Tricky Hat Launches Digital Collaboration – Interview with Fiona Miller
09 Apr 20 Blog Comments Off on Tricky Hat Launches Digital Collaboration – Interview with Fiona Miller

Tricky Hat Launches Digital Collaboration – Interview with Fiona Miller


Our performance company just for people over the age of 50 -The Flames – unfortunately had to put two of their upcoming performances on hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In response to this, we’re launching a digital collaboration on Monday 20th April, between Scotland and Japan, to keep older people connected and creative whilst self-isolating. Whilst cooped up in their homes, our Flames are each writing a diary all about what life is like for them at this moment in time. Through sharing their thoughts, feelings and stories about self-isolation, and capturing their experience by taking photos and videos, we are confident that our Flames’ community spirit will keep burning brightly in Scotland and in Japan. We will collate their stories and create three short films. The first of these short films is going live on Monday 20th April 2020 at 10am GMT / 6pm JST.

We caught up with Director, Fiona Miller, to find out her initial thoughts about this new and exciting digital collaboration.

What gave you the idea to do this with the Flames?

We were, understandably, so disappointed about cancelling the show. We were also disappointed about cancelling the sessions we do to make the show, but we felt it was getting too unsafe, even before the government said to socially isolate. It was actually Kim, our Digital Artist, who came up with the idea for a creative digital collaboration. She suggested that using technology in this way can be a positive thing and that it was something that we’d definitely be able to carry out. It also meant that we could keep the Flames connected digitally because, by this point, we had already done a week of devising, and there were plenty of ideas that had come out from that. There was still tonnes of energy and it was really exciting. So, although we were all really disappointed, Kim was going through everything that we could do. She was positive that we could use this as an opportunity to try new things as we have all these people, all these ideas and all this enthusiasm. Plus, we have the technology in which to capture that and the ability to put positive things out into the world about our Flames; allowing us to share their energy and their creative, artistic response to this situation with the community and beyond.

How is everything going so far?

It has been going on for about three weeks now, and it’s going amazing so far. We send out tasks to The Flames and they respond to us. We suggest different ways they can respond to the task and they’ll send us their creative responses back. Someone might send us one sentence by email, someone might send us a couple of photographs, someone else might send us short films. We’ve had 338 creative contributions so far, which gives you an idea of just how passionate our Flames are about this digital collaboration! There are poems, voiceovers, photoshopped bodies in the shape of letters from the alphabet spelling out different words… There’s also Flames collaborating with each other too. It’s amazing! We’re finding that the more that we all get into this process, the more experimentation that takes place, the more we get back from it. Already, we’ve received lots of incredible ideas, images, sounds and moments. In that sense, it’s a very similar process to how we devise our live shows. It can be challenging to get into the swing of things via a screen. For me, the challenge is how I respond to things without having a person standing in front of me. I can’t make anything on my own, unless there’s people in front of me. But, because we have this technology, we can do that. We work with Kim, our Digital Artist. There is also Aya, our Choreographer, who has been giving tasks and we have been getting responses back from that. Also, Mick, our Composer, has been making music based on some of the responses we have received. We’re getting the chance to use other music that he has composed, too. In the Lyth residency, he was inspired by that landscape and he created a piece of music which we are using as part of this digital installation. We’re all getting really inspired by the material that is coming to us, and this momentum is exactly the way we work in sessions.

Has this changed your daily routine?

Yeah, now I have all my meetings from the couch! At the moment, I’m on a screen way more than I normally would be. I don’t interact with as many people at once as I usually do either – I tend to interact with lots of people at the one time. The good thing about this is that it makes you rethink what you normally do and adapt it. I’m finding myself reflecting on my typical actions and other things in my life that I usually do without giving them a second thought. In times like this, you need to have a bit more reflection about your own practice, really, and have a think about how you’re going to adapt what you usually do to this new situation. Adapting what we would normally do to fit with these new confines is a creative process in itself. All of these things that I am now doing, I would be doing anyway – I’m just doing them within a different context.

That being said, what we’re doing with The Flames doesn’t feel artificial. There are some challenges with using technology and it does take a bit longer to get the material coming to us, but, at the end of the day, it doesn’t change the essence of what Tricky Hat does. I think this is fantastic, especially considering the circumstances. We’re not trying to make workshops and have everyone on their computers at once. Also, we’re not trying to simply recreate everything that we had originally planned with the only difference being a screen separating all of us. All we’re doing is following a different process to achieve the same end result. We’re not only using this technology because we’re not allowed to be in the same room as each other: we’re completely embracing it and all the opportunities and challenges that come with it. We’re asking people to use technology in a way that they have probably never done before. By embracing the technology that we have available to us, we can reflect on how we can use it on both an individual and a collective basis to say something artistically about the situation we have found ourselves in.

What’s your favourite stay at home outfit?

It’s actually really interesting, because I change my outfit quite a lot at the minute! So, I’ve got something decent on right now because I’m speaking with people online. Later on, I’ll get changed into my cycling gear and go out for a cycle. Then, depending what day it is, I will get changed into my yoga gear to do my Zoom yoga class! I find myself changing my clothes more than I normally would, bizarrely!

What excites you about creating the films?

I’m just excited to get them out! I can’t wait for the films to go online. I think it will be a huge relief for all of us to create something and get it out there for people to see because we have missed out on a major performance. At the moment, it feels like we have all these things to say and we just don’t know where to put them! I think that, once we’ve pieced together all the elements from The Flames and we have published the first film, it’ll get really exciting. I’m looking forward to all of us making something together and experiencing the achievement that comes with that. The responses we get from this will inform the second film, so it’ll be a big moment for us in this creative process. I feel like we have now reached that moment where, after spending a couple of weeks trying to suss out how everyone is feeling collectively and thinking about how we can capture that feeling, we’ve found out what the first film is going to be and now we’re on a roll with it. This is what the devising process is, really. I’m so excited for the first film to go online!

What do you hope to have achieved with The Flames once things go back to normal?

The end goal is that we burst out the other end of this and make some amazing, live, multimedia theatre based on everything that is going on. This whole experience is going to take us to a different place in our thinking. When we move forward, after this stage of it has passed, we’ll be thinking about things in a different way. We’re going to be thinking differently about the quality of our interactions with people – how we interact with people when we are in the same space as them might change, too. I’m excited to see how we will use space and how we will physically connect with people after this period of isolation is over. I’m confident that that is going to make really interesting live theatre. We won’t be mentioning the coronavirus or anything like that, because everyone knows enough about it. I just want to think about where we are now, how we settle into that, and what we are going to do next. The same energy to create is there within our Flames because of how we are working with them, and they’ve told us this. I cannot wait to make more live theatre!

Stay tuned for our first short film, which is launching on the Monday 20th April 2020 on Vimeo and shared via our social media channels (Facebook:, Twitter @tricky_hat, Instagram: WeAreTrickyHat at 10am GMT / 6pm JST. We’d love for everyone to watch it together as it goes live. Why don’t you start your Monday morning off right by grabbing a cuppa and a bite to eat for breakfast and heading over to our event page to watch the short film? We are already so excited to hear what you think of it!

“Rising from the ashes” Our statement on coronavirus and updates on our programme
18 Mar 20 Blog Comments Off on “Rising from the ashes” Our statement on coronavirus and updates on our programme

“Rising from the ashes” Our statement on coronavirus and updates on our programme


“We will rise from the ashes once this is over and our flames will burn twice as brightly!”

…Is the answer our Flames give to the outbreak of coronavirus.

In the light of the escalation of people affected in the UK over the weekend, we decided on Monday 16 March to cancel all scheduled rehearsals for Don’t Stop Me Now and to postpone the performance on the 1stApril @ Tron Theatre. Tron Theatre is also making the difficult decision today to cancel or postpone all scheduled performances, classes and events until further notice.

On Friday 13thMarch, we have decided with our partner LondonPANDA to postpone 炎:Honō in Sendai in April, as coronavirus cases rise in both countries.

We work with older people, some of which have got pre-existing medical conditions. For this reason, we have been actively keeping ourselves up to date with how the situation evolved, communicated with our participants, partners and board members over the last few weeks. We would like to thank them all for their support, excellent advice and insights in such unpredictable times.

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding us at the moment, The Flames in Scotland and Japan are now an unstoppable force. Over the last 3 years, they have been igniting from all corners of Scotland and lightened the heart of 1,036 audience members. The demand  to be part of 炎:Honō in Sendai is overwhelming: 80 older Japanese people are now on the waiting list. The eagerness from both Scottish and Japanese Flames to genuinely connect and to shout out what it means to be older in the 21stcentury is heart-warming. And this is what keeps us going.

Currently and unfortunately, being older means self-isolating in one’s home and avoiding physical contact with the outside world. Our creative response to this situation is to launch a virtual collaboration with all Flames taking part in Don’t Stop Me Now. We have asked participants to share their thoughts, feeling and stories about being at home. They have started to document their lives by writing a diary, taking pictures, films and keep their creativity going. We will then collate these stories and create 3 short films that we will share online with The Flames community and the outside world.

We would like to assure the Flames community that we are totally committed to make Don’t Stop Me Now and 炎:Honō happen when it is safe for everyone to take part. We are so committed to continue delivering our programme of short-burst Flames Guerrilla Sessions events and residencies. To keep the fire burning across Scotland and throughout the world. We are not yet in a position to say when and how but we are working very hard to make it happen.

We encourage everybody to be safe, hopeful and creative in these difficult times. And it does look like this is happening already:

“I knew nothing could quench the Flames.”

 “Loving the idea of continuing with our collaboration and creativity online – not the same as being together but anything that allows us to remain connected is brilliant!”

 “We will reignite”

 “Thanks for being creative as always in thinking of ways to help us stay connected.”

 “Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can all light some more stages.”

 “I hope government and funders are understanding and put in the support to help small organisations through. The world needs Tricky Hat!”

 “With you, Fiona and Kim moving us forward – WE WILL SURVIVE!!”

 “Keep well and stay fabulous!”

 “You have lifted my spirits! I’m on it already! This is medicine for the soul!”


With much love to you all.


Tricky Hat


[Image by Eoin Carey]






Quick Fire with Fiona Miller about 炎:Honō
24 Jan 20 Blog, Uncategorized Comments Off on Quick Fire with Fiona Miller about 炎:Honō

Quick Fire with Fiona Miller about 炎:Honō

Interview with The Flames Director, Fiona Miller.

Fiona Miller is the Artistic Director of Tricky Hat Productions and the Director of The Flames. We had a quick catch up with her about her recent trip to Sendai in Japan, where she was delivering an information session about the upcoming 炎:Honō:Flames performance which will take place in Sendai on Sunday 12thApril 2020.

In this project, the performers will explore the theme of tsunami: from a personal perspective and from the experiences of local people in the Sendai area. This project is supported by the British Council and Creative Scotland partnership as part of ‘UK in Japan 2019-20’, which is a joint initiative by the British Council and the British Embassy Tokyo to highlight the breadth of the UK’s relationship with Japan. Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation are also supporting the project.

Read all about it below:

What brought you to Sendai?

We visited different parts of Japan but chose to go to Sendai because it felt the most similar to Scotland. The trip before this one was made due to the connections we had in the area. Sendai was affected by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. So, as a result of this, many grassroots area projects came to life in the Sendai area. Over there, people were excited by similar types of collaborative projects and making human connections.

We got funding from the British Council and Creative Scotland in 2018 to go to Japan, following on from our first trip in 2017, with the Tricky Hat core team so that we could meet people, make contacts, and see if there were any possible collaborations. We wanted to see if people might be interested in this kind of thing. Typically, people don’t do this in Japan – they don’t devise theatre in this way. So, we travelled about lots of places and, when we were in Sendai, we met LondonPANDA Theatre Company. They’re quite young and quite new but we got on really well with them and thought they would be a really good fit, so we asked them if they would be interested and they said yes. And they’ve totally embraced this. Alongside some other collaborators with their partners, they have created an organisation called ‘Play Art Sendai’ to support this project and they will now take this kind of work forward within Sendai. So, it’s all really exciting: it’s really exciting for them and really exciting for us. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from people; including the theatre that we’re going to be performing in and the Sendai Cultural Fund. It’s all big partnerships supporting and carrying the project forward, which is amazing.

This latest trip was an information session and we hit the maximum number of participants after only two days of advertising it!

What sort of process did you follow with the participants over there?

We followed the exact same process as we do here in Scotland. We want to show them just how accessible it is to do this. We’ll come up with questions and they’ll come up with a sentence, which makes it easy as everything is organic. It’s the exact same as it is here in Scotland, with similar responses, too. The only real change is that the responses are delivered in a different language. So, for example, we asked about risks that they’ve taken in their lives: what they think a risk is, or risks that they want to take. Some people talked about personal things – conflict they had in their lives, their families. A woman talked about how she’s become a hip-hop dancer in her seventies. You could tell a lot about how people were speaking that it was really personal to them, you could read it off their face and their body language. It was amazing, and we were overwhelmed by people who wanted to be a part of this project, but we could only take on twelve Japanese participants. Including our Scottish Flames, there will be 15 performers in total. People there were so excited by it, it was amazing!

For the performance, the story comes from the performers themselves, and I just do very simple exercises where together we chose when they tell their bit of the story and we all start to create an ensemble performance. We do all this very quickly! And they all start to go “Oh… I can do this – this is easy! No one’s asking me to act. No one’s asking me any difficult questions. I can say as much as I want to. I can say it when I want to.” And we shape it into a short performance. So, it will be exactly the same as we do here. It’s devised, and we follow a structure, and people’s ideas and stories colour in that structure. It’s like a jigsaw. They colour their bit in themselves.

How was your visit?

It was an amazing experience. I couldn’t have imagined what would’ve came from it. Although there are collaborative projects taking place in Japan, they don’t devise theatre like this over there. Japanese people are shy and humble, but, when given the permission to talk about their life, they are unstoppable.

I just got how brilliantly generous the people were who participated with their stories. They were joining in and trusting each other; trusting us and trusting me. We get the same reaction here in Scotland. What that tells me is that people have got something to say that they want other people to hear, and that you can take this anywhere. People are people and they want to communicate – they want to join in with other people and they want to put their head above the parapet in their lives now. That’s symptomatic of being fifty and over: you actually don’t care as much. Although there’s more social constrictions on people in Japan than there are here in Scotland because of the culture, they want others to know that they’ve got something to say. They want to try this out, they want to do something new for themselves, and they want to create this movement with this family of other people that they’re working with. That’s what happens with this process.

Starting the conversation over in Sendai about what this is was really powerful for me. There was a risk element, as I had no idea what would happen when we were over there, but I’m thrilled with the outcome. All people have something to say. It doesn’t matter where you go, you can apply this process and take it anywhere in the world. The participants and all those we met in Japan were brilliantly generous people; putting their trust in the team. This allowed them to do something new for themselves.

There’s clearly a need for devised performances like this, because – after only two days of advertising – there were thirty people interested and we had to close the list! I did a presentation the first day I was in Sendai, talking to all the partners about what it is, because part of my trip was to start the conversation about what this is, and in Japan it’s better to do things face to face. One woman came to that because the list was closed by that point and she couldn’t come to the information session. So, afterwards, I invited her to come along to the information session because someone had cancelled, and she started crying because she got the opportunity to come along – it was amazing. It really means something, and it was really powerful for me to go and to see that response because you don’t know what’s going to happen until you ask the questions.

After your trip, what are you most looking forward to for the upcoming :Honō:Flames performance?

I’m really looking forward to just hitting the ground running and getting straight in. I really think we can get straight into the heart of creating something. We don’t have to do a slow build up, we can just go straight into it. I think taking three Flames from Scotland who have done it before means that a lot of worry about how this process works gets taken away because they’ve done it before, and they can reassure the new performers that this process works. They might not understand it now, but they will at the end when it all comes together! So, I’m so interested in that. I’m also interested in cultural richness, the Japanese cultural richness, and how we explore that as well in terms of performance. I’m also excited about sharing a vision of the future and what it means to be older both in Scotland and in Japan. What does that mean right now? I’m really interested in comparing and contrasting the two countries in that respect. There will be lots of things that are similar, but I think they’ll be different because culturally you don’t speak about certain things in Japan. The level of respect and space that people give each other is quite different from here. Interestingly, it was mostly women who came along to the information session, with a few men, which is similar to how it is here in Scotland as well. It’s fascinating, because for somewhere which has a very different culture from ours, you expect more differences. But I think that because we’re asking people to connect on a really human level, and making that into performance, we’re not asking them to pretend to be anybody other than themselves. I think that offers a really brilliant opportunity, especially in a culture where you have to conform a lot. Everyone’s got a voice, everybody’s got something to say, everybody wants to be seen – it’s just what level you hit that at. Although there might be cultural differences, underneath that surface, we’re all living in the 21stCentury. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings and I think that right now is the right time to make those human connections. Cultural diplomacy is so important and I think that Scotland can really make those connections happen. Our culture is so widely recognised and we export it everywhere we go.

Quick Fire with The Flames Guest Artist Aya Kobayashi
05 Oct 18 Uncategorized Comments Off on Quick Fire with The Flames Guest Artist Aya Kobayashi

Quick Fire with The Flames Guest Artist Aya Kobayashi

Aya is an independent dance artist working in the field of performance and movement exploration. She began her training in Japan before enrolling at the Rambert School in London. She teaches, performs and works as a choreographer with various dance companies, institutions and communities. We managed to catch her 5min to ask about her experience with The Flames.

“I enjoy working with people who are not necessarily dancers or have not experienced dance classes but interested in performing or creating something together. I also enjoy seeing the bodies have much of histories.”

  1. How did you find this first session working with The Flames?

“It was fantastic and they responded to my ideas and tasks really well. Everyone was incredibly watchable performer!”

  1. Your track-record involves exciting multi-disciplinary projects (i.e work in galleries and site-specific work). What do you think is different/similar with Tricky Hat processes from what you’ve done before?

“I have quite wide range of works, yes sometime works in galleries with families exploring about the specific sculptures or architecture or even display, sometimes choreographing for traditional black box dance piece, sometimes rehearsal directing touring shows that somebody else made, but common points in all of this these works, what I’m interested is full body embodiment (it might be very small) and looking for the real and fresh expressions that come out from the person.”

  1. An important aspect of this edition of the Flames is to include older voices from Japan in the devising process. As a Japanese artist yourself, why to you think it’s relevant to build these connections?

“Fiona and I discussed about our ageing society here in the UK, and Japan has famously been facing the subject for a long time now.  In 2015-16, I have worked in North East Japan where the population was effected by the earthquake and tsunami and met a few elderlies communities and really felt there were very natural sense of support to each other. They have experienced tragic wars and tsunami and of course individual difficulties but remained light hearted personalities and always look after each other. This place is a small village of rural area but I thought there are beautiful energy and spirits about ageing that we can get inspired and pass on to the rest of the world.”

Don’t miss the chance to see Tricky Hat’s collaboration with Aya Kobayashi and The Flames!

Saturday 13th October 3pm & 7pm at Tramway, Glasgow: