NATIONAL columnist Lesley Riddoch will launch a new series of documentary films on Monday in Edinburgh as the first stage of a project telling the stories of small successful nations near to Scotland.
The first programme in the Nation series is about the Faroe Islands, and Riddoch along with production company Phantom Power, hope it will kickstart funding for a further five crowdfunded documentaries about our neighbours in Northern Europe.
A former BBC presenter and journalist, Riddoch last worked for the Scottish branch of the corporation ten years ago.

READ MORE: The Faroes can teach us how to make big ideas a reality in months not years

She will present a free viewing of the partnership’s first film – Faroe Islands: the Connected Nation on Monday, May 28, at 7pm in the Methodist Church Centre, 25 Nicholson Square, Edinburgh, with tickets available on eventbrite.

A 15-minute version of the film will be available on YouTube the same evening. There are no plans to approach broadcasters, though excerpts show a highly professional production that could easily feature on a mainstream satellite or terrestrial channel.

Her views in favour of independence are well known, but Riddoch emphasises – and the first film shows – that Nation is very much a factual documentary strand.

READ MORE: Faroe Islands delay their referendum on more independence

Speaking of the launch event, Riddoch told The National: “We are launching a crowdfunder on Monday night to finance other films in the Nation series, so Yes and No voters can learn about other small Northern countries and why they are doing so well. This will be a new, crowd-sourced form of public broadcasting.”

The start of the Nation series is summed up in a tweet by Riddoch: “Do Scots know enuf about our successful wee European neighbours? New Nation film series aims 2 put that right. First up, the inspiring Faroes punching way above their weight with just 100th of Scotland's population.”

Asked how the project began, Riddoch said: “I was frustrated that there was a logjam in the push for independence and the only ways that people seemed to be going forward, and they are not bad ways, were marching and doing petitions and trying to find ways to change the present situation.

“It seemed to me that one way of moving forward was to try to tell the story of other countries and leave people to come to their own conclusions. If you tell people what to think, they don’t like it, but show them the reality of life in other countries around us and their capacity to roll with the punches, and you are showing them something that the British media will just never show.

“We needed to add this reality into the debate as a fact – it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact that tiny little countries are doing stuff that we cannot because our hands are tied behind our backs.”

The Faroes, for example, has the world’s fastest mobile broadband, with 4G coverage everywhere and 5G being rolled out. Bus transport is also entirely free.

The filmmaker who shot and produced the show, Al from Phantom Power films, told Commonspace: “Nation is an upbeat, ambitious outward-looking project that reflects the values of the Scotland we know we can be. We hope the series will be a useful resource for those thinking again about Scotland’s place in the Union but also raise awareness of our neighbours to the north.

”Our first episode covering the Faroe Islands and its remarkable success proves there’s no such thing as too wee and that powers are always best held by the people they affect.”

Al proved his commitment to the project by sleeping overnight in a tent while on the Faroes in temperatures of four degrees Celsius and non-stop rain for two days.

“I was going to the Faroes anyway,” explained Riddoch, “but we were doing things on a shoestring and Al was heroic, frankly.

“It was when I saw Al’s work it made me realise how powerful film can be to convey ideas and how useful YouTube is as a distribution mechanism, so having decided to take the Faroes as our first subject, we are now ready to show it.

“What has been missing up to now is that if you want to do alternative stuff in video you have the problem of who is going to distribute it and who is going to finance it, if it’s not the BBC.

“That’s where crowdfunding comes in, because being able to produce highly professional programmes in a 15-minute format on YouTube is effectively a whole new channel featuring documentaries of a standard that could be shown on any public service broadcaster."

Monday night’s showing will be of a half-hour long "director’s cut", and will be followed by the 15-minute version going online on YouTube.

Riddoch added: “We are trying to reach beyond the converted so we have avoided trying to make other people’s stories bang the drum for independence. We are not grinding an axe about our country, we are telling the story of other countries.”