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BBC Scotland unwraps festive schedule packed with Comedy, Music and Entertainment

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Published: 28 November 2023



We’ve pulled together a selection box of programmes for audiences to enjoy over the festive holidays whatever their mood.

— Louise Thornton, Head of Commissioning for BBC Scotland

As 2023 draws to a close BBC Scotland has a stocking full of festive goodies across television and radio to entertain audiences over the holidays. A traditional mix of heart-warming and uplifting stories, laughs, festive warmth and musical treats will be served up alongside opportunities for reflection, making BBC Scotland the perfect Christmas companion and the place to enjoy all the festive ‘feels’.

Louise Thornton, head of commissioning for BBC Scotland said: “We’ve pulled together a selection box of programmes for audiences to enjoy over the festive holidays whatever their mood. As friends and families get together we hope to keep them company with a line-up across television and radio featuring some of the best talent Scotland has to offer.”

Comedy

Des Clarke smiles to camera from behind a desk as he hosts Breaking the Year. A range of microphones sit on the desk, all directed at Des.
(Image: Sean Purser)

There’s some comedy glitter sprinkled across the schedules this festive season bringing some much needed laughs as we head towards the end of the year. Scotland Stands Up, a 1×30 ‘Live at the Apollo’ style show sees farmer and comedian Jim Smith host an exciting line up of Scots comedians on the comedy circuit. Featuring Susie McCabe, Jamie MacDonald, Stuart MacPherson and Marjolein Robertson the show was recorded at Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh.

There are more laughs served up from Susie McCabe as she brings her sensational show Femme Fatality to a sold-out King’s Theatre in Glasgow. From growing up gay in the eighties and nineties, to working on building sites and becoming a successful stand-up comic, Susie McCabe’s life is jam-packed with rich material and the gifted performer delivers a barnstorming evening of razor-sharp punchlines and observational comedy. Scotland’s social media comedy sensation Paul Black takes a trip down memory lane with his feel good stand up special Paul Black: Nostalgia. Filmed at the Music Hall in Aberdeen as part of his UK tour, Paul examines the quality bar of Neds these days and showcases a childhood photo that he reckons solved one of the great divides in our nation.

The award-winning Breaking the News team takes a wander through 2023 with Breaking the Year. Host Des Clarke is joined by special guests Ashley Storrie, Sanjeev Kholi, Kirsty Wark & Mark Nelson to take a wry look back at the biggest stories of 2023 at home and around the world.

Music

Music will feature heavily in the schedules this year as we delve in the BBC Scotland archives with a a special compilation series to celebrate 30 years of T in the Park which began in1994 and grew to become one of the UK’s most loved music festivals by revellers and artistes alike. Edith Bowman revisits stellar performances from hundreds of artists from around the world who took to the stage, braved the weather and experienced the legendary Scottish crowds and sing-a-longs.

Roddy Hart presents Christmas at the Quay and welcomes Texas for a festive show liberally sprinkled with hits and seasonal vibes. Joining the fun before a live audience at Pacific Quay will be Nati, a singer-songwriter who has built a huge online following of close to two million fans for her livestreamed performances. Terra Kin, winner of the BBC Introducing Scottish Act of the Year 2023 who blends jazz, ambient and folk sounds with a soulful vocal completes the sparkling line-up.

Get the Tunes On provides the ultimate party playlist for the build-up to the bells. Featuring big hits, wee gems, dance bangers, traditional tracks and archive treasures this essential selection of class acts for Hogmanay will include contributions from a range of famous faces. Combining music and comedy this mixed tape will get the party started.

Entertainment

Michelle McManus smiles to camera, wearing a sequinned dress and holding a microphone. In the background are golden decorations and stage lights.

Twenty years on from her triumphant Pop Idol win, Scottish singing sensation Michelle McManus reflects on her incredible rollercoaster career, revisiting iconic TV talent moments when Scots stars captured the hearts of the nation. In Michelle McManus: After All This Time (wt) this special documentary tells the story of how Baillieston barmaid Michelle became a record-breaking Scots chart-topper with her No.1 smash, All This Time. Michelle also meets global superstar – and former X Factor judge – Robbie Williams, TV presenter pal Kate Thornton and Scots singing sensation Susan Boyle who give their insights into the TV talent show phenomenon. As well as these key music industry movers and shakers, Michelle spends time with her parents, John and Helen who reflect on their daughter’s enduring success. The programme also checks in with Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice winners, Jai McDowell and Stevie McCrorie, as well as The X Factor’s Shereen Cutkelvin and Nicholas McDonald to find out where they are now following their fling with fame.

A heart-warming spotlight is turned again on the selfless actions of some of Scotland’s unsung heroes with Jackie Bird returning to BBC One Scotland with Scotland’s People 2023: A Thank You. Jackie travels the country to seek out, recognise and thank those who have gone the extra mile to selflessly help others within their communities. With tributes from the likes of Chris Packham, Gregor Townsend and Scottish Paralympic sprinter Libby Clegg, Jackie uncovers inspiring tales of everyday heroism bringing festive cheer – not to mention a few tears – to a host of deserving individuals and communities.

A jolly Christmas is far from guaranteed in River City as the Shieldinch residents unwrap secrets and lies leading to a dramatic – an unmissable – New Year’s showdown between Lenny (Frank Gallagher), Lydia (Jacqueline Leonard) and Andrew (Greg Powrie).

Photo from River City featuring five cast members wearing festive clothing. They all stand in a living room decorated for Christmas.

We welcome brand new judge Danny Campbell as he joins Anna Campbell-Jones and Banjo Beale in the search of a Christmas cracker of a home in Scotland’s Christmas Home of the Year. Across the country, our judges will be enjoying the decorated doorways, tinselled trees and festooned fireplaces before gifting the title to one winter wonderful winner. The judges will still be looking for architectural merit and stylish interior design but they’ll also be marking the five finalists on festive flair and Christmas spirit in the one-off special of the popular series.

Photo of a fireplace adorned with festive decorations next to a Christmas tree. A screen above the fireplace mantel reads: “The Big Scottish Christmas Book Club”

Shepherding in the festive season is The Big Scottish Christmas Book Club with host Damian Barr featuring and discussing a gorgeous selection box of stories with some very notable ‘crackers’. Damian is joined by bestselling author Jenny Colgan to discuss her brand new festive novel, Midnight at The Christmas Bookshop, star of Outlander series Graham McTavish, reveals his favourite fiction and author of The Beetle Boy series, MG Leonard shares her latest novel – a contemporary fairytale for Christmas, The Ice Children. The Primary pupils of Mallaig rate the Raymond Briggs classics The Snowman and Father Christmas and the senior pupils recommend their favourite reads as potential gifts for teens.

Religion

Reflection always plays a big part in BBC Scotland’s festive schedules and as the world continues to feel as uncertain as ever, there will be the opportunity to reflect with a variety of programmes across television and radio.

Sally Magnusson smiles to camera in front of a Christmas tree wrapped in fairy lights.

Over a hundred students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland are partnering with BBC Scotland and performing the music for Christmas Celebration, presented by Sally Magnusson on Christmas Eve, and Reflections at the Quay on Christmas morning. The music for both programmes was recorded at Sherbrooke Mosspark Parish Church in Pollokshields, Glasgow, where the congregational carols were accompanied by ten RCS brass players. There will also be Christmas songs from the Senior Chamber Choir, and from the 55 strong Junior Conservatoire Choir accompanied by a strings and wind orchestra. Also appearing in both programmes will be Scottish folk singer Emily Smith, an RCS graduate, with Jamie McClennan and Aaron Jones.

Reflections at the Quay is presented by Rev Ali Pandian, chaplain at Rachel House Children’s Hospice, Rev Aaron Moffat Jackman, St Peter’s, Musselburgh, Fiona Stewart, arts writer and performer, and Dr Suzanne Bunniss, social science researcher and founder of Scottish Charity FireCloud.

Hogmanay

Edith Bowman in a gold sequin top smiling to camera.

The countdown to the bells sees Amy Irons host Not Quite The End of Year Show with a mix of chat and music on the BBC Scotland channel. Special guests will join Amy to take a look back at Scotland’s highlights of the year from the worlds of music, film, TV and Sport.

Strap in for Queen of the New Year, the Hogmanay sketch show on BBC One Scotland written by and starring Greg Hemphill and Robert Florence alongside a wealth of Scottish comic talent including Louise McCarthy; Gayle Telfer Stevens; Martin McQuinn; Paul McCole; Stephen Buchanan; Zara Janjua; Barbara Rafferty and Elizabeth Caproni. The celebratory sketch show takes on the talking points from 2023 – making us smile, wince and reminisce as we speed towards the bells. From smoking bans to climate activism via true crime podcasts, King Charles, Sam Smith and Traitors, and with a healthy dose of Hogmanay celebrations along the way, Queen of the New Year is here to poke fun at the news and gossip of the last twelve months.

Edith Bowman leads the charge into 2024 with Hogmanay 2023 with a host of special guests joining her to bring in the new year. The iconic firing of the gun from the Edinburgh Castle ramparts, and the city’s amazing firework display soundtracked by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will feature as well as music from singing legend KT Tunstall, Skerryvore, the band born out of the Scottish islands who have become a global phenomenon and the fresh but traditionally-infused sounds of the Kinnaris Quintet, influenced by Scottish and Irish folk music. Shereen Cutkelvin also gives a poignant performance of Auld Lang Syne.

BBC ALBA

Over on BBC ALBA December kicks off with a line-up of musical extravaganzas including live coverage of Na Trads, where Scottish traditional music’s finest claim coveted awards and provide a toe-tapping treat for all. On Christmas Day join ninety-year-old retired RAF pilot Bill Innes as he aims to live a childhood dream and soar to the skies in a Spitfire in Bill agus an Spitfire and discover the delectable journey of baking sensation Coinneach MacLeod in a behind-the-scenes look at his life as The Hebridean Baker. Boxing Day unwraps the extraordinary life and career of sports commentary legend Hugh Dan MacLennan and there’s fun for all the family with the Puffin Rock the Movie.

As 2024 beckons, the party continues with Iain Spanish Mackay uncovering the enchantment of Scotland’s Festivals, welly boots and all, in Scotland’s Festivals and Cathy MacDonald and Niall Iain Macdonald welcome the New Year live with a host of friends and plenty of dancing at this year’s Cèilidh na Bliadhn’ Ùire celebrations.

The revelry extends into the new year, and an exclusive backstage pass to Peat & Diesel’s meteoric rise is granted on the 1st and 2nd of January.

BBC Radio Scotland

BBC Radio Scotland has a festive mix of music and chat to keep listeners company over the holidays.

In the acclaimed Billy Sloan meets….series, Billy is joined by the driving force behind The Who, guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend on the 50th anniversary reissue of the band’s classic album “Who’s Next”. The album started as the follow up to the band’s rock opera Tommy, but as Pete explains this “Lifehouse” concept album faltered for many reasons, with some tracks penned for that turning up on “Who’s Next”. He talks about his 50 years in The Who, playing Scotland in the early days, his thoughts now of his former band mates Keith Moon and John Entwistle and his rocky relationship with singer Roger Daltrey, and how his expensive obsession with sailing means he’s not giving the band up any time soon.

Life Tracks returns for a new series over the festive period with a host of new Scottish celebrities picking the music that has helped their lives. In each programme, the celebrity shares a wide range of musical influences with the audience – from the songs and artists that inspire to key albums, memorable gigs and guilty pleasures. The opening episode features actor, Greg McHugh, who wrote and starred in Gary: Tank Commander, and has had roles in other television series including Fresh Meat, The A Word and Guilt. Actor and comedian, Elaine C. Smith, who is currently in Two Doors Down takes a spin through the sounds that matter to her most while Jack Docherty, whose credits include Scot Squad completes the series line-up.

Breaking the News: The Best of Unbroadcast features all the hilarious previously unbroadcast material from this year’s award winning series. Hosted by Des Clarke, it’s a chance to get the full live recording experience, as the team presents the finest quips, songs and epic stories that for various reasons never made the cut first time around

Grant Stott’s Christmas Collective is a Christmas Eve cracker. Grant chooses four fabulous years in British pop history and selects the cream of the crop from their Christmas Top Tens. Packed full of festive favourites and Christmas bangers with some favourite seasonal songs; from Bing Crosby to the Bee Gees, Madonna to Mariah Carey, Wizard to Wings and much more.

Get last minute gift-wrapping done on Christmas Eve with a Christmas Classics soundtrack. Join presenter and tenor Jamie MacDougall and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for this ever-popular Christmas Classics concert. The BBC SSO invites you to an evening of Christmas orchestral magic. Enjoy instantly recognisable melodies of Yuletide carols and festive songs, all wrapped up in the luxurious sound of a live orchestra with conductor Roderick Dunk.

Christmas with Cathy MacDonald and Tony Kearney features personal stories of what home means for different people at Christmas and homely traditions from around the world as well as the memories of Christmas past in the MacDonald and Kearney households.

Christmas Service brings carol-singing and readings from the University of Glasgow’s Carol Service in the Memorial Chapel on Christmas Eve. There are reflections by the University Chaplain, The Rev Dr Carolyn Kelly and the Chapel Choir directed by Kathryn Cooper.

Begin Christmas morning with a special edition of New Every Sunday.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra serves up the perfect Christmas day feast accompaniment with Christmas at the Movies. Expect the sumptuous sounds of Hollywood’s Golden Age, John Williams blockbusters, Disney favourites and the occasional surprise in this traditional festive fixture. Hosted by singer and presenter Jamie MacDougall with conductor Roderick Dunk.

Bryan Burnett takes over with Get it On at Christmas with a selection of Christmas music chosen by listeners.

Kick off Hogmanay in the wonderful company of Hazel Irvine as shares her 2023 highlights. Hazel Irvine’s 2023 Round-Up features a sprinkling of special guests, nestled between some of her favourite songs.

Runrig: A Celebration documents the impact Runrig has had on Scottish music, culture and the Gaelic language since they first arrived on the Skye music scene 50 years ago in 1973. Charting their rise to fame and success, we hear from band members past and present about their favourite memories, moments and music. Some of Runrig’s biggest fans also join in the conversation and share how much the band has shaped their lives.

The Hogmanay party on BBC Radio Scotland starts with Grant Stott’s Hogmanay Vinyl Collective before handing over to Bryan Burnett for a special live Get it On….Through the Bells. Bryan will be on hand to play audience requests to take us in to 2024.

Across television and radio BBC Scotland will be serving audiences a mix of programming to bring extra fizz to the yuletide celebrations and to start the New Year with a bang.

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