The Dumfries & Galloway Arts festival is very pleased to announce the recipients of our Support for Ambition creative practitioners and venues awards for 2023-2024.

We received 16 applications from artists working in the region, as well as four from venues, totalling a financial ask of £39,583. The general standard of submissions was very strong, with many inspiring and intriguing performing arts-based ideas and projects. As a result, we reviewed our finances, allocated further resources and raised the amount we could disburse through the fund to £12,000.

With such a range of submissions full of creativity and ambition, making our selections was very challenging. We were ably assisted by leading musician Aaron Jones, whose experience and insights were invaluable when discussing each submission. We thank him for his time and commitment.

Awards’ recipients will be working on their projects between January and July 2024.

We made awards to the following five creative practitioners:

BREEZY LEE ELTHALION / Vocal mentorship – One of the region’s leading singers and composers, as well as Oceanallover’s musical director, Breezy will develop further her knowledge of and expertise in high-specification sound engineering, the better to collaborate creatively with other musicians across the UK and internationally, as well as promote her music to wider audiences.

SAHAR EL-HADY / Borders – Collaborating with individuals and families from Syrian, Ukrainian and other communities of refugees staying in Dumfries & Galloway, as well as with the agencies which support them, Sahar will present a work in progress performance of the play by Henry Naylor, which focuses on the experience of people who have been displaced from their homes and lives by war. As well as working for Upland, Sahar is one of The Stove’s current Creative Spaces Associates.

EMMA FORSYTH / Stories along the Train Line – Emma will gather and document stories from people living in places situated along the old Stranraer to Dumfries railway line, the first stage in creating a gig theatre piece which celebrates how travel informs our desire for adventure, as well as our sense of identity and of home, and the physical links and emotional connections between small town communities. A former Stove Creative Spaces Associate, Emma now works at the Theatre Royal, Dumfries, as its Education & Youth Engagement Officer.

FOX & HOUND THEATRE / Glen of Echoes – One of the region’s leading performing arts ensembles, the company will use its award for the initial research and development of a trad-rock musical about the battle of Culloden and the second Jacobite uprising. This is the first of a three-stages process through which the company will create a full small to mid-scale music theatre production which will tour throughout Dumfries & Galloway and then further afield.

PERFORMANCE COLLECTIVE STRANRAER / How to be Human – This dynamic ensemble of young emerging performing arts-based talent will explore the use and mixing of sound effects, panning, binaural sound, music and spoken word to create live feeds into headphones worn by audience members, providing soundscapes which are integral and powerful elements of a devised, multidisciplinary touring production that explores human-ness at its worst and best.

We also made awards to two regional venues:

UPPER ESKDALE DEVELOPMENT GROUP / Music in the Valley – The Eskdalemuir Community Centre will host a series of song writing workshops for the local community, as part of its Faces & Places Project. Participants will work on music and lyrics which tell stories about people and events from the area, and then record the final versions. These will be performed for audiences by visiting professional musicians during the venue’s regular monthly Sunday afternoon live traditional music sessions.

TRAD MUSIC TRUST / Jazz-Funk Festival 2024 – The Vault Arts Centre in Newton Stewart will use its award to present a new two-days festival which showcases and celebrates the vibrant modern Scottish jazz-funk scene which is currently enjoying a significant revival. As well as performances from leading home-grown, UK and European artists, the organisers will schedule workshops and other educational opportunities which will encourage participants to develop performing skills in the genre.