Published: 01/12/2015 12:33 - Updated: 02/12/2015 15:56

Highland writers' Radio Scotland drama debuts

Actress Sharon Rooney, actor Gary Lewis and Strontian writer Sylvia Herir.
Actress Sharon Rooney, actor Gary Lewis and Strontian writer Sylvia Herir.

A SERIES of brand new dramas written by budding writers from the Highlands and Islands is set to be broadcast on national radio.

The HI Wireless series, featuring household names such as Sharon Rooney, Gary Lewis and Daniela Nardini, gave would-be scriptwriters their first taste of operating at the sharp end of radio drama, from story idea to studio production.

One of the dramas, Eden by Jan Storie has already been aired on BBC Radio Scotland in October.

Now, nine more single dramas will be broadcast in December and January during the Janice Forsyth Show on BBC Radio Scotland. 

All the HI Wireless radio dramas were created through ScreenHI, screen and broadcast wing of creative industries network XpoNorth, which promotes and assists creatives working in some of the remotest parts of Scotland.

Four of the dramas will air every Wednesday in the lead up to Christmas.

One Last Push, by Sylvia Hehir from Strontian, starring Sharon Rooney and Gary Lewis, tells the story of 19-year-old Carly, eager to reconcile with her estranged grandfather, Donald, as she has just given birth and has nowhere to stay. (Wednesday, December 2)

A Door Closed, by Kerrie Noor from Inveraray, starring Libby McArthur and Simon McCay, tells how a series of emotional calls to The Samaritans from a troubled middle-aged woman leads to a transformative change in her life and a new friendship with the younger male Samaritan. (Wednesday, December 9)

The Coffin Road, by Iain Hector Ross from Inverness, starring Allison McKenzie and Gerry McLaughlin, is the story of an engineer and a scientist with conflicting aspirations on a hiking expedition to a remote part of the Highlands. (Wednesday, December 16)

Tears In The Snow by Sophia Heckmann, stars the 20-year-old writer who studied in Inverness as well as newcomer, Kenneth McKie, and is a story of life imitating art imitating life as a novelist meets his leading character, who unwittingly helps him write his new novel as they try and heal each other's grief. (Wednesday, December 23)

The project was originated by Euan Martin and Dave Smith of Forres-based Right Lines Productions. Amanda Millen and ScreenHI came on board in 2011 and in September 2012 aspiring writers from across the Highlands and Islands responded to an online call on the ScreenHI website to take part.

The plan was initially to record dramas written by 11 writers and put them online. But Millen, a former BBC drama producer, who heads up ScreenHI, explains: “We decided to record all the dramas properly and the BBC offered access to their studios in Glasgow. 

“We brought in well-known writers, Colin Macdonald and Chris Dolan, to mentor our scriptwriters, while Alan de Pellette, who has a strong track record with developing hit shows such Off The Ball, Chewin’ The Fat and Still Game was appointed director. 

Gary Lewis in recent short film Tide, appears in One Last Push.
Gary Lewis in recent short film Tide, appears in One Last Push.

“I produced them and support came from ScreenHI via Highlands & Islands Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund, with additional funds from Creative Scotland.

“It’s taken a while but we got 11 really well-produced radio dramas featuring household names. 

“One of the dramas, Border Control by Dave Smith, from Tain, was broadcast online at the time of the Referendum because it was time-sensitive, which left us with 10 radio dramas that have now been picked up by BBC Radio Scotland.”

According to director, Alan de Pellette, directing the HI Wireless dramas was a revelation. 

He said: “I've spent many years working with new writers and directing their work and it’s testament to the quality of the writing that we managed to attract high quality cast to each project, including some famous Scottish names.   

“It’s great to be part of a project like this that encourages new writers and invests in the process to make them as good as they can be, giving them a top class professional piece of work at the end of it that they can hopefully use to enhance their career.”

Plockton-based Jan Storie, whose comedy drama, Eden, aired in October, said: “Eden represents a wonderful calling card for me.

“It presented a great opportunity for someone like me with no track record. I now have another radio comedy drama in development and I’m also working on a six-part series set in the Highlands. This would never have happened without HI Wireless and ScreenHI.”

For more information, see Hear Sylvia's play on The Janice Forsyth Show tomorrow (Wednesday) between 2pm and 4pm!

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