‘THE whole festival is a sort of love letter to the artists that are working in Scotland right now,” says LJ Findlay-Walsh, artistic director of Take Me Somewhere.

“They are the inspiration. Not only are some of them presenting work here but all the conversations that they are having are reflected in the international work that we are bringing over, so it really is rooted in place and artists here. That’s really important.”

An invitation arrived with a hint of mystery about it. A theatrical journey is taking place until October 29 in Glasgow and audiences are invited along for the ride. I recently caught up with the calmly focused Findlay-Walsh.

As she explained, Take Me Somewhere emerged from the programmes of risk and adventure at the lost and lamented Arches nightclub: “We are really coming from a place of artists’ development, exactly the ethos of the Arches – a community of artists creating space for risk and experiment, working the world out together. That spirit informs this festival.”

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Take Me Somewhere has a very unique feel to what it is doing, explains Findlay-Walsh (below).

The National: LJ Findlay-Walsh, Artistic Director of Take Me Somewhere.

“The reason the festival is so important is because ultimately when the Arches fell, a lot of the people working in Scotland were thinking of leaving, to London and Berlin and so on,” she said.

“What a festival does is create aspiration so you can see a safe and healthy context to your work once you have finished it, but it also provides inspiration. If we are not getting these era-defining international works of scale and ambition and rigour into Scotland, then we are just not in dialogue in terms of practice, ideas and global conversations.”

In 2023, that international spirit comes from a wide and impressive field. Complementing it is a healthy group of Scotland-based artists, eager to be showcased. “I always say it is like a portal for international gaze and I think that’s just so important,” Findlay-Walsh adds.

Take Me Somewhere’s importance in the marketplace is not to be underestimated, she adds: “What we want is to create more opportunities for artists, stimulate more economic investment from outside and ensure people can live fulfilling lives within Scotland as artists.”

It’s a curiously simple ambition but with a global perspective.

“We tend to attract lots of international presenters who want to take work out but who we’ve been in conversation with over a period of time,” Findlay-Walsh explains, adding that the year-round vital.

“They get a much better sense of the exact thing it is we are doing here, the kind of work that is coming out of Scotland. It’s quite a specific thing we are doing. It comes under the banner of radical performance change-making work.”

Take Me Somewhere works with artists in Scotland year-round too. As a philosophy, it reaps rewards, the artistic director believes. “A lot of the work that we present is actually rooted in community and community conversations. When you come to the festival, you see a snapshot in time but really these are locally embedded conversations that exist long before the work comes into Tramway so in that sense, the past and the future and all the things in between seem quite apt.

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“There is then the legacy of that experience and what happens to that work afterwards and what’s the ripple effect for the artists and the audience.”

And this year is particularly special, as it is the first face-to-face festival since Covid.

“We had an entire festival in [2020] which we had to cancel. Then we embarked upon a fully digital festival,” says Findlay-Walsh, who was left facing anxious questions.

“Is anyone going to want to come without the live experience? Is there even an audience?”

But it ended well: “I think we caught the world at a great time when people were feeling a little bit hopeful. The audiences were incredible. We got a huge international audience.”

Reflecting on the offer for 2023, Findlay-Walsh spoke of work of “ambition and scale, particularly within a challenging moment for the arts in Scotland. These international names, getting them on that stage but then having Scottish artists who are also able to make ambitious work for that stage, again in relatively trying times, feels super important.”

But scale is not everything. Smaller events also have a tremendously important impact, as Findlay-Walsh explained: “There are other small pieces of work that not many people are going to be able to experience. For example, Manual that takes place at the Mitchell Library. That‘s a one-on-one immersive performance. You hold the joy that comes from that piece for a long time after you have experienced it. Those pieces are behemoths in terms of change-making.”

That opportunity for the meditative is impressively important here, as Findlay Walsh comments: “Allowing ourselves for a moment in time a certain amount of intimacy is one beautiful thing and then that other thing is to give yourself permission or to be given permission to concentrate on the smells around you, the sounds you hear.

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“We are not often given permission in daily life to have those kinds of experiences and I think Manual offers that.”

As for the appeal of the festival, Findlay-Walsh is unequivocal: “It is not a certain type of audience member that comes. My kids come to certain shows; my aunties who are 70 come to certain shows. It is all about humanity and coming together.

“There is a lot of joy in the festival as much as there is a lot of challenge and reflection and that is borne out in the forms as well – Louise Ahl, who is a Scotland-based artist, is creating a scent opera. They work with scent as part of the narrative, so every chapter of the work is incorporated with a different smell, working with form in a really interesting way.”

Take Me Somewhere is available at the Tramway until October 28.