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24 Feb 23 News Comments Off on Fire Practice Programme Mentored Artists

Fire Practice Programme Mentored Artists

Tricky Hat is delighted to announce our 5 Fire Practice Programme Mentored Artists.

Each artist is being mentored by Tricky Hat Artistic Director, Fiona Miller; to become an Associate Director in the “Tricky Hat way”, widening our base of artists who can deliver Flames Guerilla sessions.

Eoin McKenzie

Eoin McKenzie is an artist from Glasgow who works across performance, choreography, and research. At the core of his practice is a deep engagement with methodologies of participation and collaboration with his artistic works – and their processes – emerging in response to the people, places, and contexts he is working with. Alongside being a mentored artist with Tricky Hat, he is currently an Accelerator Artist with Imaginate (2022/23) and an Associate Artist with Platform in Easterhouse. 

Laura Bradshaw

Laura Bradshaw is an artist working within performance, movement and dance. Working with the autobiography of the body, intuitive movement and practices of embodiment Laura makes performance works for theatre and dance spaces, galleries, healthcare contexts and outdoor spaces. She develops creative movement processes which invite a connection to the living, present body in relationship with other and environment.

Laura graduated from BA (hons) Contemporary Theatre Practice at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and MA Dance and Somatic Wellbeing at University of Central Lancashire.

Lucas Chih-Peng Kao

Lucas Chih-Peng Kao is a film maker, digital artist and collaborator, he was born in Taiwan and based in Edinburgh. His work went often combine different disciplines with video including poetry, dance, installation and performance. 

Malcolm Ross

Since starting his career as a guitarist with the Postcard Record bands of the 1980s – Josef K, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera – Malcolm Ross has recorded and performed with numerous artists as well as releasing three solo albums.

He received a degree in music from Goldsmith’s College in 1995 and has contributed to film and TV soundtracks as well as teaching guitar.

In the past year he has recorded and performed with artists such as Joseph Malik, The Countess of Fife and Maggie Holland.

Scott Johnston

Scott Johnston is a theatre director, workshop creator and facilitator. He has worked in Romania, Hungary, Finland, Ireland, South Africa, Lithuania, Macedonia, Wales, and the USA.  His work has won many awards and much public and critical acclaim.  

Over his 64 years he has directed over 150 plays and created workshops for actors and theatre academies.  He is a specialist in the work of Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed and was the one the first practitioners to introduce this work in Scotland, Romania and South Africa. 

The Flames @ Cove Park 2022
10 Feb 22 Blog Comments Off on The Flames @ Cove Park 2022

The Flames @ Cove Park 2022

A Firebrand Residency

Tricky Hat artists took a group of 15 Flames to do a week-long residency at Cove Park (Argyll). This is our second Firebrand Residency there and the first one since the pandemic happens. Marianne, Flames participant, reflects on her time there. 

We arrived on a grey Thursday afternoon. High on a windswept hilltop, the fog-coloured building mimicked the surrounding mountains with its sharply angled roofs. Below, the pewter coloured loch lay deep and foreboding. A storm was forecast, and brewing just beyond the headland.

We arrived wearing our winter clothes and with our proof of recently completed negative Covid test results. Some of us had been here before, in the Old World, in the days before masks… and when social distancing was something teachers ensured was adhered to when teenagers partnered up to dance at Christmas discos in the school assembly hall. There was a sense of cautious anticipation. Inside the building, the log fire burned a welcoming glow, matched by the warm smiles of the artistic team. We were greeted and given instruction on protocols to be followed to keep us and our companions Covid safe and then installed in our various accommodation. I unpacked and wrote the following;

Smallest space, its all you need

The silence is enfolding.

Create, perform, reflect and read

Make every moment golden.

Then it was off back up the hillside to the artist’s centre to start enjoying these golden moments.

Over the following days we developed the ideas stimulated by the stories we had been asked to bring with us to share with the group. We took part in percussion/hand clapping/ movement workshops, and voice work (which had the strange and unexpected effect of bringing the sheep outside the building closer to the building to stare at us through the window. Fittingly, at this time of Burns Night, we had in actual life “called up the ewes”)! Day two saw us work on and develop skills such as self- filming and self -recording, and gave us time to work on and present a site-specific performance or installation based on the setting and the ideas explored in the workshops.  All this was fuelled by the most delicious food prepared on a rota-basis by the participants and artistic team. There was a whirl of creative activities to take part in, balanced with down time, which some of us used to rest while others made the most of the many walks available from the door of the artist’s centre. There was time for reflection too, and the atmosphere was one of support and encouragement. One of us was reduced to tears of happiness.

The final night, this being January, was the perfect time for an impromptu Burns Supper in true Flames style. Fuelled by haggis, neeps, tatties, cranachan (and a small libation of the water of life) we sang, recited, laughed and enjoyed the company around the log fire which burned hot and bright with logs imbued with our wishes for a better, kinder world. It might have been a grey, zinc coloured day when we arrived, and the storm outside may have perfectly reflected our anxieties about being together in a group after so long in isolated lockdown over the past two years, but the expertise of the artistic team, coupled with their acceptance and encouragement and that of the others attending, made certain that the storms of our anxieties subsided. The first signs of light and hope, like the rainbows which appeared frequently over the loch, or the clear starlit skies which guided us to our accommodation on that last night, were  ignited by this band of artists high on a rainswept hillside in the late January of a Scottish winter.

On the hillside, stormy morning

Nearly blown right off my feet

In the Centre, coffee’s brewing

Welcoming, and dark and sweet

Pelting rain obscures the mountain

River churns like boiling oil

Twigs and branches snap and drop

The wind whips up, and I recoil

Head down, steadfast, just keep moving

Up the hill and always forward

We have triumphed in the tempest

Stars and rainbows our reward.


Marianne (Flames participant)

The Houses and History in Partick East and Kelvindale
31 Aug 21 Blog Comments Off on The Houses and History in Partick East and Kelvindale

The Houses and History in Partick East and Kelvindale

Nowadays, we say that “People Make Glasgow”– but, in the nineteenth century, it was shipbuilding and heavy industry that made the city. Glasgow grew rapidly during that period. But with the shipbuilding and heavy industry came a connection to slavery.  In the city centre, streets and buildings are named after the tobacco lords and industrialists who traded in the city. In recent years, the local authority has properly acknowledged Glasgow’s links to the slave trade. And many of these industrialists actually lived across Partick East and Kelvindale during the 19th Century. We caught up with local Community Councillor, Lionel Most, to learn more about the history behind the houses in Partick East and Kelvindale and this area’s ties to world-renowned industries as well as the American Civil War.



Located at 4 Sydenham Road, this house was formerly owned by James Smith. James Smith came from very small beginnings.  He started off as a tinsmith from an ordinary family, and he worked in a factory. Then, he went to New York and was inspired to make his fortune. After living there for a while, he came back to Glasgow and started up an iron works. The interesting thing about him – and this was not uncommon of other Glaswegians at the time – was that he became friendly with the Confederates during the American Civil War. The American Civil War was mainly about slavery: the Confederates wanted to retain slavery, and the Yankees in the north wanted to abolish it. The American Civil War started when the Confederates tried to secede (illegally) from the Union. Queen Victoria had stated that the UK was not getting involved in that war but secretly, the Scots were supplying ships, iron and so on to the Confederates. In fact, there was a shipyard on the Clyde that designed a special kind of boat which would have been used by the gun runners, the people in the South who acquired weapons from Third countries. These ships that the Scots built were able to move incredibly fast and could escape the Yankees chasing them. Through being able to do this, the Scots were able to charge a very high price! And James Smith of Benvue, although he wasn’t a ship builder, owned two iron works: one in Glasgow and one in Kentucky. Although he was supplying raw materials; he was neither supplying weapons nor ships. 

James Smith became friendly with the Confederate government.  Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States and went to prison after the American Civil War.  After this he visited Scotland, and, in fact, there is a famous picture of Jefferson Davis sitting outside Benview with James Smith and his family. Smith and men like him made their money on the back of slavery. Apparently the average life expectancy of female slave was around 37, and 35 for a male. While these lovely houses in Dowanhill were perhaps built from indirect slave profits, we should not be destroying them but I do think we should be telling people where the money came from. 

Ayton House

Ayton House built in 1859, was owned by William Tod, who was a ship builder. In the 1850s his workers would have been very poor. At the turn of the twentieth century and onwards many of these shipworkers would have lived in the flats in Partick and many of these were small single ends or rooms and kitchens. Ayton House was bombed during the Second World War, severely damaging the roof. At that time there was a lack of building materials.  They had to ‘make do and mend’ and replace the original tiled sloping roof with a flat roof. Then, in the 1980s, a developer converted the house into flats. It is a tasteful and modern style now. There is a penthouse roof with balconies. 

Richmond House

Richmond House in Linfern Road was demolished about 50 years ago.  It is now a telephone exchange. The whole street on the left-hand side is taken up with a telephone exchange. That area used to accommodate one house, with stables and grounds and outhouses. It was built, in the early 19th century by an iron founder called David Laidlaw. He lived there with his family. Given the rate of housing development in the west end, I would wager that it will be pulled down and be replaced by housing in the not too distant future

Hyndland Tenements

Hyndland was a tenanted farm before it was developed. Around 200 years ago, nearby Kelvinside and Dowanhill were landed estates with farmlands attached to them before they were developed. Hyndland wasn’t a particularly big area. Building started there in the late nineteenth century with Kingsborough Gardens, a substantial row of houses just behind the shops at Hyndland Road. Then, there was a recession and property prices fell and nothing really happened until the early 1900s, when the railway came. Once the railway came, Hyndland was developed.  Some of the flats there were small but others were fantastic, with five or six rooms. You used to be able to get a direct train to King’s Cross Station in London from the Station in Hyndland. You can imagine the people who lived in the big mansions leaving their houses, walking to this station to catch the train, doing their business in London over the following days, and then getting the train back to Hyndland a few days later. 

If you walk to the foot of Clarence Drive and Novar Drive, there are smaller one-bedroom flats, but they all have bathrooms unlike some parts of the city where flats were built with outside toilets. At the northern end of these streets the tenements are far grander, bigger and much more expensive. And in some of these grander blocks there was a common telephone. You could have your own telephone (shared with neighbours). It would, I think, have been a payphone, one of those old-fashioned ones you see in the old black and white films, where they put one part to their ear and a mouthpiece by their chin. There are at least three of these boxes in various tenements in the area.  The telephone has been taken away, but the little box remains there. I don’t know what they use it for now.


Kelvinside Estate

Kelvinside is the area just north of Great Western Road. It was originally one of the landed estates. Someone who owned one of the big houses in Kelvinside was James Brown Montgomerie-Fleming. When I was young, I remember there was a law firm called Montgomerie-Fleming and Fyfe. They were connected to the owners of Kelvinside. Their biggest client was the Norwich Union Insurance Company. They had a very successful business, but then they were subsumed into another firm in the nineties. James Brown Montgomerie-Fleming owned the Kelvinside estate, and he sold parts off for the big terraces on Great Western Road, and also for plots for grand houses. He actually was not that successful in selling them off, but he himself lived in a beautiful house called Beaconsfield House, with the Italian tower on it. That became part of Westbourne School. The school has since sold it and it has been, like so many of the other houses in the area, converted to flats.


Summerlee was an ironworks in Coatbridge and is now a museum. The owner of Summerlee lived in Arnewood on Cleveden Road. It is very large and sits on the right-hand side of Cleveden Road walking north from Great Western Road. It has four or five storeys and looks like a castle! It used to be the home of one family, housing their servants also.  Again, it has been converted into flats. 

Lowther Terrace 

In Lowther Terrace there are some beautiful terraced houses which were, I think, built around 100 years ago. The owners in this street have applied to the Local Authority to stop up the road in front of their houses to make the road private.  They have installed bollards at the entrance to the road only to allow residents and visitors’ vehicles.  They have also erected some tasteful Victorian lampposts containing a power point so that they can charge the battery in an electric vehicle.  This installation of charging points, is quite a forward-thinking piece of work!

Thank you to Lionel for this fascinating insight into the history behind the properties within Partick East and Kelvindale. If you would like to continue to learn about this area and the brilliant stories of the community who live here, take part in Round Our Place. Round Our Place is our immersive guided tour of Ward 23, where we have been Creative Communities: Artists in Residence 2021. Simply stop by The Alchemy Experiment on Byres Road to pick up a map (and a coffee!). Then, download the FREE Echoes app to your mobile device, find Round Our Place, plug in your earphones and start walking. More information can be found here.

Top child-friendly places to visit near Kelvindale
27 Jun 21 Blog Comments Off on Top child-friendly places to visit near Kelvindale

Top child-friendly places to visit near Kelvindale

When was the last time you went exploring in your neighbourhood? We caught up with Maeve and her son, Gabriel, who have discovered lots of exciting new places around Kelvindale since lockdown. Keep reading to find out about their adventures and for ideas of some fun and inspiring places to visit with the wee ones.

Have you always lived in Kelvindale?

Maeve: I grew up in Helensburgh and I’ve lived in Glasgow on and off since 1993. I moved to the Kelvindale area in 2009, and then I bought a flat in 2010. When I had Gabriel, I moved to Newton Mearns and then I came back to Kelvindale with Gabriel in 2017.

What is your favourite place to visit in the Kelvindale area?

Maeve: My favourite place to visit on my own is along the canal and around where the gasworks are. I like going up to Dawsholm Park. When I’m with Gabriel, one of our favourite places to visit is “Sneaky Path” or “Atlantis,” which is an area down by the River Kelvin and beside the aqueducts. There used to be houses there and there are also the remains of a railway bridge, which Gabriel calls “The Temple.” It’s quite an interesting spot because you can see remains of the buildings and you can see the view that the people that lived there would’ve had. It’s a beautiful spot, there is a weir where the River Kelvin is. When we were in lockdown, that was the place we went to because nobody else goes there. When you visit there, you get a sense of what was there before. Seeing the aqueducts and looking across the river from there and seeing that there used to be a train station across the river is quite mind-blowing, because now there’s just trees there. I work in arts and heritage, and I think having that background means I’ve got that eye looking for wee stories that come out.

Gabriel: My favourite places are the tennis court and Dawsholm Park. I like to play in Dawsholm Park. There’s lots of muddy stuff, and you can slide down hills and climb up trees. You can look at the birds and try to identify them. We sometimes see those funny birds called parakeets. They are bright green. We saw a fox last week at the canal. We stood really still and it stared at us. Then we looked another way, and when we looked back it was gone!

If you had a friend visit who doesn’t know the area, where would you take them? 

Gabriel: I would take them to my school.

Maeve:  When my aunt and cousin came over to visit, we took them to the canal and that was it. After that we went elsewhere and went to other places in Glasgow. Now, I would take them down to what we call Atlantis, which I think was called Kelvindale Glen. More recently, one of our friends came over to visit, all the way from Bearsden! He’s got quite a thing for these kinds of places sites with history and character. He came over specifically to go down to the Glen to see what it was. I would definitely take a tourist there and I would also take them to the Gasworks. Some people hate them and want them demolished, but I think they are absolutely stunning. You get great views from Weymouth Drive –you can get great views across the city from around that area. Also, I couldn’t not take them to Dawsholm Park – that would probably be the first place we went to. I’m not sure if it is quite in Kelvindale, but it is only a few minutes away. There is a place that looks onto the Switchback Road with an amazing view, it goes up to Bearsden. There’s a massive field and you get a view of Knightswood, the Kilpatrick Hills and you can almost see the Queen Elizabeth from it as well. It’s stunning. The field used to have crazy golf and you can actually see the remains of the crazy golf on the ground. 

What is your favourite thing to get up to in your spare time? 

Gabriel: I like to see my friends at Foxy Park.

Maeve: Foxy Park is our name for the park on Dorchester Avenue. In our spare time, we like to see Gabriel’s friends. I’m now friends with Gabriel’s friends’ mums, which is nice. I didn’t really know any of the mums until lockdown, and then I got to know them. We tend to go to Dawsholm Park with Gabriel’s friends and their mums most of the time – that is one of the main spots. We tend to find ourselves going to the same areas because of lockdown, slightly less so now that we’re able to move about a wee bit. Gabriel sometimes has a little play with me on the tennis court. I am a member of the local tennis club, but I haven’t played against anyone in about a year.  

In my spare time, I do printmaking and I create my own art. A lot of my art is based around this area. So, in my free time, I do a lot of taking photos and researching different spots. I found that since I moved back here, I have been really inspired by the surroundings. I’ve always done art, it’s part of my job. But, when I came back here in 2017, it’s like I rediscovered the area and I think part of it is seeing Kelvindale through Gabriel’s eyes as well as my own. I’ve started to look a little bit closer at things that I wouldn’t have even noticed before. I have always loved the Gasworks, but the canal is a new love of mine. 

I knew I lived where a paper mill was, but I have found that, since being back here, it has been really interesting trying to place where the buildings used to be where our flat is. Where our flat is, there used to be these massive tanks of water which were part of the paper-making process. It’s quite bizarre looking at photos of the area from the 1920s and 1930s and seeing all this: seeing all these buildings, houses and industry that is no longer here. That sparked something within me. 

There is always something quite 1950s about this area because of the design of the houses – a slightly ‘kitchen sink’ feeling – and I think that is influencing my work. I tend not to use particularly strong colours and something about this area still feels slightly industrial. I work in Clydebank, Dumbarton and Alexandria, and they are all quite post-industrial. Because where I work is post-industrial, I would never have initially thought that this spot where I live, where my flat is, is post industrial. Another connection is that I am a paper maker, and I am living where they used to make paper! I’ve developed a real fondness for where we live. I once spoke with a lady whose father-in-law lived in one of the houses in the paper mill where we are, which was fascinating.

Massive thanks to Maeve and Gabriel for taking the time to chat with us about their favourite local haunts. The next time you drop by Kelvindale in Glasgow’s west end, make sure you add Dawsholm Park and Atlantis to your list of places to visit! These wonderful spots are certainly worth your time. Keep up-to-date with Maeve and her work on Facebook and Instagram.

We have been selected to build on our 2019 residency in Partick East and Kelvindale with the next phase of Creative Communities: Artists in Residence. For this project, we are engaging with those who live in Ward 23 to create an immersive audio walk of the area. This audio journey is launching on Sunday 8th August. Check our our blog with local artist, Fraser Taylor, to find out why Partick is such a special place.

Read our interview with Fraser Taylor, an artist living in Partick
13 Apr 21 Blog Comments Off on Read our interview with Fraser Taylor, an artist living in Partick

Read our interview with Fraser Taylor, an artist living in Partick

Creative Communities – Artist in Residence Interview Series

Have you heard our latest news? We have been selected to build on our 2019 residency in Partick East and Kelvindale with the next phase of Creative Communities: Artists in Residence. For this project, we are engaging with those who live in Ward 23 to create an immersive audio walk of the area. 

We caught up with artist, Fraser Taylor. Fraser lives in Partick and he shared his stories with us about how he came to live in the area, and why it feels like home to him. 

Have you always lived in Partick?

I’m actually originally from Kirkintilloch and I went to Glasgow School of Art from 1977 from 1981. Then, I went straight down to London to do my Masters at the Royal College of Art and studied there until 1983. I lived in London for 21 years, then went to Chicago in 2001 for a one-year teaching position and ended up staying there for 16 years! Things turned out very differently to how I imagined. After a sabbatical in Chicago in 2014, I decided to come back to Scotland. I did a residency with Wasps for a year and had studios in Shetland, Fife and in Glasgow – it was amazing. I completely fell in love with Scotland again and became besotted with the landscape. When I went back to Chicago, it just didn’t feel right anymore, so I decided to come back to Glasgow. I never ever thought I would move back to Glasgow again, but I did and I loved it. I lived in the Merchant City for a year, but it never felt quite right. It didn’t feel like home. I have a lot of friends who live around the Partick area, so I was hanging out there and I decided that was the neighbourhood that I wanted to live in. I found a flat really quickly and I’ve been there since 2018. 

I’ve definitely travelled about. I’ve been really lucky with where my career has taken me. I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, Australia and other amazing places but, oddly, it feels very much like I’m home and I’m here to stay now, and it feels great.

Where is your favourite place to visit in the neighbourhood?

I like Mansfield Park – every time I walk through it, it feels really different. There are so many different communities that hang out there – students, people relaxing and having drink… It just feels lively and I remember during the lockdown last summer, I would walk through the park and there would be musicians playing there. I really like the atmosphere there. It feels almost European. One of my favourite places is the Partick Duck Club right on the corner, when I walk out of that side door I feel as though I could be in Paris! That probably sounds slightly bizarre, but there is something so Parisian about that corner with the trees on the street and some of the ironwork… It feels French to me. I love those little moments.

I drink in the Lismore and I like The Sparkle Horse as well, they both have a friendly atmosphere. I like the weird mix of people. I live near Gardner Street, so if I go up the hill, I’m in real ‘West End’ land, which is very privileged. Then, if I go down the hill, I’m in a much more real environment. I like the proximity of these different socio-economic situations. I’m not that much of a West End person really, so I think it’s nice that Partick maintains a bit of its history.

If you were taking a tourist somewhere in Partick East and Kelvindale, where would you take them?

First of all, I would take them for a walk, just to give my thoughts on the area. I do love the walk up Gardner Street, along with everyone else in the world! I think most people enjoy walking up there and getting to the top of the street and looking over the whole south side of Glasgow. I find those views quite breath taking, it really is spectacular. I hate to say it, but I would probably take a tourist to the Lismore. I think that it is such a traditional Scottish pub and it still carries lots of traditions. They have folk music playing in the evening and it feels like a genuine Glasgow pub. I really like The Sparkle Horse but it’s much younger and a bit more hipster. There’s nothing wrong with that – I like that – but I prefer the tradition of the Lismore. It’s so authentic. Sometimes with certain pubs, I feel as though I could be anywhere in the world. The world is becoming more and more generic and everywhere is losing its identity a wee bit, so I do levitate to places that feel a bit more real and haven’t lost their character.

Did you discover any new places during lockdown?

During the first lockdown, when my studio was closed for 3 months, I realised that I didn’t really know Glasgow as I left the city when I was young. As a result, I did a lot of walking – 8 to 10 miles on some days. I would walk through Partick and I would go over the river to the south side as well. I loved walking down Dumbarton Road and seeing all the back streets of Partick and just exploring the area.

What are you up to at the moment?

Nicolls – a gallery closed at the moment due to Covid – is running a programme called ‘Through The Window.’They have invited artists to show their work in the window, and I recently took part in this. It’s only available to view from the street, as people aren’t allowed into the gallery as a result of Covid. As it can only be viewed from that one vantage point, I found it quite exciting. When I was installing it, a local lady who was passing by stopped and said how happy she was that the gallery is doing it, as every time she walks by there is something new for her to look at. I think it is great that it has been able to engage the community. 

I also have an exhibition on at The Briggait at the moment, which is also in the window. It’s called ‘Two-Step / Selvedge to Selvedge’ and is a collaboration with myself and an artist called Beth Shapeero. This is running until 26 April. Galleries aren’t opening back up until after 26 April so there’s a lot of people and artists who are trying to work out how to engage the community without being able to give them access to premises.

There are people embracing the digital world and where that is going to take us but I think people are also realising the necessity for having direct contact with artwork, projects and performances. The virtual will put us in better stead when leaving lockdown, but that has to exist alongside the actual experience. There’s nothing that can compare to sitting in the audience watching a performance, or stepping into a gallery and seeing a painting or sculpture. It can be enhanced by digital, and digital can make the arts more accessible to people, but we have to find a good balance between digital experiences and real-life experiences. 

Thank you so much to Fraser for speaking to us about Ward 23 and giving us an insight into what makes this neighbourhood special. 

You can find out more about Fraser on his website, and can follow him on Instagram at @haxtonstudio.

Digital skills have improved across the unstoppable Flames
22 Mar 21 Blog Comments Off on Digital skills have improved across the unstoppable Flames

Digital skills have improved across the unstoppable Flames

Exciting news – we have successfully completed our digital project, #DontStopTheFlames! #DontStopTheFlames took place virtually and, where possible, in person. Featuring Flames from Scotland, Japan and New Zealand, Tricky Hat and The Flames were able to create a series of eight films, which have collectively been viewed over 3,000 times. Through #DontStopTheFlames, The Flames were able to share their real, raw experiences of life at the present moment.

Creating this series has been a totally new experience for Tricky Hat and The Flames. Not being able to perform to a live audience and, instead, moving into a digital space has been an exciting challenge for us.

In addition to learning lots of new lingo (we’ve all heard “R-number”, “social distancing” and “unprecedented times” more than enough times now though, haven’t we?), The Flames also used technology more than ever before for the creation of #DontStopTheFlames. Keep scrolling to find out how The Flames boosted their digital skills over lockdown, and the benefits this project has had on their wellbeing and confidence.


Digital Upskilling

Many of The Flames raged against the digital world pre-Covid, but they have embraced the challenge and got stuck in. To keep The Flames connected, we set up a Facebook group for them. This provided a safe digital space for them to share ideas, chat about life and get to know one another better. Some Flames didn’t use Facebook until then, and this encouraged them to set up a profile. During the early stages of the pandemic, Facebook’s active users increased by a whopping 10%. It’s easy to understand why there has been such a surge. With many countries across the world banning in-person meetings, Facebook and other social media apps enable us to keep up-to-date with our loved ones.

Most of our workshops were held online via Zoom, which is another platform our Flames have become absolute pros at using. Zoom has fast become a household name. Work meetings, Friday night quizzes, job interviews… whatever your pandemic plans are, there’s a good chance Zoom is involved. The Flames have been taking part in group Zoom workshops, where they work together on tasks, catch-up with each other and learn new things.



A key part of #DontStopTheFlames also involved The Flames gathering footage for the films. This meant filming themselves! Many were used to being filmed but were not used to having to do it themselves. This has been totally new experience and a learning curve, but one that most have enjoyed.

“I loved learning more about filming, lighting, composition – all of that. I love self-filming, I’ve learned that I don’t need an audience.”

“I’ve pushed through some of my natural inclinations to hide away from cameras.”


Digital Confidence

Many Flames also had some reservations about performing to a digital audience – especially at first – as getting to grips with new technology can be quite overwhelming. Now, the vast majority of Flames feel much more confident with using technology, and two-thirds said it made them more confident about approaching new technologies.

“I learned how to present the reality of my past and my stories in a much more real way, a true way, rather than as a performance.”

“I learned to enjoy my computer more and got more relaxed about filming stuff.”

“It has taken away my fears of technical skills.”


Following on from sessions with Kim, some Flames started to make their own short films as practice. The work they have produced is to such a high standard that Tricky Hat plans to release them on their own as ‘Sparks.’ This is a testament to how much The Flames have grown and improved their digital skills over the past year.



In addition to boosting The Flames’ confidence with technology and their digital skills, #DontStopTheFlames has also helped to boost The Flames’ wellbeing. The regular Zoom workshops, being able to catch-up with Flames in Scotland and beyond, and having a creative outlet have all helped Flames to feel supported during such challenging times. 95% said that being a part of The Flames has improved their health and wellbeing.

“In a world of isolation, it’s great to see familiar faces.”

“The best thing about the project was meeting new Flames and re-meeting old Flames.”

“At the moment, it takes your mind off of this bloody virus.”


Taking Creative Risks

Tricky Hat worked hard to give Flames a focus by assigning several tasks for them to work on throughout the project. Some of these tasks were done as part of a group, and others were individual efforts. The Flames were also taught new creative skills that they can implement in their films and in future live performances by some brilliant guest artists over Zoom. In addition, The Flames felt empowered to take creative risks and try new things in their films.

“It’s a safe forum of creativity.”

“My favourite thing was the camaraderie and the inclusiveness.” 

“When life at the moment is pretty predictable, safe and grey, it was great to take some risks and learn to be a bit braver.”


Lessons Learned from #DontStopTheFlames

We had an amazing time working on this digital collaboration with The Flames. Yes, there were challenges along the way (as you would expect when collaborating on a film series during a pandemic), but there were also many moments of innovation and joy. The Flames never fail to amaze us with their endless bounds of creativity and courage, and #DontStopTheFlames highlights just how brave and imaginative they are.

Working on #DontStopTheFlames throughout the Covid-19 outbreak has been a massive learning curve for us all. We’re delighted that The Flames feel more confident around new technology and that this project has been beneficial to their overall wellbeing. Working in new ways has also encouraged us to be more innovative and shown us how adaptable we can be. We are positive that, when we re-emerge into a world with no restrictions or distancing, we will have more strings added to our bow and will be prepared for any challenges thrown our way!

Huge thank you to PLAY ART! SENDAI for their involvement with this collaboration and for managing the project on the Japanese side. Without them, #DontStopTheFlames would not have been possible.


#DontStopTheFlames was supported by Creative Scotland and British Council, facilitated by the Scottish Government. #DontStopTheFlames was implemented by PLAY ART! SENDAI for the Sendai Cultural Programme 2020 and was co-sponsored by Sendai Cultural Foundation and Sendai City.

How Tricky Hat kept The Flames alight in 2020
25 Jan 21 Blog Comments Off on How Tricky Hat kept The Flames alight in 2020

How Tricky Hat kept The Flames alight in 2020


2020 was a hard year for so many of us – bringing uncertainty and obstacles unlike any we have experienced before. But, after almost a year of lockdowns and tough restrictions, making sacrifices to ensure the safety of ourselves and others, we’re one step closer to the finish line (FINALLY!). In light of all the challenges this pandemic has thrown at us, we stayed at home, we stayed resilient and we adapted to the situation.

If businesses are in a position where they’re still able to operate, they have to follow strict guidance and alter their typical working practices to ensure optimal safety for their employees and customers. At the moment, mainland Scotland is on full lockdown, so Tricky Hat and The Flames are staying at home under the latest government guidance. But, when restrictions were less severe, we were able to film The Flames from a social distance. Our main focus when developing our #DontStopTheFlames series was making sure that The Flames felt totally safe – whether they were filmed by us, or whether they filmed themselves in the sanctuary of their own homes. Keep reading to find out how we were able to create this series of films during the pandemic.



 Planning was an absolute priority given the circumstances. We had to brainstorm, research, consult with the Tricky Hat board and plan extensively before any filming took place. Also, we worked very closely with staff at venues and locations to develop risk assessments before going ahead with any filming. In addition, our Associate Artist, Kim Beveridge, completed a Bectu training course on filming with Covid-19 protocols. These measures ensured that we were fully equipped with the correct knowledge and procedures before we started working with The Flames.


Filming The Flames Outdoors

We filmed outdoors with The Flames during early Autumn, in the earlier stages of our #DontStopTheFlames project. We asked if any Flames would be interested in taking part in these outdoor sessions with us, and we arranged to meet with those who were keen. During these times, travelling outside of your NHS board area was permitted, which meant that we could safely go to the areas where our Flames lived and capture some material with them there. For example, we filmed Betty at Saltcoats beach for Umi and The Sea, and we were able to film several Flames at the serene Gartnavel Secret Garden for our latest film, Eden. We also visited and filmed Flames in their own gardens. Thankfully, the weather was surprisingly un-Scottish during our outdoor filming sessions and the pleasant conditions were definitely welcomed! It was also great to be able to safely catch-up with some of The Flames in person, having only worked with them through a screen since March.

The session at the Gartnavel Secret Garden was a particular favourite amongst Flames:

“What a perfect day. Real Flames faces at last! Great to see you all in a perfect setting”

 “More Flaming fun in the Walled Garden today. Mirroring each other, site specific story-telling & just catching up with our own daily life stories. So lovely to see everyone for real!”


Filming The Flames Indoors

In October, we were able to hold one-on-one sessions with The Flames at the CCA in Glasgow. Again, Flames were asked if this was something they would be interested in, and those who were comfortable with an indoor session were invited along. Extensive coronavirus measures were in place during these sessions. Flames were filmed one at a time and were in the room with only one other person. In addition, each person in the room was separated by a Perspex screen. This protective barrier was cleaned down after every one-on-one session. Perspex screens are being used in the television and production industry to make scenes look more realistic for the viewers. By using these screens (and a lot of clever camera trickery), cast members are able to be within two metres of each other, meanwhile reducing the risk of possible virus transmission. EastEnders has reportedly been using Perspex screens to shoot kissing scenes – and you can’t even tell that there is a screen between the cast members!


Filming From Home

With some Flames shielding as a result of Covid-19, it was important to us to ensure that this project was accessible to everyone. The Flames have been given iPads and training to film themselves from the comfort of their own homes. Each iPad is thoroughly sanitised and safely stored before being delivered to the next Flame. The Tricky Hat Core Team has also produced several tutorial videos for The Flames to follow along as they take the leap into technology, including how to record yourself on your phone and film yourself on your phone.

We have offered one-on-one and group workshops with The Flames on Zoom to talk about tasks, do fun activities together and keep that creative spark alive! Viv Gee and Scott Johnston have featured as guest artists and led group workshops on Zoom, which The Flames all really enjoyed. Additionally, Fiona has led group sessions with the HONO Flames and Scottish Flames, which gave all Flames the chance to get to know one another better:

“It is enchanting working with folk so far away. It is a new unfamiliar culture, but I think we have so much in common”

“They have become real people, with friendly faces, and ideas very similar to our own. The different language is no longer a barrier to a smile and a gesture”


Thank you so much to The Flames for getting involved with #DontStopTheFlames and for being brave enough to share your stories with the world.

We could not have achieved all this without Creative Scotland and British Council (facilitated by the Scottish Government), who funded this project. Creating a film series in the midst of a pandemic sure has its challenges, but their support and flexibility have been invaluable to us.

We have no idea when things will be “normal” again, but we have not let the pandemic stand in our way. The procedures we have followed when filming The Flames ensured that we were mitigating the risk of transmission, and it enabled us to keep working with The Flames. Working with these restrictions encouraged us to get more creative and think outside of the box when it comes to how we work. The obstacles this pandemic has thrown at us have pushed us to be more innovative and to develop new working practices which keep everyone as safe as possible. This period of time remains as uncertain as ever, but the new vaccines bring hope that better days are on their way.

A catch-up with The Flames now settled into the quarantine
12 May 20 Blog Comments Off on A catch-up with The Flames now settled into the quarantine

A catch-up with The Flames now settled into the quarantine

Our Scottish and Japanese Flames have been getting creative for a digital collaboration. From this collaboration, a series of three short films have been produced.

We’re going into our seventh week of lockdown here in the UK, meaning the digital collaboration taking place between our Scottish and Japanese Flames launched seven weeks ago. At the moment, things can still feel a bit scary, especially when we think too heavily about what the future holds. But, even in difficult times, our Flames have continued to burn brightly and have managed to share some light in this unknown, dark place.

Some of our Flames are missing the usual hustle and bustle of a pre-Covid weekday; some of them are enjoying a new, quieter routine; and, for some, their typical daily routine has barely changed. Some of our Flames have had to use technology in new ways, and all of our Flames have had to think outside the box! And, as a result of our Flames’ enthusiasm, creativity and dedication, we have been able to create three short films over this short space of time.

We previously caught up with Anne, Betty and Kate,who shared their initial thoughts about the digital collaboration and gave us an insight into what life is like for them at the moment.  This week, we caught up with Tom, John and Annette to chat about their experiences with the digital collaboration, how lockdown has affected their typical routine, and discuss the joy (and challenges) of the creative process.


When I first heard that we were going to be using technology in this way, I was quite at ease with the prospect. This is partly because I have been using computers for many years and partly because there was a sharp move towards keeping in touch electronically by quite a few of the groups I’m associated with. By the time Tricky Hat got in touch, I was an experienced Zoomer!

I like how the digital collaboration has given me a chance to be creative in the most mundane of circumstances – my own home. Plus, it’s great to be in (virtual) touch with fellow Flames. For me, this collaboration has been consistent with the usual creative process. There is a sense of both excitement and nervousness whenever the tasks are published. Then, there is a period of frantic brainstorming (with but one brain!) before the potential pitfalls of how to present the strange ideas you have come up with. Plus, there’s the technical and practical challenges, a certain amount of disappointment that things don’t work out, and elation for those that did. A challenge for me has been operating a camera solo when you’re the subject in shot – it can involve some whacky, Heath-Robinsonish paraphernalia. I’ve also learned that my capacity for self-delusion is quite high. Seeing how you appear to others on screen can be deflating.

A normal day for me at the moment involves a very leisurely morning followed by some music, writing, housework, walking, cooking, eating, watching TV, and skyping with a dear friend before bed. I’ve been enjoying watching National Theatre past productions. “One Man, Two Guv’ners” (fun), “Jane Eyre”, “Treasure Island” (superb), and, most recently, “Twelfth Night” (a jolly romp). I’m most looking forward to watching “Frankenstein” with Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch when it comes out later this week.

When I first watched HOME,I thought it was thought-provoking, slightly disjointed and passionate. It’s a typical Flames production only on screen instead of on stage.


When I first heard that this digital collaboration was taking place, I was quite excited by it. I was fairly familiar with some of the things, such as using Zoom and filming on my iPad. I quite like using technology and have no fears about it, so I immediately thought it was a good idea.

I like having a Facebook page where The Flames can share fun things as well as ideas. This was supposed to be my second Flames performance, having done one previously, so it’s good to get to know the other Flames a bit better. It’s also good seeing what other people come up with because you can get a bit set in your ways if you’re used to working in this way and getting inspiration from others can give you a fresh approach. Plus, the tasks get by the Tricky Hat team have been really fun, I loved the task where we all had to dress up. Through doing this, I’ve learned that The Flames have a fantastic sense of humour. We’ve got Bernard the Imaginary Horse, and everyone’s posting stories to do with him! I’ve also thought a lot about how technology can be used in theatre. This situation has opened up a lot of things and really made me think outside the box – it makes you improvise and think more about how you can use the tools you have at your disposal.

I always find working with other people and creating something an exciting process. I’m always up for a new project and love the initial excitement, brainstorming and working that comes with it. My biggest lesson at art school was to always put yourself creatively at risk, as that’s often when you’ll do your best work. This has helped me to maintain that excitement for new projects. But, the main challenges for me are trying to be less self-judgemental and trying to think outside the box more. I’ve done stuff and thought “that’s rubbish – I can do better than that so why am I not doing better than that?” I’m a trained visual artist and I’m trained in performing, too, so I think this is the kind of stuff I should be doing better in. But, it has helped being able to see other Flames’ ideas. Also, when isolation began, there was a big flurry of creative things to do online. I didn’t jump headfirst into everything that interested me, I only got involved in some select things, but I did feel a bit overloaded and normally I’m a bit more organised with such things. I’m also the main carer for my daughter and I tutor students as well. It’s definitely been challenging juggling these things.

My typical routine involves getting up early (I’m a morning person), listening to the radio, then cleaning door handles and other things because I have staff coming in the house for my daughter. Then, I’ll grab something to eat, plan my day and work until around midday on the computer. After I’ve stopped for lunch, I might have a nap, do some reading and then I’ll have dinner with my daughter and just relax for the evening. During lockdown I’ve loved listening to music. I usually stick on classical music, but this morning I listened to “Beach Boys – Pet Sounds.” I’ve also been listening to the radio. I quite like the crime series ones, like Paul Temple and Agatha Christie. They last a week and they’re quite fun. I’ve also been watching Better Call Saul on Netflix and I recently watched all of Sex Education, I thought that was brilliant and beautifully handled.

I’m almost quite enjoying lockdown and don’t find myself missing much. I’m finding it a useful way of working and haven’t felt a great loss. I do miss popping out to the shops for a wee break – shopping is not an enjoyable experience now. I also miss going for walks by the sea and going for an overnight stay at different places in Scotland (I’m a member of the Scottish Youth Hostel). I also miss good seafood restaurants and Chinese restaurants because I could never cook those things at home as well as they do!

I thought HOME was really good! I thought that the way it was put together was really witty and clever, and really enjoyable to watch. I had previously made a short film of me in the garden, which I submitted for HOME. Most of the time, you put stuff in and a lot of it doesn’t get selected, but I’m used to getting stuff edited so it doesn’t bother me. But, when I watched HOME and I saw the film that I submitted was in it, I thought: “They’ve put in too much of this!”


What I love about the digital collaboration is the exact same as what I love about all Flames things: how Fiona and the team put it all together. I must admit I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I tend to put things off and wait until the final day or night before the deadline, dreading the thought of doing the tasks for whatever reason. Then, when I start working on the tasks, I love it. I’m really enjoying seeing everyone’s input. I also enjoy the Zoom sessions – as much as I dread it, I also thoroughly enjoy it. Since this collaboration has started, I’ve gotten to grips with Zoom and I’m a Zoom master now. That’s my superpower!

My typical routine at the minute starts with getting up and putting on the outfit that I’ve been alternating between every two days. There’s six and a half (my daughter has a baby on the way) quarantining here. So, I usually do a bit of housework, play with my grandson, eat breakfast, do some yoga, get out on my bike, do some gardening… Then, I’ll stick on the TV and watch some Covid news. After, we’ll have a bit more play, head to the garden, tidy up, eat, stick on a box set and chill. During this time, I’ve been enjoying watching Code 404 and listening to David Bowie music, and (not enjoying) reading Covid news.

I don’t really know what I’ll do as soon as lockdown is over. I’ll maybe go back on my medication. I came off my sertraline for my OCD a week into lockdown and have been totally fine. In all honesty, I’m a bit concerned about the getting back to ‘normal’ with regards to work, expectations, and attempting to stretch myself in a hundred different directions. I think I’ll just go to see my wee auntie Anna who’s been isolating alone and give her a hug – she’s 84 and my late mum’s identical twin sister. Also, I think I’ll just go to Pret for a coffee and baguette with my daughters, it’s the simple pleasures that matter!

I loved watching HOME, I thought it was beautifully edited and it was lovely to see all the fellow Flames glowing!

It just goes to show you that not even a pandemic can stop our Flames! It’s wonderful to see how all of them have teamed up and gotten creative, even in these circumstances. A humungous thank you to Tom, John and Annette for having a chat with us and sharing exactly what life has been life for them these past seven weeks. Feel free to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with what our Flames have been getting up to!

Our second short film, STAYING IN, is now available to watch on Vimeo. This short film explores the ways in which our Flames connect with others whilst staying in the house and reflects upon the limbo they have found themselves in.


How The Flames performers are staying creative and connected during self-isolation
23 Apr 20 Blog Comments Off on How The Flames performers are staying creative and connected during self-isolation

How The Flames performers are staying creative and connected during self-isolation


Our Scottish and Japanese Flames are using technology in new ways as part of a digital collaboration. From this collaboration, a series of three short films will be produced.

The majority of us are finding ourselves using technology more than ever at the moment – and it is proving to be a vital resource. Video calling and messenger apps are helping us stay connected to the important people in our lives during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Following the cancellation of our performances, we decided that a digital collaborationwould allow us to keep our Scottish and Japanese Flames connected and we felt this would enable us to keep that momentum burning until our Flames are able to light up the stage again. Our digital collaboration uses the same processes that are followed in Flames Guerrilla sessions, with The Flames sharing their responses to tasks and questions set by the Tricky Hat core team. The only differences are that their responses are now shared digitally instead of in person, and a series of three short films are being produced instead of a live performance.

However, changing the landscape that you operate within can be quite the challenge! Last week we caught up with Director, Fiona Miller,to learn more about where the idea for the collaboration came from and to discover what her hopes for this project are. This week, we’ve had a chat with a few of our Flames – Anne, Betty and Kate – to find out how they’re feeling about collaborating in this way, what their thoughts are on using technology like this, and how this has affected their typical daily routine. We hope their ‘can do’ attitude and creativity will inspire you as much as it has inspired us!


My initial thoughts about this collaboration were that it sounded like an exciting, innovative idea! Plus, it seemed like a good opportunity to force me to learn how to use some of the interesting technology that’s available.

On the whole, I think this collaboration is great: it’s very interesting and, at times, thought-provoking. Through this collaboration, I’ve learned how to use new technology to connect with the other Flames. With Ondine’s help and advice, I’ve managed to join the Facebook group set up for us Flames.  I’ve also learned how to download and use Zoom and Cisco Webex, which allows me to do online yoga and Pilates classes and to take part in a Wednesday night choir rehearsal. Using technology like this is exciting, because I am now in touch with so many people and have access to a range of different images!

Trying out new technology has been challenging at points. I’ve had some issues with setting up Facebook on my phone and uploading images. I used to use my laptop just for emails and my phone just for texts and calls, so I’m trying to build up my technical knowledge.

My usual daily routine now involves an online exercise class – either yoga or Pilates in the morning. Then, I usually go out for a walk and food shopping in the afternoon.  In the evening, I’m on WhatsApp or Zoom to catch up with people virtually. My typical lockdown outfit is usually trousers and a top – it’s good to get dressed and out of your PJs and dressing gown!


When I first heard that this collaboration was taking place, I thought that it would be a challenge to film myself. I struggle with taking selfies and I find it hard to know where to look. I was also concerned that I would have no ideas or that the ideas I came up with wouldn’t be what Fiona and the team wanted.

There have been loads of physical, mental and emotional challenges since the collaboration has begun, but that is probably to with personal circumstances and the present situation with Covid-19. Through this collaboration, I’ve found that The Flames are incredibly supportive of each other, on the group chat and privately, and I have learned that we’re all struggling in some way. It has also shown me that I can use my time well or not, but that it doesn’t actually matter.

Now that we’ve gotten into the swing of things, I’m enjoying using the Facebook group. It’s great seeing what other folk are thinking, being able to try out ideas and having a laugh! I’ve also discovered some of the extras in Google Photos. Sending my ideas to the Tricky Hat team has been interesting. I’ve been coming up with different ways of conveying my ideas and taking new approaches when using my imagination and capturing my thoughts. What excites me about this collaboration is the same thing that excites me about our performances with The Flames: being able to throw ideas up into the air for Fiona to catch and make sense of them! 

To keep a routine, I always take the time to make and eat breakfast at the table and I go to bed at roughly the same time every night. Everything else is free flow – much the same as usual! And my standard lockdown outfit has been a big sloppy comfy cardigan over whatever I am wearing.


When the lockdown happened and our rehearsals came to an abrupt halt, it all felt a bit sad and unfinished, so I was delighted when Tricky Hat found a way of keeping us all engaged and connected. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but I had faith that the team would pull it all together in the way that they always have done. Now that we’ve gotten stuck into the digital collaboration, I’m amazed at all the creativity within the group. I love how varied and interesting the responses are, and how all the different personalities shine through!

Apart from the anxiety of having no ideas, the main tests have been technical, but I think I’m starting to overcome those. I am naturally quite an introvert, so some might say I have been training for this all my life! That said, it’s not been without its challenges.

I live with my husband and my son in a two-bed flat in Glasgow. My son has cystic fibrosis, so he falls into the extremely vulnerable category. As a result, we have had to shield completely as a family. We can’t risk bringing anything into the house which might infect him. This has additional challenges, as my son also has Down’s Syndrome and so lacks some of the resources which can make isolation a bit more bearable. We’ve tried to make things easier for him by creating a bit of structure in the day, with a combination of exercise, baking, board games and film nights. We also tried to link him up to friends and colleagues through Zoom and WhatsApp.

To keep myself sane, I’ve been trying to improve my Spanish, practice mindfulness and follow some dancing and yoga videos on YouTube. I keep connected with friends and family through WhatsApp, Zoom, email and Facebook. Thank goodness for modern technology – the introvert’s friend!

I’ve also learned more about technology as a result of this collaboration. I’ve learned how to post a link to a video, which – for a woman of limited technical capability – is a minor achievement! I have also learned how to use Facebook and have joined The Flames’ group, which has been a great source of inspiration, support and laughter. And I have learned that, for all the anxieties mentioned, I really enjoy being set a weekly challenge. It helps me focus, stimulates my imagination and gives a structure to my week.

What I love about this collaboration is that, although we are all isolated within our own homes, we can still come together to create something. It will be fascinating to see what comes out of it, and how the Tricky Hat team will manage to sew it all together into something new and greater than the sum of its parts. I feel that sometimes the greatest creativity comes out of adversity, so I think it’s going to be brilliant.

When it comes to my usual lockdown outfit, anything goes and that’s quite liberating! Spotty top and tartan trousers? Why not! And if something good comes of all this, it might just be the death of ironing as a national sport.  All hail the drip-dry fabric!

Although the present circumstances can be testing, our Flames are doing a brilliant job of adapting to the change and being there for one another. Their enthusiasm towards getting stuck into this collaboration with us and their limitless creativity is what keeps us all going. A massive thank you to Anne, Betty and Kate for sharing with us their initial reactions to the digital collaboration and for giving us an insight into their daily lives at the minute. Feel free to follow us on Facebook,Twitter and Instagramto get to know more about our fantastic Flames and to keep up to date with what they’re all getting up to!

Our first short film, HOME, is also now live on Vimeo!In this video, The Flames in Scotland and Japan will invite you in their home: taking you on a journey and showing you the poetry of their daily lives. It will only be available until Friday 24 April, so make sure to check it out before you miss out!

  1. Caught up with Director, Fiona Miller
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Instagram
  5. Vimeo
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!