YTAS member Nick Barton-Wines is a theatre maker who took part in the Emergence platform at Chrysalis in 2016 with the Beacon Arts Centre’s Youth Theatre. We talked to him about the process, what it was like and why he’d recommend it to other youth theatre groups.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work as a practitioner?
I’m a theatremaker working across a broad range of contexts, whether that’s as a director, facilitator, writer, producer or dramaturg. As a practitioner I tend to work with the older members of youth theatres. I am the leader of the Beacon Arts Centre Youth Theatre and Young Company, as well as a drama lecturer for RCS’s Junior Conservatoire where I work across Acting and Musical Theatre. I work freelance across Scotland, most recently at Traverse Theatre, Aberdeen Performing Arts, and with RCS’s On The Verge festival with the BA and MA students. I am very passionate about the use of ensembles and how understanding the theory of drama can unlock the potential for young people to make really exciting and dynamic theatre.
2. Why did you decide to apply for the Emergence platform in 2016?
I had an idea for a show, ‘How To Save The World…ish‘, which was about a teenager, and I thought why am I speaking for teenagers when I could let teenagers speak for themselves? It was also about a world in which the rules work a little differently; most importantly, everyone holds a string which trails all the way into the sky. I wanted to test this idea to see if audiences would connect to it easily. So I approached the Beacon, had a few meetings, and applied for the slot!
3. What support did you get throughout the programme?
I remember very clearly a meeting I had with my YTAS Mentor (Kenny) who looked at the range and styles of work I had made and helped me realise the common threads through my work. This was a real key point for me on my journey to making the show as it gave me my first hand on the cliff-face of making a show, so to speak. I was also very fortunate to have the Beacon behind me with strong links to YTAS, who together could help guide the process. Beyond that, having YTAS to market my scratch sharing to wider audiences, provide technical support, and offer advice on how to take the show further through the feedback session were great signposts to getting ‘How To Save The World…ish’ to the next stage of development; a full production.
5. How did participating in the programme help you and your group develop your performance?
For me, I was fresh out of my degree at RCS and looking to establish myself and my work in the industry. being at the festival provided me with an opportunity to connect with all the organisations across Scotland, offer them the chance to see a snippet of my work and I was able to introduce myself and build connections which led to more chances for me to work with young people. It gave me a solid grounding for my career.
For the cast, BYC had only formed for one project previously, ‘Hector Moray’ directed by Andy McGregor at NTS Exchange. This was an opportunity to empower the group further, giving them more performing opportunties, connect with other young people from across Scotland who were equally passionate about theatre, and build on their skills and ideas for the show as we pushed forward to making the 75 minute version the following year. It proved our ideas worked.
Why should other groups apply for Emergence?
If you have an idea of something that sounds great and you need those next steps to materialise it, then you should apply. If your young people are looking for a change of direction, new skills, and a bold adventure, then you should apply. If you’re at a youth theatre and you want to drive a new project for your peers, then talk to your youth theatre leader and you should apply. This is an opportunity to take a bold risk in a safe environment where jeopardy is championed. Ambition and empowerment are the key.
What’s next for you?
Firstly we’ve a fully-booked summer school for primary school children at the Beacon coming up that’s going to be all about mess! After that I’m gearing up for a new exciting year at RCS where I’ll be meeting new students, and at the Beacon where we’ll be working towards a new production featuring all of our groups from P1 to senior school! Additionally I’m going to be running some audition prep sessions at Aberdeen Performing Arts for aspiring Higher Education students at the start of the new academic year.
Find out more about the Emergence programme and the Chrysalis Festival at www.ytas.org.uk/chrysalis