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
'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
'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.'