Tricky Hat Launches Digital Collaboration – Interview with Fiona Miller

Blog | April 9, 2020


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!