RCS supports emerging artists and creative innovators to Make It Happen

RCS supports emerging artists and creative innovators to Make It Happen

Published: 14/12/2022

An eco-friendly educational board game, a dance theatre work based on the Australian Black Summer fires, an EP from a rising star on the European jazz scene and the launch of a circus school to boost health and wellbeing … they’re just some of the projects that will take flight through an annual micro-funding initiative at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Scotland’s national conservatoire has announced the recipients of its Make It Happen Fund, which supports recent alumni in the early stages of their careers to help bring their creative ideas to life.

Ten graduates have each received £1,000 from the fund, established in 2018, to give emerging artists access to a pot of seed funding for everything from training, networking and testing ideas to starting up companies, staging pop-up events and forming new collaborations.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s Make It Happen Fund, a dynamic group of graduates whose creativity and passion for the arts will enrich and empower individuals and communities throughout Scotland and beyond. We’re so proud of the contribution our alumni make to the arts landscape, which is why we feel it’s important to provide crucial financial support as they take their first steps in the professional world.”

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland adopts a range of approaches to the learning and teaching of enterprise and employability. Leading on creative enterprise is the Knowledge Exchange team, who facilitate access to specialist business support, introductions to new partners and connections to funding initiatives.

Deborah Keogh, Knowledge Exchange Manager and Innovation Studio Project Director at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “The quality of applications this year was incredibly high and so brilliant to see the interdisciplinary approaches taken by our recent graduates as they forge their professional careers.  We hope that this small seed fund can help to kickstart their brilliant projects and ideas and open up further opportunities for them.”

As well as the Make It Happen Fund, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland hosts a programme of Make It Happen activity throughout the year. Developed and hosted by the Knowledge Exchange team, it helps students, staff, alumni get their ideas out into the world through a series of workshops, seminars and events.

For more information, visit the Make It Happen Fund.


The 2022 Make It Happen Fund recipients are:


Ollie Hawker (MMus Composition 2022)

The Instruction Manual is a new project by Instruction Manual, a Glasgow-based audiovisual duo of Ollie Hawker and Scott Morrison, in collaboration with visual artist Rosa Sawyers. It is centred around the use of text-to-song software to bring to life both original and found texts. The result is a series of bizarre, uncanny choral tunes that are as humorous as they are moving, in which ironic absurdism and earnest emotion nourish one another.

Ollie said: “The Make It Happen funding will allow Scott and I to dedicate time towards workshopping the project and developing it into a fully-fledged live show that can be taken around the country and further afield. It will also be put towards Rosa’s production costs for making visuals to be projected during the performance.”


Penny Chivas (Masters in Learning and Teaching in the Performing Arts 2022)

Burnt Out is a solo dance theatre work encompassing both fact and lived experiences of the devastating Australian Black Summer fires. Burnt Out will premiere in Australia at QL2 Dance, Ngunnawal Country at a time that coincides with the 20th anniversary of the 2003 Canberra Bushfires. Funding will support Penny’s first performance and teaching in Australia in 13 years and represents a significant way to connect with local artists and to share practice and seek further opportunities. It will also facilitate connection to QL2, the youth dance company where Penny began her contemporary dance journey and funding.

Penny said: “As Burnt Out has further UK touring plans, the opportunity to discuss and share how such a work is understood and read by those experiencing the effects of climate change is vital to considering the longer-term Scottish impact of the work.”



Fionnuala Featherstone (BA Contemporary Performance Practice 2022)             

Fionnuala’s funding will deliver a four-week artist residency in collaboration with Community Circus Paisley (CCP). Fionnuala will work in the community of Ferguslie Park where CCP has opened its doors and is welcoming local people to enjoy all the benefits of circus as a recreation and an education.

Fionnuala said: “Circus schools are brilliant for growing human physical literacy, which we all need for healthy self-esteem and physical, emotional and mental well-being. As a later life emergent artist, debarred from many funding schemes by age alone, this award gives me confidence that others can see and value the gifts of my recent degree together with my long-life experience.

“I feel privileged to work with all kinds of people, using their life stories to create circus performances that are authentic and beautiful. Community Circus Paisley and the Make It Happen Fund have given me the start I need.”


Thaddeus Chung and Sagnick Mukherjee (MMus Performance 2022)

Alto Sync is a performance project seeking to perform and promote music written for two violas to music-loving audiences in Scotland. Its primary mission is to broaden public awareness of the viola, by highlighting the range of underperformed music in the viola repertoire, and by showcasing the instrument’s unique tonality when performing arranged works originally for other instruments.

Thaddeus said: “We are grateful for this funding for it will generously help cover significant expenditure such as venue booking, marketing/ticketing and programme printing. It also boosts our overall confidence in learning how to execute our first concert series, to plan and budget responsibly for our events.

Sagnick said: “We plan on using this as a launching step to plan for future concerts so that we can bring this unique set of music to various communities around Scotland.”


Rafael Tsantes (BA Contemporary Performance Practice 2022)

Farm Animals is an eco-friendly educational board game for children aged three to five.

It’s a tool for educators, parents and caregivers, that focuses on the developmental areas of young children based on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) of England and the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) of Scotland. Farm Animals makes teaching fun and interactive. It offers all four types of learning: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and reading.

Rafael said: “Make It Happen funding will help me create an essential educational tool that puts at the forefront the performativity of young audiences, a skill that I, as a performer and non-formal educator, aim to hone into and use as a way to connect with the young audiences and offer the space to them to be formed into the next generations.”



Jack Heydon (BA Musical Theatre 2020)

Me and My Bear will be a film about a couple’s marriage proposal getting messed up by the intrusion of a talking bear. It will be part of a three-film series made entirely in Jack’s flat by Glasgow-based RCS alumni at the beginning of their film careers.

Jack said: “Make It Happen funding will allow myself and three others to make a funded film that will help us hone our skills and produce something that will let us break into filmmaking. Being at the beginning of our journeys into each discipline of filmmaking, it is often hard to get professionally ‘started’, so this fund will give us that vital first helping hand!”




Gudrun Schmidinger & Nell O’Hara (BA Contemporary Performance Practice 2022)

Conflict & Connection is a four-day creative performance research and development project performatively exploring different ways of navigating conflicts, arguments, and anger, with a particular interest for the need of non-violent resolution strategies, fostering consensus, coalitions, cooperation, empathy and connection. Conducted by two female-identifying performers and theatre makers, research and development aims to provide the first step for devising and producing a contemporary performance piece.

Gudrun said: “We are so thrilled to be able to kick off our collaboration and start an exciting research and development process thanks to the Make It Happen Fund. As recent graduates, we are eager to get out there and create new and societally engaged performance work.”

Neill said: “Funding gives us the chance to non-hierarchically manage and organize a project, supporting us in transitioning from an educational context into the professional world.”


Juliette Lemoine (BMus Traditional Music 2022)

Juliette will create three live music videos to support the release of her debut album Soaring. These videos are crucial to the album PR campaign and will feature fellow RCS BMus Jazz and Traditional music alumni Matt Carmichael, Charlie Stewart and Fergus McCreadie. They are Juliette’s first professional videos capturing her own music and will allow her to showcase her work exploring the cello’s potential as a leading force within traditional music.

Juliette said: “These videos are vital to the development of my career and would not be financially possible without the Make It Happen award. They will be integral to maximising the impact of my album release at Celtic Connections; promoting my subsequent album launch tour; widely sharing my work pioneering the cello in a leading melodic role in the Scottish contemporary traditional music scene; and will allow me to connect with new audiences, thus obtaining further work opportunities.”


Matt Carmichael (BMus Jazz 2021)

Funding will be used for the mixing/mastering of a new EP Matt will be working on with London-based producer/multi-instrumentalist Seth Tackaberry. It’s part of a series of new EPs Matt plans to release in 2023, collaborating with some of his favourite musicians.

Matt said: “The Make It Happen Fund will allow me to have the EP mixed/mastered to the highest quality. The financial support is greatly appreciated, allowing me to carry out an exciting new creative venture and push me outside of my comfort zone without worrying too much about the finances.”




Fran Hess (BA Acting 2022)

Funding will support research and development for a new writing project called The face that forms another. The story centres on a woman who, like her mother, suffers from addiction. On the eve of her 30th birthday, she discovers she is pregnant. Whilst battling her own demons, coming to terms with her childhood and pondering what it means to be a ‘good mother’, she must decide whether she wants, or should, become one herself.

Fran said: “The Make It Happen funding enables me to explore my voice as a writer and gain practical experience of a new writing development process. During what will be my first project as a self-producing artist, I will collaborate with an RCS graduate director, allowing me to build meaningful and lasting artistic relationships. With additional support from the Citizens Theatre, we will interrogate the themes of the play and workshop ideas with a view to creating a full-length show.”


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