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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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This Is Scotland: programmes

Scotland On Screen: Alan Cumming with Gregory's Girl director Bill Forsyth

A Portrait Of Scotland

Man of many parts Peter Capaldi unveils a flair for presenting in this new documentary looking at the art of Scotland as it reflects the changing face of the nation.

The actor brings an interesting perspective to the feature-length piece. A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, he admits that his early gift for drawing fell by the wayside as a young man but has been coming back latterly and he has again taken to sketching.

He doesn't pretend to be an expert but is an intuitive guide to Scottish art in this programme which spans from the 17th century through to the modern-day Glasgow Boys.

Dropping into his alma mater, Peter Capaldi says: "What gift I had was for drawing faces, so I'd certainly come to the right place if I wanted to learn that most particular of Scottish arts – the portrait. But then you see punk rock happened and whole armies of us abandoned our surplus greatcoats in favour of peroxide hair, pvc trousers and guitars.

"With this programme, I've been offered a second chance to learn anew about the great traditions and history of Scottish painting."

He takes up the story of Scottish art and portraiture with the indirect influence of John Knox and the Reformation, which outlawed what had until then had been the mainstay of Scottish art; religious icons.

Peter says: "In a way the death of religious art was the making of the portrait. Holy pictures were now forbidden so, with no market, and a living to earn, artists had to take a different tack."

Scotland was not the only place this happened, but Capaldi reveals some notable claims to fame such as the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – currently closed for major refurbishment – which was the very first purpose-built portrait gallery in the world.

And it was a Scot, Allan Ramsay, born in Edinburgh in 1713, who was acclaimed and celebrated as the foremost artist of this new age and focus. The artist du jour with the landed gentry, who had the money to "buy immortality" with a portrait, Ramsay not only painted the first Scottish Prime Minister, Lord Bute, but had the definitive seal of approval of the day by being appointed the King's painter in 1761.

Capaldi has a quizzical look when talking to experts as he takes his tour through these early days of Scottish art and influences such as the Enlightenment, the Ossian works and representations of famous Scots such as Burns.

However, he radiates a keen eye and accessible passion for the subject when viewing the paintings featured or talking one-to-one with some of the top living Scottish artists from Alison Watt, to John Byrne, from Sandy Moffat to Peter Howson and Calum Colvin.

The man, who gave spin a scary edge as Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, says: "It's been a delight to spend time with some of Scotland's most exciting artists and these remarkable works...

"Seems to me that the gift of the artist is to capture something of the person that cannot be found in words and can only be told in the picture. And it is in the pictures that Scotland's people and history are with us still."

A Portrait Of Scotland is a BBC Scotland production.

Rory Bremner at the war cemetery at Dud Corner near the site of the Battle of Loos

Rory Bremner And The Fighting Scots

Rory Bremner is the first to admit that his accent is Home Counties posh but he was actually born and educated in Scotland of soldier stock. His great-grandfather, a surgeon general, was decorated in the Crimean War and his father, Major Donald Bremner, served with distinction in the Second World War.

Rory says: "Both men were were proud to play their part in Scotland's great military history."

His family connection makes him the ideal presenter for this hour-long documentary, which looks at the history of Scots in the British Army.

Rory explains the special part Scots have played within the army: "Scotland – according to an old saying – was born fighting.

"In numbers out of all proportion to the country's modest size, they gave their lives for King and Empire. And there is the rub. They died for Britain's Kings and Queens and the British Empire.

"Yet for centuries Scotland and England had been the bitterest foes. What fascinates me is why, and how, that all changed."

His journey starts at Culloden, scene of the last battle on British soil. It was the end for the Jacobite cause but a new beginning for Scots in the British Army. The Government, keen to control the Highlanders, and desperate for more soldiers to fight France, came up with an extraordinary plan to recruit the rebels into the British Army.

The same Highland Scots who were known and feared as warriors made excellent British soldiers. Just 13 years after Culloden, they played a key role in Britain's victory over the French at Quebec.

By the middle of the 19th century the image of the ferocious-yet-loyal Scot had been established, not least in one iconic painting, The Thin Red Line, where the 93rd Highland Regiment saw off the Russian cavalry in the Crimean War.

Rory's great-grandfather John Ogilvy, from Aberdeen, saw action in the Crimean War and in the Ukraine. Rory reads from his relative's own diary of the time.

But he also reflects on the cost of war at the gravesides of Scots soldiers in northern France and considers the issues facing the army in the wake of Iraq and the amalgamation of Scottish Regiments.

Rory Bremner And The Fighting Scots is a BBC Scotland production.

Scotland On Screen

Scotland, and its spectacular scenery, has played a starring role in Hollywood movies from Brigadoon to Braveheart, with some notable home-grown productions along the way from Local Hero to Trainspotting.

This hour-long documentary brings Scottish movie star Alan Cumming home to take a tour of some of the locations of classic Scottish movies.

Alan says: "When 5,000 miles away it can be easy to think it's only a place of magic and myth. Seen from closer to home, things can look a little different.

"I want to take a closer look at how Scotland's been perceived, from Hollywood's long-lens view to the reflections of home-grown film-makers."

Alan, who grew up in Angus, first takes the road to the Highlands and a landscape which has provided a thrilling and dramatic backdrop for cinematic magic ranging from Richard Hannay making his escape down the slopes of Glencoe to Harry Potter hurtling over the Glenfinnan viaduct en route to Hogworts.

He talks to the members of Clan Wallace, who appeared as extras in Braveheart, and the grown-up girl who played William Wallace's childhood sweetheart.

Scotland's islands' place in its movie-lore is celebrated on Mull with the classic Powell & Pressburger movie of 1945, I Know Where I'm Going!

And he celebrates some of the weird and wonderful movies inspired by Scotland such as The Wicker Man, famously filmed in Dumfries & Galloway.

Along the way he also reviews some latter-day representations of Scotland, with director Bill Forsyth in Cumbernauld, the setting of Gregory's Girl.

Edinburgh's particular contribution to Scottish cinema is exemplified by contrasting films such as The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie – as Alan takes tea with the Morningside Parish Ladies Group – and Trainspotting.

Scotland On Screen is a BBC Scotland production.

Nicholas Crane presents Munro: Mountain Man

Munro – Mountain Man

This is the story of a Victorian adventurer, the magnificent peaks that bear his name and the people who have been possessed by them.

Little over 100 years ago, the Scottish mountains standing at more than 3,000 feet were virtually unknown. Today they are familiar terrain to many thousands of climbers, thanks to Hugh Munro's determination to list the high peaks which now define the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

The birth of this obsession – now known as Munrobagging – is a twisting tale of intrigue which presenter Nicholas Crane unravels high on the ridges and pinnacles of some of Scotland's most spectacular mountains.

Munro, who had already conquered some of the most challenging peaks on continental Europe, relished the chance to become an explorer in his own land, and set out to climb more than 500 summits.

But Nick reveals that Munro was not the only intrepid character on a quest through the Scottish mountains. This trek back in time also leads to the remarkable story of Rev Archie Robertson, a tough and charismatic climber who set off on his own mission to tick off all the mountains on Munro's list – and found a shortcut which allowed him to complete the task ahead of Munro himself.

Crane, who has been climbing the Scottish mountains since he was a teenager, and has bagged more than 70 Munros, recounts Hugh Munro's remarkable story and meets the climbing enthusiasts and experts who continue to follow in his footsteps.

His odyssey also takes him back to the Isle of Skye where he attempts to scale one of the most fearsome peaks among the Munros.

Munro – Mountain Man is a BBC Scotland production.


Tweed is a fabric which, for many, epitomises the image of heather-covered hills and glens. It has been a stalwart of British wardrobes, a peasant cloth beloved by the upper classes and would-be upper classes since Victorian days.

Latterly, its profile was heightened and given added cachet with attention from the fashion world, with the focus on Harris tweed made in the Outer Hebrides.

Yet, in recent times, the Harris Tweed industry – an artisan craft of a kind which has all but gone from the British mainland – has been in crisis, undermined by pressures from the wider, modern world.

This three-part series chronicles a battle "for the soul of the Harris Tweed".

That began when Yorkshireman Brian Haggas, a textile magnate, was so taken with a tweed jacket in his stepson's shop that he "bought the company".

The first part in the series takes up the tale as he touches down in Lewis and buys up the main mill supplying yarn to the weavers who produce the cloth using traditional methods from looms in their homes. The reception quickly turns frosty and the man who had been seen as a saviour of the industry is denounced from the pulpit as his grand plan for saving the business takes its course.

His big idea is to cut down the cloth patterns from 8,000 to a mere four, eschewing the colourful creations which had latterly put Harris Tweed on the fashion map. It is the catalyst for action both on the home-front and internationally, with locals side-stepping Haggas to reinvigorate one moth-balled mill and American Scot Alan Bain flying in to add his weight to another.

Bain is first seen in Manhattan, in his role as President of the Scottish American Society, issuing a call to action to his fellow American Scots to save Harris Tweed: "If Harris Tweed were a Japanese product, it would be declared a national treasure… and it would be both protected and promoted. Why isn't Scotland looking at some of its crafts in this way?"

Over the course of the series, Tweed features island weavers – some of whom have had to give up the craft – Savile Row and other retailers, lawyers, public authority representatives and top designers engaged in a major row over this ancient cloth and the industry that produces it.

Of Haggas' plans, weaver Donald John Mackay says: "He knew we had an excellent product and he wanted to exploit it, but what is a product without people."

Tweed is a Bellwether Media production.

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