Thursday 12 November 2020

Scotland’s arts links with Japan have been boosted by follow-up funds awarded to projects currently involved in the British Council’s UK in JAPAN 2019-20 Season programme.

British Council and Creative Scotland with support of the Scottish Government invited beneficiaries of the 2019 UK in JAPAN call to submit proposals for new digital activities to complement their existing projects. This funding aims to help artists and organisations to maintain the cultural and creative relationships they have built with Japanese counterparts over the years.

Five projects have been chosen to receive a portion of the £15,000 funding, with exciting new digital work already underway. The successful bids cover several art forms including theatre, music, visual arts and cross-disciplinary practices.

UK in JAPAN is a major bilateral campaign that is continuing following a pause in the programme due to COVID-19. The British Council has led on cultural activities in Japan, bringing in work from across the UK in collaboration with a range of partners. In 2019, British Council, in partnership with Creative Scotland provided £100,000 to 11 different Scottish projects for the UK in Japan.

While much of the core UK in JAPAN has been postponed until 2021 due to the current health crisis, it is hoped this new funding will help some of the Scottish-based artists involved to re-imagine their work into a digital format that can be accessed and viewed by a wide audience over the coming months.

Norah Campbell, Head of Arts, British Council Scotland, said:

“UK-in-JAPAN  is a unique platform for the organisations and individuals to create and showcase work and we hope this additional support, made possible by the Scottish Government, will allow the artists to explore and maintain connections through this difficult time. We’re really looking forward to seeing how the digital projects develop.  Japan is an important country for both Scotland and the UK, with a wealth of already established networks and partnerships, and many more waiting to be developed. We are very pleased to be working with our partners at Creative Scotland to enable these important international relationships to develop and grow."

Artist Julie Brook has been working in Japan since 2018, developing immense new sculptural work in the Takigahara Stone Quarry. Her project connects the Hebrides and the stone quarries of the Komatsu area which have recently been awarded special statusas part of Japan’s National Cultural Heritage.

Julie Brook said on receiving the fund:  

“The digital grant has proved to be vital in sustaining links with my Japanese colleagues where the more active communication has inspired a number of workshops and closer ties with the communities where I have made large scale sculptural works. Proactive use in communicating the work through digital means is influencing the way I wish to reach people without letting geographical distance get in the way. This in turn is helping me shape the website and think about how people use websites to research visual work”.

The Traverse theatre were also awarded the follow-on funding. Over the last year they have connected two Scottish playwrights, Morna Young and Andrew Thompson with residencies in Japan, where they explored the intercultural similarities and differences between Scottish/Japanese language, culture and landscape, and built new works for the stage. Through this project, they will create two new digital works for both Scottish and Japanese audiences and explore digital storytelling through animation and gaming.

Traverse Theatre said:

"We are delighted to receive this support, to not only continue our engagement with two brilliant Scottish playwrights, but to strengthen and explore our creative connections with partners in Japan. At a time when culture and community face untold challenge, the international and digitally innovative stories Morna and Andrew will develop shall celebrate the power of collaboration, connection, and the ever-present need for storytelling. Shedding light on important societal issues that connect us across geography, language and politics, their works will entertain and inspire, uniting us through shared creativity."

Tricky Hat, the Scottish company that makes theatre with and about people who live on the margins of society, has been working with partners in Japan to create and perform multimedia participatory theatre. They have collaborated with partners in Japan and London to create a new digital initiative #DontStopHono which includes specialist artist online sessions and remote work with Japanese participants. They aim to create films and digital content as part of the wider project #DontStopTheFlames.

Fiona Miller, Artistic Director of Tricky Hat added:

“Trying out different methods of working has been brilliant, and it has allowed us to be creative in new ways. It has been great collaborating with the PLAY ART! SENDAI team and Japanese Flames for this project. This collaboration has enabled us to gain a deeper understanding of each other and how we typically work. Through our online workshops with The Flames, we have been able to develop strong connections with them, which we are confident will become long-lasting relationships. We are really excited to release our films and put the spotlight on our Scottish and Japanese Flames' incredible stories and perspectives."

The value of each digital award ranges from £1000 to £3,500. The full list of individuals and organisations receiving the funds is: Julie Brook, Susan Christie, Lateral Lab, Tricky Hat Productions, Traverse Theatre, and Northlands Creative. Their projects are underway and will be developed through to March 2021