Scotland’s designated Year of Young People got off to something of a rocky start earlier this year when, just a few weeks in, Creative Scotland announced that it would no longer be providing regular funding for any theatre companies making work for young people. While this wasn’t a good look for anybody, a couple of necessary U-Turns later, and thankfully the likes of the world-renowned Catherine Wheels company were, for the time being at least, allowed some kind of stability.
Mercifully, none of this has had any effect on plans for Futureproof, a massive international initiative for the Year of Young People initiated by EventScotland and presented in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland. Opening tonight in Glasgow, Futureproof brings together some of the finest companies in the world for a series of ten events across Scotland which has seen them collaborate with young people in each area to create a set of brand new theatre-works developed throughout the year.
“It’s a logistical nightmare,” says Lucy Gaizely, who is overseeing Futureproof’s month-long extravaganza alongside a network of external producers attached to each project. “I imagine that when EventScotland first came to the NTS with the idea they envisaged some kind of large-scale participatory project, but when we started talking about how we might do it, it seemed important to do as many projects we could in as many regions as possible, and to involve people we like to help make them happen.”
As one of the three producers behind the Glasgow-based 21 Common collective, who over the last five years have blazed a trail in socially engaged performance work, Gaizely understands that where things happen are as important as those involved.
“We were keen to take things outside the central belt to places which maybe don’t have any big central infrastructures,” she says. “Lots of companies and artists are used to working in places that do have big infrastructures, but what would happen if they applied some of their ideas to places like Paisley or Ayr?”
With this in mind, events include The Empathy Museum, which will see a giant shoebox full of memories in Forres and Elgin. In Paisley, Germany’s Rimini Protokoll will be taking audiences on a special tour of the town in a remodelled truck that becomes a customised auditorium.
Other companies involved include Australia’s Back to Back Theatre, who have been working with young people in Dundee to create a multi-media portrait of a community that also involves artist Robbie Synge and fashion designer Hayley Scanlan. In Glenrothes, composer and performance artist Greg Sinclair alongside twelve young performers has pulled together a choral concert that defies any stuffy notions of perfection. In Inverness, comedian, theatre maker and disability rights activist Jess Thom’s Touretteshero company have created Hacks for the Future, a new work presented by a group of disabled young people.
Aberdeen Beach is the setting for Russian theatre company Akhe and local youngsters to present Rewind Perspective, a kite-based abstraction based around the life and inventions of Alexander Bell. Mamalian Diving Reflex travel from Canada to Shetland to revive the observations of sociologist Erving Goffman in The World is a Wedding, The Presentation of Unst in Everyday Life. The Gaiety Theatre, Ayr is the setting for Wild Life FM, a collaboration between Belgian company Campo, composer Scott Twynholm, performance artist Kim Noble and the young people of South Ayrshire that stages a live radio show that gives participants power and voice through music.
As the only real central belt Futureproof outing, Scottish dance collective Project X working with South African artist Thulani Rachia and Edinburgh young people on new dance works performed at the National Museum of Scotland. In what out of necessity will be an invitation-only show, the Glasgow-based Glas(s) Performance will present Motion, a piece created with young men inside Polmont Young Offenders Institution.
“I think there are challenges with all of this, even within the NTS,” says Gaizely. “None of this is very straightforward, even describing what each project might be like, because we’re not really sure how a lot of them will end up. I guess for me as well, in terms of social practice, we can sometimes get caught up in a certain language that talks about empowerment, and even with some of the best groups working in social practice we have to be aware of that, so it’s a very brave thing for the NTS to take on.”
The whole Futureproof shebang opens this weekend at NTS headquarters Rockvilla with an evening of performances curated by the Year of Young People Project Team, a group of 14-26 year olds drafted in by the NTS to influence the festival in a way that keeps it real. The result is a night by, for and about young people which requires anyone older than twenty-six to be accompanied by a young person in order to gain entry.
Beyond this, anyone aged between 14 and 26 will be able to sign up for a Futureproof Passport, which will give access to £5 tickets for National Theatre of Scotland shows.
“Going to see a piece of theatre at all is something quite rebellious,” says Gaizely, “so this is a way of trying to motivate them into seeing art as something that’s rebellious, and somewhere they can see all their hopes and dreams onstage.”
The big question, of course, is what happens next?
“Looking at the legacy of what the projects might be, some are more obvious than others,” says Gaizely. “In Polmont we hope there will be opportunities to go on working with the young men. There is a group n Dundee desperate to continue what they’ve been doing. But the truth is, it’s about resources. Other partners need to come in, both at a local and an international level.
“I think the most important thing is that we’re talking about marginalised voices, and that we talk about young people and young people in society. I think the people most to gain from this, and sometimes we can get it wrong, are those who are least likely to participate in something like this. With Futureproof we’re trying to engage with that and connect with them. By engaging with that, we’re hopefully giving young people the mantle of the artist. If people have that it can be really life-changing.”
A Mile in My Shoes, Various sites, Forres, September 29-October 1; Various sites, Elgin, October 3-7. Chronicles, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, October 6-7, 12pm, 2pm, 3.30pm. Do’s and Don’ts, meet outside Paisley Town Hall, October 12-14 and 16-21, 12.30pm and 5pm. Radial, Bonar Hall, Dundee, October 17, 7pm. Lots and Not Lots, Rothes Hal, Glenrothes, October 19, 7,30pm, October 20, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Hacks for the Future, Eden Court, Inverness, October 20, 1-4pm. Rewind Perspective, Aberdeen Beach, met at Transition Extreme, October 20-21, 7pm. The World is A Wedding, The Presentation of Unst in Everyday Life, Mareel, Lerwick, October 25-26, 7.30pm, Haroldswick Hall, Unst, October 28, 7.30pm. Wild Life FM, Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, October 27-28, 7.30pm.
The Herald, September 27th 2018