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Imaginate's Paul Fitzpatrick: How IPAY put the spotlight on Scotland's work for young audiences

As part of an effort to promote the highly regarded children’s theatre and dance sector internationally, Imaginate and Creative Scotland teamed up to support a delegation of Scottish artists, producers and companies making work for young audiences to the prestigious International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) showcase.

The conference took place in Philadelphia from 15-19 January 2019, where Scottish work was put in the spotlight. In this guest blog, Imaginate's Chief Executive Paul Fitzpatrick reflects on an important visit for the Scottish delegation, and what could come of IPAY in the future.

Watch the short film on Spotlight on Scotland at IPAY 2019 from Creative Scotland on Vimeo.

Scottish companies have had a presence at IPAY for over 20 years, and this visit marked the first time that Scotland has presented a co-ordinated presence at the showcase. The delegation was made up of 19 artists, producers and companies presenting leading work in Scotland today, including Barrowland Ballet, Catherine Wheels, Curious Seed, Independent Arts Projects, Imaginate, Lyra, Licketyspit, Red Bridge Arts, Scottish Theatre Producers, Starcatchers, Visible Fictions and 21 Common.

The official programme of the showcase included a full performance from Andy Cannon and Red Bridge Arts who presented Is This a Dagger? The Story of Macbeth.

The Scotland booth was buzzing with interest from venue managers, festival directors and agents looking to make new connections with Scotland- Paul Fitzpatrick, Imaginate

IPAY is a packed and busy schedule, with events starting at 9am and running right through to 9pm in the evening. The main thrust of IPAY is a marketplace, with 14 full-length showcases of productions which are chosen through a competitive process. In addition, there are show and tells, where companies either present a 20-minute extract of a work or a five minute pitch.

This is supplemented with keynote speeches on current issues in theatre and dance for young audiences, discussion sessions, networking and the exhibition hall, where artists, presenters and agents literally set up stall and sell their work. As well as all of that there are off-IPAY performances and Cultural Spotlights, which highlight the work and culture of a country outside of the US.

The 19-strong delegation from Scotland hosted the opening night showcase lounge (an opportunity for informal networking), and had a stall in the Exhibit Hall. Crucially, they also presented a 30-minute cultural spotlight - Spotlight On Scotland. This was a roaring success.

Presented at the Philadelphia Film Centre, nine companies spoke about their work and screened trailers on the vast film centre screen. The response from the 600-strong delegation was phenomenal, and the presentation really captured the breadth, richness and, most of all, quality of theatre and dance for young audiences produced in Scotland.

Following the Spotlight, the Scotland booth in the exhibit hall was buzzing with interest from venue managers, festival directors and agents looking to make new connections with Scotland. Early indications are showing that every single company who was present has had multiple expressions of interest.

To top it all, Andy Canon’s performance of Is This A Dagger, was a hit of the showcase and was runner-up in the hotly contested Victor Awards, one of the most prestigious award is North America, which is voted for by the delegates at the showcase.

Other good news is that the director of the national membership organisation for theatre for young audiences in the US, TYA USA, was so inspired by the Spotlight that he has commissioned an editorial feature on Scotland for the TYA USA Magazine, which will be distributed throughout North America in the Spring.

More comments and observations from IPAY Delegates:

“It was great being part of a united group visiting IPAY 2019. After the Cultural Spotlight on Scotland presentation so many people came and spoke with me, saying that they were inspired by the work in Scotland being of such a high quality, by small organisations.”

“Attending IPAY was incredibly valuable. We made logical and exciting connections with presenters and other artists, we participated in activity and events that were really useful for our professional development. We also became more connected to our Scottish peers which is invaluable”

“The networking opportunities and possibilities at this event cannot be under estimated. Outside of the ASSITEJ World Congress it is the largest gathering of the sector with the added benefit that it occurs annually.”

“Having a strong Scottish delegation at IPAY made an important and positive impact for the Scottish sector, as well as for individual companies across a number of levels. The feedback I received during individual conversations at IPAY suggested that our delegation helped to build on the reputation of Scotland as a leading country for the creation and presentation of work for young audiences. When making new connections, people definitely seemed more receptive to conversation when they realised I was part of the Scottish delegation.”

“It was such a positive week. The strong Scottish presence seemed to be felt across the whole event. It allowed us individually to make connections but it also demonstrated the breadth and depth of the sector in Scotland and the variety of work that is being made. Whilst we still have challenges as a sector to navigate, this opportunity showed that we are connected, supportive of each other and keen to collaborate internationally.”

IPAY took place in Philadelphia from 15-19 January 2019. It is an annual conference, and applications for the event in 2020 are now open.