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Emerging artists Making it Happen: annual RCS funding boost will bring ten new works to life

Experimental performance between human and drone. An exhibition showcasing the work of creative artists. A musical collective dedicated to promoting diverse works by Scottish composers. And a slapstick theatre and dance show for younger audiences that explores trans joy.

Ten brand-new works and projects will hit the Scottish arts landscape thanks to an annual alumni funding initiative from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Scotland’s national conservatoire has announced the 2023 recipients of its Make It Happen Fund, which supports recent UK-based alumni to develop projects after graduation.

Ten artists have each received £1,000 from the competitive fund, established in 2018, that provides financial support for everything from training, networking and testing ideas to starting up companies, staging pop-up events and forming new collaborations.

Deborah Keogh, Knowledge Exchange Manager and Innovation Studio Project Director at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “With thanks to the Scottish Funding Council University Innovation Fund, since 2018 we have been able to deliver this annual programme of seed investment for our new graduates starting out and taking their first steps at making and sharing their creative work.

“These small seed funds of £1,000 provide an early boost to getting projects and ideas off the ground. We know too, from our evaluations, that they help to draw in further support from the sector such as space to work, other funding, and give confidence to those who have been successful as they start a long career of securing funding and finding inventive ways to both fund and produce their work.

“As ever, we are in awe of the potential that our new graduates demonstrate through these applications.”

 Heather Cartwright (BMus Traditional Music 2022)

Heather Cartwright plays a guitar with trees in the background

Heather Cartwright and Sam Mabbett (BMus Traditional Music 2019) are an exciting new duo, combining delicate fingerstyle guitar compositions and songs with lush harmonies and textures on melodeon. Together, they also arrange rhythmic guitar duets using self-penned material as well as drawing upon their shared background in traditional music.

Heather said: “The Make It Happen fund will cover the cost of professional headshots and the making of two high-quality promotional videos. These will be used for our social media and websites, and sent to venue/festival bookers, helping kickstart our performing career as a duo.”

Rose Logan (BMUs Traditional Music 2023)

Tern is a Glasgow-based folk band, named after the migrating bird of the Nordic regions, featuring Rose (Scotland – fiddle), Lea Larsen (Denmark – bodhran), Miguel Girão (Portugal – guitar), Amy Laurenson (Shetland – piano) and Kristina Leesik (Sweden – fiddle). They’ve spent a year writing, performing and developing as a band and the next step in their journey will be recording and sharing their music with audiences.

Rose said: “The Make It Happen Fund will help to finance a project that will be full of development and learning. Working closely as a band, we’ll gain further experience and knowledge of recording and production processes while exploring our collective creative vision for our sound and work. This recording project will enable us to reach wider audiences and performance opportunities in the future.”

Abbie Maclaughlan (BA Filmmaking 2023) and Rebekah Lesan (BMus 2023)

Abbie’s first funded directorial film is a music video for the cellist and fellow RCS graduate Rebekah Lesan’s music release next year. It takes tonal and visual inspirations from folklore and Scottish nature to create a creative and modern video that will involve collaborations with emerging talent in the screen industries and is an opportunity to explore the visual landscape of Rebekah’s music.

Abbie said: “The funding from Make It Happen means the world as it ensures that the creative team behind this project will get paid for their time working on it. When reflecting on my ethical practice as a filmmaker, I wanted to ensure the crew is paid first and foremost. Graduating is tough and the opportunity for a few of my favourite creatives to be paid to do what they love is very special.”

Andrew Macleod (BMus 2021)

How does it feel to party with God watching? Named after the eponymous queer club in Amsterdam, Club Church is inspired by a place of contradiction – a juxtaposition of the divine and blasphemous. Club Church is a multimedia trio recital/documentary of two trombones and live electronics that explores the complex relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and the Church. Musically spanning the centuries, this unconventional trio defies the boundaries of genre, style and expectation.

Andrew said: “The generous support from the Make It Happen fund has provided me with the resources to develop this project true to my vision. I have been able to conduct interviews from a queer perspective that enrich the performance with a deeper emotional connection to the repertoire. It brings me closer to my objective of promoting greater acceptance and understanding of the queer community within the brass industry.”

Ferdinand McKay (BA Acting 2023)

Meet Frankie. From Edinburgh’s finest schemes. He loves his rhymes and beats, but Scottish hip-hop won’t pay his rent. On a hunt for hash abroad, “tae earn big bucks”, he encounters a side of life he’s never seen before. Can he change? Or will he assign himself to the cycle of poverty and crime he knows as home? A trilingual tale of a young man’s hopes and dreams, echoing a voice for many others.

Ferdinand said: “I love using multimedia in my work, especially to add to live theatre shows, and with this funding, I’ll be able to complete my rap video to incorporate into my one-man-show.

I’ll be improving my craft as an actor, filmmaker and rapper. I believe this story has immense spirit and potential, and I finally have the funds to expand on the script and give this show another life – in the professional world.”

Anna Michels (MMus & Artist Diploma Piano Performance 2023)
Neil Sutcliffe (BMus Accordion 2021)
Rosie Lavery (MMus Vocal Performance 2022)

The Bubblyjock Collective is a new ensemble of musicians Neil Sutcliffe (accordion), Rosie Lavery (soprano) and Anna Michels (piano), dedicated to promoting and performing works by composers from or based in Scotland. The trio says classical and contemporary music by Scottish composers is not regularly performed, and there are thousands of scores sitting unknown in archives. They aim to bring this repertoire to the fore of public performance and showcase the diversity of music written in Scotland.

Anna said: “The Make It Happen funding will support the initial start-up and promotion costs of the collective and go towards our launch concert on 18 February at the Scottish Music Centre in Glasgow. It will allow us to realise our passions; researching forgotten composers and music, collaborating with contemporary composers, and bringing this all to light in accessible, joyous and engaging performances.”

Lisa Robertson (PhD – Composition 2022)

Make It Happen funding will enable the initial stages of what aims to become a longer-term collaboration between composer Lisa Robertson and harpist Ciorstaidh Beaton (PG Diploma in Harp Performance 2019). With shared interests in the preservation of Gaelic language and culture and their own local environments and communities in the Highlands and Islands, they will create work for solo harp exploring new techniques, which will highlight these issues and be included in Ciorstaidh’s recital repertoire.

Lisa said: “Ciorstaidh and I are so grateful for this funding which will enable us to hold workshop sessions to test out ideas and techniques before and after I develop material into a piece. We will be able to document this on film to share and promote the project prior to Ciorstaidh’s performances. This collaboration is a real passion project for both of us and this funding will give us a fantastic opportunity to get it started.”

Seán Talbot (BA Hons Contemporary Performance Practice 2022)        

Opn Tble is a monthly creative artist-focused supper club. Local artists, makers and creatives come along and, over a home-cooked meal, share an idea or piece of work they are developing and have chats with other creative folk. With Make it Happen funding, they will create their first public exhibition of a full year of Opn Tble, showcasing the artists who have attended the supper clubs.

Seán said: “The Make It Happen funding hugely transforms what is possible for Opn Tble, taking it from a monthly unfunded DIY meet-up and enabling us to create a larger public event, showcasing our work over the past year and platforming our community of artists who have come to our events. This will allow us to grow Opn Tble and our audience and encourage more DIY artists to create more events and nourish the scene.”

Forest Wolfe and Indra Wilson (BA Hons Contemporary Performance Practice 2021)

Forest and Indra are in the research and development stage of their performance They Stand Ready, a slapstick theatre and dance show for younger audiences ‘exploring trans joy and daring to be your colourful self in a monochromatic world’. The performance gives a child-friendly insight into gender identity and trans euphoria, teaching inclusion, respect and compassion, which they believe is particularly important in the current political and social climate.

Forest said: “The Make It Happen award has allowed us to fully devote our time and energy to this project, whilst providing us with funds for the props, costumes and materials. This support has enabled us to make an important political statement through our performance, promoting inclusivity, acceptance and compassion towards trans people. It marks a vital point of growth in our artistic careers, allowing us the opportunity to finalise a fully fledged original performance to tour internationally.”

Althea Young (BA Hons Contemporary Performance Practice 2021)

HOVER is a duet between human performance artist Althea Young and remote-operated drone DJI Mini Pro 3 operated by collaborator Joseph Helm. Intersecting choreography, physical theatre and film, HOVER uses technology as a ‘puppet’ to explore the dynamics of camera surveillance, Silicon Valley capitalism and the modern applications of flying technologies. On stage, the human and drone continuously watch each other, performing a series of experiments and choreographies.

Althea said: “Hover is technologically ambitious beyond anything we have made before. Ensuring I have the funds and time is crucial to me as a performer developing new and innovative ways of working with this technology. The Make It Happen funding ensures this phase of the project is as well-resourced as possible in order to further the chances of ultimately developing HOVER into a complete piece of work ready for festivals and venues.”