A home for Welsh work for Edinburgh 2013?

Tim Price posted this in the Writers Group earlier today:

Is it time National Theatre Wales or The Sherman Cymru supported Welsh theatre but copying Northern Stage's Edinburgh model?

This year Northern Stage, the Newcastle based theatre, took over St Stephen's venue in Edinburgh and curated a series of plays by North East writers, and North East theatre companies. Northern Stage organised box office, promotion and even accomdation. 

Every year I ask ACW if Dirty Protest can take a play to Edinburgh and every year the reply is, we'll only fund a show outside of Wales if the dates outside of Wales amount no more to 15% of a total tour. 

That means for a 4 week run in Edinburgh, we have to create a tour for a piece of new writing for a probable first time writer, has to tour wales for just under 24 weeks before we can take it to Edinburgh. Or more than likely, after Edinburgh. Now blind as I am to the failings of new writing, even I can sense that that might be a hard sell. 

So what can we take from this? ACW just don't want us to take our work out of Wales?

Whereas Northern Stage are taking the bull by the horns and leading the charge. Is there a theatre in Wales that would/could be so dynamic?

Imagine a venue curated by Sherman Cymru hosting plays by Velvet Ensemble, Dirty Protest, 3D, Undeb and NTW.

Or NTW hosting plays by Volcano, Marc Rees, Not Fit State. Imagine, god forbid, that the Welsh Venue might even be the hip venue one year?

Why in Wales do we have to wait British Council year before any RFO Welsh theatres will do anything up there? Or why do our fringe companies have to pay out of their own pockets, or perform enormous tours to go there?

Read this article by Daniel Bye about his experience as one of the artists programmed by Northern Stage in Edinburgh. It is surely a model for Wales to adopt.


So I thought we should open up this discussion about what people think about this issue, and see where we could go with it.

If we say we'll leave this debate open for a month, and if the interest is there we'll the arrange a meeting with interested parties - or it could be a great discussion for D&D at the Sherman?

Let us know your thoughts.

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Comment by Matt Ball on November 30, 2012 at 10:12

I've just posted this blog about the BC showcase next year

Comment by Matt Ball on October 19, 2012 at 9:48

Following on form this discussion I've just posted this about an award to help take a new piece of work to Edinburgh

Comment by Buddug James Jones on August 27, 2012 at 23:11

I for one have wanted to see more support or at least acknowledgement of the Welsh work that goes up there. I was up there last year and saw NTW and Shock'n'Awe, but missed out on a lot of other Welsh work simply because I didn't know it was there. There just needed to be a collective flyerable program or some sort of 'branding' to all the Welsh work to just give them an extra boost while up there. And while these community pages are great for that, it does limit your audience, especially when most audiences up in Edinburgh rely on reviews, flyers, and word of mouth on the streets of Edinburgh (and twitter as well now!). Having extra support to get up there in the first place is also a great idea, but I agree with Ian- why should it be down to individual companies like NTW or Sherman to make this happen? Is there a way for ACW and these companies to collaborate and make it happen? This may just be a romantic idea... 

It seems like a lot of people are definitely wanting to see change for Welsh work up in Edinburgh and it's worth bringing it all up in Devoted & Disgruntled. As we've seen from this discussion, it has raised so many questions- Why should we support Welsh work in Edinburgh? Who does it benefit? Who should be responsible for this support?  Who and what shows should be supported? Should Welsh work have the same support to stay in Wales as it should to showcase Wales nationally and internationally? Why is it not already? The list could go on...

While writing all this I had the idea of having a lovely little Welsh yurt in the Meadows as a hub! How lovely...

Comment by Rob Evans on August 27, 2012 at 20:18
I would add that another benefit of having work on at the fringe or the Edinburgh Children's Festival is that there is not the obsession with being presented in London. Work can bypass London and go straight to an international audience. I think this can help free artists to look abroad when making work. It's one reason why Scottish children's theatre is really strong. People aren't looking to 'new writing' or 'T I E' models when they make work, they are looking to Belgium or Denmark or at some crazy naked Swedish clowns and thinking 'I want to do that.' An international outlook and audience can free you to make truly international work. And that is EXCITING and means the work will come back to Wales and allow younger artists to be exposed to it so they can go on to build even greater things. A culture, I suppose, where artists and audiences are exposed to a wider set of ideas on how you can make theatre.
Comment by Tim Price on August 27, 2012 at 18:56
Hi Rob,

I'd say there's a cultural capital that can be gained in Edinburgh, that is impossible to gain in such a short space of time anywhere else. There are literally millions of people who won't go and see a Dirty Protest show at the bottom of their road. Edinburgh offers the same show the chance to create enough noise to get a couple more of those people away from ITV2 and into their local theatre, via reviews, social media buzz, formal and informal networks.

Similar to the North East, There is no critical culture in Wales strong enough to persuade people to go see a show, people in Wales and Newcastle tend to get their information from the National newspapers rather than regional ones. So as artists we end up performing to the same community that we always do, in the same places, with no opportunity to grow and check ourselves against the best, or break into a wider public. Perhaps we don't deserve to be seen by millions, there's cultural capital in learning that too.

It might be worth considering why the two most internationally produced UK playwrights are David Harrower and David Greig? That's Scottish stories being told worldwide. That's other arts councils in other countries spending their money to tell Scottish stories. There are many varying reasons why this is the case, the amazing work of the playwright's studio being one, but the global shop window that is the Edinburgh festival has to be a huge part of that.

If part of ACW's remit is to get more people watching Welsh theatre, then one of the quickest and maybe even cheapest ways would be to fund Festival runs. Imagine if A Provincial Life had come down to Wales with a stack of stunning reviews? I guarantee more people would have watched.

ACW could fund a venue and show the best of their portfolio. The best at our publically funded sports perform on an international stage, so should our artists.

The risk is of course ACW fund shows and they all bomb. That's why a curated space, spreads the risk and the cost rather than individual grants for individual shows. If John McGrath curated an Ed season, or Roisin McBrinn, there should be some quality checks and balances in place.
Comment by Rob Evans on August 27, 2012 at 14:41

Where is the value for the Welsh public in having theatre made for performance at Edinburgh? I suppose this is the question that ACW would want answered. As a writer I love having work on in Edinburgh because it means a show might be seen and booked across the world, but should a show being performed in New York or Sydney or wherever it ends up, be funded by the people of Wales? Does an international presence benefit anyone except the Welsh Tourist Board and the individual artists involved? Or does good theatre/art cross borders by its very nature? In which case why try and nationalise it?

Comment by Iain Goosey on August 24, 2012 at 23:15

Definitely a really interesting talking point.

On a positive note, I have heard murmerings from ACW that they are considering the idea of a new Edinburgh-related funding strand. How and in what form that takes I'm not sure. I got the impression though that this might involve funds being distributed on a project funded basis, which if formatted in the right way really could empower a range of companies (small & large) to approach Edinburgh with a whole new mindset. If this was to happen, Wales would potentially be leading the way in the UK, and would strengthen the reach of welsh work beyond these borders massively.

For me, Edinburgh has become a very difficult environment, in some cases best to avoid for new or emerging companies. The realistic financial implications for fledgeling companies, when weighed up against the romanticised perceptions of the festival, can make the process very hard to justify without the right support.

The exciting ideas offered by OVNV, Northern Stage etc have definitely helped to counter this problem to a certain extent. I'm not sure whether the responsibility of facilitating these trypes of programmes should necessarily fall on companies like this (or with the likes of Sherman / NTW in Wales). Maybe there are ways they can help, but with funds so tight I don't know whether it's within their remit or capability.

A new Edinburgh funding strand however, distributed by ACW, could potentially redress this balance, allowing funds to be directed straight to the companies themselves. This could go along way to alleviating some of that risk, whilst encouraging a new generation of welsh companies to stage high quality work on an international scale. 

Comment by Elin Williams on August 24, 2012 at 19:47

thanks Matt, I am a member of the group and saw pretty much everything mentioned there :)

Comment by Sarah Jane Leigh on August 24, 2012 at 17:00

I don't think its just about having a Welsh Space - I like the fact that welsh work has been dispersed out into the fringe because maybe by putting it all in one place you are cutting off your nose to spite your face. Could this not be done digitally or in print or in the form of a relxation space like the Forest Fringe Cafe?

Can we not have a digital space where we link all the performances together and have an online platform - maybe live streaming of performances or at least a place where Welsh work is marketed all in one place - a twitter account and all such things. Then have some kind of brand like 'Made in Scotland' and almost like an information 'shop-front' where people can come and learn about what welsh stuff is going on.

I think it is backwards that the arts council do not and have not actively attempted to promote Welsh work outside of Wales. Wales deserves an international platform. Poland, South Africa and Russia have all presented  'seasons' of work at the fringe this year. I have never seen any South African work before but to date I have seen two productions in the space of a week and am hungry for more and this is what we should be striving for in Wales! 

My only worry is that smaller companies who are not funded by the arts council maybe left behind and that whatever is created needs to make sure it does not exclude the companies and their work.

Comment by Tim Price on August 24, 2012 at 12:53

If there's an Irish or Northern Irish one then that's pretty conclusive that we're the poorest served community when it comes to Edinburgh support. 

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