Refugees to take centre stage in Bute musical

Arianne Welsh, director of Bank Street Productions.
Arianne Welsh, director of Bank Street Productions.

A Dunoon woman who recently founded her own theatre company has big plans for a musical about Bute, telling the story of the Syrian refugees who came to the island in 2016.

Arianne Welsh left Glasgow University with an MA in Theatre Studies in July this year and started up her own company, Bank Street Productions, the day after graduating.

The company’s first production has the working title The Bute Musical, and is being developed in collaboration with the Rothesay Joint Campus and Argyll and Bute Council.

Arianne said the idea for The Bute Musical came to her after she read news stories about the Syrian refugees who were resettled on the island, and after seeing Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake.

Arianne juggles running Bank Street Productions with a day job in an office and nights spent working in two Glasgow theatres.

She told the Buteman: “Starting out has been very difficult, but this project doesn’t feel like work which has really surprised me - I can happily spend hours doing it and not feel as if it’s something I have to do.

“I was out for a meal with some of my fellow graduates and we were all a bit worried that we wouldn’t find a job, as jobs in the arts are few and far between.

“I knew I had this idea that I thought would make a great performance so I decided to start putting the word out.

“Within two weeks we had a registered company, a bank account and two writers attached - subject to funding.

“I’ve been so surprised at how on board everyone has been so far, it’s been incredible.

“We plan to conduct several field visits to Bute with our writers and producer, and several workshops in the Rothesay Joint Campus with the pupils.

“These will focus on developing confidence and performance skills whilst highlighting issues of cultural diversity and equality.”

The project is also being supported by the Scottish Refugee Council and Interfaith Scotland, and the Tron Theatre and Glasgow University.

The musical score will combine Scottish traditional instruments and those from Syria and other Arab countries.

Bank Street is currently in the process of bidding for Creative Scotland Investment of just under £100,00.

Arianne hopes to begin previews next summer, with a first run in Glasgow shortly afterwards.