misunderstanding each other since 2003

Fence Archive

12. Glasgow 2010

November 4-8, 2010

Dear Fence Playwrights (and Friends),

Allow us to introduce ourselves.

Scotland is an ambiguous province of the United Kingdom located somewhere North of London. It is where the British Royal Family come for their holidays and to shoot things.

Though most of the countryside is inhabited only by midges and sheep, it is very good to look at, and includes both large and very small places where people live.

Not very many of us. Four and half million or so.

One of these places is called Edinburgh, a magical city which appears every summer for three weeks and then vanishes.

Another place is called Glasgow, which is where you arrive if you come to Edinburgh, but turn sharply to your left.

Oddly, for a place where there are hardly any people, there is an awful lot of theatre going on, a surprising amount of which was written only moments before the show started by a hardy and quite well organised collection of playwrights, most of whom quite like each other, even though they have almost all met each other at least once.

Sometimes these playwrights are organised into doing things by a dedicated support and development agency called the Playwrights' Studio Scotland, run with frightening energy and goodwill by Fence member Julie Ellen. Sometimes they organise themselves into doing things with a sort of Trade Union called "The Scottish Society of Playwrights" who have negotiated a minimum terms contract for playwrights and theatre companies to sign, that reminds the theatre companies that paying playwrights properly (as well as actors and technicians) is a condition of their funding. This sometimes stops us from being robbed and exploited, and we try to make sure that anyone who does rob and exploit us has a really embarassing time and doesn't do it again.

Partly as a result of our solidarity, (and support from MOST theatre companies, MOST of the time), even though Scotland is quite a small place, it's quite a good place to be a playwright, so people tend to keep doing it, and some of us, we think, are pretty good at it now, and have been able to show our plays in other places besides Scotland.

Some Scottish playwrights who have done this that you may have heard of are Gregory Burke, David Grieg, Anthony Nielson, David Harrower, Linda Maclean, Rona Munro, and Liz Lochead. There are quite a lot of other ones, and we have all their phone numbers. A peculiar thing about us is that we see each other and talk to each other quite a lot.

Another peculiar thing about Scottish playwrights is that quite a lot of them weren't born here, but they came to visit, and decided to stay and do their plays here. Which makes them Scottish as far as we're concerned.

A peculiar thing about Scottish plays is that Standard English is just one of a number of possible dialects our actors speak in, and isn't necessarily the most interesting way we have of writing things for them to say. We think this is one of the things that makes our plays interesting. We also think it might be one of the things that might make your plays interesting too, if they were translated into English by Scottish playwrights. (Or into what we call Lallans, or Doric, or even Gaelic...but's that's a whole other complicated story). It might be a way that the people in your plays who sound like they come from very specific places don't sound like they all come from the middle of the Atlantic when they get translated into English. Just a thought.

We do this with old plays a lot, plays written by people like Moliere and Durrenmat and Checkov. But we sometimes don't wait until the playwright is dead. We think Michel Tremblay's plays, for example, sound really good in Scottish.

We also should mention that Scotland has recently acquired two things that make it look a bit more like a proper country - a national parliament and a national theatre company. We're very happy about both of these things but that doesn't stop us having lots of arguments about them at any time of day or night. We like arguments.

Perhaps we're not used to having these "proper country" things yet...and we hear that there are quite a lot of places in other parts of Europe and the world where people have similar arguments about new (or fairly new) parliaments and theatres. It might be good to compare notes before we've all got used to it. Even if you've had your parliaments and national theatres for a long time, we'd like to hear about how that works for you.

In November, lots of theatre people from all over Europe are going to come to Glasgow to have a look at it and each other. There will be shows and discussions. This is the International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts, IETM, meeting.

The Fence can come too, to see shows too, if you like. But we think it might be good as well if you met lots of Scottish playwrights and talked to them about what you do, and hear about what they do. They will have arguments with you and with each other that you may enjoy.

We have some organisations and experiences we think you might find interesting. We have a strange relationship with the Anglo-American Empire we think you may find provocative. We want to talk to you about your work, we want to see your work and we want you to see ours. But we also want to meet you. We'll find some nice places to do that, and find some other people you might find interesting.

We can pay for food and accomodation for ten of you if you'd like to come. You'll have to find your own money to pay to get here. Those nice people at Ryanair send their cattle planes to Glasgow Prestwick Airport, which is about 50 minutes away on a train, and to Edinburgh Airport, which has a bus that gets you to Glasgow in less than an hour as well. Easyjet and others fly to Glasgow Airport, which is actually quite near Glasgow...so if planes come from where you are to any of these places, that will do fine.

If you have to go to London or Paris first, we'll understand, but it might cost you more money.

If more than ten of you would like to come, we can't pay for your food or accomodation, I'm afraid, but we'll do our best to make you welcome. Jonathan and Gabriel can sleep at Peter's house, for example.

Hope to see you in November


Scotland's Playwrights


We're really good at parties. Ask Buff to tell you about Tam.


Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland played host to The Fence in November 2010. Members of The Fence, a network across Europe and beyond for playwrights and cultural operators, met in Glasgow during IETM (International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts) from 4th – 7th November.

The purpose of this meeting was;

To engage playwrights from across Europe with the themes and ideas emerging out of IETM Glasgow and reflect those back to the conference delegates through discussion and their work.

  • To bring together members of the Fence (European Playwrights and Playwriting Specialists) to further their dialogue.
  • To bring Scotland’s playwrights into a discursive and artistic engagement with their peers from other parts of Europe.

The playwrights would;

  • Engage with playwrights from other countries at IETM.
  • See performances in the artistic programme.
  • Present scratch readings of their work which will be open to IETM members.
  • Participate in daily conversations with theatre makers from Scotland to enable visitors to fully engage with the Scottish context.
  • Hold daily conversations with all playwrights to progress The Fence dialogues and enable playwrights from Scotland to fully engage with the wider European experience.
  • Participate in some of the other IETM Glasgow discussion events.
  • Present a report on 7th November as part of the IETM Glasgow programme.

Feedback and Final Report

The content of the discussions was taken from observation of themes arising from the artistic programme, participation in other discussion events, encounters with individuals and conversations between the Fence members.

The World Interrogates Scotland

Peter Arnott interviewed attending Scottish playwrights about their experience and practice. Playwrights included Linda McLean, Nicola McCartney Lynda Radley, Oliver Emanual, Chris Dolan and Philippa Mannion.

Scotland Interrogates the World

The audience and performers were reversed as we asked our guests questions about their experiences and perspectives.

As a stimulus to their exploration, members drew on previous Fence discussions that explored commonalities and areas of artistic connection. These included conversations around the language of communication, economic forces and their countries’ social and political histories.

Daily Base

The Hairdressers, a lounge and bar space opposite the restaurant/bar Stereo, was selected to be the daily base during The Fence. Fence participants had full use of The Hairdressers during the day to hold meetings and rehearse/share scratch readings; it was furnished with sofas and coffee tables in Fence style.

Participants had lunch and dinner provided at Stereo and were given tickets to programmed activities.

The Hairdressers was open to IETM delegates in the evening.

Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland provided all the administration and organisational support to facilitate visiting and Scottish participants.


Participant Country
Malgorzata Semil Poland
Jitka Sloupova Czech Republic
Kamelia Nikolova Bulgaria
Zuzana Ulicianska Slovakia
Alain Foix France/Guadelope
Renato Gabrielli Italy
Sarah Grochala England
Oladipo Agboluaje England
Alex Chisholm England
Milan Govedarica England
Julie Ellen Scotland
Peter Arnott Scotland
Linda McLean Scotland
Nicola McCartney Scotland
Lynda Radley Scotland
Chris Dolan Scotland
Davey Anderson Scotland
Ann Marie Di Mambro Scotland
Oliver Emanuel Scotland
Philippa Mannion Scotland



Participants attended the following performances, which formed part of the IETM showcase;

  • Wee Andy by Paddy Cuneen at A Play, A Pie and A Pint
  • Sussurus by David Leddy at Glasgow Botantic Gardens
  • Midsummer by David Greig at Tron Theatre
  • Gilgamesh by Edwin Morgan at Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama
  • The Tailor of Inverness by Matthew Zajac at The Arches
  • Orlando by Cryptic at Tramway

Participants also attended

  • Voicing Africa; New Collaborations, a discussion event hosted by Visiting Arts at the Citizens Theatre.
  • a sharing of work with Seeds of Thought poetry group.
  • the final IETM party at the Arches Theatre.
  • the presentation of work to IETM members on the Renfrew Ferry.

Feedback from Fence Members

I thought the weekend was terrific, and it furthered the fence's ongoing conversation with the world, and folded Scotland firmly in there with its own distinct theatrical identity. Peter Arnott, Playwright

First of all, I would say that - after discussion with Scottish participants - Once more I was assured of many similarities between struggle for national identity in Scotland and in Slovakia. I was really interested in discussion on National Theatre of Scotland, I could compare the experienced and hopes linked to this idea with the experiences from Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava.

Then, I found extremely interesting talks on the complexity of translation of drama - especially if the dialect is used in drama. At last but not least, the opportunity to learn something from the African experience we very refreshing in rather closed European context.

The meeting was organised very efficiently with very devoted and kind hostesses. And let me thank you for this fruitful event. Zuzana Ulicianska, Translator/Dramaturg

However, participating in the panel discussions during the Fence meeting in Glasgow enabled me to get a much deeper knowledge. A few colleagues based in Scotland shared their experiences and opinions; it was particularly interesting to compare the points of view of the young writers and of the most experienced ones….These discussions were part of an exciting program of cultural exchange, which allowed us to see IETM shows and engage in informal chats with theatre practitioners from all over Europe. Renato Gabrielli, Playwright

I was very happy to be able to participate in the Glasgow Fence/IETM Meeting. I was overwhelmed by the status playwriting enjoys in Scotland and all the activities Playwrights Studio Scotland strains to do to support playwrights and their work. Though both could be a subject of envy for most of the participants from less lucky countries like Czech Republic, I hope I could be able to inspire myself in it for the work I do in Prague.

The atmosphere of IETM was encouraging and many thanks for making possible for me to attend as much performances of Scottish companies as possible in the few days. Jitka Sloupova