Edinburgh Napier academics advise on BBC's The Nest

Project helps screenwriter harness academic expertise from Scottish university sector

Date posted

29 April 2020


Edinburgh Napier academics have helped shape storylines featured in one of BBC’s hit dramas of the year as part of a project that aims to bring the worlds of academia and film closer together.

Researchers from the University have worked with screenwriter Nicole Taylor on BBC’s The Nest, helping advise on a range of topics during the research stage of the drama’s development.

The work was part of a project funded by the Wellcome Trust and saw the Beltane Public Engagement Network – which consists of the four universities based in Edinburgh – work together with the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) to facilitate the second-ever EIFF Screenwriter in Residence with Nicole Taylor.

During this residency, researchers from Edinburgh Napier, University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Queen Margaret University shared their expertise in a number of areas including midwifery, the Scottish care, social work and legal systems as well as the police with the award-winning screenwriter.

Nicole Taylor’s latest work – BBC One’s The Nest – came to a dramatic climax earlier this month  and stars Sophie Rundle and Martin Compston as a couple struggling to conceive, alongside Mirren Mack as a mysterious 18-year-old who offers to be their surrogate mother.Promotional shot for BBC's The Nest

The drama tackles a number of issues relating to pregnancy, surrogacy, social work and child protection, with Edinburgh Napier’s Dr Sonya MacVicar, Dr Ariane Critchley-Morris and Dr Naomi Wadell using their expertise to help the drama stay as true to real-life as possible.

Dr MacVicar, along with her colleague Dr Waddell, advised on the pregnancy that features in the drama, along with providing information on midwifery care in the UK and specifically how midwives react to a surrogacy pregnancy in relation to safeguarding.

Dr Critchley-Morris advised on the procedures and processes involved with social work practice in Scotland, along with answering questions and giving advice on what the legal position might be in relation to the baby in the drama series. She was also involved with giving feedback on the script for the final episode so that it was in line with current Scottish processes.

Screenwriter Nicole Taylor said: “It was thrilling (I realise how geeky that sounds) to no longer be alone with my subject but to find it unfurling in all sorts of unexpected directions, courtesy of people who were experts in – and extremely excited about – exactly the things that were gripping me.”

Dawn Smith, Public Engagement Manager at Edinburgh Napier, said: “The Screenwriters’ Residency has been an excellent opportunity for the University’s researchers. We are lucky to have such a range of fascinating research taking place across the institution, and film and television are a wonderful way to share this with a large number of people. Nicole Taylor used her time to unravel some of the more complex areas we work with and has brought this to a broad audience through The Nest.”

Edinburgh Napier’s Dr Sonya MacVicar said: “It was a really enjoyable experience and fascinating to see how the script evolved over time. Nicole was so enthusiastic about the project and her drive and commitment to the story spilled over during meetings. My involvement actually started in 2018 when Nicole interviewed Dr Naomi Waddell and I as she researched the screenplay. It’s been an amazing journey since then and I feel privileged to have played a part in helping shape the complex storylines that run through the entire series.”

Edinburgh Napier’s Dr Critchley-Morris said: “Being involved in this project was a lovely experience. I enjoyed watching the drama on TV and loved seeing Nicole’s working brought to life by a stellar cast and her amazing team.

“Many of the people we meet in child protection social work have difficult histories. As practitioners we need to meet individuals as they are today and understand what their history means to them and their families going forward. I feel like this is the same opportunity we are given with the characters in The Nest.”

BBC One’s The Nest is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer here.

Photo courtesy of the BBC