Report: Inaugural Conference of the Scottish Drama Training Network

Just over one hundred education and industry professionals attended the recent Scottish Drama Training Network Conference.

Held in the brand new Theatre Arts and Conferencing complex at Langside College in Glasgow, delegates came from all over Scotland to meet (and for some it was the first time in many years) and discuss the current issues of their profession.

SDTN Conference

The Panel Discussion

Muriel Gray

Muriel Gray

Writer and broadcaster Muriel Gray ably and wittily chaired the opening panel discussion of the day, on the theme of ‘Scotland the Brand for Drama Training.’  The panel comprised, for Creative Scotland, Joan Parr, Portfolio Manager for Education, Learning and Young People; Andy Arnold, Artistic Director of the Tron Theatre, Glasgow; and Maggie Kinloch who is Chair of the Scottish Drama Training Network and Vice-Principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. They discussed the strengths and diversity of education and training provision in drama, theatre, film, television, radio and all our related creative industries in Scotland.    

The Panel

(left to right) Joan Parr, Andy Arnold and Maggie Kinloch

The panel unanimously agreed that Scotland, although a small country, punches well above its weight in many areas of life – and that certainly includes education and training in the fields of arts and creativity.

The discussion was wide-ranging and sparked equally broad responses and ideas from the delegates.   


The Student Experience

Amy Ludwigsen and Katie Milne

(left to right) Amy Ludwigsen and Katie Milne

The overseas student experience was enthusiastically described to the Conference by USA student Amy Ludwigsen, who is on the MA Classical and Contemporary Text course at the RSAMD in Glasgow.  The earlier “Why Choose Scotland as a place to study Drama?” question was clearly answered by Amy as she described (after some amusing anecdotes about the auditioning processes in some American schools) how her opportunities to learn and achieve had been met and exceeded by her learning experience here in Scotland.

Katie Milne is a student on the new BA (Hons) in Acting for Stage and Screen course, which is based in Edinburgh. Katie‘s ‘dramatic’ life interest began at the tender age of six and has continued through her drama and theatre training at Carnegie College in Dunfermline and now on to the new degree course.  Katie’s experience has come full circle in that it has led her to become involved in working in drama with young people as a group leader and tutor.  Katie presented an entirely positive view of her recent learning experiences on the new BA course. Again and as with Amy‘s testimony, the conference heard how much the course’s design and individual specialist, expert tutors had played their part in her increased confidence, learning and ultimate enjoyment of the new BA (Hons) in Acting for Stage and Screen*.

 *The new BA (Hons) Acting for Stage and Screen course was the first major achievement of the Scottish Drama Training Network – for more information on the course and the institutions, click on Edinburgh Napier University and/or Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Two Case Studies

Julie Ellen

Julie Ellen

Julie Ellen, the Creative Director of the Playwrights' Studio Scotland, gave the Conference a bright and thought-provoking visual insight into the way her organisation has learned to strengthen and promote itself, both nationally and internationally. Her “Be A Big Dog” advice was a big hit and inspired a lot of positive comments and feedback.  

Donnie Munro

Donnie Munro

The Director of Development from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Donnie Munro, followed with an equally inspirational presentation on the way the unique Gaelic language and cultural institution was continuing to grow and develop in all directions. Being based on the beautiful Isle of Skye, with a view to die for from every aspect, is, of course, a great head start for any international educational institution!  However, they are now working towards increased Drama provision and, with a state-of-the-art television studio on the premises and a strong relationship with the RSAMD, they are looking forward to new opportunities and developments in drama education, theatre and programme making, both in the Gaelic language and bilingually.

The Afternoon Breakout Sessions

 Breakout Groups

Acting/Drama/Performance and Musical Theatre (left) and Technical Theatre Skills (right) breakout groups

The afternoon Breakout Sessions were divided into three groups:   
1. Acting/Drama/Performance and Musical Theatre; 2. Film, Television and Radio; and 3. Technical Theatre Skills.

Industry facilitators Guy Hollands (Director, Citizens Theatre), Dougie Irvine (Artistic Director, Visible Fictions Theatre Company), Sara Harkins (Senior Producer, BBC TV), Bill Ward (Head of Talent, BBC TV) and Mark Leese (Designer and Art Director, Theatre, Film and Television) joined the groups for in-depth discussions on their specialist group areas.

Film, TV and Radio Breakout Group

Film, Television and Radio breakout group

The main conclusions were similar from all three groups in that they recognised their great strength in numbers and also in their diversity. They agreed that a key action of the Scottish Drama Training Network would be to become the “lobbying voice” for the membership, representing them at government level and with funding agencies and other professional bodies, such as Equity and Bectu. The need to work together and support each other; meet more regularly; exchange ideas, facilities, equipment and expertise at all levels; increase events, masterclasses, workshops and opportunities to develop skills and talents for staff and students alike were all highlighted.  Asistance from the Network to bring groups of educationalists, specialists and industry practitioners together and to help facilitate meetings and opportunities for professional development and other events was also requested.

“Many thanks for inclusion in the most exciting development in Scottish Drama training in many years!  We really enjoyed the opportunity to network and were really inspired by the presentations.” 

Sarah Jane Linton, Curriculum Leader, Performing Arts, Coatbridge College.

Alison Forsyth and Judith Henderson

(left to right) Alison Forsyth, Director, Scottish Drama Training Network and Judith Henderson, Scottish Funding Council

The Conference took place on the same day as the Scottish Elections and the need for a united front for our specialist work is very clear.  The network will work to secure a strong and secure future for the Scottish Drama Training Network and now, having got off to a brave start, we are assured of the support of our membership and our industry colleagues.

These discussions were enormously productive and transcripts can be made available on request from the SDTN Director, Alison Forsyth.

Thanks to KK Dundas/RSAMD for photography.  Visit the SDTN Facebook page for more photos from the conference.

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