Making It Happen: RCS supports and celebrates graduates’ creativity and career goals

Making It Happen: RCS supports and celebrates graduates’ creativity and career goals

Published: 28/04/2021

A film exploring mental health in working-class male communities, a music podcast of folk songs centred on Glasgow’s iconic River Clyde, a mother and daughter performance piece, and a documentary that examines youth culture in rural Scotland … it’s a snapshot of some of the work that will take flight thanks to a microfunding initiative from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

A catalyst for creativity and collaboration, the Make It Happen Fund nurtures the UK’s new voices as they take their next steps on their professional paths.

Launched in 2018, this competitive pot of seed funding supports the career goals and ambitions of emerging artists from Scotland’s national conservatoire. Funding is available for everything from training, networking, testing ideas and starting up companies to staging pop-up events, digital performances and forming new collaborations.

Eleven projects led by graduates from 2018-2020 have received fixed awards of £1,000 from the Make It Happen Fund. This year, for the first time, the programme was also funded by an external donor to support alumni entrepreneurship.

This financial support comes at a crucial time when the arts are facing unprecedented challenges due to the global pandemic.

Edinburgh-based actor and theatre-maker Callum Douglas, who graduated from the BA Acting degree programme in 2018, is one of this year’s award recipients and will use the funding to develop a new audio drama script alongside several RCS graduates.

Callum said: “This last year has been exhausting and scary. Throughout the pandemic, myself and many of my RCS classmates have had no acting work or creative projects to focus on and have instead been in survival mode, slowly losing touch with our creativity.

“I see this as an opportunity to bring creative people who I care about together – whose skills and passions I admire, and who were a huge part of my student experience – to reawaken the creative drive inside of us. My hope is that the Make It Happen Fund will provide a much-needed renewal of confidence and self-belief. This, for me, often feels like the most significant barrier between here and the next stages of our careers. Especially right now.”

Mezzo-soprano Joanna Harries graduated with a Master of Music from the RCS opera school in 2018. Alongside performing, she is co-founder of SongPath, an initiative bringing music and walking together for mental health. Funding will help her develop a new podcast called Songs of the Clyde, connecting music and landscape in an exploratory journey along the River Clyde using folk song.

Joanna said: “Like many this past year, I’ve found my daily exercise outside a lifeline and it’s given me a renewed fascination with the landscapes, history, people and stories surrounding us. I’m passionate about bringing music to new and different spaces. Make It Happen will bring this podcast to life by funding equipment, training and development time. I’m already talking to festivals in both Scotland and the rest of the UK about collaborating on future series. With the help of this award, I hope to create a lasting musical resource for the future.”

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “It’s wonderful that so many projects will take flight with support from the Make It Happen Fund and we wish this year’s recipients all the very best as they move forward in their careers. It has been a difficult year for the arts but it’s uplifting to see the creative energy and innovative projects of our graduates whose artistry never fails to inspire.”

Deborah Keogh, Knowledge Exchange Manager and Innovation Hub Leader at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “The Make It Happen Fund exists to support our graduates at the start of their careers, investing in their ideas and ambitions to help bring their projects to life. This year’s recipients are hugely enterprising and applying their creativity and talent in new and innovative ways. We’re looking forward to seeing them, and their projects, flourish.”

Make It Happen funding will enable 2020 filmmaking graduate Hannah Hunter, from Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan, to collaborate with Eve Park, a fellow filmmaker and classmate, on their latest work Dùthchas, which looks at youth culture in rural communities of the west of Scotland and the modern generation’s relationship with the land, traditional culture and Gaelic.

Contemporary Performance Practice 2018 graduate Charneh Watson will collaborate with her mum Helen on developing a project/performance piece called Like Mother/Like Daughter. Through a research and development week, they will explore how creativity and a creative process can become a form of care within itself, by looking through the lens of their own relationship.

Mairi McGillivray, who graduated from the Traditional Music degree course last year, staged an online live concert for the launch of her debut EP, In My Mind, using her Make It Happen funding. Mairi was joined by RCS graduates Isla Callister (fiddle), Charlie Stewart (double bass) and Graham Rorie (fiddle/mandolin/tenor guitar) as well as Seán Gray (guitar).

Mairi said: “The chance to put on an online live concert, which was freely accessible, was an amazing opportunity. Being able to bring in the incredibly talented musicians that played on my EP is an honour and incredibly refreshing after having very few live opportunities in the last year. This event wouldn’t have been possible with the support from the Make It Happen Fund, for which I am truly grateful.”

The 2021 Make It Happen Fund recipients are:

Patrick Shand (BMus Composition, 2018): Ailments is an audio-visual project in collaboration with musician and video artist Friendly Boots (Harry Gorski-Brown, Bachelor of Music 2019 graduate). Together they make work that’s influenced by genres including hip hop, spoken word and glitch music, as well as incorporating electroacoustic techniques and audio-reactive and generative visuals.

Patrick said: “The Make It Happen award will provide invaluable support for us to get our project off the ground and ready for a professional release, most notably by allowing us to complete intensive studio sessions recording and filming.”

Brief Palava: James Burke, Anna Carley, Kelly Davie, Derek Jeck, Heather Knudtsen and Tomaž Krajnc (all MA Classical and Contemporary Text, 2018): Brief Palava is a Glasgow-based theatre company, comprised of directors, writers, actors and makers, who came together after training at RCS. Their practice focuses predominately on intertwining their varying cultural identities and skillsets into new writing and physical theatre. Their project proposes to explore a fusion between live theatre and digital creation, allowing members to continue to expand their practice and to innovate in a new medium.

Brief Palava said: “We’re incredibly thankful for the faith the Make It Happen Fund has invested in our company. This award, and the technology we intend to purchase with it, will make us more resilient to a few of the challenges theatre makers face as a result of pandemic venue dormancy.

“We don’t intend for this investment in our digital output to undermine or replace our live work, but instead, to augment it. Whether through the fusion of digital media and theatre we’ve pioneered through lockdown, producing professional-quality marketing material or recording archival footage of one of our productions, this equipment will enhance our output and allow us to go further as a company both on and offline.”

Hannah Hunter (BA Filmmaking, 2020): Hannah is a filmmaker from Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan, who is currently based in Glasgow. In collaboration with Eve Park, a fellow filmmaker and RCS Graduate (BA Film, 2020), their latest work, Dùthchas, looks at youth culture in rural communities of the west of Scotland. Through the medium of micro-documentary, they will explore the modern generation’s relationship with the land, traditional culture, Gaelic, while examining the future of their lifestyle.

Hannah said: “This funding has given us the opportunity to make a piece of work that challenges perceptions of Highland life and will allow the next generation of such a resolute culture to claim their own narrative. The contemporary style of the documentary will allow us to work with Highland-based creators, to offer creative opportunities that the community often misses out on.”

Minnie Crook (BA Hons Contemporary Performance Practice, 2020): The Make It Happen Fund will support an online adaptation process of And When I Remember That I Have Forgotten, a live art performance created prior to, and cancelled, due to the pandemic. It will also consider the impact of live art for virtual audiences, bringing reflections on distance, disconnection and family during these times of separation.

Minnie said: “This opportunity will develop my overall interests in how And When I Remember That I Have Forgotten can continue to mark and reflect personal familial changes in the wake of current circumstances, whilst also providing the necessary infrastructure needed to support my continuing arts practice.”

Moilidh NicGriogair (BMus Performance, 2020): Moilidh is a pianist and violinist from Glasgow and a member of the trad fusion band DLÙ. The line-up also includes Zach Ronan (current RCS student) on accordion, Aidan Spiers on guitar, Jack Dorrian on bass, Andrew Grossart on drum kit and Joseph McCluskey on vocals.

They met and became friends during their time at the Glasgow Gaelic School. As fluent Gaelic speakers, they are keen to use the band as a platform for the language. This inspired their name, which derives from the Gaelic word ‘dlùth’, meaning tight-knit and close.

Along with filmmakers Demi Sutherland and Kieran Howe (BA Filmmaking, 2019), they will produce a music video for their upcoming single, Bràighe Loch Iall.

Moilidh said: “The Make It Happen funding has provided the band with a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with filmmakers Demi Sutherland and Kieran Howe and actor Sorcha Groundsell. The band is at a crucial stage in development where the barriers are mainly financial and receiving this award will allow a project to take place that wouldn’t otherwise be possible!”

Charneh Watson (BA Hons Contemporary Performance Practice, 2018): Charneh will collaborate with her mum Helen on developing a project/performance piece called Like Mother/Like Daughter. Through a research and development week, they will explore how creativity and a creative process can become a form of care within itself, by looking through the lens of their own relationship.

Charneh said: “We are both so delighted to have received this award. The support of the Make It Happen Fund will allow us the time and resources to finally begin a project that we have been eager to start for some time now and will allow me to develop a holistic approach to my arts practice.”

Helen added: “I am excited to work with my daughter, gain insight into the profession and to contribute to her creative process.”

Danny Main (BA Production Arts and Design, 2018): With the Make It Happen Fund, Danny will develop a short black and white silent film working alongside the Greek cinematographer Bill Kapnis. The Painter, written and developed by Danny, will use colour as a device through which the story unfolds, an ode to the early silent films of the 1920s. The film’s development will see collaborations with several RCS alumni, from production arts to dance.

Danny said: “This fund has offered a great opportunity to further develop the film into production, as well as allow me to collaborate with so many creative people from different disciplines. Gaining support this far after graduating has allowed me to continue exploring a career in film.”

Fraser Scott (BA Filmmaking, 2020): Scuff is a short film developed during Fraser’s studies at RCS that explores mental health in working-class male communities and the relationship between anxiety and physicality.

Fraser is passionate about making work with an authentic Scottish voice and hopes to carry that through all of his practice as a director.

Fraser said: “Receiving the Make It Happen Award is instrumental in making this story a reality. Being able to fund any artistic practice is crucial to proper development, particularly after the struggles of the past year. I’m incredibly grateful for this support, and it is a huge milestone in my journey as a freelance director and filmmaker.”

Joanna Harries (MMus Opera, 2018): Joanna is a mezzo-soprano who has performed with opera companies and at concert venues around the country. She is also co-founder of SongPath, an initiative bringing music and walking together for mental health. Funding will help her develop a new podcast called Songs of the Clyde – a project connecting music and landscape in an exploratory journey along the River Clyde using folk song. The episodes can be experienced either as a ‘virtual journey’ at home or walking along the river. From weaving songs to tales of drowned lovers, sailors’ shanties and political ballads, an accompanying, specially designed map will plot the songs along the river.

Joanna said: “Like many this past year, I’ve found my daily exercise outside a lifeline and it’s given me a renewed fascination with the landscapes, history, people and stories surrounding us. I’m passionate about bringing music to new and different spaces, and this project will help me to connect people with landscapes in a new digital medium. The Make It Happen Fund will bring this podcast to life by funding equipment, training and development time. I’m already talking to festivals in both Scotland and the rest of the UK about collaborating on future series. With the help of this award, I hope to create a lasting musical resource for the future.”

Callum Douglas (BA Acting, 2018):Callum will develop a new audio drama script alongside several former RCS classmates. Starting from a place of hyperrealism, the piece will explore the everyday moments of an average life with charm and humour. The story will distort as it blends Scottish myths and legends with gritty realism as the characters search for clarity in a world which suddenly feels other. It’s about finding hope in a changing world, mixing elements of nature and history, with a distinctly Scottish feel.

Callum said: “This last year has been exhausting and scary. Throughout the pandemic, myself and many of my RCS classmates have had no acting work or creative projects to focus on and have instead been in survival mode, slowly losing touch with our creativity.

“I see this as an opportunity to bring creative people who I care about together – whose skills and passions I admire, and who were a huge part of my RCS experience – to reawaken the creative drive inside of us.

“I want to give us the chance to earn a little bit of money from using our talents and working creatively on something we can be proud of. To rediscover what we love. My hope is that the Make It Happen Fund will provide all involved with a much-needed renewal of confidence and self-belief. This, for me, often feels like the most significant barrier between here and the next stages of our careers. Especially right now.”

Mairi McGillivray (BMus Traditional Music, 2020): Mairi is a traditional singer who released her debut EP, In My Mind, in January, which has earned positive reviews and airplay on stations including BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio Ulster. Due to Covid restrictions, a launch event was paused and Make It Happen funding helped stage an online live concert on April 23 featuring the artists that played on the EP. Mairi was joined by RCS graduates Isla Callister (fiddle), Charlie Stewart (double bass) and Graham Rorie (fiddle/mandolin/tenor guitar) as well as Seán Gray (guitar).

Mairi said: “The chance to put on an online live concert, which was freely accessible, was an amazing opportunity. Being able to bring in the incredibly talented musicians that played on my EP is an honour and incredibly refreshing after having very few live opportunities in the last year. This event wouldn’t have been possible with the support from the Make It Happen Fund, for which I am truly grateful.”


Find out more about the Make It Happen Fund

If you would like to find out more about how to support students and alumni starting out in their careers through a donation to the Make It Happen Fund, please contact Head of Fundraising, Julie Reynolds on j.reynolds2@rcs.ac.uk or 0141 270 8264.

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