THEY’RE ten years-old. They’re Scottish, Chinese and Nigerian. They can reduce a grown policeman to tears and might just be the future of Scotland’s urban bagpipes.
A new, hour-long BBC ALBA documentary, ‘The Wee Govan Pipers / Pìobairean Beaga Bhaile Ghobhainn’ charts the first 18 months of the new Govan Schools Pipe Band.
It is being broadcast on BBC ALBA on Friday, January 1 at 2000.
Here, Lucinda Broadbent, executive producer at the programme makers – indie production company, media co-op – answers the questions…
Who commissioned the programme?
BBC ALBA commissioned this one-hour documentary on ten year-olds in the Govan’s new multi-racial Schools Pipe Band. There’s an interesting backstory too: we first came across the story when we were commissioned by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust to make a four-minute promo about the charity’s work subsidising bagpipe tuition for primary school pupils in deprived areas.
The short went on to win a Royal Television Society Scotland Award – but, by then, we’d already spotted there was a bigger story to tell.
BBC ALBA was the obvious broadcaster to approach, because the central character is a native Gaelic speaker. Former cop, Iain MacPherson, from Benbecula – pipe major of the legendary Police Pipe Band – tutors the children of the Govan Schools Pipe Band, and acts as the ambassador for the Trust.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’.
We believe there’s not enough comedy in TV documentaries. One guiding principle in the production was to give rein to our sense of humour. For example, we got our ten year-olds pipers behind the camera, interviewing passers-by in the street. The kids had a laugh getting members of the public to try playing the pipes. It’s not as easy as the wee Govan pipers make it look.
In terms of the soundtrack, although the film is about kids learning bagpipes and forming a pipe band, we made the decision to keep piping to a minimum. We commissioned some gorgeous original music by Ewen Henderson of the band, Manran.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
Director Paul Cameron, producer Louise Scott, editor Vilte Vaitkute, production manager Kate Kirton and myself as executive producer are all in-house members of media co-op.
We were hugely grateful to have researcher, Eilean Green, as a secondee from MG ALBA and assistant editor, Rachel MacLaren, on placement from the excellent media course at the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.
We brought in many of our regular freelancers, including Carlo d’Alessandro on camera and Lisa Higgins on sound. Executive producer, Margaret Mary Murray, from BBC ALBA was a great supporter of the film and a reliable source of wise advice.
What kit and software?
We shot on a CanonC100 and edited at media co-op’s own Glasgow studio on FCP. Post-production was at 422
What have been the main production challenges?
The biggest challenge was that we followed the band over a period of 18 months.
Keeping all the relationships going with all the contributors, keeping up the momentum, keeping our head as the pipe band’s plans changed and people came and went, keeping track of the mounting rushes, keeping the narrative thread intact… all kept us on our toes.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
I learned it’s not true to say, ‘Never work with children or animals’. We had a brilliant time with the kids, they have buckets of charm on screen, and there’s a dog and a cat in the film too.
I really enjoy the fact we’ve made a feel-good film with lots of laughs that also gets across some powerful messages that are close to our hearts.
For a start, the film exposes a quirk of music education policy that means pupils in private schools get access tuition in Scotland’s national instrument, while most state schools don’t. It’s not a level playing field.
The five kids we follow in the film are three Scots, one Chinese and a Nigerian: the way they get along in the band is living proof that although there is racism in Scotland, racism is not natural to children – it has to be taught to them.
Migrants are nothing new in Govan: it was Gaelic-speakers coming in from the Highlands and Islands to find work who brought with them the language and the bagpipes.
The multicultural band also illustrates how migrants contribute massively to Scotland’s local communities – an important message to underline in the UK’s current moral panic about refugees and incomers.