What does support for theatre makers look like in Scotland?

Natalie Querol, 28 July 2012

Nic Green, Jen McGregor, Orla O'Loughlin, Flavia D'Avila, Stewart Laing, Naomi O'Kelly, Emilia Weber, Debbie Hannan, Natalie Querol.

This was a wide ranging discussion with many fantastic contributions. This report is a summary but please add comments if I've missed anything or, indeed if you'd like to continue the conversation.

The group indicated fairly early on that there is quite a lot of support for the writing of production of ‘plays’ in the traditional playwright led model. Similarly there is support for dance. The majority of the conversation was therefore focused on work that sits between those two poles; devised theatre, live art, site specific work, as there was a general feeling that this is the area in most need of support.

The greatest needs were identified as:

support for very early stage R&D including support to pay collaborators when there is no clearly defined end point
ease of access to professional development support that doesn't necessarily involve a prolonged and arduous application process

In addition the following barriers to development were identified:
the potential difficulty of artists getting stuck in a constant development cycle if there is

no support to then actually take work to full production
the difficulty of touring work outside Scotland - there was a perception that the first stop south of Edinburgh was London and that that was a big leap - there was little sense that venues between those two cities were readily accessible

There seemed to be a general feeling that this support could perhaps be better provided by venues or cultural organisations rather than by direct funding.

The group felt that the natural home for development of the kind of work under discussion was the Arches although the examples that came out of significant development opportunities experienced by artists in the group had been provided by the Traverse (extremely flexible and financially supported residencies) and National Theatre of Scotland (Auteurs scheme through which 5 artists were supported to undertake professional development activity and to undertake initial development on a new show).

Examples of interesting models outside Scotland were:

National Theatre Studio (London) who provide development time for which everyone is paid
Step by step support offered by Hightide
Government support for artists in Latvia who are essentially given a wage and then supported to develop work internationally so that they serve essentially as cultural ambassadors for the country.

The Work Room was given as an interesting model that supports dance within Scotland.

Mentoring support was identified as extremely useful and currently available from FST and Playwright's Studio Scotland. Improbable once had a mentoring database and may have one again in the future but it's not currently available. It may also be possible to apply to Creative Scotland for professional development funds to pay for a mentor. (It was suggested that applications to Creative Scotland's professional development funds were down by 60% so now might be a good time to apply).

For taking work outside Scotland it was suggested that finding a good producer was really the key. There was some debate about whether there are enough producers in Scotland currently. Apparently a new producers forum has recently been established.

Most of the group felt that there are plenty of venues in Scotland and plenty of opportunities to scratch work, however this led to a discussion of whether there were audiences for adventurous new work. The general feeling was that the audience for more european style work in Scotland was concentrated into the three weeks of the festival and this doesn't translate into an appetite for a regular programme for adventurous new work. Is this problematic? Or is it possible to be based in Scotland and make and perform the majority of your work elsewhere? One way in which venues could indirectly support artists to create innovative new work would be to programme exciting international work throughout the year in order to provide inspiration and to build a more regular audience.


artist development, edinburgh, Scotland, Edinburgh, talent development, mentoring