At last, a black actress will grace Scottish small screens

When Kananu Kirimi makes her small-screen debut in September she will, incredibly, be the first black Scottish actress to appear on TV.

Kirimi, a native of Perthshire born to a Scottish mother and Kenyan father, appears in the short film Small Love, which will be shown at the Edinburgh Festival next month and on Scottish TV in September.

'It is very rare to see anybody black on Scottish television,' said the film's director Manu Kurewa, who is from Zimbabwe but studied at the National Film School in England and now lives in Scotland.

'I chose [Kirimi] because I liked her as an actress. If I have seen black people on TV in Scotland they tend to have come from England. I don't think there have been any parts for them, nobody writes for them. The Asian community is huge here, and nobody writes for them. The part wasn't written for a black person, but it doesn't say white or Asian, so why not?'

It is difficult to find precedents. Tony Osoba, who starred in the prison sitcom Porridge, trained at the RSAMD in Glasgow, but he is English. There are a few Asian-Scots actors, including Annie George, who appeared in this year's Cannes prizewinner Daddy's Girl, and Shan Khan, an actor and playwright whose first drama, Office, premieres at the Edinburgh Festival next month. Russell Boyce, dean of drama at the RSAMD, says he has taught only one Scotswoman of Afri can or Caribbean descent.

Small Love is a half-hour film made by Aberdeen-based Tern Television for this year's New Found Land scheme, run by Scottish Television and Scottish Screen. It tells the story of Esther, a singer who suffers from schizophrenia, and Spike, a boy on the run from an abusive home.

Kirimi plays Esther, while Glaswegian Jamie Dodds is Spike. In the film, Spike rescues Esther as she stands wavering on the edge of an underground train platform, besieged by the voices in her head. She thanks him by offering him shelter. When Spike and Esther discover that a baby in the flat next door is being harmed, they decide to run away and take it with them.

Producer David Strachan said: 'From the early stages Manu said it would be a good idea to cast someone black in that role. That was a brilliant idea because it gives the film a feeling of being a national rather than a small Scottish story. It gives it scale. But much more important is the strength of the actors. We auditioned lots of people and Kirimi was the star.'