SCOTTISH cultural giants including Ian Rankin, Brian Cox, Val McDermid and Alan Cumming are to take part in a crisis project launched to provide online entertainment to isolated people across the country.

It will also serve as a fundraising platform for actors and other theatre workers whose work has dried up because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Other well-known names backing the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) initiative are Mark Bonnar, Blythe Duff, Kate Dickie, Lorraine McIntosh and Still Game’s Greg Hemphill.

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The digital short artworks, called Scenes For Survival, will be launched across a series of online platforms and channels over the next few months and produced in association with key Scottish theatres which have been critically hit by the Covid-19 virus. The project is being delivered in association with BBC Scotland and BBC Arts’ Culture In Quarantine project.

A scene called Rebus In Isolation will be Rankin’s contribution.

The NTS move follows a rash of cancellations of performances and festivals, including Glastonbury, across the UK, leaving many performers, ancillary workers and other freelancers without work or income.

Many are now moving online to try and make a living and are calling on the public for support.

“We are living through a period that is unprecedented in my lifetime,” said Jackie Wylie, NTS artistic director.

“The National Theatre of Scotland is part of a theatre sector that is struggling to survive through these times. Scenes For Survival will provide much-needed paid opportunities for artists, celebrate our exceptional national culture and raise money for the freelance community who are experiencing drastic economic and emotional hardship.

“We thank those who have come forward with such immediate generosity to get us started.

She added: “In Scotland during times of crisis we have always turned to our storytellers to offer connectivity, solace and joy. We want to bring audiences together online despite our collective isolation.

“When we come through the other side of this era-defining moment we will all feel changed by what we have been through and it is theatre that will allow us to imagine, with hope, where we are going to find ourselves and how it will feel. Theatre matters, more than ever.”

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NTS will also offer Play Dates, a digital programme for children, young people and their families, and The Coming Back Out Ball’s Online Dance Clubs for LGBTI+ elders. Engine Room, the company’s nationwide programme of opportunities for artists, will be repositioned as a digital offering.

Musicians have also been hit hard by all the cancellations and Douglas Robertson, of music promoters Soundhouse, is currently working with Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre to try to set up a live streaming service so that performances can be broadcast straight into people’s homes.

“We are going to be producing something that will give people a certain degree of optimism and keep people functioning,” he said. “We can do very regular concerts in a mix of genres.

“Many people are still getting salaries but are unable to go to concerts so if they subscribe they can have live concert material piped into their homes and that will also keep the community alive.

“People surely want something to be there at the end of this and very few people in this industry have any kind of safety net.”

Singer-songwriter Emma Pollock has also been looking into creating live online shows.

“I’m looking forward to finding out how that might work, and hope it may raise funds for the performers,” she said.

Pollock suggested that other ways the public can show support is by buying CDs. She said many people in the industry were already struggling.

“All of them have seen their work over the next four months simply evaporate overnight,” she added. “It’s terrifying for them, as an artist’s life is often hand to mouth at the best of times, and the music industry has already collapsed so much recently due to streaming. This may prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many of them that have little alternative sources of income.”

Musician Chris Waite is planning to stream gigs and is working with fellow musician Ali Hutton to set up a service.

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“If your night out has been cancelled then get a ticket and have a night in or go old fashioned and buy a CD – don’t listen to music on Spotify,” he said. “Lots of bands have other merchandise, like T-shirts, that people can buy.”

Margaret Anne O’Donnell, co-founder of Raw Material Theatre Company, whose productions include hit show What Girls Are Made Of, said the industry had been wiped out overnight.

She said she was currently trying to recover £6000 paid to accommodation providers for a 12-date tour of a production called The Spinners which has been cancelled just as it was due to go into rehearsal.

“This is having a knock-on effect on every industry, not just theatre,” she pointed out.

“If the public have a ticket for any show coming up and donate the value to the theatre, that will help the industry not take such a massive hit.”

Angie Dight, artistic director of performance company Mischief La-Bas, added: “If people set things up online and there is a donation button then it would be amazing if the public could help. And if people are helped by artists working online to do creative things with their kids they might see the value of the creative industries and how important we are.”

Maria Oller, artistic director of Lung Ha Theatre Company, which works with people with learning support needs, also said any donation would be “truly appreciated”.

“Although we are kindly supported by various organisations and trusts, we still need to generate additional funding to support our neurodiverse artists year-round, so we would like to encourage those who can to donate money via our website (

“We also love to hear from our audiences so let’s chat on social media, tell us what you think about our LUNG cHAts series where company members speak to some of the key Scottish arts figures. Lastly, we at Lung Ha TC are all about creative collaborations, so drop us a line if there’s an idea you’d like to explore with us, even during these challenging times.”

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Clare Duffy, artistic director of Civic Digits, said she wanted to encourage people to think about how to donate to artists directly.

“I think there will be lots of artists reaching out via the internet to share work that can’t be put on in public anymore,” she said. “That work will probably be free as it’s hard to charge for art online, so I’d encourage people to think about how to donate to artists directly.”

Ken Hay, CEO of the Centre for the Moving Image, said people had already been giving generous donations following the closure of the Filmhouse and Belmont Filmhouse, and the postponement of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“This has been extremely heart-warming to see in these difficult times,” he said.

“As a charity we rely on the generosity and support from film fans to make donations and buy vouchers and memberships. Any support, big or small, is truly appreciated.”