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Powering potential: Students, staff and graduates’ funding boost for new work and creative collaborations through the Innovation Studio

Innovation Studio logo with black lettering on a white background

Sensory theatre for young people with additional needs. A community-led TV channel that champions diverse art forms and prioritises marginalised voices. And a collaboration to explore sound and performance practices that bridge the gap between the worlds of hearing and d/Deaf people.

It’s a snapshot of new work and projects that will help enrich Scotland’s arts landscape thanks to funding from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Students, staff and graduates have been awarded funds from RCS’s Innovation Studio, a two-year pilot for creative experimentation, skills development and collaboration.

Deborah Keogh, Knowledge Exchange Manager and Innovation Hub Project Lead at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Innovation Studio was launched in 2022 to unlock the innovation and engagement potential of the RCS community and extend the scope of our artistic work into new contexts and sectors.

“Seed funding is just one strand of Innovation Studio, where students, staff and alumni receive financial support to learn, grow and play with new ideas. We see it as an investment in the person or people leading the project, as well as their developing idea. This is the penultimate round of funding in the pilot programme and we aim to create longer-term support for innovation, using what we’ve learned and experienced throughout this two-year initiative.”

Innovation Studio is coordinated by the Research & Knowledge Exchange team and assisted by ‘innovators in residence’ and a team of industry specialists. The Studio is supported by the Scottish Funding Council’s University Innovation Fund (UIF).

Funding has been awarded to:

Hayley Earlam (Masters of Education)

Brrris a sensory installation with live performance for audiences with additional support needs aged over ten. An immersive exploration of winter, Brrrruns as a durational performance and seeks to provide an autonomous space for the audience to respond in their own way. Brrroffers a gentle/soothing/responsive space where the audience has choice and is at the forefront of the work.

Hayley said: “Creating spaces for disabled audiences with complex needs to experience high-quality theatre is essential for theatre to continue its duty to be responsive to everyone.  I am delighted to have this opportunity from Innovation Studio to continue my performance research on Brrr and explore immersive experiences with a focus on video art.”

Zeo Fawcett (BMus Composition, 2022)

Zeo’s project, Interarts Community TV (ICTV), is a community-led TV channel that aims to champion diverse art forms, including poetry, club nights, video art, lectures, live performances, and any other type of art that can be experienced through video.

Born from a passion for public-access television and community radio, ICTV promotes media diversity, local engagement and empowerment, prioritising marginalised voices.

The platform, accessible as a streaming channel via a downloadable TV app (e.g., Roku) and website, encourages creative exploration, collaboration and interdisciplinary work, taking experimental art to a broader audience.

Zeo said: “Innovation Studio funding is transformative for me and ICTV, catalysing the creation and development of a community-led TV channel. Beyond essential financial support, the grant symbolises recognition and alignment with my mission.

“It empowers me to foster inclusivity, diversity and innovation within the arts community, reaching wider audiences. The backing from RCS not only enhances my credibility but also provides a network of resources and expertise, propelling me towards a successful launch and impactful engagement with marginalised artists.”

Anne Kjær (BA Contemporary Performance Practice, 2023)              

Keepers of Sound is a collaborative interdisciplinary performance project that explores the diversity of human sonic experience and investigates our individual and societal relationship to sound.

The project started in March 2023 as a collaboration between hearing and d/Deaf students and graduates from RCS. The group came together to explore innovative sound and performance practices that bridge the gap between the sonic worlds of hearing and d/Deaf.

Anne said: “Funding will allow us time in the studio to dive deeper into the work and develop performative elements further. By merging technology, live performance and British Sign Language, we will explore what an accessible sound performance looks, sounds, and feels like. We will investigate how meaning can be layered using multiple aesthetic expressions to allow a diverse audience to access their own imagination.”

Dr Stuart MacRae (Lecturer in Composition & Senior Research Fellow)

Stuart will create a new five-minute composition for voice and electronics, specifically tailored for Swedish soprano Susanna Andersson. The work will be developed using online workshop and exchange methods to facilitate more sustainable international collaboration.

Stuart said: “I am seeking more flexible ways of bringing music with electronics to audiences by streamlining the process for performers, minimising equipment requirements and reducing reliance on technical expertise.

“Funding from Innovation Studio will enable me to develop an existing and fruitful collaborative relationship with Susanna Andersson. The support will also give me the time and resources to build on the compositional and collaborative methods begun with my 2022 piece, elided compressed, deepening and extending a successful model for the creation of new music for singer and electronics/fixed media.

Mahri Reilly (Associate Producer, Musical Theatre) 

The Winter Grief Retreat is an action-based research and development project exploring the foundational co-design of a grief access rider, which when ready, can be used by artists who are experiencing grief due to the death of a friend, colleague or family member.

This strategic document will provide a wellbeing framework rooted in care, compassion and the safeguarding of artists experiencing grief in its various manifestations. It’s in collaboration with Leah McAleer and Julia Taudevin.

Mahri said: “We are very grateful to receive this award, giving us dedicated time to develop this most urgent work, which we believe to be fundamental in supporting the arts ecology during these most challenging times.

“Funding will enable me to dig deeper into the corners of my own practice, as a producing artist intersecting arts and wellbeing, and I am delighted to be sharing this retreat with trusted exceptional women that are Leah and Julia.”

Brianna Robertson-Kirkland (Lecturer in Historical Musicology)

This project focuses on identifying and developing training for singing for health practitioners based in Scotland. Led by Scotland’s Singing for Health Network, the project has two distinct strands. The first phase of the project will map existing training available to singing for health practitioners in UK, with the aim of identifying barriers and gaps. The second phase will directly engage practitioners to develop accessible and inclusive singing for health training.

Brianna said: “Innovation has been at the heart of Scotland’s Singing for Health Network as it has grown and developed since 2021. This funding will allow us to provide a new, innovative opportunity for training that directly maps onto the existing training gaps. In doing so, RCS will extend its reach as an important place in the Singing for Health community, further meeting the Engagement and Creative Economy Action Plan aims of RCS.”

Simone Seales (Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Music, 2021)

With Innovation Studio funding, Simone will engage in research and development for new work Dearest, which will be a music/poetry album centred around their experience of first queer love, trauma, and forgiveness.

Simone said: “As part of developing my poetic practice, I will dedicate time to reading and writing poetry, and I will be mentored by poet Victoria Adukwei Bulley, author of Quiet, which won the 2023 Rathbones Folio Prize in Poetry.

“The Innovation Studio funding is the first major step in the development of an album that I’ve been conceptualising for over a year. For the first time since high school, I will have the chance to properly develop my poetic practice, and receive mentorship from Victoria Adukwei Bulley, a poet who I highly admire. With this funding, I will be able to dedicate time to write and read without distraction.”

Jennifer Stephenson (Lecturer in Woodwind, School of Music)

The Double Reed Rescue Project aims to capture a snapshot of the current double reed learning and teaching provision in Scotland and identify, how the RCS Woodwind Department can make the most meaningful impact in supporting young people to learn either the oboe or bassoon.

Jennifer said: “I’m incredibly grateful for the Innovation Studio funding as it affords me dedicated time to research a much-discussed woodwind topic and engage with music teachers throughout Scotland.

“I have never undertaken a research project in a professional capacity before and so I am excited to develop my skills as well as use the knowledge gained to enhance future woodwind department initiatives.”

Neil Sutcliffe (BMus Accordion, 2021), Anna Michels (MMus Piano, 2022), and Rosie Lavery (current student, MMus Opera)

The Bubblyjock Collective, a new ensemble dedicated to championing music by Scottish composers, is collaborating with composer Pàdruig Moireasdan from North Uist to explore Gaelic text in a contemporary-classical setting.

The Scottish Gaelic language has not often been incorporated into art-music, and the outcome of this project will be a new piece for classical accordion, piano and soprano, sung in Gaelic. This will be premiered at the ensemble’s launch concert on 18 February in the Scottish Music Centre, Glasgow.

The Bubblyjock Collective said: “Innovation Studio funding will allow us to work closely with Pàdruig to research, develop and workshop the text and music for this piece, as well as covering a commission fee for the final composition. The funding will support a collaborative approach to a commission, where the performers and composer all feed into the creative process.”