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I am delighted to announce that my new play, “The Empty Charcoal Box” will open the new season at Oran Mor on Monday August 28th.

“It all started with the empty Charcoal Box. But that’s not where it started for Eddie. For Eddie, it started with Sonja Kristina……”


“The Empty Charcoal Box” is the tragi-comic story of how a long-hidden event of extreme violence 45 years ago has haunted  the lives of  three  Ayrshire Schoolboys ever since. A contemporary crisis  mean that  Billy, Eddie and Deansy are finally forced to confront that age old question which determines our path to wisdom: Should we look backwards to try undo our mistakes, or forwards and try not to repeat them?

The play will be directed by myself and will  feature three of Scotland’s most talented actors, Ryan Fletcher, James McKenzie and Gavin Jon Wright.

Ryan Fletcher.jpg

Ryan Fletcher

Gavin Jon Wright

Gavin Jon Wright

James McKenzie.jpg

James McKenzie

The play will use sound, movement and live  music to tell this darkly comic tale of guilt,  retribution and rebirth. Amongst others it features the work of Curved Air, Pink Floyd, John Kongos, Sham 69 and The Ramones.

Ryan Fletcher  has most recently been seen on the stage as Phil McCann in “Cuttin’ A Rug” at the Citizens and in “Milk” at The Traverse, and has appeared in “River City” , “Gary Tank Commander” and “The Limmy Show” on the small screen.

Gavin Jon Wright  is just back from the US tour of “Titus” where he played the title role. He played “Spud” in Trainspotting at The Citizens, and features in the role of  Hugh Kirk  in the recent three part ITV  Drama “In Plain Sight”.

James McKenzie  was last seen onstage at the Oran Mor and The Traverse as John Wilkes Booth in  His Final  Bow” . He also appeared in the NTS production “Rites”  and will be familiar to “River City” fans for his role as  Gary Trenton.

The play runs from August 28th till September 2nd.

Full programming  and booking details here at  Play, Pie & Pint 


In schools and colleges all over the country, students interested in the Performing Arts are thinking about what their next step should be.
There have been lots of exciting developments in the performance subject area  at University Of The West Of Scotland in the past year.
We have formed a teaching partnership with the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr.
We have brought BA (Hons)Musical Theatre in-house to our £81 million campus in Ayr.
We have a brand new Technical Theatre Degree delivered through our partnership with the Gaiety .
Most importantly, all our Performance-based degrees are now 3 year Honours with entry levels at second year (Level 8) as well as third year (level 9).
All degrees require an audition, but students can apply to the courses in second year with :

3 Advanced Highers BCC or plus English at Higher level and Maths at Standard Grade 3 or above, National 4 or Intermediate 2.
3 A levels BBC or
An HNC (120 points) or
A B Tec 4 or
Intermediate 2 or
An International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma: 28 points.

All our degrees also have a level 9 entry with an HND or equivalent to our DRAMA UK recognised degrees.

With all this expansion, we want the best students to come to UWS Ayr. Every year , more and more students apply through UCAS, and the standard of work and quality of candidates is increasing.

Two of our students from Edinburgh College, Emily Barr and Jennie Walker have made a short video about life at UWS.
If you have any contacts at your old college or know of any British or Overseas students who might be interested in a 3 year honours degree, please share this post with them so that they can get an idea of what it’s like being a student at UWS Ayr.

Also, here are the links for anyone of your friends or relatives who may be specifically interested in our 3 years honours degrees.

BA(Hons) Musical Theatre

BA(Hons) Performance

BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting

BA(Hons) Technical Theatre (subject to validation)…/technical_theatre_(3rd_year_entry)/

Please feel free to share this and spread the word to your old colleges , colleagues or friends. If you think that your old college would like a visit from UWS staff to talk to students, then please let us know too.
Any questions, email [email protected]

I am copying this email from Bob Davidson, Chief Executive of Renfrewshire Chamber Of Commerce.

Renfrewshire Chamber are delivering the Graduate Recruitment Incentive (GRI) – a Scottish Government incentive offering a £3K wage subsidy to Scottish based companies of 100 staff or less who create a new graduate level position


The graduates have to be 25 and under – they can come from anywhere in Scotland – must be a graduate


To help raise the profile of this amongst graduates and employers – we are hosting an event at my old alma mater – UWS Paisley (Paisley Tech when I was there – BABE ’90 grad)


The Chamber has a strong relationship with UWS – so I hope the University is pleased we are holding this event on campus ( thank you to those that have helped us organise the event to date)


There are other similar events taking place at the other UWS campus’s


More info on this free event (28/2 5-7pm in P block) is here –


Purpose of this email is 2 fold:


1)      To create awareness & support for the event

2)      To ask you to share this with any recent graduates you know that are looking for work – simply forward them this email, encourage them to attend

Bob Davidson
Chief Executive
Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce


In Field of Dreams Kevin Costener’s character is told by an invisible voice  ” If you build it , he will come” .

So this guy,  who everyone else thinks is crazy,   builds a baseball stadium in the middle of his corn field, and sure enough, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago White Sox team of 1919 emerge out of the corn to play a game of baseball. That same blind  trust in providing the facilities for an as yet unplanned gig  is  shown by the ghost of  Jim Morrison in Wayne’s World 2 where he advises Wayne that Aerosmith  will show up for Waynstock , if only he has the courage to  book them.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy for Hollywood dreamland, but what’s it like in real life when you announce  an open creative  space at a certain time and place hope that someone decides to show up and fill it?

That’s where we were five  weeks ago at the University Of The West Of Scotland‘s £80 million pound campus in Ayr when we announced that every Wednesday  there would be a “hack day ” in our new TV Studio  where students could come along and just  “create stuff”. For what it’s worth, the new studio is light years ahead of our old facilities on the Cragie Campus and we are searching for new ways of using these fantastic facilities. The new campus requires a new imaginitive mindset, so  hence the “hack day” initiaitive. The point is, would it work?

The first week, six students turned up, all of them actors on our Contemporary Screen Acting Programme. So far so good, but there is a limit to what actors can achieve without technical back up. The breakthrough was when my colleague Jane Robertson  realised that we could integrate the process where some students were creating their marked assessments, while others on the production side were voluntarily  helping them to record them. Except we didn’t have any on the production side. So we expanded the invitation, and got the support of our colleagues in other programmes, notably Paul Tucker in Broadcast Production, to advertise  as widely as possible.

The second week , 7   actors turned up, and one brave Broadcast Production student.

The third week, we had MORE actors, and TWO production students.

Now in  the fourth week, we have 4 broadcast students, two film makers, and 15 actors, all of whom (without tutor input) are rehearsing, lighting, recording and editing work for their own individual portfolios.

Anna Kennedy, Mike Murray, Emjay Doherty and  Lizzie Kane in the TV Studios.

I couldn’t be there for the first hour of the process yesterday , and apologised to students in advance. Of course, if I wasn’t there, nothing of any import could possibly happen.


I arrived AN HOUR AND A HALF late  to find groups of students from three different programmes  rehearsing, recording, and generally enjoying the creative atmosphere…ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS! More than this, the students  had started arranging to help each other with technical support and encouragement even outwith the “hack  day ” time slot. I heard one group agreeing to collaborate on the basis of “working from 4pm  till 8pm  at night.” Have you ever tried to get students to stay even half an hour after class at 4 pm? Here they were agreeing to work overtime amongst themselves.

It’s too soon to tell if the euphoria of the first few weeks will continue. No doubt as we get closer to assessment deadlines the numbers may drop off, but for the moment, the experiment has proved a success.

I am hoping that in the future on this blog I will be able to showcase some of the students creative work to show just what the possibilities are for this way of working. In the mean time, hopefully, we’ll build it, and they will continue to  come.

Steven Black and Gareth Malone in the Control Room.

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