HITN Media Release – 19 July 2006 – No Embargo
There’s a new tipping point in the theatre and it’s tipping north.
For a long-time theatre in Scotland has been focused, let’s be honest, on the Central Belt. There have been, however, in recent years major developments in the Highlands and Islands that are changing all that. SAC has helped fund for some time theatre companies in the area that are now members of a major new initiative, the Highlands and Islands Theatre Network. What kind of companies? Well, see, for example, the attached list of six major theatre events recently achieved, under way and in development.
There can be no doubt that stirring in the north of Scotland lies some of the most open-minded creative and lively talent in Scottish theatre. And it is a reflection of that creative theatrical enterprise that two major new project are being developed by the Highlands and Island Theatre Network.
One is Scotland’s very first national festival focusing on theatre arts. Called Dràma Na h-Alba – Scotland’s Theatre Arts Festival and Forum, it reflects in its title the multicultural dimension of Scottish culture. It will be launched at Eden Court in Inverness in October 2007 (Thursday 18th to Monday 22nd) and involve not only the Highland companies, but the National Theatre of Scotland and, almost certainly, Dramaten, the Swedish national theatre, and Profilteatern, one of Sweden’s leading experimental companies. This is besides a wide range of fringe and forum events.
And for 2008, preparation is already under way for the most ambitious international theatre collaboration ever to come out of Scotland. Eleven Highland and twelve Swedish theatre artists have been working since last year on the development of a new touring show to be presented in both Sweden and Scotland. Based on the story of Kaspar Hauser, it will draw on international talent to widen the eyes and open the minds of theatre audiences in both countries.
The Highlands & Islands Theatre Network is therefore delighted to announce the development of these two key projects in support of its members:
- Northern Connections
One of the major projects undertaken by HITN over the last year has been the development of a new creative liaison between theatre companies in the Highlands and Islands and northern Sweden. The first weekend of last December saw twelve Swedish artists and eleven from the Highlands meet for four days at Ullapool to work together, to get to know one another creatively and to develop ideas for a long-term collaboration, This was hoped to lead towards a joint production.
The Ullapool weekend was highly successful and was followed by longer workshops during the first weekend of April in Sweden. There, members of Profilteatern from Umea and Vasterboten Theatre from Skelleftea shared ideas with the Scottish artists, worked on joint mini-projects and explored how they might work together on a larger scale.
These creative weekends were full of international artistic co-operation. Plans are now being developed for a major production in the summer of 2008 to be performed in Sweden and Scotland, involving members of the two Swedish theatre companies and theatre artists from a variety of companies, all members of HITN. In addition, individual collaboration has led to Jackie Goode of Goode for a Giggle having already worked with Swedish actors on a project in Umea, Alastair Satchel of Perhilion Theatre Company and Andy Thorburn working with Swedish musicians towards a possible recording and several other projects growing under the creative dynamic of the Northern Connections link.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the National Theatre of Scotland have supported the initial phase of the project from the Scottish side as a professional development project. It is intended to move to the next stage in discussion with a variety of funding sources including the local authority in Västerbotten in the north of Sweden and the international EU Northern Periphery programme, which is dedicated to creating links on the northern periphery of Europe.
This major international theatre project draws on some of the most lively theatre companies and artists in both Sweden and Scotland. It will draw on the parallels between life in the Highlands and Islands and the north of Sweden. It will explore the shared experiences of living in centres distant from the major cities, of the human aspects of the movement of peoples both out and in of their regions and the various language cultures of their communities.
Above all this is probably the biggest international joint project ever proposed in Scottish theatre and will be dedicated to providing great theatre for the people of the regions in which both the Swedish and Scottish companies are based.
- Dràma Na h-Alba – Scotland’s Theatre Arts Festival and Forum
The Highlands and Islands Theatre Network is planning to mount Scotland’s first Theatre Arts Festival and Forum – Dràma Na h-Alba (DNA) during October 2007 and biennially thereafter. Our vision is to celebrate the best of today’s theatre in the Highlands and Islands, offering a forum to learn, create and debate.
A Festival Implementation Group is in place, with representatives from HITN member companies and observers from major agencies, including the National Theatre of Scotland, the Playwrights’ Studio Scotland, The Federation of Scottish Theatre, Promote YT Scotland, HI~Arts, Highland 2007 and Eden Court Theatre.
The aims of the Festival are:
- To celebrate, share and promote the highest quality theatre and build links between the Highlands and Islands and national and international practitioners;
- To create opportunities for the involvement of the wider communities, including young people and children;
- To provide an environment for Scotland’s theatre community to learn, debate, innovate and create.
The working group has already agreed a set of Programming Principles for the Festival and a provisional core structure for the event, which is currently programmed to run from Thursday 18 to Monday 22 October 2007 and using Eden Court Theatre as the main Festival and Forum hub venue. It is planned to hold the event biennially thereafter.
The Festival plans include new and remounted work from HITN member companies; a partnership production with the National Theatre of Scotland; work from two visiting UK companies, at least one of which will be Scottish; and visiting international companies, which for 2007 are likely to be Dramaten, the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden, with their new production of “Macbeth” and, Profilteatern, an experimental Swedish company.
The programme also includes Forum and Masterclass Workshop supporting events with national and international visiting practitioners in theatre arts.
A formal announcement of the Festival and Forum Programme will be made at next year’s Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS).
Highlands & Islands Theatre – A Success Story
Right Lines, based in Tain and Alves, a close runner-up to the winner of Highland Quest, Eden Court Theatre and Cameron Mackintosh’s search for a new musicall with ‘Whisky Kisses’. Out of an original world-wide entry of 144, this sharp comedy made it to the final five, and despite not being the outright winner, is already being talked about in terms of a full scale production. The talent now nurtured in the Highlands and Islands can take on the best in the rest of Scotland.
Highland theatre has often been seen, too, as a bit tired, a bit derivative. The cliché of Pitlochry, for example, was that is did only Agatha Christie and tired potboilers. If that was ever true, it certainly isn’t now. It was first, for example, in Scotland brave and creative enough to première the controversial and challenging “Dolly West’s Kitchen”: not the Traverse, not the Citz, not Dundee, not the Lyceum, but Pitlochry. And now that theatre is enlarging the very conception of what theatre provision is as it expands its programme, just like such major theatres in England as West Yorkshire Playhouse, to include superb Literature and Music festivals through its exciting winter programme.
Meantime, in the late summer of next year, Eden Court in Inverness will re-open as the largest theatre complex in the country. Over the last ten years Eden Court has delivered a dramatic rise in its audience numbers and having sold 160,000 tickets in 2004/2005 attracts a larger percentage of its region’s population than any other theatre in Britain. Eden Court has also developed Scotland’s largest arts education programme with 13 full time staff. Since 2004 Eden Court has delivered formal school level qualifications and now provides Higher Drama, Higher Dance and Intermediate 1 & 2 Drama to school pupils who attend the theatre in their own time to study.
In the last three months, Highland companies have toured three challenging and exciting new shows by Highland writers. Dogstar has toured Ali Smith’s “The Seer”, presenting a lively post-modern new work for over seven weeks the length and breadth of Scotland. Arts in Motion with Aye! Productions toured the ground-breaking “Sealskin Trousers” employing advanced aerial work integrated into the dramatised version of Eric Linklater’s tale, demonstrating the innovative potential of Arts in Motion’s creative experimentation. Theatre Hebrides has toured Kevin MacNeil’s “Callanish Stoned”, representing the clash of cultures of youthful modernity and tradition in a widely welcomed satirical dramatic debut by one of Scotland’s leading poets.
And of course the National Theatre of Scotland has recognised the dynamism of the Highland Theatre scene. It is a striking fact that of the ten productions that constituted its first production, “Home”, four resulted from collaboration with Highland theatre artists. Three involved partner companies: “Home” Stornoway (An Lanntair), “Home” Caithness (Grey Coast Theatre Company) and “Home” Inverness (Eden Court). The fourth, “Home” Shetland, involved the writing of Shetland playwright Jacqui Clark working with Jackie Kay. The fact that Highland input was such a major part, nearly fifty percent of the “Home” production experience speaks for itself as evidence of the current vitality of Highland theatre.
Statements of Support for the work of HITN
“The weight of talent within the theatre organisations of the Highlands and Islands is enabled to realise its full potential through the highly effective Highlands & Islands Theatre Network. HITN supports the artistic interests of theatre and dance and reduces bureaucracy, freeing up creative time. Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland has really been able to extend and deepen its contact with the artists and companies of the Highlands and Islands as a direct result of the excellent work of HITN.”
Julie Ellen, Creative Director, Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland. 0141 332 4403. [email protected]
“The Northern Connections collaboration with HITN have been totally stimulating for us in Västerbotten. It is a real eye-opener to the similarities between our cultures but also proof that we can all benefit from learning more about each other. From a European cultural perspective both Norrland and the Highlands are in the periphery. Our own perspective is to put our art and our respective audiences in the centre of attention!”
Robert Herrala, Project Manager, Västerbottensteatern.mailto:[email protected]
“DNA is going to be a wonderful addition to Scotlands theatrical calendar. Theatre in the Highlands and Islands is alive with vital, imaginative, distinctive voices and this festival will provide the artists and companies who make up HITN with the ideal platform to showcase their work and celebrate the region. It will also demonstrate the exceptional contribution to a vibrant national theatre culture that HITN makes – a useful reminder that great theatre doesnt begin and end in the Central Belt.”
John Durnin, Federation of Scottish Theatre. 0131 220 6393. 01796 484602. [email protected]
“The work that HITN is undertaking to support Highland based companies is essential. The two projects outlined here will help enormously – Northern Connections by exposing Highland based practitioners to influences from another country and DNA by ensuring that for a short period every two years the eyes of Scotland’s theatre community should be focused Northwards – that will be good for all of us.”
Colin Marr, Director, Eden Court Theatre. 01463 239841. mailto:[email protected]
“The setting up of the Theatre Network as a stand-alone company, and the ambitious plans for a national theatre festival, are the results of a long process of growth and development which has been greatly aided by funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Arts Council, but which is due most of all to the tenacity and the creative energy of the many individuals who make up the theatre companies within the network.”
Robert Livingston, Director, HI~Arts. 01463 717091. mailto:[email protected]
“Highland 2007 is happy to support Dràma Na h-Alba (DNA) – Scotland’s Theatre Arts Festival and Forum – which will be one of the highlights of the year Scotland celebrates Highland Culture. By bringing together local and national theatre companies, HITN are creating a great event for 2007, but are also forging partnerships which, along with the Northern Connections project, could give a lasting legacy well beyond 2007, placing Highland drama on a national and international stage.”
Cathy Shankland, Arts & Heritage Manager, Highland 2007. 01463 702007. mailto:[email protected]
“A Scottish Arts Council spokesperson welcomed HITN’s commitment to the development of Highlands and Islands’ theatre companies and looked forward to working with it, alongside other local partners, to reinforce the skills of drama professionals in the region.”
Graham Berry, Chief Executive, Scottish Arts Council. 0131 226 6051.
Notes to editors
The Highlands & Islands Theatre Network Limited (HITN) is a consortium of all the professional producing theatre and dance companies based in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. HITN’s role is to provide an identifiable mechanism for contact and communication, advocacy and advice in order to develop a sustainable sector, which takes into account the sparse population and geographical challenges faced by the HITN members. There are currently 23 Member Companies from the professional sector.
HITN has the following agreed aims:
- to promote the advancement of education and the arts in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland area for the benefit of the public;
- to promote the professional theatre sector in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland area at regional, national and international levels;
- to work with other organisations to encourage wider access to theatre across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland area.
HITN is serviced by 2 p/t freelance development posts:
Contact: Ian Brown, Chairman, HITN (available for interview) on 07976 922030 [email protected] ;
Stuart Brownlee, HITN Marketing & Information Co-ordinator: c/o HI~Arts,
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