Composer and concert producer Matthew Whiteside (Photo: Julie Howden)
Composer and concert producer Matthew Whiteside (Photo: Julie Howden)

New fund aims to make it happen in the arts

A new fund to kick start the careers of the nation’s emerging creative artists is launched today by Scotland’s national conservatoire, one of the world’s top performing arts education institutions.

The Make It Happen Fund will support early stage professional development, covering areas such as training and testing ideas to forming new companies and collaborations.

The £10,000 microfunding initiative will award sums from £250 to £750 and is open to those who graduated from the Royal Conservatoire between 2016 and 2018.

Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: ‘Pioneering performers and artists have the power to transform and enrich society through their work.

‘As Scotland’s national conservatoire, we believe in investing in the artistic and career development of our students and graduates who contribute so much to the creative landscape and economy in Scotland and beyond.

‘The Make It Happen Fund will support our recent graduates on their professional paths, especially in those crucial early days when financial assistance can make all the difference. We are looking forward to receiving applications and being able to play a part in cultivating curiosity and helping creativity take flight.’

The fund launch will be followed by Make It Happen Month at the Royal Conservatoire in November, a packed programme of workshops and seminars to help students and graduates get their concepts off the ground and into the world.

The sessions – which are open to all – will offer practical advice on everything from selling and pitching skills to building a brand, and are offered in a collaboration between the Royal Conservatoire’s Research and Knowledge Exchange department and the Students’ Union.

The creative industries are the fastest growing part of the UK economy, according to the Creative Industries Federation. In 2016, the UK sector contributed £91.8bn gross value added (GVA), which was bigger than the automotive, life sciences, aerospace, oil and gas sectors combined. Scottish Government figures show that creative industries contribute more than £4 billion to the Scottish economy every year.

Composer and concert producer Matthew Whiteside (Photo: Julie Howden)

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland adopts a range of approaches to the learning and teaching of enterprise and employability and graduates are excellent and reflective arts practitioners who lead, achieve and innovate.

Noisemaker is the critically acclaimed and multi-award winning writing partnership of Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie. Both graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the pair work across the globe creating innovative, original productions to challenge the expectations of musical theatre.

Their musical My Left/Right Foot was one of the hottest tickets at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, earning a string of five star reviews. Claire and Scott are currently working on a new musical Legend Trippers for National Youth Music Theatre which premieres next summer in London.

They’ll also head stateside, to Connecticut, in the spring with Hi, My Name is Ben, in partnership with Dundee Rep, as part of Goodspeed Musicals’ 2019 season.

Claire said: ‘The first steps out of education can be some of the trickiest. However, with the right support and direction, this period of time can be fundamental in exploring the kind of work of you want to make. This initiative from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland offers a vital lifeline to artists that are ready to start that exploration.

‘The Make It Happen Fund not only encourages the development of fresh ideas from new artists, but also nurtures a longer-term commitment between the Royal Conservatoire and its diverse and accomplished alumni. This asserts RCS, and indeed Scotland, as a hub of creative development and potential.’

Scott Gilmour added: ‘Forming Noisemaker was an idea we had a few months after graduating, and we relied heavily on smaller, project-based funds like this for support. Without that initial investment we simply could not have made our work and, in turn, discovered the kind of artists we wanted to be. This is why funds like Make It Happen are so important; because you never know where an idea might lead.’

Composer and concert producer Matthew Whiteside, who graduated from the Royal Conservatoire in 2012, writes music for concert, film and collaborative installations. His music has been performed around the world and recent work includes commissions from Scottish Opera, The Chamber Project and the Institute of Physics for a performance at the NI Science Festival.

He scored Michael Palin’s Quest for Artemisia for BBC Four and is also behind The Night With… which takes ‘interesting music to informal spaces’ across Scotland with three concerts remaining in the current season. He is currently working on his second album which will be released in 2019.

BAFTA-nominated television producer Hannah Smith, who graduated in 2014

Matthew said: ‘It’s really important for everyone within the arts to be self-starters. Even a small amount of money can go a long way to developing a project and unlocking additional support. I can see the fund being the kick start that many projects and creative ideas need to make them happen.’

BAFTA-nominated television producer Hannah Smith, who graduated in 2014, says the Royal Conservatoire has always been ‘incredibly supportive’ of its students and alumni.

Hannah, who is currently working on CBBC’s The Playlist, UKTV’s Dave’s Advent Calendar and The Live Lounge Show for BBC2 and BBC Four, said: ‘Financial support for graduates will give us the chance to put on those Fringe shows that will be watched by producers and casting directors, or make that short film to publicise ourselves at a global film festival. We’ll be able to attend courses that otherwise may prove too expensive, continuing to widen our minds and network with those who will give us our first jobs.

‘It will keep our hopes and dreams alive and give us the chance to practice our art and not let the graduate fear take over! RCS is a forever-growing family of talented individuals and like-minded people and it’s brilliant to see that it’s there to support us as we take our steps into the real world.’

Graduates can apply to the Make It Happen Fund HERE.

For more information on Make It Happen Month at RCS, view the programme, and register, HERE.