Made Here: Dachaigh s Duthaich / 100 Years of the SWI, BBC ALBA

DACHAIGH s Duthaich / 100 years of the SWI celebrates the centenary of the Scottish Women’s Institutes.

It is being broadcast on BBC ALBA, on Monday June 26, at 2100.

Here, Elly Welsh, director at the programme makers, MacTV, answers the questions…

Who commissioned the series?

The programme was commissioned by BBC ALBA as part of its ongoing Trusadh documentary strand made by MacTV, based in Stornoway.

It was seen as a chance to explore a slice of Scottish life – a great Institution celebrating 100 years heritage – with particular relevance to women (of all ages!).

Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’

The programme was researched, shot and directed using a single camera set-up.

The idea was to have a bit of fun and keep an ad-hoc feel, though it was tricky narrowing down the filming locations (the SWI has around 700 groups all over Scotland and they all had stories to offer).

In the end, it was decided that it would be better to keep it active so, rather than opting for an easier but more static more archive based historical programme we would keep it more contemporary, taking a journey through the modern day SWI and learning a bit about its 100-year history along the way.

The lovely artwork that bookmarks the programme was created by Lewis based artist, David Nash, and hopefully helps to illustrate the broad geographical spread of the SWI in Scotland.

Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited? 

Christina McGonigle, a women’s rights advocate and former university lecturer was the perfect person to lead the show with her sense of humour and – though she hates to admit it (and rarely behaves it) – ‘pensioner’ age bracket.

Christina had a lot of fun – it was often hard to prise her away at the end of filming and, hopefully, her character complements the subject and helps to create a light-hearted and informal feel.

The rest of the production team was in-house (MacTV), a company where people pool skills and all lend a hand.

The production team included Mairi Smith and Peter MacQueen and editor, Paul Duke.

The programme was researched, shot and directed by self-shooter Elly Welch.

Elly has trained with MacTV over a number of years. She loves truly people based stories and the chance to show the world in a less serious way.

What kit and software?

The documentary was shot on a Canon XF305 using C-Fast cards and a sound kit comprised of 2 x radio mics and a shotgun mic.

We used single an LED panel light at times or, more usually, relied on available light It was edited on one of MacTV’s Avid software edit suites.

What were the main production challenges? 

Like so many productions these days, there are less hands ‘in the field’ and it can be tricky at times filming large groups of loudly-talking women with only one operator. But we managed. And there was ALWAYS plenty of tea and cake when we were done thanks to the lovely ladies we were filming.

Scheduling / logistics is a little bit more difficult hard for an island based production company but MacTV is used to fine planning to get the most out of every mainland filming trip.

Not a minute is wasted and, by the end of filming, we actually found that there was more footage than we could include – which is always a bit agonising.

We were filming through winter and for some reason fate contrived to ensure that a force ten gale was blowing on nearly every shoot.

That’s what optical image stabilisation is for though… Hebridean GVs wouldn’t be the same without it!

What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?

Well, we learnt about the SWI, and are glad we did. Like a lot of viewers, we were also pretty sure that it was all about the stereotypes – the ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ and ‘Twin set and Pearls’ brigade.

Well, in some ways it IS a little bit like that. And it’s wonderful for it – those stereotypes are actually keeping a whole raft of traditional skills alive and that’s so valuable.

But in other ways the SWI is very forward-thinking and we were pleased and surprised to see that.

There are young women joining, talking openly about the issues of being women, being progressive and feisty.

The SWI, though not political, is forward-thinking and evolved when it comes to pastoral care and looking out for one another – community spirit.

These things are important and will keep the SWI going into the future.

As a final comment, we have never worked on a programme with so much natural laughter. It is therapeutic and wipes out the slog of long days and creative agonies. We hope that feel-good element comes through to viewers too.