Is the Central Belt (perceived to be) colonial? ...and other tales

Suzy Glass, 8 September 2012

A small and fluid group gathered to discuss this question. Or in fact, not really to discuss this question, but to pick up on issues it perhaps alludes to. I'm going to try to represent some of the conversations we had, although they were nuanced and often multi-layered, so this is definitely a distillation. We didn't all agree all the time!

We started off talking about how artists working in small places (villages, islands) can get their work heard or seen. Perhaps the lack of ability to shout about work is part of the reason why the Central Belt appears to be so dominant. Is there a lack of effective marketing, is there a lack of effective talent spotting?

One of the group wondered whether there's a bit of snobbery around the work made in very rural locations. If you're from and work on a small island, do people in the Central Belt presume that your work is going to be parochial?

We talked about finding ways of pairing up and sharing skills and experiences across the Central Belt & the Highlands. Is it possible to develop working methodologies whereby artists genuinely collaborate in order to exchange values and gain exposure to each others' territories. This inherently deals with the colonial issue.

In general it was felt that theatre in the Highlands might benefit from being ‘experiential’. While it's difficult to develop and attract audiences to venues, people

seem to react really well to promenade and sited work. Is it because things are literally appearing in front of people, we can encounter the arts in our daily lives.

A little conversation then happened around perception. It's really important to believe that there can be opportunities in the Highlands. For as long as there's a perception that everything and all the opportunities are in the south and there's nothing in the south, it's likely to stay that way.

Then an impassioned plea to make sure that it's OK for Highlanders to leave...and to make sure that when they want to come back they can. This is important because it's critical for people to leave in order to have different experiences, acquire new skills, see new things. Then when they come back there's renewed enthusiasm & possibly enthusiasm.

We moved onto a conversation about infrastructure, in this instance buildings. Eden Court is the only building-based theatre organisation in the Highlands. Does this point towards a massive need for capital investment? the assumption here the wrong one? Is it more that more work is needed that's appropriate for non-professional spaces and the public realm? And with this in mind, is the Year of Natural Scotland (2013) a massive opportunity for theatre in the Highlands?


public realm, Collaboration, rural, collaboration, urban, highlands, colonial, central belt, capital