Productions chosen for the Made in Scotland showcase gain a stamp of quality, but how are they selected? Wendy Niblock asks members of the panel what they are looking for.

Photo of five dancers

The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner recently wrote in a review of Last Dream on Earth and Glasgow Girls that they were “part of the Made in Scotland showcase – always a good sign”.

She confirms that while it is important to support work that is more niche, there still needs to be a reasonably broad appeal

Made in Scotland (MiS) is a curated showcase of music, theatre and dance performed during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s a partnership between the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Creative Scotland, the Federation of Scottish Theatre and the Scottish Music Centre, funded through the Scottish Government Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.

Touring opportunities

This year’s programme received £590,000, with part of the funding designed to enable companies, ensembles and artists to take up onward international touring opportunities from contacts it makes during the Edinburgh Fringe.

Since its inception in 2009, MiS has funded just under 160 companies, ensembles and artists to showcase their work. The onward touring fund has enabled 61 productions to tour across six continents, visiting over 28 countries, and productions have picked up a total of 64 awards, including Scotsman Fringe Firsts.

The selection process

An independent panel of regional, national and international experts selects each showcase of work – theatre, dance and music. All the experts have a track record of booking or reviewing Scottish work. As well as giving a balanced approach, it enables an outside eye to choose work that has international touring possibilities – an important part of the skill set required of panellists in each discipline.

What defines quality? One of the panel members in 2016, Jo Verrent, Senior Producer at Unlimited, says that you can analyse forever about high quality in relation to content, ambition, production values and track record, and then touring potential in terms of possible reach, aesthetic and experience. She accepts that selection is, by its nature, subjective, but her decisions were based on trying to imagine audiences gaining access to the work – which work would enable its audience to see something that would stay with them, move them, change them or simply give them a different perspective from which to see the world. She thinks it is too narrow to select work you like or that appeals to your own taste, but instead you have to think about it from an audience perspective.

Another 2016 panel member, The Scotsman’s dance critic Kelly Apter, agrees wholeheartedly. For her it is always about the audience experience. She confirms that while it is important to support work that is more niche, there still needs to be a reasonably broad appeal. Her own decisions were split into two categories:

  • Work that she had already seen and therefore had a sense that it would appeal to audiences. But within that, it still needed to be relatively easy to tour (logistics-wise) and be able to connect at least on some level with audiences from different cultures.
  • Work that she hadn’t seen before, which meant she was going on the company or artist’s past work, experience and reputation. In this case, the work needed to jump off the page and talk to all panel members, excite them and make them want to see it. Inevitably, this is harder for the artists whose work had not been seen before.

Every application has to be clear, realistic and ambitious within the confines of what was doable. Kelly concluded that the work presented to Made in Scotland has to have the resources and experience to deliver high production values regardless of the piece itself.

Signposting quality

With over 3,200 shows to choose from, Edinburgh Fringe audiences recognise that the MiS brand represents quality. The reputation and acknowledgement of its partners also endorses the strength of the work, and with so many shows to choose from, the MiS brochure signposts a cross-section of work to Fringe audiences.

Wendy Niblock is a communications consultant.

Applications for the 2017 showcase are open until the end of November.

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