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“There is so much amazing work coming from the Celtic nations & regions,” Celtic Media Festival Director
28 Apr 2017 : Laura Brennan
The 38th Celtic Media Festival takes place over 3rd-5th of May 2017 in Douglas, Isle of Man
The 38th Celtic Media Festival takes place this year in Douglas on the Isle of Man, over the 3rd-5th of May. Ahead of the industry calendar event, IFTN speaks with the festival's Director, Catriona Logan.

In our discussion, Catriona touches on the record level of submissions to the festival's prestigious awards; the changing trends in formats and content, the potential impact of Brexit on co-productions across the Celtic nations and looking forward to some traditional entertainment of manx music on the Isle.

The Festivals awards are one of its biggest highlights among its three day programme of discussions, pitches and networking events. Nominees from across the U.K., Ireland and Europe will compete across 23 award categories, including arts, comedy, current affairs, drama, factual, sport, radio, and more. 10 separate juries undertook almost 250 hours of listening and viewing to produce a shortlist of the very best in Celtic productions in the past year.

IFTN: The Isle of Man is a great new location for the Celtic Media Festival this year. Can you tell us a little more about the location and what attendees can expect?

It’s the first time in nearly 40 years that the festival is going to the Isle of Man. It’s such a vibrant place and we are so lucky to have been invited. There’s definitely a growing media scene there, the people have been so friendly and welcoming and the broadcast and media scene is up and coming and we are delighted to be a part of that in some small way.

We’ve put together a band of some very well-known local musicians who are going to play at our opening party, which should be really fun and it’s going to be great to hear some manx music and dance.

IFTN: The festival has been running for over four decades now. Can you describe to us what the major changes have been within the Celtic Media Festival in this time?

I believe the festival has definitely become more outward looking. I think when the festival started is was because there weren’t any indigenous language channels. So, it was there to help share ideas among the Celtic nations and regions, to share problems and solutions. What’s happened in the intervening years with the introduction of the indigenous language broadcasters, is that the festival has become much more of a celebration and a marketplace.

The awards have definitely become more well-known and the festival itself now sees delegates from London, Australia, the Nordic countries and America to name a few.  So, the festival is definitely an event which people feel is a really big date in their diary and they always make sure to come.

Festival Attendees

We actually cap our attendees we don’t go over 500. One of the USP’s [unique-selling-point] of Celtic Media Festival is that it’s big enough to attract the decision makers, but small enough that you’ll get to speak to them. We tend to get up to 500 attendees at the festival over the three days and we wouldn’t necessarily go above that in the last few years, because we want people to be able to meet everybody they want to meet.


So, for the last kind of five years, every year the amount of submissions has been breaking records. We are getting upwards of at least 500 entries across the board and that’s growing every year and we are very lucky to receive them.

The jury process is absolutely exhaustive to get nominated for a Celtic Media Festival you have to go through three separate juries before you are nominated.  So you are truly some of the best of your country is you are nominated for an award.

It then goes through to the international jury who pick the winners. It’s a very thought through process, we make sure that every single thing is watched or listened to. People pay their money to enter the festival and the awards so we want to make sure that all programmes and productions are considered.

Depending on the year and where we are, we have at least 30 jurors which can go up to 60 or 70 just depending on how many submissions we receive from each country.

We are very lucky that even people who maybe don’t get nominated or haven’t entered come along to the festival and we have our international pitching forum and speed networking events for them. If you are nominated you get a free ticket to the whole festival, you get to attend everything and it covers you across the board.

Some of the Single Documentary Award Nominees for 2017 including Irish production by Motive Television ‘I am Immigrant’ and ‘How To Defuse A Bomb: The Project Children Story’ by Des Henderson

IFTN: Have you anything to say to those who got nominated this year?

Observing the jury process as I do every year, the main thing I would say is absolutely congratulations. I see 500 entries go through and be watched by so many people and be considered and discussed. So, to make it to nominee stage means that you are the top production in that country, because you are going through three national juries before you’re even nominated.

I think that everybody who has been nominated should be really proud of themselves. There is so much amazing work coming from the Celtic nations and regions, you only have to look at our nominee list to see the talent and the quality of programming that’s being made across the board.

To make it through to nominee stage is such a huge achievement and everybody who has should be very, very proud of themselves. The people that enter as well, if there are 90 entries in a single documentary category and there’s only six nominees that’s just the way, unfortunately, we can’t nominate everybody but we know there is a lot of quality across the board.

New History Category

Yes, we felt the need to this year. Even from just going through the last few years with the anniversary of WW1, Aberfan in Wales and obviously 1916 last year in Ireland there was a huge amount of history and drama documentaries coming through we felt it warranted having its own category.

We’ve really seen with this category from the amount of entries that we got into it, that it was definitely the right decision to make.

The one thing that the Celts absolutely do have is that we are incredible storytellers and I think that comes across in our dramas, but very much so in our documentaries and our re-telling of events and our looking back on ourselves and hoping to learn things from past events.

I think that the great thing about Celtic Media Festival is that we have a huge amount of history docs, but if you look at the Kiaran Hegarty award for innovation we are looking towards the future but not forgetting the past.

We are respectful of the past and we like to talk about the past and tell stories about it, but we also look to the future and what amazing type of programmes we can make in the Celtic languages and in English.

Brexit & Co-Productions Impact

Brexit is going to have a huge impact on what happens to my delegates and what happens to attendees at Celtic Media Festival and the smaller indies and stuff like that, it’s going to have a massive impact. So, it’s important that we talk about it, we discuss it, we have hopefully some sorts of solutions for people.

For our delegates especially we encourage and we have been the catalyst for a lot of co-productions between the Celtic nations and regions.

In particular, the Republic of Ireland with our Celtic cousins from the UK. I know there are a lot of co-productions done between Scotland and Ireland.

In fact Scotland, Ireland and Wales have set up a great Celtic formats platform and they share formats and ideas amongst each other.

Creative Scotland and Media Antenna Galway and Wales always attend the festival and are sponsors of our network event and they are there to answer any questions because it’s going to have a huge impact for us across the board.

Formats the ‘Holy Grail’

I think what’s really interesting, because we get to see the changing trends from the amount of entries we get into categories and the different entries into the pitching forum. Is that formats are the Holy Grail. If you get a good format that’s sellable across several territories, that’s what you want and it’s what people want.

I think what’s happening now is that people are making a lot of factual, but factual that can be resold in other countries. Either the format of the factual can be sold or there’s something that can be put online for Netflix or Amazon.

Content Trends

Within the festival, entries don’t have to be just broadcast, we take in podcasts for radio and any sort of online platform is allowed to enter our screen awards. So, for us to have that as a festival was really important.

I think what’s happening now is that people are trying to have their eye on an international market as well as a national market for their content. It’s really important because it’s the only way that these industries are going to survive.

Aside from single documentary, which has been and will always be our biggest award and most subscribed to category, we saw a big increase in our Kieran Hegarty Award for Innovation category this year. We had so many amazing entries from VR [virtual reality] projects to digital cross-platform projects, which are massive right now.

 Key Note Speech by Dee Forbes

We are so excited to have her at the festival. Personally, as a women in the industry it’s so fantastic to see somebody like Dee taking over a national broadcaster coming from such a successful background. I’m really looking forward to hear what she has to say. Dee is such an accomplished woman and I’m excited to see the future of RTÉ with her involvement.

 The 38th Celtic Media Festival takes place over 3rd-5th of May 2017 and will see hundreds of delegates enjoy a packed festival programme in Douglas, Isle of Man. Supported by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, TG4, BBC Scotland, RTÉ, MG ALBA, S4C, Northern Ireland Screen, BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Cymru Wales, and on the Isle of Man by Department of Economic Development, the festival consistently attracts international delegates wherever it is held and offers a programme that celebrates the influential media industry of the Celtic nations and regions, as well as providing networking opportunities for delegates and speakers alike.

For more information about the Celtic Media Festival you can visit the website here

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