An Open Letter to Creative Scotland from 150 Members of the Artistic Community in Scotland and Beyond.

31st January 2018

The news this week that Catherine Wheels are to lose their status as a regularly funded organisation has come as a blow to many of us in the theatre community. The role and influence of Catherine Wheels extends far beyond the core employees that make up the company and as freelance artists who have worked with the company, benefitted from their expertise or simply been inspired by their work we wish to ask Creative Scotland to reconsider their decision.

The value of this company to the artistic community cannot be underestimated. Catherine Wheels have spent 20 years honing the skills needed to support, nurture and inspire one of the most imaginative and thrilling audiences there is; young people and their adults. To consistently serve and challenge this audience and respond creatively to their emotional, social and imaginative needs; to take their lives and stories seriously and respond with work that is as sophisticated and complex as they are. It is this body of experience and work that make them one of the most thrilling companies for us as theatre makers to work with. Working with them has consistently stretched all our creative capacities; they challenge an artist to go further and as a result they are often the catalyst for substantial leaps in an artist’s creative practice.

Quietly and often unseen in schools and theatres across Scotland and across the world this company are providing an imaginative space for an audience that (perhaps uniquely in theatre) crosses racial, socio-economic, age and religious backgrounds. It is important to recognise that the ability of this work to move an audience from 2 up to 102 is no accident. It requires the skills and commitment of artists, technicians, administrators and managers who have all worked for years to make this company not only one of the best in Scotland, but known through the world as a maker of courageous, surprising and ground-breaking work. As artists this wealth of experience is invaluable. The company is a place to turn to, not only for inspiration, but also for advice when making work elsewhere, for young or old. They have helped to develop the careers of many freelance artists and have time and time again nurtured those artists long-term. In a profession where there is often very little security or stability for those making the work, where we have none of the benefits of a stable organisation behind us, Catherine Wheels has been a beacon of professionalism, fairness and support; indeed, for many artists, they have provided the closest we have to a home.

It is not just the artistic results of the company that should be a cause for reconsideration, but the effect that their generosity, complete focus on their audience, and the spirit of artistic adventure has had on the wider Scottish theatre ecology. Many of the artists and makers who have worked with the company have been influenced by this approach and gone on to found companies and make work that is more daring, more adventurous and has pushed the scope, scale and quality of theatre for young people to new levels. As artists we would be much diminished both individually and as a community if we were to lose a company whose work has become a marker of excellence both within Scotland and on the international stage.

Signed by 150 members of the Artistic Community in Scotland and beyond

Robert Alan Evans, Writer

Danny Krass, Composer & Sound Designer

Karen Tennent, Designer

Ashley Smith, Performer

Isabelle Joss, Performer

Simon Donaldson, Performer

Lesley Hart, Performer and Writer

Pauline Knowles, Performer

Andrew Rothney, Performer

Chris Alexander, Performer

Peter Collins, Actor and Director (Pondlife, Little Gentleman, White, How to Fix a Broken Wing)

Sarah Gudgeon, Performer and Parent

“The fact is that Catherine Wheels produce high quality work for young people and in a world where looking down at devices is the first stop, they encourage young people to look up and use their imaginations. Please, reinstate their funding.”

Nicola McCartney, Playwright, director and dramaturg

Annie Cusick Wood, Director & Playwright (Scotland, USA)

Michael Dylan, Performer

Claire Murray, Company Director, Brennan Artists Associates

Oliver Emanuel, Playwright

Michael Clarke, Literary Agent, Brennan Artists Associates

Janis Claxton, Choreographer

“Even though I have never worked directly with Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, it’s exemplary work has influenced my position as an artist in Scotland through support, advice and sharing of resources. This company’s reputation internationally has done more for the value of Scottish Arts than probably any other company from Scotland across the entire sector.  Reinstate this extraordinary company.”

Lizzie Powell, Lighting Designer

“3 shows under the belt working with the brilliant Catherine Wheels, about to light my 4th with them.”

Kieran Cheung, Musician

Nicole Cooper, Performer

Liz Moran, Director of Arts and Culture, Gulbenkian, University of Kent

Suzanne Robertson, Actress/Theatre maker & Co devisee on Lifeboat

Pauline Lynch, Performer/Author

“To lose Catherine Wheels would be an absolute travesty, not only for the young people of Scotland, but throughout the world. We live in an age where this work should be lauded and expanded, not closed down.”

Katy Wilson, Set Designer

Paul Sorley, Technical Manager, Glasgow Life

“Catherine Wheels took a chance on me years ago and had very happy and rewarding experiences working with Gill and the gang dumbfounded by this decision.  Creative Scotland again rewarding success with destruction.  2018 Scotland’s Year of Young People clearly not according to CS”

Carmen Pieraccini, Actress

Helen Mallon, Actor

Simon Conlon, Program Manager, 100 Story Building, Creative Writing Centre, Melbourne Australia

Gini Merange, Primary School Teacher, previously worked as Musician and Workshop Facilitator with Catherine Wheels

“Catherine Wheels has been an inspiration for both of us in our professional work.”

David Russell-Fitzgerald, Teacher

“Catherine Wheels has a massive impact on young people and artists both nationally and internationally. Their funding cut is a huge blow to Scottish and world theatre.”

Laurie Brown, Performer and Theatre maker

Kevin Brady, Agent – AHA Talent

Therese Bradley, Actress

“I offer my support having seen the extraordinary work made by the company. As a mum and an artist. “

Alison Brown, Costume Designer/Wardrobe Supervisor

Cath Whitefield, Performer

“I would like to lend my support for the protection of funding for Catherine Wheels.

It has been my pleasure to work with the company over the years, and the mastery of creating incredible work for children that Gill Robertson and her team possess should be celebrated and enabled not penalised by cuts to funding.  It’s vital that kids are inspired and excited by theatre and Catherine Wheels are one of the UK’s best at delivering that.”

Gwynfor Prys Davies, Stage Manager

Professor Ros Steen, Voice Practitioner

Alex Bird, Arran Howie & Ross MacKay, Tortoise in a Nutshell

“Catherine Wheels have supported us immensely as a company. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the support they gave us in our formative years.”

Angie Darcy, Performer

Christine Devaney, Choreographer

Carol Ann Crawford, Performer

Jonathan Charles, Creative Director, D fie foe Productions

Simone Bloomfield, Producer, Hippotrix

Xana Marwick, Playwright/Theatre Director

“Undermining the security of Catherine Wheels undermines this whole sector and the theatre going experience of thousands of children”

Hazel Darwin-Clements, Performer and Theatre Maker

“Catherine Wheels have been a beacon of inspiration and support for me in my career. They set the bar and have since kept raising it. I’ve also been on these tours in schools with only one other artist where I have witnessed first hand the magic they are creating and the difference they are making, for thousands of children across the country.”

Jo Timmins, Director

Luke Walker, Performer

“I have witnessed first hand and without exception how excitedly the company has been greeted by the venue or festival we were due to play. And this is simply due to Catherine Wheels’ reputation – as strong abroad as it is in Scotland”

Ben Harrison, Co-Artistic Director, Grid Iron

Lewis Hetherington, Writer

John Byrne, Playwright & Theatre Designer

Amy McGregor, Actor

“During a tour of Lifeboat a young boy who had never experienced live theatre said ‘I’ve only ever seen films and this was so much better than a film’ this is the impact Catherine Wheels has on its young audiences”

Hannah Donaldson, Performer

Lois Mackie, Performer

“The impact that this decision will have upon the children not just in Scotland but internationally will be devastating. Working with Catherine Wheels has been incredible and has changed me as a performer and person for the better”

Simon Wilkinson, Lighting Designer

Michele Gallagher, Performer

“Catherine Wheels Theatre company is one of a kind. Their productions are unique, magical and full of wonder. I count myself lucky to have been part of this company as a performer and many times as an audience member. I took my niece and nephew aged 2 and 4 to see White, they are now 8 and 10 and still talk about the ticker tape explosion. It would be tragic if other children are denied the joy this theatre company brings and the chance to create such wonderful memories”

Rachael Clerke, Live Artist

“I worked with Catherine Wheels as a teenager on work experience, and later on their NTS Hansel & Gretel show. This experience showed me what true collaborative practice was, and continues to influence my artistic practice almost 15 years later. Gill is an inspiration. I know so many people who have either moved to, or stayed in, Scotland specifically because of its high quality of theatre for young people. Catherine Wheels are a huge part of this, and for them to lose their RFO funding is a devastating blow to what makes Scotland an exciting place to make and see live performance.”

Marcello Magni, Actor – Director – Movement Director

Mary Gapinski, Performer

Ron Donachie, Performer

Andy Manley, Theatre Artist

Joe Douglas, Theatre Director

“The decision needs to be reversed immediately. Catherine Wheels are an incredible success story of Scottish theatre and a model of best practice across many areas with an international reputation. It is nonsensical, especially in “The Year of the Young Person”, to completely remove their funding.”

Wils Wilson, Director

James Brining, Artistic Director/Joint CEO West Yorkshire Playhouse

“Catherine Wheels are a truly world class theatre company who have made consistently excellent and inspiring work for children and young people.  For Scotland to lose a company of this standing would be a complete travesty.”

Peter Arnott, Playwright/Author

Elle Taylor, Lighting Designer/Technical Manager

Amanda Howard, Head Agent at AHA Talent

“I was horrified to hear that Catherine Wheels had lost their funding. They are such a brilliant and inventive theatre company, always producing excellent work which is a joy to see.”

David Harrower, Writer

Kirsty McDuff, Performer

“Working with Catherine Wheels has been one of the most incredible jobs I’ve ever had. A safe rehearsal room full of passion and creativity to explore, grow and make mistakes. Such an honour to look children in the eye and tell them a story about the world they live in. I’ll never forget the excitement on their faces, the shrieks of belly laughter and the honest gratitude afterwards. For so many children, it was the first piece of theatre they’ve ever seen. You know they’ll remember the performance for the rest of their lives.”

Mary Jane Wells, Actress, Writer, Producer, USA

“I live in the USA and the profile over here in Los Angeles of Catherine Wheels puts Scotland on the map. In terms of how to brand an entire country positively and with internationalism, contemporary accuracy and flair, Catherine Wheels was doing an excellent job at revealing Scotland as a spectacular country of superlative talent. Beyond that, children’s theatre is often discussed, somewhat patronisingly, as nuturing the ‘audiences of tomorrow’ – Catherine Wheels not only profoundly moved American children and their families with the work they brought here, but treated them as the audiences of today.  In a time where America is in an unprecedented political crisis, you cannot ignore the trail blazed by Catherine Wheels between these two countries, in such a multi-layered, profoundly authentic way for both audiences and artists alike. It is not just a blow to communities on both sides of the Atlantic, but a blow for Scotland’s position and voice on the world stage. More than politics, theatre can access the true, soft layers underneath that make a difference to how people think and understand the world, the subconscious beliefs that drive us all, and how we are hard wired to react and respond beyond conscious control.

It’s a catastrophic loss.”

Drew Taylor, Theatre Director and Playwright

Edward Corrie, Actor and Writer

Andy McGregor, Director, Writer & Composer

James Ley, Playwright

Silke Dykstra, Agent

Matt Addicott, Freelance Director

“Catherine Wheels Theatre Company is a constant source support, encouragement and inspiration.”

James Rottger, Actor

Helen MacKay, Performer

“Children’s theatre is the most important of all – if we don’t introduce our children to shows / storytelling / live performance we risk the next generation growing up to not know what the word Theatre Means.”

Antony Strachan, Actor

“Catherine Wheels are one of the foundations upon which the vibrant world of Children’s theatre in Scotland has been built.It is a company that inspires others to create It is a company that many other theatre practitioners strive to emulate.It is in my opinion the most varied, creative and interesting theatre company in Scotland.It is a source of pride for Scottish Theatre in the wider theatrical world. My favourite as both a punter and a performer.A sad sad day for Scottish Theatre and indeed children’s theatre the world over.”

Mike Kenny, Writer

This decision makes no sense to me whatsoever. We reward excellence and impact, we don’t cut it. Children are our present and our future. On what planet does excluding them hold up. Catherine Wheels have always been an inspiration.

Johnny Mcknight, Director

Morna Pearson, Playwright

Kirsty Eila McIntyre, Performer

Alice Mary Cooper, Theatre maker

James Anthony Pearson, Writer and Performer

Marilyn Imrie, Scottish Theatre Maker, Producer, Parent and Grandparent

“Catherine Wheels sets the benchmark for immersive theatre for children in Scotland and in Europe; it constantly inspires my own work and has delighted and inspired every child whom I’ve seen in its audiences. More than ever this nation’s children need this kind of fearless, dedicated expertise. You must review this decision.”

Daniel Padden, Composer/Musician

“I’m very proud to have worked with Catherine Wheels, who are rightly considered as creators of the highest quality children’s theatre.

In my time working with them I experienced a highly professional, skilled and creative company which valued every project member’s input, and where every decision mattered. I felt welcome and embraced by the environment they had created, and saw a company that managed to balance pure creativity and risk-taking with a hugely capable technical expertise, based on years of hard work, personal and professional development, learning, training, investment and discipline – making sure concepts and ideas can be practically realised so that audiences got the best show they could see. They spend a huge amount of time engaging with audiences outwith traditional theatre spaces, and their dedication to getting as many young people to experience high quality theatre is genuinely inspiring. They are a benchmark for how a Theatre Company should operate.”

Rick Conte, Puppeteer, Actor, Director

Dr Minty Donald, Artist and Senior Lecturer, Contemporary Performance Practice, Head of Theatre Studies, School of Culture and Creative Arts

“I’m writing both as an artist/theatre designer who worked with Catherine Wheels and as an educator. As an educator, I am aware of the very significant role Catherine Wheels plays in supporting and nurturing emerging theatre makers. The loss of Catherine Wheels would lead to a loss of important knowledge and expertise in children’s theatre, international touring and other areas, which Catherine Wheels so generously share. This, in addition to  the example set by the very high quality of work Catherine Wheels produce and the welcoming, warm and generative workig environment they create, makes cuts to their funding difficult to accept or understand.”

Heather Fulton, Artistic Director Frozen Charlotte Productions

“Without the training, mentorship, support and friendship I have received from all members of the Catherine Wheels team over my 14 year relationship with the company I would not be making work for children nor would Frozen Charlotte or our body of work exist.  Loosing Catherine Wheels is like loosing a limb for small companies like mine who rely on their knowledge, experience, connections, resources, inspiring work and their continual championing of a sector that is so vulnerable to being overlooked and undervalued”

Clare McGarry, Artistic Director, Grinagog Theatre Company

“As the Artistic Director of a small children’s theatre company I was shocked and saddened to see that Catherine Wheel’s funding has been cut.  It is a decision I cannot understand given their leading position in the sector both nationally and internationally.  It paints a bleak picture for all of us striving to deliver high quality work for young audiences in Scotland.   With 2018 being the Year of Young People in Scotland, I would urge Creative Scotland to reconsider this decision and find the means to support this excellent, prolific and hardworking company, which in turn would send a message that work for young audiences is valued in Scotland.”

Veronica Leer, Actor, toured internationally with Catherine Wheels

Rosalind Sydney, Actor/Writer/Director

Emily Reutlinger, Freelance Theatre Director)

Allan Lindsay, Actor/Comedian

Julie Wilson Nimmo, Actor

Linda Duncan McLaughlin, Actor and Writer

Louise Ludgate, Actor

Helen Shutt, Writer

Amy Conway, Theatre Maker & Performer

“Catherine Wheels have had a huge impact on my artistic development in the past year since they took me on as an assistant director. They always strive to support emerging artists and to share whatever they can to ensure that future makers have a hand up, be it skills, resources or enthusiasm. I can’t imagine the landscape of children’s theatre in Scotland without them.”

Susan Coyle, Actor, Mother

Crawford Logan, Actor

Karen Bartke, Actor

Michael Sherin, Performer

Kelly McNulty, Performer

“They play such an important role in Scottish Theatre and not just for young people but for entire families; for performers and artists; and for so many communities.”

Ian Cameron, Performer/Director

“The letter is great and I fully agree with it. There is really not much I could add. The childrens theatre community is a particularly supportive area, and the work I have done with Catherine Wheels has always inspired me, and that inspiration and support I have been able to take into my other work. I don’t think CS realise that the impact of what they have done to Catherine Wheels goes way beyond the company itself, which is such a beacon for excellence, not just for its work, but for the way it cares for those who work for them. It implies that they are just not in touch enough with what is going on.”

Molly Innes, Actor

Alex Bird, Co-Company Manager, Tortoise in a Nutshell Ltd

Natali McCleary, Actor

Jenny Hulse, Performer

“Catherine Wheels are hugely important to the culture of Scottish society and young people. I urge you to reconsider their cut in funding.”

Claire Willoughby, Theatre Maker/Performer

“I am devastated by the cuts to Catherine Wheels – an innovative, inclusive and inspirational company that kickstarted my entire career. They have shaped Scotland’s cultural landscape and continue to make me proud to be an artist working here. Without the benchmark of a national children’s theatre company like Catherine Wheels, it is increasingly difficult to see a future for emerging artists like myself, working hard to bring the highest quality art to young audiences and families.”

Andy Peppiette, Performer

Peter Clerke, Co-artistic Director, The Occasion

Colin Little, Actor

Jennifer Hainey, Actor/Director

Allison McKenzie, Actor

“Please reconsider your decision. Catherine Wheels Theatre Company provides a huge wealth of humanity in its groundbreaking artistic outlook and approach and is loved by all. To cut its funding would be to deprive Scotland of its Creative force.”

Stanley Pattison, Performer

Sean Hay, Performer

“I strongly urge Creative Scotland to reverse its decision to cut the three year funding from Catherine Wheels Theatre Company.”

Scarlett Mack, Performer

Elaine Stirrat, Performer

Nicola Roy, Actor

Brian James O’Sullivan, Actor & Musician

Claire Halleran, Designer

Jennifer Paterson, Artistic Director, All or Nothing

“Catherine Wheels are so integral to the Scottish Theatre Sector.  The quality of the work shines through – from the creative process to being an audience member.  They are extremely generous with their knowledge and continually help other artists on many levels.  It would be a complete loss not just for the theatre sector but for young people in this country.  And they are the only company my wee boy has sat through completely!”

Imogen Michel, Freelance Aerial Performance Rigger

Brian Hartley, Artist and Director of Stillmotion

Laura Hawkins, Lighting Designer

Sergey Jakovsky, Lighting Designer

David Paul Jones, Composer

Alison Brown, Costume Designer

Richard Conlon, Performer

Darren Brownlie, Choreographer

Frances Thorburn, Actress/Singer/Songwriter

Sarah Miele, Performer

Owen Whitelaw, Performer

Lisa Sorensen, Actor

Jeanine Byrne, Lighting Designer

Shona Reppe, Designer, Performer

Beth Marshall, Performer

Nicola Jo Cully, Performer

“I agree wholeheartedly with the letter Catherine Wheels are sending to Creative Scotland regarding funding cuts. I am absolutely dismayed to hear that Catherine Wheels have lost their status as a regularly funded organisation. They are truly a fantastic company who create such fine work for audiences of all ages and I as a performer I would love to work with them –  to put future work in such peril is heartbreaking.”

Karen Fishwick, Performer

Cat Grozier, Actor/Musician/Writer

Angela Hardie, performer

Tony MGeever, Performer

Vicki Manderson, Movement Director and performer

Brian Ferguson, Performer

Julie Heatherill, Actor, Dancer & Choreographer

Ross Allan, Performer

“Having worked with Catherine Wheels, both Nationally and Internationally, I have seen first hand the first class reputation that Catherine Wheels has around the World.”

Shonagh Price (Actor)

Mark Prendergast (actor)

Samuel Keefe (Performer)

Kathleen Doyle (theater designer and director)

Jennifer K Bates (Director/Facilitator)

Jessica Phillippi
(Actress, Singer and Playwright)

Alan Burgon (Creative Director of Open House Theatre, Vienna)

David Trouton
Musician/ Composer

Maria Oller
Artistic Director
Lung Ha Theatre Company

Corinne Salisbury
Playwright and producer

Morna Young
playwright

Louise McCarthy
Actress

Robin Mason

Eilidh McCormick
Actress

Kim Moore
Composer/Sound Designer

Katherina Radeva
Set and Costume Designer and Co-Artistic Director of Two Destination Language

Michael John McCarthy
Composer/Sound Designer

BECKY MINTO
Designer

Lisa Sangster
Designer

Vince Virr; Dance Artist

Angie Bual; Creative Producer

Liz Carruthers; Director

Anna Newell; Theatre Practicioner

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