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“The Beaches Of St Valery” which formed part of my PhD in English Literature from the University Of Glasgow premiere on Monday 6th of March. I am currently in negotiations to tour the play in the new year.
Here are a selection of the Four Star Reviews.
Mary Brennan In The Herald. Four Stars.
Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman. Four Stars.
Mumbles Theatre Blog . Four Stars
The Beaches of St Valery
The play follows the life of a young Scottish Soldier of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and the 51st Highland Division from 1938 to the end of the war in 1946.
We see our everyman soldier go from a carefree 18 year old roads engineer to a battle-hardened veteran of 26.
The photograph below shows the CO of the 51st Highland Division, Major General Victor Fortune surrendering to General Erwin Rommel at St Valery-en-Caux on the 12th of June, 1940. This event forms the central motif of the play.
Katie Morag fans should note that Stuart Hepburn, Martin McCardie Sergio Casci and Lindy Cameron of Move On Up TV have been nominated for Best Children’s Screenplay in the British Screenwriter’s Awards as part of the London Screenwriter’s Festival . We all owe a great debt to Mairi Hedderwick for her fantastic books, and to Director Don Coutts and his Cast and Crew. If you are fans of the CBeebies and BBC Childrens series about the adventures of the wee girl from Struay, you can vote by clicking here. VOTE FOR KATIE MORAG
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) Contemporary Screen Acting
BA(Hons) Technical Theatre (subject to validation)
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]
Celebrated Scottish actor David Hayman visited University of the West of Scotland’s Ayr Campus recently to take part in the UWS collaborative creative industries project, StudioLab.
StudioLab is an ongoing project where students from all the University’s programmes related to the Creative Industries collaborate together to create recorded work and closely replicates the work of the professional Creative Industries, where teams of different disciplines get together to create a final product.
Hayman was at the University’s state-of-the-art recording studios at its Ayr Campus on 11 March to record a live Q&A session with third year Contemporary Screen Acting and Performance students .
David Hayman, the founder of SpiritAid urged acting students to “follow their dreams” when he visited the Campus. He enthralled the audience for over an hour telling them of his humble beginnings in the business, right up to recent work with Oscar Winners Michael Fassbender and Marilyn Cotillard.
David Hayman commented: “I was completely knocked over by the talent and enthusiasm of the students and the outstanding preforming and recording facilities at UWS in Ayr. I am already planning my next visit to follow up the wonderful work being done at UWS Ayr.”
The Photo above was taken by UWS Student Oliver Karaschewski .
It was an inspirational experience for students and staff which we recorded and will publish on our School Vimeo site.
Visits like these are an invaluable part of the process of the students gaining the skills, confidence and insights to enter the professional arena and we are planning more of these for the future. Watch this space for details.
Are women playing a full role in Theatre in Scotland? A quick look around suggests ‘no’. On the one hand, all theatres profess to have an ‘equal opportunities policy’ on the other hand, the Review of Theatre in Scotland last year showed that fewer than half actually monitored that policy. Recent research by Equity shows that opportunities for female actors are shrinking.
Does this matter? After all we can see women everywhere in theatre, in marketing, management, front of house and other roles. Are women just not interested in running theatres or taking a lead creative role? What affect does this have on the work and on what audiences see? How does this differ from the situation elsewhere in the UK and Europe?
Come and debate and discuss at Traverse 2 – 26th September 6pm -7.30pm with a glass of wine in the bar afterwards.
- Max Beckmann, Equity Organiser, Equity
- Christine Hamilton, Arts Consultant and Author of the Review of Theatre in Scotland 2012
- Blandine Pelissier, founding member of the H/F Association for Gender Equality in Culture in France
The event is FREE but please book a space via the Traverse Box Office www.traverse.co.uk or call 0131 228 1404
Supported by Equity, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and Scottish Society of Playwrights. Organised by Christine Hamilton, Consulting –
Thanks to the Traverse Theatre for their support.
114 Union Street
0141 248 2472
The Theatre and Performance Research Association National Conference 2013 takes place in the Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland from Weds 4th-Friday 6th of Sept.
Full details can be found HERE
I’ll be assisting my friend and colleague, the freelance Arts Consultant Christine Hamilton with her contribution to the Keynote Panel Event in the Stephenson Hall at 4.pm on Weds 4th of Sept.
I’ll be performing from 3 selected pieces by writers Pamela Carter and David Greig.
To quote from the TaPRA programme :
“Each member of the panel has been asked to reflect on how the practices and insights of contemporary theatre and performance might help to inform, broaden or indeed reconfigure the cultural and political discourses around possible independence in Scotland and accompanying notions of national identity. How might the mental and imaginary landscapes of theatre and performance-making offer productive ways of (re) thinking our views about self-determination, democracy and cultural production in a local, national and global context in the early 21st century.
Ben Harrison (Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron)
Goran Golovko (Vice-Dean, Arts Academy, University of Split, Croatia)
Christine Hamilton (Freelance Arts Consultant, Glasgow)
Chair: Mary Brennan (Dance & Performance Critic for The Glasgow Herald)”
Hope to see some of you there. Rumour has it I will be around at the wine reception at The Arches at 6.30 pm.
This video was created by University Of The West Of Scotland students to publicise and market their Contemporary Screen Acting Degree.
If you have a Higher National Diploma or equivalent in a Performance -based subject, then this two year top up Degree Programme is designed for you.
Contemporary Screen Acting At UWS
Women in film and television – 3:30pm for 5:00pm Start | Saturday 27 October | Venue: Hopscotch Theatre Company, Water Row, Glasgow, G51 3UW
Following the huge success of the WFTV Writers’ Group in London, they’re delighted to announce the first Writers’ Group meeting for their members in Scotland. Join Raisah Ahmed and Lynsey Murdoch and talk with fellow-members and writers. Guest speaker Eleanor Yule.
For a limited period of time, this group is also open to non-members. Only writers though, please!
CONTACT DIRECTLY for further info Belle at – [email protected]
A new monthly Women in Film & Television Writers’ Group – first session will be held at Hopscotch Theatre in Govan on Saturday 27th October from 3.30-5pm. All the details are on Eventbrite and here is the link: http://wftvscotwriters1.eventbrite.com
This first meeting is free to all, and is women-only. It’s for anyone interested in writing professionally for the film and TV industry. Eleanor Yule is the first speaker, and we will bring in script editors, producers, actors and designers to enable the group work with indsutry professionals.
I have wrtitten previously about the setting up of our UWS collaboration project “Studio Lab” at our new Television Studios at University Of The West Of Scotland in Ayr . We have now reached Week 3 of the project and it is developing at a breathtaking pace.
Ten 4th year (level 10 ) Contemporary Screen Acting Students have worked on creating the scenario, characters and script of a live recorded studio production of approximately 30-60 mins in length. Readers will, I hope, appreciate that this is a substantial piece of work.It will be recorded “as live” at UWS Ayr Studios on December 5th. It will be directed by professional TV Director Michael Hines , who as well as being one of Scotland’s leading directors, also lectures on our Camera Acting Techniques and Screen Drama modules. All the improvisational materials and exercises are being been recorded , edited and disseminated online to the performance team by volunteer Film Making & Screenwriting students as part of this crossover collaboration. The volunteer recording team have put in literally hours of work to ensure that the acting team have the material in an edited form in order to reflect, and then deepen the characterisations which will be eventually reflected in an improvised shooting script to prepare for the live recording.
As the project progresses closer towards shooting, Broadcast Production students will become more involved, so that by the time we record, I expect a team of about 20 strong production team to be part of the behind the scenes efforts to capture the live recording of this experimental drama. Thus around 30 UWS Creative Industries students will have had the chance to take part in an authentic hands on experience which we hope will arm them for the challenges of the Professional Creative Industries.
We have now reached week 3 of the project. So far students have worked on Object, Situation and Interactive improvisations. This has produced approximately 3 hours of edited material. The first part of each session is taken up by watching, discussing and reflecting upon last weeks material. All the edited material has been previously posted on a closed Facebook Group where all the participating students, both voluntary and assessed, take part in creative online discussions through the week.Screen Acting students are tasked with creating three dimensional authentic characters with a backstory, personna, and psychological underpinning which will propel them into the creation of a fully integrated live drama.
Having now gathered a wealth of material, students are engaged in the process of “locating” the precinct within which the final production will be based. Will it be an airport? An institution? A city street? A Spaceship? Inside John Malkovich’s head? The decision of what, where and how the precinct will be will evolve over the next two weeks, so that by week 6, students have a firm grasp of the creative parameters of the project. By weeks 7 and 8, the now located script will be further improvised, developed and honed. At this point, UWS Screenwriting students will distill all the material into a developing script, so that by the time we get to the Technical Rehearsal in Week 10 on Nov 28th, we will have an agreed shooting script which fully reflects the creative input of all participants. We are then planning a final screening in our Campus HD 7:1 Movie Theatre in Week 12.
Next trimester, all the Contemporary Screen Acting students are tasked with writing a 4-6,000 word Ethnographic survey of the lived experience of the entire process. This part of the process is has been devised and delivered by my colleague Dr John Quinn at UWS.
The combination of the two processes, Recorded Artefact and Ethnographic Survey will combine in a 40 Credit Module to complete the Contemporary Screen Acting Research Project. We plan to have all student work submitted in a digital form and be deliverable online in the first ever truly paperless I will update progress with the StudioLab project as it develops.
I have taught Screenwriting and Performance at the University Of The West of Scotland since 2006. Dr Sarah Neely, who at that time was teaching Screenwriting here, originally asked me to visit to deliver a one hour talk on my work in the Creative Industries. At that time the institution was called “The University Of Paisley” . I thought I was agreeing to go and talk in Paisley, Renfrewshire, until the day before the visit I looked at a map armed with the Post Code and realised that I was booked to speak in Ayr. Ayr??? What….Ayr, Ayrshire? Robert Burns? Ice Cream? Butlins? I remember phoning Sarah up the night before and asking her once again…”
“It is Ayr you want me to go to, is it? ”
She assured me that it was indeed the toon of honest men and bonnie lasses, and off I went with my bike on the train, to Ayr the next day. I got out at the end of the line, and outside the station, asked the ticket inspector if he could tell me the way to the University. “Oh aye, ” he said, ” Ayr College….doon there, mate…”
“No..not Ayr College…..the University….” I said.
He drew himself up to his full 5’5″ , cupped his fag against the wind, and said ” There’s nae University in Ayr, son….”
Noting my puzzlement, one of his colleagues paused from rolling a cigarette and shouted over…” It’s Craigie he’s wantin’, Wullie”
With that, a light came on in Wullie’s eye…” Oh..CRAIGIE, is it?….how did you no say?” And with that he gave me pinpoint directions to the Craigie Campus of the University Of Paisley.
6 years later and I am still here.
The New Campus
Now renamed University Of The West Of Scotland after its merger with Bell College Hamilton, and newly relocated in our new £80 million state of the art campus on the banks of the River Ayr, the place I work in now is very different from the leaky, drafty, run down ex-teacher training college I walked into that day in March 2006. Thankfully, there is sign outside the town which says “Ayr..A University Town” , so that even Wullie from the station will now realise that there is a University in Ayr…and a damn fine one at that!
But there is something else that hasn’t changed at all. The students. Oh they aren’t exactly the same student’s of course. Six cohorts of graduates have moved on and made a life for themselves in the time I have been there. But they are exactly the same type of students.A large percentage of them tend to come from the same housing schemes, the same small towns, the same Islands and urban conurbations as they did then.
There is a specific “look” and “sound” to a group of UWS students. I can’t define it, but I can instantly recognise it. I have lectured to MA students in ancient oak and leather furnished rooms at St Andrews: to groups of Film Students in a modern Lecture Theatre at the University of Stirling: to Theatre Studies Graduates in a beautifully dramatic arts “Church” at Glasgow Uni. Every one of those groups was instantly differentiated from my students at UWS. Let’s cut to the chase here. We are talking class. The statisticians don’t talk about class. They talk about “areas of high deprivation” or “lower socioeconomic sectors”. Whatever way you dress it up as, the “look” and “sound” of a group of UWS students is closely linked to the fact that a large percentage of them come from the sort of places that most of the middle class worthies who run Scottish Education only see through smoke-tinted windscreens. Many of my students are the first person in their family to take up Higher Education. Many of them are single parents. Many of them have full time jobs in very low paid areas. Many of them subsist on bursaries, grants,handouts and overdrafts. Over 35% of our Performance Students have special educational needs which are fully supported by our fantastic team at UWS Ayr. I wonder what the equivalent figure is in St. Andrews? I don’t have that figure to hand, but today, thanks to the NUS Scotland, I DO have a figure which has made me proud to work at UWS, and proud to teach my students. More of that later.
The New NSS Survey is out? Oh……great. :..(
When you work at UWS, the release of National Statistics is rarely a pleasant experience. With teeth-grinding regularity, I see the National Student Survey “Performance Charts” which put Oxford , St Andrews and Cambridge at the top, and UWS somewhere…well…. let’s say a wee bit further down than Edinburgh.
Never mind that my students are taught in the most modern Creative Industries University in Britain.Never mind that all the hard work, toil, time, effort and downright passion that my colleagues and I put in to our students learning experience comes to nothing. My UWS students aren’t even included in the National Student Survey. Astonishingly, unbelievably, incredibly, as direct entry third year “top up” students, they don’t even get ASKED what they think of their education. Why? Because the entire NSS system is geared to assessing the thoughts of 18 year olds with A Levels who are studying three year degrees. None of my students, not a single ONE of them, adheres to that biased, Southern, middle class model. Many of my students don’t even have Highers. They left school at 16, maybe took a year out to work , or signed on. Some of them have been Fire Officers, Estate Agents,full time mothers, even a magician! Whatever their past, at some point,at some time, they took an access course, went to a local FE college, and achieved an HNC or an HND in Performance and Acting. They did this in circumstances which were a million miles away from the creme de la creme of the education world who are recruited by the “elites” . This large group of Articulation students is completely ignored by the NSS. Institutions like UWS takes large numbers of these students . We cajole them, teache them, argue with them, are frustrated and infuriated by them, but finally we arm them with an honours degree , self respect, and a practical tool kit to go out into the world and make a career for themselves. And yet my colleagues, students and I have to watch as their progress is completely marginalised as the NSS statistics “prove” how wonderful the “elite” universities are, and how low down we are .
League Table Shmeague Table.
As we all know, the true situation at the chalk face is far more complex than any crass league tables can ever reflect. For example, I am bursting with pride at my two Honours students who achieved First Class degrees this year. They could walk into post-graduate studies of any elite institution in the country if they so wished. However I am just as proud of my other students who have emerged from challenging circumstances and learned advanced criticality, reflection and transferrable soft and hard skills which will help them gain employment or create their own jobs and careers. They want to ensure that their children don’t get the same free meals that they did, and I am proud to be part of that process. Indeed I am literally part of that process, because I too was the possessor of a dreaded free “white dinner ticket” while at school. But none of this is reflected in the cursed tables I see published in the papers every year. And do you know what? I’m past caring…..well…until today……because…..we made it to the top of a table today, and suddenly , I think they are a GREAT idea….so….
Hallelujah! Let joy be unconfined! Let the church bells ring and let laughter and mirth spread through the land! At last, some statistics are published which finally reflect the pride I feel in my institution, and which justify the passion and energy which my colleagues and I put into our work here. UWS has come out ON TOP in a statistical survey! I will repeat that. University Of The West Of Scotland has come out ON TOP! We are the top recruiter of students scoring highest using the criteria of the Scottish Index Of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)
According to a recent study commissioned by NUS Scotland, UWS recruits a greater percentage of students from “deprived areas” than any other university in Scotland. Of course needless to say, this was not presented as a positive story. Did I pick up my Herald yesterday and luxuriate in the headline trumpeting “UWS Triumphs In Campaign For Open Access” ? Errr….No. Instead these figures were described as “Elite Universities Fail To Recruit Poorer Pupils.” ‘Twas ever thus.
Nevertheless, it IS a positive story for us at UWS! Last year we recruited 1,117 students from the lowest SIMD sector. To give this a bit of context, St Andrews, (which I believe is thought of as one of the elite ) , managed to recruit……..wait for the drumroll……..a grand total of ….13. Maybe we should call them the St. Andrews 13. Maybe they were all from the same Rugby League team? Whoever they are, I really do wish them well, because they must be 13 of the most outstanding students in the country. However it means that while 2.7% of St Andrews students might have got free school meals or had an unemployed parent, the UWS figure is 25.4%.
Not only that, but the elite universities (what a wonderful term that is ) are actually recruiting less disadvantaged students than they did 10 years ago. This means that these august educational institutions , whose senior common rooms no doubt glow with statisfaction at their domination of the NSS statistics, are getting less and less successful in helping the poorest attempt to break out of a cycle of deprivation and poverty than before.
The Blame Game?
Let’s make one point crystal clear here. I don’t blame the elite unis for this. As Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland states in the Herald of June 4th 2012
“To deliver significant change in universities, you first need to tackle the root of the problem, which is the large gap in attainment according to deprivation in schools, as recent reports have confirmed,”
Coupled with this, I also don’t blame the elite for wanting to recruit the best students. If I got the chance to recruit a fantastic actress who had gone to Swiss finishing school and had an International Baccalauréat , I would do it in a flash. But I live in the real world too. I am competing against other institutions which are deemed “elite” and superior to mine. I know that because I see it in the League Tables, so it must be true, musn’t it?
Prolier Than Thou?
Of course, The solution to these societal inequalities, as Alistair Sim points out, lies not in the University sector at all. Universities are the symptom of the disease, not the cause. It is in the schools and pre-school system that this canker of inequality is nurtured. The fact that elite schools dominate the intake of elite universities is clearly symptomatic of the effect of pouring massive subsidy and resources into the education of the 7% of British Children who attend “independent” schools. Thus inequality is structurally inevitable if we are to continue to give parents the “freedom” to buy their children’s superior school education. Even the proposed imposition of quotas, through which the Government plans to force Universities to take more disadvantaged students (and which the “elite” will inevitably rail against) , are naught but a tiny sticking plaster on what is a far , far deeper inequality wound in contemporary Scottish society.
The Way Forward.
If we Scots decide that we want to build a fairer society (and the evidence of election after election in Scotland is that we do ) , then the only way to redress our massive societal inequalities is through investment in education and training at the pre-school, school, FE and HE level. At UWS, we can only do what we can do, and I am proud to be part of an HE institution which is clearly and demonstrably doing more to enable open access to HE than any other University in Scotland.
So let’s hear it for UWS, our students, and especially for Wullie the ticket inspector from Ayr whose town has a University which is top of the performance charts in at least one crucial area.
If you want more information on the sort of work our Articulation students do in Ayr, please have a look at the Video below. It was created, written, acted and edited by my third years last term. These students came straight from an HND at FE College, and have no current voice in the National Student Survey. Let their words speak for themselves. Contemporary Screen Acting At University Of The West Of Scotland.