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A Special Relationship on BBC Two Northern Ireland

05 February 2017

A Special Relationship – new three-part series exploring the rich connections between Scotland and Northern Ireland. In a new three-part series Scottish journalist Lesley Riddoch explores the relationship between Northern Ireland and Scotland and how it is expressed through culture, community, language, work and faith.

When Lesley Riddoch was growing up in east Belfast she thought she was the only child in Northern Ireland whose parents recited Burns and sang Scottish lullabies. But as she discovers in ‘A Special Relationship’, starting on Sunday 5 February on BBC Two Northern Ireland at 10pm, there are many people in both Northern Ireland and Scotland with the same strong cultural connections and family ties.

Lesley begins her journey in Argyll visiting the ancient Dunadd Fort – once the citadel of the Kings of Dalriada. The story of Scotland as a nation is said to have begun here and people from the north of Ireland are credited with being its first kings. To find out if those historical links are still relevant today, she returns across the channel, and during the series, meets local people throughout Northern Ireland to explore these connections.

Lesley starts with someone who could be Scotland’s greatest cultural export, Robert Burns. In a hotel outside Belfast, she joins the celebrations at a Burns Supper. Later on, she meets the family behind the internationally successful Sollus Highland Dancers in Bready, Co Tyrone; talks to a local broadcaster on the Antrim coast about the words used in the Ulster-Scots language and joins an Irish class in East Belfast to find out why Gaelic and Ulster -Scots play an important part in our shared heritage.

Lesley Riddoch moved with her parents to Belfast when she was three years-old and back to Glasgow when she was 13. She said: “Those connections aren’t just ancient history or shortbread tin versions of culture. The Scots traditions played out in Northern Ireland are alive and kicking. Highland dancing is taught in more schools here than in Scotland. And Northern Irish pipe bands regularly wipe the floor with their Scottish rivals. As for language it’s important to community and identity in both countries”.

In the second programme in the series, Lesley discovers how communities in Scotland and Northern Ireland share strong ties through music, language, poetry and sport.  She meets members of the Colmcille Pipe Band from Londonderry as they prepare for the UK pipe band championships; talks to Scottish broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove about the historic rivalry between Celtic and Rangers and in Ballywalter a poem from her childhood reminds her of the close links between Scotland and the Ards Peninsula.

In the last programme in the series Lesley explores the rich connections between Scotland and Northern Ireland as expressed through faith and evident in business, agriculture and the arts. At an auction in Lanark she discovers the enduring links between Scottish and Ulster farmers, meets a Northern Irish composer in Glasgow winning over Scottish audiences with a performance inspired by Belfast and from Dundee to the Outer Hebrides meets the Northern Irish for whom Scotland is home from home.

The three-part series, A Special Relationship, starts on BBC Two Northern Ireland on Sunday, 5 February at 10pm.

‘A Special Relationship’ is a DoubleBand production for BBC Northern Ireland in conjunction with the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.