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FRAMES artist residency with Ellie Griffiths and St Crispins School. Image: Geraldine Heaney

Imaginate Appoints Jerwood Fellows

25 March 2020

Imaginate appoints a circus artist and a musician theatre maker as Jerwood Fellows to make performances for children with additional support needs

Claire Eliza Willoughby and Emily Nicholl will be supported by Imaginate over a year, in a career changing-opportunity funded by Jerwood Arts’ Development Programme Fund, to help them make innovative performance for children with additional support needs (ASN) such as profound autism or multiple learning disabilities.

The two artists will develop their understanding of this special audience’ needs, working with an ASN school in Edinburgh, as they develop and test some performance ideas with the children. They will also receive a bursary, mentoring, an international festival visit and a two-week long paid placement with Oily Cart.

Claire Eliza Willoughby is a musician, performer and theatre maker based in Glasgow who trained as a clown. She is interested in what it means to take risks and to fail, and wants to interrogate the two-way relationship between performer and audience member. During her fellowship, she would like to bring together a large choir of different voices, and play with textures, improvisation, pitch, and harmony / dissonance.

“There is something very valuable in taking the time to really learn from and be inspired by the best in the field, to interrogate all the different ways in which we can approach making work with, and for, audiences with additional support needs. I am so excited for all of the opportunities that being a Jerwood Fellow will open up, both locally and internationally!” Claire Eliza Willoughby

Emily Nicholl is one of Scotland’s leading circus and physical theatre artists. She has a background in politics and environmental education and is an avid rock climber. Her performance idea for this fellowship stems from her interest in our relationships with the outdoors, inspired by the sense of vulnerability she has felt recently due to illness and injury. With ‘climate anxiety’ being increasingly recognised as a mental health issue, she is also interested in exploring issues around how we relate to a natural world at risk.

“I am absolutely delighted to be one of the Jerwood Fellows and to be thinking about what will be my first work for young audiences. I’m excited to see where this period of research and learning will take me, and to learn from all those I meet throughout the year. I think there’s a huge value in learning about how to place your audience at the heart of a creative process.” Emily Nicholl

There is high demand from families and schools for ASNfocused performance. But despite growing interest amongst Scottish artists, few are creating performances for this audience due to lack of awareness of its artistic possibilities, lack of opportunity to try out ideas with children, and lack of paid time to develop ideas.

The Jerwood Fellowships will help to bring down these barriers and encourage the creation of badly needed new work for ASN audiences. As one parent at the last Edinburgh International Children’s Festival said: “There are few opportunities to take my son to
shows as there is little provision for children with additional needs and he will not sit still for long.”

The Jerwood Fellowships is a career-changing programme for Scotland-based theatre or dance artists in the first 10 years of practice, who are interested in making innovative contemporary performance for children and young people with a range of additional support needs. Through year-long, bespoke support, Fellows will gain skills, knowledge, inspiration and connections to confidently make artistically interesting work for this audience.