This week sees three days of ambitious and provocative work from young talent as Chrysalis festival runs in Edinburgh. Producer Fiona McCurdy explains why, against a background of cuts and losses, it’s so vital that emerging talent has this unique platform.

The idea for Chrysalis first came about before I became involved with the company. Around five years ago Kenny McGlashan, the CEO OF Youth Theatre Arts Scotland (YTAS), began to notice more and more exceptional theatre made by young people working in collaboration with talented artists and directors. He was convinced that work of this quality deserved a wider audience and began developing plans for a new platform.

YTAS then conducted a series of consultation events that confirmed Chrysalis was indeed a priority for multiple levels of groups in the sector. Young theatre makers and leaders told them that a festival like Chrysalis was needed to challenge and inspire their practice onto the next level. They said existing youth arts opportunities were not challenging the quality and innovation of their creativity and a new platform could create more momentum and debate for sustained artistic development.

Since then support for emerging artists has taken some fairly major blows with the loss of organisations such as The Arches in Scotland and IdeasTap nationally. Given the news that arts courses are also due to be axed from many schools in England, I don’t think there has ever been a more vital time to give young artists a platform for their work.

YTAS were really pleased with how the event ran in its first year. The ticket sales, media coverage and atmosphere during the weekend all exceeded expectations. After attending the festival 80 per cent of the audience said Chrysalis ‘positively enhanced the public perception of creative work by young people’ and had ‘inspired and raised the aspirations of young people’ involved in theatre and performance.

The first year was really about establishing a firm place on the festival map. Over the next few years we hope more professionals and groups from across the UK and internationally will come and share new work and opportunities together.

This year, four of Europe’s most promising youth companies will be presenting full-length shows in the festival. As part of the Emergence strand, three exceptional companies will also be performing work-in-progress scratch pieces.

  • Club by Teatru Manoel (Malta), a show about dealing with grief after a good friend to the company dies and the cathartic experiences they have whilst clubbing.
  • Sheep by Tron Young Company (Glasgow) looks at the human fallout of modern warfare, media propaganda and gender roles in conflict.
  • The Island from Platform Young Company (Glasgow) centers on a group of young people in an apocalyptic wasteland and their search for what happens at the end of everything.
  • Phenomona: A Beginner’s Guide to Love and Physics by Sounds Like Chaos and the Albany Theatre Deptford (London) questions how we learn to love and explores where an inquisitive brain with a thirst for knowledge will take us.

The Emergence scratch performance includes work from Strange Town (Edinburgh), Macrobert Young Company (Stirling) and Beacon Youth Theatre (Greenock). There is space built in around the Emergence performance for feedback and discussion with the groups and creative teams.

With the aim of creating a fully immersive festival where young people and sector professionals can exchange skills and network, we have also created the Chrysalis Too workshop series. This part of the festival offers a curated series of workshops and talks about the current trends and challenges within contemporary youth theatre practice. It also offers the chance to engage directly with the festival participants and creative teams. These workshops are open to the public and aimed at all age groups. For young people we hope they will offer an invaluable opportunity to learn from the artistic experiences of their peers from different cultures, backgrounds and countries. These workshops have already proven to be very popular and places are limited, so if you want to get involved do get in quick!

The Traverse have been immensely supportive in their partnership with this project. Given the strength of their own extensive engagement programme and the reach to new audiences that they can offer young artists we at Youth Theatre Arts Scotland are very excited about Chrysalis 2016.

Chrysalis festival runs from November 18-20 at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

Image by John Johnston