"Reaching across borders, languages and practices"

| by Nkenna Akunna

What's exciting about the current UK performance landscape? Members of the Edinburgh Showcase 2019 curatorial panel tell us how the UK compares to other countries, why it's important to work across borders, and what we can look forward to in this year's Showcase

Nikki and JD's Knot is one of 30 productions in this year's Edinburgh Showcase – the single biggest opportunity for UK theatre companies to introduce their work to international promoters. Photo: Fabio Affuso

Having watched almost 100 productions from UK artists as part of the selection process, the Edinburgh Showcase 2019 panellists are uniquely placed to share their thoughts on trends coming out of UK. 

The full panel brought together international programmers, arts professionals from across the UK, and the British Council's Theatre and Dance team. Catch up with some of them, as they share their thoughts on the strengths of contemporary UK performance, international collaboration, and the selection process.


Meiyin Wang, curator and independent producer

Meiyin Wang photo credit Eric TingMeiyin Wang. Photo: Eric Ting

"Reaching across borders, language and practices is my antidote to the toxic emphasis on otherness"

As a curator and producer, international collaboration is vital – whether it's inviting artists to me in the Bay Area, or connecting artists and communities from different perspectives.  I think that reaching across borders, languages and practices in our work is my antidote to the toxic emphasis on "otherness" in politics right now.

Being on the selection committee for Edinburgh Showcase 2019 gave me an incredible insight into the diversity and range of projects and artists that are coming out of the UK. I really enjoyed the panel process and the conversations with my UK and international colleagues in the room. How fantastic to have a conversation about aesthetics, rigour, scale, artistic practice, equity and inclusion with colleagues from around the world. It made me re-examine and recontextualize my own assumptions and practices.


Kathrin Veser, Dramaturg and Artistic Director, Gesseneralle Zürich

Katrhin VeserKathrin Veser. Photo: Kathrin Veser

"Conversations around diversity and inclusion are much further ahead in the UK than in Switzerland"

I’ve never been on a jury where we watched videos of work from so many different companies. There were only 10 of us on the shortlisting panel, so when we started to talk about selections I thought, "there’s no way we’re gonna come to a decision on this!" But in the end, it was quite easy. There was a lot of discussion about the content and the aesthetics of the work, and I’m super happy about the decisions we made.

I'm based in Zürich, and the work coming out of Switzerland looks different to the work that comes out of the UK. From my discussions with artists in both countries I've learned it’s easier to get funding in Switzerland because it’s a really small country. There's also a bigger emphasis in supporting independent companies than in the UK. However, the bigger sets and bigger casts coming out of Switzerland mean it's not that easy to tour Swiss work.

Conversations around diversity, inclusion and the disability arts sector are much further ahead in the UK than they are in Switzerland.


Freddie Opoku-Addaie, choreographer 

Freddie. Photo Benedict JohnsonFreddie Opoku-Addaie. Photo Benedict Johnson

"I’m really interested in the unapologetic terrains makers are exploring"

The current shift in artistic directors in the UK makes me excited about the future of UK performing arts. I’m thinking about places like The Bush Theatre, The Bernie Grant Arts Centre, The Young Vic, The Place, and LIFT. I think these shifts are important for bringing in a new discourse, especially in current times when borders are really rigid. 

In this year's Showcase there are lots of intriguing interdisciplinary collaborations, and I’m really interested in the unapologetic terrains makers are exploring. Much more work is based on the lived experiences of artists, rather than what they think they should be seen doing. There seems to be a desire to create work that is more aware of our histories. There’s a real awakening and people are not apologetic.

International collaborations are so important in this moment for this kind of personal and unapologetic work. They allow us to unravel cultural idioms from multiple locations and make them universal. It’s about making space for local and global diasporic experiences.


Kath M Mainland CBE, Executive Director, Melbourne International Arts Festival

Kath Mainland 1 credit Sarah Walker PhotographyKath Mainland. Photo: Sarah Walker Photography

"The UK is leading the world in disability arts"

Despite a challenging backdrop, the diversity of artists, companies and the work coming out of the UK is truly astounding. Work that is innovative, work that crosses artforms, work that leads the world in challenging social norms.

This year’s British Council Showcase (and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more broadly) will continue to show off this great diversity. The UK is also really leading the world in disability arts. In comparison to here in Australia, there is a wonderful proliferation of artist-run spaces and initiatives that support and nurture emerging artists.

The UK performing arts sector is at a very exciting juncture. At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, I’m super excited about seeing Bryony Kimmings's I'm a Phoenix, Bitch, Battersea Arts Centre and BAC Beatbox Academy's Frankenstein: How to Make Monster and, of course, Australia's own Circa.


The panellists were speaking to Nkenna Akunna, a culture writer and playwright from London who frequently writes about theatre and the African diaspora. She is a Playwriting MFA candidate at Brown University. @nkennaakunna


Find out more: 

> Discover more about the Edinburgh Showcase full programme
> Check out our top 10 tips for touring internationally
> Let an expert guide you round the Edinburgh Fringe
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> Follow us on Twitter @UKTheatreDance


Get involved:


Buy tickets:

Although Edinburgh Showcase networking events are by invitation only, anyone can buy tickets for the performances through the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival box offices.


Apply to be an Edinburgh Showcase delegate:

If you're a performing arts programmer based outside the UK and you're interested in being an international delegate, speak to your local British Council arts contact or complete the online application form. Please email edshowcase@britishcouncil.org if you any questions.

Recommended Shows:

The British Council seeks out new work in Edinburgh once the festivals begin for our Recommended Shows. These are productions that we announce on the week of the Edinburgh Showcase and recommend as new hot tips to our delegates. There will be members of our Theatre and Dance team in Edinburgh throughout August seeing performances to recommend from amongst the thousands of shows at the festivals. Email edshowcase@britishcouncil.org if you have a show in Edinburgh that you'd like us to consider. We'll add it to our list and will do our very best to attend.


Many thanks to the Edinburgh Showcase 2019 curatorial panel:


Paul Burns, Head of Dance, Creative Scotland (UK)
Maggie Dunning, Development Officer, Arts Council of Wales (UK)
Tarek Iskander, Director, Theatre, Arts Council England (UK)
Andrew Jones, Senior Theatre and Dance Programme Manager, British Council (UK)
Laura Mackenzie-Stuart, Head of Theatre, Creative Scotland (UK)
Kath M Mainland CBE, Executive Director, Melbourne International Arts Festival (Australia)
Carole McFadden, Theatre and Dance Programme Manager, British Council (UK)
Freddie Opoku-Addaie, choreographer (UK)
Kathrin Vesser, Dramaturg and Artistic Director, Gessnerallee Zürich (Switzerland)
Meiyin Wang, curator and independent producer (USA)
Chair: Neil Webb, Director Theatre and Dance, British Council (UK)


The Edinburgh Showcase is a British Council initiative in partnership with Arts Council EnglandCreative ScotlandArts Council of Wales and Wales Arts International.



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