Funding boost for Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduates helps ideas and ambitions take flight
It’s the annual celebration of innovation that turns the spotlight on some of the nation’s most exciting young artists.
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – a world top three destination for performing arts education* – has announced the 15 recipients of its Make It Happen Fund, which helps graduates in the early stages of their careers bring their creative ideas to life.
Actors, dancers, filmmakers, theatre practitioners and musicians – including an award-winning Scottish folk singer – have each been awarded £1,000 in the micro-funding initiative, established in 2018 to support graduates’ goals and ambitions.
Some of the projects that will take flight include:
- Recording of new Scots language songs by award-winning Scottish folk singer
- New dance choreography with a mental health focus
- A documentary on the lives of people living on canal boats on the UK’s waterways
- An intergenerational theatre project exploring narratives surrounding loss and loneliness
The Make It Happen Fund, which supports professional development, gives artists (who graduated within the past three years) access to a £15,000 pot of seed funding for everything from training, networking and testing ideas to starting up companies, staging pop-up events and forming new collaborations. This year, the programme was co-funded by an external donor to support alumni entrepreneurship.
The 2021/22 recipients include Iona Fyfe, the award-winning Scottish folk singer and champion of Scots language who graduated from the Traditional Music degree programme in 2019. Iona will use her funding to write, record and release two new Scots language songs in the folk-pop genre and will work with long-term collaborator Graham Rorie, a fellow Traditional Music graduate, as producer and recording engineer. She’ll also enlist RCS alumni for the recordings.
Earlier this month, Iona (below) was the first singer to win Musician of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards. She is a fierce advocate for the official recognition of the Scots language, leading a successful campaign to pressure Spotify into recognising Scots and add it to its list of languages and being named Speaker of the Year at the Scots Language Awards.
Iona said: “Whilst I was studying at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I toured heavily and quickly realised that my main love was live performance. I wanted to build a profile so that upon graduating, my main source of income was through live performance.
“Due to the pandemic, I’ve had to adapt and thrive and create a portfolio career in order to financially survive, spending time teaching via Zoom, writing columns for newspapers, performing livestream concerts and relying on gaining income through Patreon.
“The Make It Happen Fund award will be instrumental in allowing me the financial ability to record two new songs, employing session musicians, videographer and publicist. In turn, this will hopefully generate radio play, and the royalties from that radio play will help my business become self-sustainable, aiding my post-Covid recovery.”
Louis Krommenhoek, who graduated this year from the BA Filmmaking degree, will produce a documentary that investigates the lives of people living on canal boats across the UK. It will offer a glimpse into the lives of those sharing the waterways, from the affluent who use them for leisure and escapism to a new generation in search of financially viable alternatives during the current housing crisis.
Louis (right) said: “Outside of the education system, it can be difficult to find the time and financial support necessary to develop an idea, especially in the early stages of all our careers. I am incredibly grateful for the Make It Happen funding as it will allow me the opportunity to make a high-quality, proof-of-concept video, which will be invaluable when taking the next steps in developing this idea into a long narrative piece.”
Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Our graduates never fail to inspire with their passion and creativity and the way in which they use their art to make a difference, especially in challenging times. We applaud this year’s Make It Happen recipients and wish them well as they bring their ideas and ambitions to life.”
Rosie Mackley, who graduated from the BA Ballet degree in 2020, will use the funding to choreograph a new work with a mental health focus, featuring RCS students, that will explore internal experience and external appearance, perceptions of others and how the physical body can act as an illusion.
Rosie (below, right) said: “It’s a real challenge to be able to demonstrate my abilities in a professional (and financially sustainable) setting. There are very few opportunities as a freelancer to work with a larger number of dancers, like I will be able to do with this award. Funding will give me many more choreographic options working with unique bodies and the visual illusions they can create, and an opportunity to develop my choreography and leadership skills.”
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 Research and Knowledge Exchange team, which facilitates access to specialist business support, introductions to new partners and connections to funding initiatives.
Deborah Keogh, Knowledge Exchange Manager and Innovation Hub Project Lead at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “We are so delighted to see the quality of applications to the Make It Happen Fund in its fourth year.
“Following a positive evaluation last year, tracking the impact of this small seed funding for graduating artists, and a generous donation, we have been able to increase the size of the fund to £15,000.
“This has enabled us to create 15 awards of £1,000 each and extend the eligibility of the fund to recent graduates based anywhere in the UK. We are so very grateful for this donation as it contributes directly to the positive next steps taken by our new graduates, and we wish them every success with their projects and plans.”
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 and funded through the SFC University Innovation Fund (UIF), it helps students, staff, alumni and anyone in the creative industries get their ideas out into the world through a series of workshops, seminars and events.
The Make It Happen Fund 2021/22 awardees are:
Jacopo Lazzaretti (MMus, 2019)
The International Poet is a project by the JKL Duo, comprised of Jacopo Lazzaretti (guitar) and Kerry Lynch (flute), featuring new music commissioned especially for them from classic Robert Burns melodies. In a world where physical distance is no longer an obstacle to communication, collaboration and creation, they have imagined what could have happened if Burns himself had been alive at this time and what he may have created with other creatives around the world.
Jacopo said: “We are both very grateful and delighted to receive the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Make It Happen Fund for this project because it will cover the album production costs later in 2022. We are so excited about it and cannot wait to share this product in Scotland and beyond.”
Calum McIlroy (BMus, 2020)
A short collection of new contemporary-traditional guitar pieces inspired by double drop D tuning, which Calum discovered in lockdown. The recording will feature special guests from a variety of different musical backgrounds, reflecting some of the music Calum was most influenced by at the time of composition, like contemporary jazz, instrumental rock, ‘new acoustic’ music, and contemporary-traditional music from Scotland, Ireland, and Scandinavia.
Calum said: “The support of the Make It Happen Fund will impact this project in both a creative and practical sense. The award will allow me to record in a professional studio, to include guest artists, and to further invest in PR, which will help to build on the success of my previous release, This Ill Deeds (2020).”
Laura Hundert (MMus, 2020)
The Time-Traveling Clarinettist is an inclusive, family-friendly, comedic one-woman show where Laura will play pieces for solo clarinet from different times in history, from Bach transcriptions all the way to world premieres. In amongst the pieces, Laura shares interesting and unusual facts from the years of composition and the lives of the composers, which will help connect and inspire audiences with the ever-changing classical music world.
Laura said: “The Make It Happen Fund will help me develop this performance idea that I have had for a long time. I will learn how to better manage my practice time post-student life, and I will learn how to make connections with venues and organisations who are interested in this kind of show. It will also help me learn other professional skills like advertising my own performances, organising ticket sales, and other marketing skills.”
John Dew (BMus, 2020)
John will publish a collection of bagpipe music for multiple bagpipes. During the lockdown he produced an EP, tune book and album. The album explores bagpipe polyphony and he will now publish them in a digital music book, demonstrating an ability to compose horizontally as well as laterally, creating harmony and texture outside of the monophony of bagpipe tunes.
John said: “The Make It Happen Fund has allowed me to get this project up and running. With this funding, I will be able to turn this ‘home-made’ project into a professional standing piece of work. The funding will cover professional-level typesetting, design and layout, recording and programming. This will enhance the quality of the creative outlet of the music as the funds allow for the body to be presented at a professional standard.”
Rosie Mackley (BA Modern Ballet, 2020)
A group piece with RCS BA Modern Ballet students will further explore the difference between internal experience and external appearance. The piece will look at mental health and perceptions of others and how the physical body can act as an illusion. Rosie is interested in working with this theme through movement as there are vast possibilities, particularly when working with a group of individual dancers and thinkers.
Rosie said: “It’s a real challenge to be able to demonstrate my abilities in a professional (and financially sustainable) setting. There are very few opportunities as a freelancer to work with a larger number of dancers, like I will be able to do with this award. The Make It Happen Fund will both give me many more choreographic options working with unique bodies and the visual illusions they can create, and an opportunity to develop my choreography and leadership skills.”
Callum Morton-Teng (BMus, 2019)
Callum Morton-Teng & Blue Fellowship is a bluegrass quintet which will develop original acoustic music. The ensemble will feature members of the emerging Scottish Bluegrass/Old-Time/Americana community (Pepita Emmerichs, Calum McKinlay, Ewan Hastie and Theodore Barnard), and will perform at Celtic Connections’ Open Stage 2022. The goal of Blue Fellowship is to encourage new collaborations within the Scottish BG/OT/Americana community and strengthen those professional connections by developing skills such as recording, touring, writing and producing.
Callum said: “As project leader, this ensemble represents my ambition to market new acoustic material to audiences in Scotland. The Make It Happen Fund will facilitate the collaboration of these specially selected musicians, creating an ensemble with an authentic identity. The funding will allow me to challenge my creative and instrumental practice, learning from the musicians and the experience as a whole, whilst setting up Blue Fellowship as an ensemble for future work opportunities.”
Michelle Jamieson (BA Musical Theatre, 2019)
MAYONNAISE is a new piece of children’s theatre produced by Michelle’s company Hello Little People, currently in its research and development stage. MAYONNAISE will be aimed at children aged 6-11 and will focus on interactivity and silliness while gently raising awareness of climate change issues. The long-term aim is to take the production to children’s theatre festivals.
Michelle said: “Until now, my career has primarily consisted of performing as a professional actor-musician, and a creative producer. The Make it Happen Fund will allow me to develop my skills as a director. I will use the research and development of MAYONNAISE to learn how I work when leading two actors, a writer and a composer on a new piece of children’s theatre.”
Rylan Gleave (MMus, 2021)
Rylan Gleave is a composer/performer, writing a solo requiem for Sound and Music’s New Voices Programme, 2021. This large-scale work for voice, organ, ensemble and electronics questions what it means to find God in strange places, what sexual violence and masculinity can mean much later when subverted as a survivor and aims to critically examine the idea of a ‘protagonist’ by way of re-and de-contextualising ancient text.
Rylan said: “The Make It Happen Fund will allow close collaboration and workshopping in the early stages of this project with an organist, enabling more idiomatic instrumental writing. The time spent testing out material, in addition to balancing vocal timbres against organ textures, sets me up to ensure that I am writing as competently as possible for a specific performer.”
Iona Fyfe (BMus, 2019)
Iona Fyfe will write, record and release two new Scots language songs in the folk-pop genre. She will work with long-term collaborator Graham Rorie as producer and recording engineer as well as alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The Scots language is one of Scotland’s three national languages with over 1.5 million speakers (2011 census), however the language is intrinsically linked with folk and traditional genres. She hopes that by releasing more songs in different genres, but still in the Scots language, will help to place the language in new contexts, raise the profile of the language, whilst developing a more contemporary sound, building on her roots in tradition.
Iona said: “Whilst I was studying at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I toured heavily and quickly realised that my main love was live performance. I wanted to build a profile so that upon graduating, my main source of income was through live performance. Due to the pandemic, I’ve had to adapt and thrive and create a portfolio career in order to financially survive, spending time teaching via Zoom, writing columns for newspapers, performing livestream concerts and relying on gaining income through Patreon.
“The Make It Happen Fund award will be instrumental in allowing me the financial ability to record two new songs, employing session musicians, videographer and publicist. In turn, this will hopefully generate radio play, and the royalties from that radio play will help my business become self-sustainable, aiding my post-covid recovery.”
Ben Standish (MA Classical and Contemporary Text, 2021)
Empty Chair is an intergenerational, verbatim theatre project. It begins with a research stage, a recorded journey of workshops and discussions, and will culminate in a piece of reflexive documentary theatre. Empty Chair will be a genuine process of listening, a journey that evolves and grows with every encounter along the way. The goal is to explore narratives surrounding loss and loneliness by listening to and sharing, stories of community participants aged 50+.
Ben said: “The Make It Happen Fund will kick start the project, allowing us to lead some initial verbatim theatre workshops and to conduct interviews with community members. By engaging with a range of participants during this initial research stage, we hope to learn more about the kinds of stories that resonate most with our target age group. This, in turn, should elucidate a more specific focus for our research and offer potential narratives for a documentary theatre performance.”
Beca Davies (MPerf, 2020)
This project aims to bring a new light to well-known opera arias. Directors often re-imagine operatic worlds by placing the plot in a different era or setting to that in which it was written, often bringing new dramatic meaning to the score. Beca hopes to experiment with this idea musically by recording an album of operatic arrangements. Placing the music in different genres, and therefore eras, will hopefully invite new interpretations of familiar characters and their stories.
Beca said: “I’m so grateful to have received the Make it Happen Fund. This will provide me with the opportunity to develop my skills and knowledge in the field of musical arranging, to learn about the process of recording music in a professional setting, and to explore my craft as a singer. I’m excited to bring this idea to life and to collaborate with other musicians on this project.”
Joseph Regan (BMus, 2020)
Joseph Regan will set up a limited company specialising in portable PA speaker hire and sound engineer services. The company will offer short-term hire of professional equipment, suitable for venues with crowds of up to 200 people. The company will be supported by his personal skills as a professional live sound engineer, and the skills gained through work for large-scale PA speaker hire firms in Glasgow.
Joseph said: “The Make It Happen Fund will be used to cover initial start-up costs such as advertising, insurance and the purchase of two active full-range PA speakers. Without the help of this funding opportunity, the start-up costs involved would be a significant barrier for me, and in my previous work, I have always had to rent equipment and speakers. I hope now to take full control of my incoming and outgoing finances.”
Louis Krommenhoek (BA Filmmaking, 2021)
Louis Krommenhoek will produce a documentary that investigates the lives of people living on canal boats, across the UK. Through this project, the audience will get a glimpse into the lives of an array of individuals all sharing the waterways, from the affluent, for whom it provides leisure and escapism, to a new generation of people in search of financially viable alternatives during the current housing crisis.
Louis said: “Outside of the education system, it can be difficult to find the time and financial support necessary to develop an idea, especially in the early stages of all our careers. I am incredibly grateful for the Make It Happen funding as it will allow me the opportunity to make a high-quality, proof-of-concept video, which will be invaluable when taking the next steps in developing this idea into a long narrative piece.”
Awardees also include Chloe Bryce (BMus, 2020) and Rachael Light (BA Production Arts and Design, 2020).