Sol, a new children’s animation about grief, will be jointly broadcast by CITV, ITV Hub, ALL 4, My5, TG4, S4C and BBC ALBA on Monday 21 December, aiming to bring light and comfort to families with young children on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice.

Featuring a boy called Sol whose world is plunged into darkness when his beloved grandmother dies, the film explores the different aspects of grief (shock, yearning, disorientation and resolution) through the eyes of a child. 

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But Sol’s message is uplifting. Sent on an urgent quest to find the light that has gone out in the world, Sol’s adventurous journey enables him to realise his love for his grandmother is greater than the pain of his loss. It’s hoped the storyline and characters will help spark conversations among teachers, parents and young children about how to manage your feelings after the death of a loved one.

Originally commissioned by the Celtic-language broadcasters – TG4, S4C and BBC ALBA – who will premiere the film, this broadcaster collaboration was initiated by the BFI’s Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF), which also co-funded Sol and supports the creation of distinct, high-quality content for children and young audiences. Sol also received funding from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund and Screen Fund.

Sol has been created as a vital and relevant resource to help children and families cope with grief and is especially poignant after such a difficult year nationwide. As a result, these multiple TV broadcasters have come together to premiere Sol UK-wide, across a range of broadcasters, VOD and digital platforms in 3 languages (Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic with English subtitles on the national UK broadcasters and platforms) on the same day. 

The 28-minute film made by Paper Owl Films aims to provide comfort to families around the UK who may have experienced loss, especially those who have lost grandparents, to bring some light on the darkest day, as the darkest year in modern times draws to a close. 

“Sol is about remembering, with love, those we’ve lost, knowing we’re not alone and encouraging families to talk about their loss,” says Jackie Edwards, Head of Young Audiences Fund. “Far too many children and young people are experiencing grief this year, and so we wanted to create a moment to pause and reflect, and for public service broadcasters to come together and co-transmit this special film to as many of this country’s young people as possible to support them to find light in the darkness.”

Paul Mortimer, Head of Digital Channels and Acquisitions, ITV said: “CITV and the ITV Hub are pleased to support this wonderful initiative. The film is a beautifully realised story that will bring comfort to kids across the UK at the end of a dark year for everyone, helping children understand and deal with sadness and grief that may have touched them.”

Emmy award-winning Irish actor Fionnula Flanagan voices Sol’s grandmother alongside Myra Zepf (author and winner of Ireland’s Children’s Book of the Year prize) voices Sol’s mother. Sol himself is voiced by 12 year-old Zana Akkoc. The film’s song has been recorded by Moya Brennan, member of Celtic folk band, Clannad.

Sol was created and produced by Belfast-based children’s TV production company Paper Owl Films. Creative director Grainne McGuinness comments: “Now, more than ever, children need strong visual stories to help them deal with unfamiliar emotions and to inspire a way forward full of optimism.” 

Sol was commissioned by Celtic broadcasters TG4, S4C and BBC ALBA and distributed by Aardman. It received funding from the Young Audiences Content Fund (BFI), and from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund and Screen Fund. The Albert calculator and sustainable production certification was used to measure and reduce the production’s carbon footprint. 

“We are very proud to support this beautiful project from Paper Owl Films via our Irish Language Broadcast Fund and Screen Fund,” says Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen. “This is the first time that we and the indigenous broadcasters have partnered to produce an original animation. 2020 has been a year filled with uncertainty and loss for so many, ‘Sol’ is just the type of content we need right now, especially for younger audiences who may be struggling to make sense of it all. We are certain ‘Sol’ will be a real hit with viewers when it airs across the UK and Ireland on the winter solstice.”

The Young Audiences Content Fund supports the creation of distinctive programmes with public service values. Upcoming YACF supported shows airing this month include FYI Investigates (Sky News, First News, Sky Kids), Don’t Unleash the Beast (CITV), How (CITV), Go Green with the Grimwades (Channel 5’s Milkshake!), The World According to Grandpa (Channel 5’s Milkshake! and S4C) and Sali Mali (S4C). The YACF have also funded Quentin Blake’s Clown, the eagerly anticipated Channel 4 adaptation of Clown airing this December, written and illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake and narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. Additional newly commissioned projects are to be announced in due course.

Monday 21 December – Sol’s broadcast schedule

18:30 live: S4C (in Welsh), TG4 (in Irish), BBC ALBA (in Scottish Gaelic)
19:30 live: CiTV
19:30 on demand: iTV Hub, All 4, My5