Real life ‘mermaid’ in TV spotlight

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A new BBC ALBA documentary, which offers a glimpse into the lives of islanders in the Outer Hebrides through the harsh winter months, features a real-life ‘mermaid’.

Kate Macleod, 23, who lives in Uig on the Isle of Lewis is a wild water swimmer who braves the sub-zero temperatures of the sea and lochs on the island all-year-round.

Kate uses a monofin when she swims and she has a mermaid tail which was custom made for her by a woman in Hawaii to fulfil her childhood dream of being a real mermaid. She has also used it for commercial work. Kate is also a freelance editor and makes short films for BBC The Social and has her own YouTube channel.

Kate said: ‘People say life is hard on the islands during the winter, especially when the weather is wild and it’s cold and dark and it’s always raining.

‘If you’re wearing appropriate clothing though and you are prepared to get wet, then it’s not so bad.

‘I enjoy film making, especially outdoors, because it is so beautiful here and I just want to share it with everyone, especially during winter. The clouds are so dark and it makes the sea look even greener. And I’m going to swim in it.’

She added: ‘People used to stay indoors during the winter. Their aim was to keep warm and healthy. But my family tend to try and spend time outdoors and the sea plays a huge part in our lives.

‘We embrace everything in this area. The problems of the world are far from your mind. You just swim. I feel like a mermaid. I just enjoy it.

‘When I put my head under the water, I feel weightless and as I swim, I appreciate the beauty around me. There’s no other place like this.’

Seumas Mactaggart, Head of Production and Development at Stornoway-based TV production company MacTV which made the programme for BBC ALBA, said: ‘This is a unique glimpse into the lives of islanders inspired by winter in some of Britain’s most westerly communities.

‘The nights draw in, the clocks fall back and winter arrives in the Western Isles.

‘Here, where low-slung villages link wilderness and sea, the dark season throws landscape and life and their many textures into sharper focus.

‘It can be harsh and it is always long. Many would never endure it, but for some who live here, winter brings its own light – a time of creativity to be cherished.

‘This programme falls into step with artists, poets, wilderness lovers and more as they navigate their own versions of winter in this island outpost.

‘It can be tough but incredibly beautiful and rewarding, as we hear in the stories from people in these communities.

‘Our aim was to create a visceral, immersive viewing experience that captured the stories of those who live and thrive here and give a sense of the landscape and the elements themselves.’

Trusadh: An Geamhradh/Winter aired on Monday October 26 and is available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days.