ONE of Scotland’s best-loved children’s book characters is getting a new lease of life on the small screen.
Following the massive success of Balamory, the BBC is making 26 live action episodes based on the stories of feisty, independent Katie Morag.
Katie Morag, who always dresses in trademark white jumper, kilt and wellies, is the heroine of a series of books written and illustrated by.
The 14-minute episodes, based on the much-loved books written and illustrated by Scots author Mairi Hedderwick will be screened on the CBeebies channel.
The books have been enjoyed by children and their parents since the 1980s and are set on the fictional Isle of Struay, off the West Coast of Scotland.
The iconic red-headed Katie Morag lives close to the jetty above the island’s only shop, where her mother is postmistress and her father runs the general store.
Mairi Hedderwick said: “It is high time that that I let go of Katie Morag.
“I will be intrigued to watch her transformation into the medium of live action television because Katie Morag is a very real child in a very real environment.
“The mailbags of teachers’ and children’s letters from all over reassure me on this.”
The series will be shot on location in the Scottish Highlands with the stories told from a child’s perspective.
Executive Producer Lindy Cameron said: “We are delighted to be making this series for CBeebies. It is our intention to reproduce the charm and authenticity of Mairi’s books by bringing to life Katie Morag’s beloved island in a series which we hope will appeal to children everywhere.”
CBeebies Controller Kay Benbow added: “We’re really looking forward to bringing Mairi Hedderwick’s wonderful books to life for the first time. Katie’s exciting adventures will be enjoyed by children right across the UK, all set against the rugged beauty of the Hebridean Islands.”
The series will be produced by Highlands-based TV company Move on Up, who were awarded £9,000 by public arts body Creative Scotland to study the feasibility of the project.
There have been previous efforts to bring the books to the small screen, since Scottish film-maker Dan Coutts optioned the series in 1997, giving him exclusive rights to turning the stories into a TV show.
In 2002 he proposed an animated series, in association with Red Kite Animation, and three years later he reportedly developed a pilot for a live-action series, which gathered interest from ITV, but neither came to anything.
The popularity of BBC show Balamory, also set in a small Scottish village, has been cited as one reason Katie Morag has been overshadowed.
Despite the news that Katie is moving to television, Mairi Hedderwick said in 2010 she would be quite happy if the character remained in books.
In an apparent reference to merchandising, the writer said she had no interest in “pencil cases”.
The Katie Morag stories were among the first mainstream picture books with a contemporary Scottish setting.
The island community develops over the 14 books in the series, the last of which was published in 2007.
While Katie’s family still run the only shop and post office, the maps of Struay that form the endpapers of the books show the remote island becoming increasingly populated and sophisticated, with amenities such as a new pier and a bistro.
However, Katie Morag’s Granma Mainland – with her elegant clothes and flat in the city – and Grannie Island – the independent crofter who drives a tractor – continue to represent the differences between two lifestyles.
The BBC will be hoping that the Katie Morag stories recreate the enormous success of Balamory, which was set among a fictional west coast community.
Filmed in Tobermory, the series was produced between 2002 and 2005 by BBC Scotland with 254 episodes made.
One of the main characters, Miss Hoolie, the nursery teacher, is played by Julie Wilson Nimmo who is married to Still Game actor Greg Hemphill.