Things I Learned Touring O is for Hoolet Spring/Summer 2016

There is so much to say about the tour. It was spread over six weeks from April to June 2016. It involved a lot of me, Sarah (the Stage Manager) and Michael (the Creative Learning leader) in a van saying ‘Scotland is really beautiful’. It involved a bit of me sitting on beaches and thinking. It involved some boats – ferries and tall ships. It involved one cat friend. It involved a lot of packing and unpacking the van. It involved many episodes of The West Wing (I rewatched three or four series over the course of those weeks). It involved hundreds of conversations. Here are some things the tour taught me.

Scotland is big.

During the biggest stint of the tour, when we were away near a fortnight in one go, I was invited to an audition in Glasgow on our day off. (NB. I have had one audition and one offer of acting work this year – both fell in the 11 days we were away on that part of the tour. Ha ha, theatre gods, ha ha). This seemed perfect. If I could sweet talk Sarah and Michael into doing this move on their own, I could nip down and up in the day. It would mean a lot of travel in one day, but I could do it.

We were in Thurso. Audition in Glasgow.

Google maps informed me that the fastest way down was to GET A BOAT to Orkney and FLY A PLANE from there. No. I would have to be a long bus/train route. Turns out that was going to be an 18 hour round trip. In fact, by the time I got down, it would be too late to get back up the same day. Even driving it was going to be 14 hours. How many times do I have to learn that there is So Much Scotland beyond Inverness?

It was a privilege to skirt some of Scotland’s edges, the mainland anyway. We only made it to Coll among the islands. I really hope we get to tour it to Orkney sometime soon – Orkney is a great place and Orkney is a great language variety. There’s also not enough in the middle of the North East – Angus, Aberdeenshire. I’m greedy, though, look at our cool map of stops.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 15.01.16

We went to many places I had never been before, or where I have spent very little time. Highlights I will return to: Elgin, Galashiels, Dumfries and Galloway (a real eye-opener for my other half, who came to see the last show at The Swallow Theatre and was like, ‘Where ARE we? This place is beautiful.’ Notice he said, ‘where are we?’ even though he had driven down by himself – he gets magically beamed from place to place by sat nav).

Scotland is small.

As always happens in Scotland, I met people who knew people who I knew. This is a trick I have gained from my mother who can find a blood relative in any group of Scots of 12 people or more. People told each other about the show, and we would get someone coming to see it in one place on the recommendation of a friend who had seen it a hundred miles away. During the show, in a totally flawless manner, I took to sneakily mentioning the fact that we are doing a Fringe run (book here book here book here), and almost everyone who spoke to me afterwards felt that they might come down or up and see it again, and bring someone. Edinburgh is near. Even when it is 8 hours away.

Scots is big.

Or people see it as such. The variation in Scots is a real joy, but it is also used by people as a reason not to use it. I was told in Eyemouth that there were worries about the new Scots Language Award being taught in the school because if you taught someone Eyemouth they wouldn’t be understood by people up the road. The differences are a point of pride, but they are also a separator. But how can I talk about the importance of seeing the connections between different varieties of Scots, when I want to highlight the difference between different varieties of Anglic languages more broadly? If we unite we have more bargaining power, but it is the unification of the languages of the United Kingdom to one monolithic monolingualism that is my issue. I might need another few tours to work that one out. For now, you can watch me wrestle with issues like these on the blog where I answer audience questions: As I discovered on tour, I basically reinvented the wheel/Language Log.

Scots is small.

Or people see it as such. Part of why I started this project back in 2014 was to make myself write in Scots, to increase my confidence. And what do you know, it worked. Talking with many different people, particularly long chats with Michael in Scots, increased my confidence times 100. The talking and also the fact that one audience member quoted a writer to me (whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten) who, when asked how to work towards improving the lot of Scots said: yaise it in season, yaise it oot o season. That opened a door, to give up stressing about whether this place or that place was the place for Scots. That same night in Galashiels I was asked about language ownership and I talked myself into the place where I felt, screw it, IT’S ALL MINE IT’S ALL YOURS AND ANYONE WHO FEELS OTHERWISE JUST ISN’T HERE YET. My website banner line to describe what I do is ‘Theatre making, performing and thinking while talking’. I did so much talking on this tour, I got to do a whole wheen of thinking, but there’s so much more to do.

Roll on the Fringe, the world’s largest festival of thinking while talking.


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