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Scottish playwright, actress and musician... writing about writing.

Nordic Nights... a creative visit to Helsinki.

By mornayoung, Feb 27 2020 11:15AM

There’s something ever enticing about the Nordic life. Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden are ranked among the top happiest places in the world, known for their commitment to balanced and fulfilling lifestyles. I’ve long been drawn to the mysterious, cool allure and amazed by the stories of high standards of work-life balance. Less stress and more time for doing what you love sounds like a fantastical dream.

In February this year, I spent five days in Helsinki with director Beth Morton as part of a creative visit through Creative Scotland’s ‘Go See Share’ fund which aims to “help recipients to gain knowledge and insight, and build relationships at events or other types of visits and then to share this knowledge back in Scotland.”

During this visit, we sought to learn about the history, evolution and current climate of Finland’s vibrant theatre scene through meeting artists, companies and venues. Along the way, we met potential collaborators and producers to explore international project ideas, interrogate the sustainability of our work and discuss methods of creating international co-productions. With assistance from the Finnish National Theatre’s dramaturg, Eva Buchwald, we took part in twelve meetings and saw five shows in addition to visiting theatre spaces, exploring research archives and considering Scots / Finnish connections.

Though we predominantly met children’s theatre makers and companies, we also held conversations with organisations such as The International Theatre of Finland and TEHDAS Theatre who focus on work for adults. I was really pleased to have the chance to recommend a number of Scottish plays for consideration, particularly those by female playwrights, and I would love to see these initial conversations progress into full translations and productions.

I was also interested to learn about the unique and respected puppetry tradition within Finland and to meet a number of related companies. One umbrella organisation, Aura for Puppets, represents 63 Finnish puppeteers (!) and they connected us to a wonderfully inspiring artist, Perrine Ferrafiat, who we hope to develop work with in the future. Another puppetry organisation, Puppet Theater Sampo, have their own venue featuring one of the most beautiful, colourful and magical foyers I have ever seen filled with child-friendly toys, books and art work.

Everyone we met went over and above to ensure that we were well looked after. Each meeting brought a new revelation and, more often than not, an introduction to another artist or company. We could have filled a month with meetings and I hope that this is only the start of a much longer-term relationship with many of the organisations we encountered. We’ve returned home with invitations to festivals, residency offers, co-collaboration possibilities and a new, expansive network. I’m really excited about my ongoing creative partnership with Beth and to further explore the connections and opportunities we have uncovered. Whilst we primarily discussed two shows we are currently developing (one for children, one for adults - but both drawing on Scots / Finnish myths), a number of new ideas and possibilities have emerged and I can’t wait to see how these unfold in the coming months (or years… depending, as always, on funding!)

I’d encourage everyone - and particularly individual artists - to consider applying for Go See Share funding as an opportunity to connect with international theatre companies and artists. I’ve been really fortunate these past few years to embrace international working and it’s proven invaluable in developing my creative thinking. As borders and national identities become trickier and more restrictive, working internationally is a chance to understand the world better, to gain insight into others’ lives and to access multi-national viewpoints. The more we can understand about a place – not just facts and statistics, but beliefs and influences – the more effectively we can connect and communicate.

In a sector with many gatekeepers, I strongly believe in promoting the role of individual artists as cultural ambassadors on an international platform. I’m also really happy to discuss my own experiences of applying and participating in the programme as part of a commitment to creative learning and peer-to-peer exchange in addition to sharing findings / connections with the wider sector.

Please do get in touch if you want to chat more.

Thank you again to Creative Scotland and the Go See Share fund for supporting this visit and to Beth Morton for being an excellent creative partner-in-crime.

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