Media release: Engine Room – a nationwide call out to artists

Beth Frieden - Elspeth Turner's Starter for 10 project credit Beth Chalmers

National Theatre of Scotland presents


A new nationwide year-round programme of opportunities for Scotland-based artists

A national call out to aspiring theatre-makers from diverse backgrounds and art forms

Eight theatre-makers from across Scotland chosen for National Theatre of Scotland’s Starter programme and two emerging theatre companies selected for residencies.

INSPIRED by the success of talent development initiatives created for artists at the National Theatre of Scotland’s new theatre-making facility, Rockvilla, on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal in Glasgow, the company is delighted to announce Engine Room, a new nationwide programme of opportunities for artists, hosted in partnership with arts venues and theatre spaces across Scotland.

Engine Room will be in Wigtown on the 28 June 2017, Dumfries on the 29 June 2017 and Aberdeen in October 2017, with more locations around the country to be announced shortly.

Engine Room opportunities will also be available within Rockvilla, which has been described since its launch in January 2017, as an engine room for Scottish theatre.

Engine Room is a pioneering national artistic model, celebrating the company’s ‘without walls’ model,   focusing first and foremost on empowering and enabling artistic communities, whilst still supporting individual artists, collectives, and companies.

This talent development initiative will foster creative environments across the country, in partnership with local venues and organisations.

In this first pilot year, this will be achieved through a rolling programme of invitations and opportunities involving the relocation of key members of the National Theatre of Scotland team as well inviting artists from across Scotland to benefit from the resources in Rockvilla.

Jackie Wylie, artistic director, National Theatre of Scotland, says: “It’s thrilling to be able to reach out across Scotland to find extraordinary theatre-making talent that the National Theatre of Scotland can support in a myriad of ways.

“I want to enable artists of all disciplines to join us so we can support them to make bold and exciting theatre and ultimately to place Scottish theatre-making at the heart of international innovation in theatre practice.”

In addition to physical Engine Room spaces, digital Engine Room Artist (ERA) spaces will be created to allow artists across the country to communicate together, sharing knowledge, networks and resources despite geographical distance and acting as an online facilitator of collaboration and exchange.

Engine Room is keen to hear from anyone based in Scotland who works professionally as an artist and is interested in theatre-making, whether they be a performer, director, visual artist, musician, poet, gamer, designer or comedian.

Examples of Engine Room opportunities include:

* Guest Room, a new pilot initiative offering free rehearsal/making space;

* Masterclasses by artists, producers, technicians and National Theatre of Scotland staff;

* Workshops in playwrighting and a script reading service;

* Opportunities to see work with other artists;

* One-on-one artist development sessions and script surgeries;

* Chances to pop in to rehearsals for National Theatre of Scotland productions and to meet directors and designers; and

* Admin Fridays – a new initiative inviting artists, makers and producers to gather in Rockvilla for a day of communal working.

Current partners include Wigtown Book Festival and The Stove Network, Dumfries, with more to follow.

For a full calendar of bookable events, please visit

In addition to these pop-up events the National Theatre of Scotland is continuing their STARTER programme, giving eight artists funded residencies to develop their creative ideas.

The eight artists will explore new projects looking at the alt-right, sonics, everyday Gaelic, the Scottish tradition of flyting, Chinese food, British Sign Language, the art of Foley and an Argyllshire adventure for children.

In 2017, the National Theatre of Scotland Starter artists are Louise Ahl, Iain Craig, Daniel Livingston, Hardeep Pandhal, Nima Séne, Sara Shaarawi, Diane Thornton and Sean Wai Keung.

“Being accepted onto the Starter programme means that I will finally have a supportive environment in which to truly push myself, both in terms of my own artistic development and the depth of the topics I wishto explore.” Sean Wai Keung – Starter artist

Two emerging companies will be given access to Rockvilla resources for a year, as well as a £2,000 investment to support their growth.

In 2017 to 2018, these Engine Room companies in residence are Blood of the Young, a Glasgow-based ensemble comprised of theatre-makers, actors, writers, dancers, sound-artists, musicians, and designers and Bilji, a new verbatim theatre, committed to socially-engaged work for diverse audiences.

The overall  aims of Engine Room are to grow the artistic sector nationally by developing new or existing skills, to expand creative networks and to generate ideas and collaborations and to continue to contribute to the growth and sustainability of a vibrant Scottish theatre ecology.

National Theatre of Scotland’s full 2018 programme of work will be announced later on this year.

Join the conversation:  #NTSEngineRoom

For further information please contact

Emma Schad – head of

Tel: +44 (0)141 227 9016   M:   +44 (0)7930 308018

About the Starter artists

Louise Ahl is a Glasgow-based artist, originally from Sweden, making experimental and choreographic performance work. She creates both solo and collaborative multi-art-form pieces. In 2010, she began making work with her performance persona, Ultimate Dancer, who was born as a half-joke/half-critical/wholly-serious attempt to explode and lovingly re-manifest the art form of dance.

Louise’s work is dedicated to pushing at the edges of choreography, performance and visual art, working away from narrative based performances, instead making ambitious and detailed thematic concepts for the work to exist in, using movement, voice, light, sonics and language.

With Engine Room Louise will be working on a new performance about light, looking and seeing.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to develop as a performance maker and for the first time start working with an audio describer as part of the creative process.” Louise Ahl

Iain Craig is an animator, illustrator and set designer based in Glasgow, originally from the north west Highlands and a native Gaelic speaker.

His work in theatre has included creating animation, set design, illustration and graphic design for companies, including A Moment’s Peace, Theatre Gu Lèor, Starcatchers, Imaginate, Macrobert and he was storyboard artist for the National Youth Theatre Commonwealth Games Athlete’s Village opening ceremony performance. He is also an associate artist with Imaginate, having recently completed a residency with Bun Sgoil Taobh na Phairce in Edinburgh.

“Gaelic is a widely spoken language in Glasgow; people use it in their homes, at work, at the pub. But it is often unseen and unheard. Through this residency I’d like to explore making the invisible visible, to play with making everyday Gaelic part of the everyday environment. Working with Gaels from a range of ages and backgrounds, I’d like to experiment with creating audio, projected and animated content to be shown in public windows, building facades and unexpected locations around the city.

“It will be a great opportunity to continue to explore methods of visual storytelling and audience interaction. I want to continue to develop my process of making work which is theatrical, bringing my visual art skills to live events, which create a sense of community and shared experience.” Iain Craig

Daniel Livingston is a multi-skilled theatre-maker who has worked across the UK and iinternationally with theatre and film companies, such as Channel 4, Citizens Theatre, The Arches and Cirque du Soleil.

He is also co-founder of Inkblot Collective delivering many different workshops for young people to professional artist. His work merges different art forms together to create a strong visual performance.

Daniel is developing a multi disciplinary performance for ages 12+ based on a place named The Dead Letter Office. The performance will be told in a visual way, with no spoken words, created with soundscapes and Foley, using British Sign Language/Sign Mime within the show as well as exploring various methods of puppetry along with micro-cinema and movement to tell this story of a mysterious yet magical place.

“I am really grateful for this amazing opportunity, being supported by the National Theatre of Scotland, a company that I admire, is truly mind-blowing for me.” Daniel Livingston

Hardeep Pandhal lives and works in Glasgow, having graduated with a MFA from The Glasgow School of Art in 2013 with the support of a Leverhulme Scholarship award.

He was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2013), the Glasgow International Open Bursary (2013), the Catlin Art Guide (2014) and the Drawing Room Bursary Award (2015). Recent shows include a solo show, Hobson-Jobson, at Collective Edinburgh (2015) and groups shows, The Vanished Reality, Modern Art Oxford (2016) and Nothing Happens, Twice: Artists Explore Absurdity, Harris Museum, Preston (2016.)

Hardeep will be undertaking research into the medieval Scottish tradition of flyting, a ritualised drama prefiguring the exchange of insults and epithets between complicit performers. Claims have been recently made to suggest that rap music derives from flyting because it was assimilated by slaves in contact with Europeans in the Americas. With this controversial claim in mind, the history of ritualised abuse and the influence of post-colonial thinking on mimicry, acculturation and language will inform the trajectory of this collaborative project.

“This is the perfect opportunity for me to develop a new collaborative project with the composer and sound artist Joe Howe. The residency will give me the time and resources to make an ambitious Ghetto Parody Opera within a musical and dramatic setting.” Hardeep Pandhal

Nima Séne is a performance maker from Berlin based in Glasgow. Their work questions, interrogates and celebrates obscure and known experienced facets of identity. Their work as a maker and as a performer/actor is situated in dance, music, film, visual art and performance. They currently work in Glasgow (spoken word and queer club performances, Transmission Gallery, acting in new Scottish short films with their latest project being Bloody Love, Berlin (Tangente Company) and they have recently completed the Arts Admin BANNER graduate award scheme in London.

Within this residency, Nima is exploring how our bodies are perceived. They will particularly be looking through the lenses of ableism and race in relation to one’s own self-inflicted and externally-examined/desired body, whilst keeping the ‘western’ gaze in mind.

“This opportunity will allow me to develop my practice by working with my collaborators and their personal political experiences as a vehicle for theatrical writing and directing.” Nima Séne

Sara Shaarawi is a playwright, translator and performer from Cairo who is now based in Glasgow. She has had her work performed at the Tron Theatre, The Traverse, Village Pub Theatre, Platform, and the CCA.

Sara also took part in the Playwrights Studio Scotland’s 2015 Mentoring Programme and the National Theatre of Scotland’s Breakthrough Writers programme in 2016, and is one if the recipients of the 2017 New Playwright’s Award.

Other credits include dramaturg, performing and translation for One Day in Spring (Òran Mór /National Theatre of Scotland) and Here’s the News from Over There (Northern Stage).

Sara will write a new play looking at race, police violence and the rise of the alt-right in Scotland. It will be a fictional piece centred on the death of a member of the Scottish Defence League (SDL) at the hands of a police officer of colour.

“I’m really excited to have this opportunity to begin researching and writing a new play. As a new playwright, it feels great to be supported by the National Theatre of Scotland.” Sara Shaarawi

Diane Thornton trained as an actor and now lives on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll.  She started off acting in London before joining an international crew of theatre-makers creating performances with communities in Kosovo and Bosnia.

Those projects and her work with Contacting the World committed her to socially-engaged and collaborative performances.

She performs regularly as a ‘clowndoctor’ and ‘elderflower’ with Hearts&Minds. She is co-founder of Tenterhooks, making outdoor performances and wild play projects such as the interactive family show, Call of Nature, and the intimate walkabout, Dance wi’ the Deil.

Diane will research and develop a theatre adventure for the South Cowal community where she lives. The story so far: children from the local school find a couple of new faces collecting belongings from a boat which has been washed up onto the shore. In order to raise the money to rebuild the vessel, the couple start a window-cleaning business in town.

Once this duo cleans your windows (with inventive theatre and magic) you see your world differently. Over the following days, twists and secrets in the couple’s narrative are revealed as invitations for the community to play together.

“This opportunity means that I can focus on the direction I want my career to take, making work for people who wake up in the morning not expecting to encounter theatre. Having the support of the National Theatre of Scotland will be of enormous benefit to me and I look forward to being supported and challenged to make original, inventive and high-quality work” Diane Thornton

Sean Wai Keung is a poet, performer and spoken word artist. His interests lie in the intersections between forms and he often utilises chance elements into his work. In 2013 he was awarded the Farrago Zoo Award for Best Debut Performance and his debut poetry pamphlet, to be released later this year, won the inaugural 2016 Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition.

Chow mein – Chop suey – Fortune cookies. Each of these foods is not truly Chinese, and yet they are available at every Chinese takeaway in the country. However, that isn’t to say that they are truly Western, either. Instead, each occupies a murky boundary between the two, the same boundary that so many mixed race and/or second generation immigrants also inhabit. Through a menu of spoken word and performance Sean hopes to explore what it means to be authentic in a time and place where attitudes towards immigration (and food) are ever-changing.

About the resident companies

Blood of the Young

Blood of the Young are a Glasgow-based ensemble company comprised of theatre-makers, actors, writers, dancers, sound-artists, musicians, and designers.

They make dynamic, fun, experimental work with a strong visual and sonic identity. The company is a fixed ensemble who train together regularly in order to build complicity and encourage a fully collaborative working practice.

Formed in 2015 by recent graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the company have made three shows to date: Golden Arm Theatre Project (“electrifying”  – The Scotsman), Secret Show 1 (“refreshingly audacious” – The Herald), and Daphne Oram’s Wonderful World of Sound (“powerful” – The Scotsman, Superb – The Times,”life-affirming” – The List, “glorious” – The Herald). With work that is full of colour, physical dynamism and live music, the company embody a spirit of defiant invention and theatrical hybrid.

“Becoming a company in residence at Rockvilla is a great honour for Blood of the Young and we’re extremely excited about working in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland.

“This opportunity has come at the perfect time for us, having just made our first main stage show and toured it nationally.

“We hope to use the support of the National Theatre of Scotland to help us with our continued ensemble training and also to help us look at all the ways in which we can move forward as a company and keep making daring and ambitious work. We can’t wait to get started!” Paul Brotherston – artistic director


Bijli is a newly-established company focused on creating work that encourages diversity across cultures and art forms for Scottish and UK communities, and beyond.

Led by director, Umar Ahmed. and writer, Mariem Omari, their ongoing collaboration has been nationally recognised for its ground breaking approach to the creation of Physical Verbatim Theatre, and their authentic representation of the diversity of the Scottish community.

Driven by a commitment to create work that is guided by innovation, truth, and humanity, Bijli from its inception is reaching new audiences through the creation of dynamic, socially engaged work that has a visceral impact on its audiences.

“We are excited to be a part of this new initiative by the National Theatre of Scotland.

“As we are in the midst of establishing ourselves as a company in Scotland following our successful collaborations, we see the Engine Room, as an ideal opportunity to create the infrastructure we need for long-term artistic sustainability, whilst creating greater connections between National Theatre of Scotland and the diverse, outlying communities we work with.” Mariem Omari and Umar Ahmed, co-founders of Bijli.

Notes for editors:

The National Theatre of Scotland is dedicated to playing the great stages, arts centres, village halls, schools and site-specific locations of Scotland, the UK and internationally. As well as creating ground-breaking productions and working with the most talented theatre-makers, the National Theatre of Scotland produces significant community engagement projects, innovates digitally and works constantly to develop new talent.

Central to this is finding pioneering ways to reach current and new audiences and to encourage people’s full participation in the company’s work.

With no performance building of its own, the company works with existing and new venues and companies to create and tour theatre of the highest quality. Founded in 2006, the company, in its short life, has become a globally significant theatrical player, with an extensive repertoire of award-winning work.

The National Theatre of Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government.

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