He said: “We wanted to show that contemporary issues such as online sex are just as relevant and dramatic here as they are in any urban setting. We’re exploring new territory and telling new stories.

“The internet is a significant part of life in the Highland and Islands, and has transformed many people’s live for the better, however there’s a downside because it can also bring danger.”

Director Mairead Hamilton, who also writes for Bannan, said: “Over the years we’ve been trying to push the boundaries with each series. We’re getting braver with every series and it’s definitely been getting darker in tone.

“This particular storyline presented challenges as it was about sexting and as Meredith was 14 at the time it was filmed and she was obviously under-age.

“We had to make sure nothing untoward was shown, and also we had to make sure that she was safeguarded at every point, making sure that she felt very comfortable and secure.”

Ceitidh (Meredith Brook) becomes quickly involved in an intense online relationship in the new series of Bannan.

“On Bannan, we get a lot of rehearsal time. I was able to ask her about situations in school with her own peers and whether she could attach real-life scenarios to the storyline.

“Your teenage years are a very tumultuous time. You are discovering a lot about yourself and trying to get to know yourself and understand who you are, but your peers have a huge influence on you as well.

“It was really helpful to have that time with her and know that the story was ringing true.

“It brought a real authenticity to her performance.”

Writer Laura MacLennan on the set of Bannan.

Brook, who has appeared in Bannan for the last four years, said: “When the scripts were sent to me I just found it really interesting and exciting that they had come up with a real-life current issue that people would be able to relate to. It felt like a storyline I could really dive into.

“A big thing for my generation is that you’re now able to have a relationship like that so easily without meeting the other person. That’s the most scary thing. To a lot of my people in my age group and generation that is kind of normal now. Calum is the only one that Ceitidh feels she can talk to. She feels that she can really open up to him.”

Bannan writer Laura MacLennan said: “Ceitidh’s storyline is very current and real. The internet and social media has evolved so much in the last 15 years, but there are still so many dangers, no matter how savvy people think they are. People are getting more sophisticated in their ways of tricking people into thinking they are something they are not.

“I hope young people living in island communities will really engage with the storyline. It is not the usual view of life that people seeing reflected on screen, which tends to be very stereotypical and a bit twee. There’s a lot of darkness that lurks in these communities, but it’s just not portrayed that often.”

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Director Mairead Hamilton on the set of the Gaelic drama Bannan.

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