Our Funding Partners
Written By Kate Taylor, Producer
At a time when the arts funding landscape is challenging, we feel incredibly lucky that When Mountains Meet has been able to be developed with the welcome grant support from the National Theatre of Scotland, Creative Scotland, Stellar Quines Theatre Company/Bijli Theatre Company and Assembly Festival. This financial backing has culminated in our work-in-progress performances in October 2022 and our upcoming premiere at Celtic Connections in January 2023, importantly allowing an invaluable creation journey along the way.
Early 2020 may be remembered by most as a time when theatre stopped. For us, it was our beginning. Without knowing what challenges the next two years would present we successfully applied for National Theatre of Scotland Starter funding “designed to seed ideas and develop an artists’ practice”. Although this funding is no longer available, at the time it allowed ten days of writing and offered our creative team, Kath Burlinson (Co-director, devising and writing), Anne Wood (Composer and Co-Deviser) and Niloo-Far Khan (Co-director, devising and dramaturgy) the space to come together for one week and begin to craft the story we share today.
“In our increasingly polarised society, I want to challenge fears related to difference and celebrate the richness of cultures within Scotland. Pakistan is often characterised as a country disrupted by poverty, political corruption, violence, and natural disaster. We don’t hear about the positive aspects of this beautiful, complex, inspiring place.” Anne Wood – Composer & Co-Deviser
In quick succession, we secured funding from Stellar Quines’ Make Do and Mend project, in partnership with Bijli Theatre company. Make Do and Mend offers “a unique opportunity for artists to create something amazing that they would not otherwise have the chance to develop.” This particular round of funding focussed on supporting projects where the lead artist identified as being BIPOC+ and, in the case of When Mountains Meet, the protagonist being a member of the South-East Asian Diaspora. The funding allowed for three days of remote/digital work, as lockdown continued and live theatre was still on a hiatus
Throughout the whole project, I often considered if working apart hindered the creative team and vision in any way. I will say the opposite is true. It allowed us new ways to work, collaborate, and create… offering greater flexibility to truly come together.
By April of 2021, as restrictions relaxed and we were able to meet in person again, we had secured funding from Assembly Festivals, allowing for a week of creative time, a tiny bit of producing time, and the Assembly Roxy theatre space in Edinburgh, where we would later hold our work-in-progress performances.
This first week of working together in person brought our vision to life; the visual representation of our themes of geology, family, and journey, the use of projection and AV in unusual ways, the cabaret-style seating, the immersive touches of food and drink, the experience of Pakistan in Scotland. All the ideas that had been discussed for so long suddenly burst into reality. We saw the Assembly Roxy space as it could be; big, bold, beautiful, full of potential, and pushing boundaries…our production was becoming something very exciting.
“I could see the space as it was meant to be. I could see what an audience would experience. The full potential of When Mountains Meet was incredibly clear.” – Kate Taylor, Producer
The act of devising involves playing with and applying new thinking to ideas or principles. In the case of When Mountains Meet, we knew early on that we also wanted to ensure the audience’s five senses were stimulated throughout the whole production. This type of research and development requires a collaborative process and, as enthusiasm for the project continued to grow, we were delighted to receive support from Creative Scotland for a six-week period of R&D, both in person and online.
This allowed the core team, alongside the first AV designer, John McGeoch, performer Afnan Iftikhar and musician Rick Wilson, to spend a week immersed in the remote landscape of Scourie, North-West Scotland - a place Anne called home.
Scourie is part of an ancient area formed by the passage of time; surrounded by mountains, extreme wilderness, and rugged terrain. Although many of us have lived in Scotland all our lives, none of us had ever seen mountains quite like those in Sutherland. This rugged, remote landscape helped form the core themes of the production: how best to present Anne’s character and journey, how to truly represent two landscapes and two parts of a family, so different yet so alike. Undoubtedly our time spent together in a place so close to Anne’s heart helped produce elements now deeply rooted in our production.
What is the meaning of ‘family’ when your father didn’t know you were born and many in his family don’t accept your existence? What significance does an unknown father have to my life? What can I claim of him, his family and his culture?
With a further five weeks remaining of the Creative Scotland funding, we saw the project pace pick up dramatically. By this point, we had honed our remote working practice, allowing us to offer three Zoom events throughout the summer of 2021. These events introduced our audience to a series of speakers, including sharing the stories of Anne, Kath, and Niloo-Far who all helped shape the visualisation of Anne’s story. They spoke of the power of storytelling and music, allowing an audience to hear the immersive instrumental blend of Scotland and South Asia for the first time. We were delighted at how well they were received.
I hoped my practice of North Indian music would let it naturally seep into the music I was writing, but I was also listening to Highland pibroch…Arabic pop from the Karachi streets, and the Strauss waltzes that my dad loved to sing…bellowing them ecstatically at the top of his voice! So there were a few mountains to meet in the score. Anne Wood – Composer & Co-Deviser
With lockdown continuing to ease, the team spent a further week in Glasgow in October 2021 and the first R&D concluded with a final online sharing of our piece, this time with a new working title: When Mountains Meet.
Creative Scotland offered additional funding in May 2022, enabling us to complete two work-in-progress performances as part of the Scottish international Storytelling Festival in October 2022 and fund the first performance of When Mountains Meet, part of Celtic Connections 2023.
We are, by no means, at the top of our mountain but we would never have been able to get this far on the journey without the support of the funding providers who could see the potential in the story we want to tell.
When Mountains Meet tells Anne’s own story, but as a diverse production and cast, we believe it also represents many people and cultures. This piece will stay with me for a long time; it is the result of hard work, collaboration and creativity, and holding on to a vision at an uncertain time in theatre.
You can buy tickets for our upcoming premiere of When Mountains Meet as part of Celtic Connections 2023.
Discover our journey in our series of development blog posts.