Trident debate to take centre stage at Edinburgh Fringe

Jenna Watts  show will draw on Faslane memories. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic
Jenna Watts show will draw on Faslane memories. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic
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The debate over whether Britain’s nuclear weapons should be based in Scotland is set to take centre stage at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

A new play exploring the arguments for and against the Trident missile system will be based on interviews from those “at the front line” of the deeply divisive issue.

Jenna Watt’s show will draw on the views of workers at the Faslane naval base, local families, peace camp activists and anti-nuclear campaigners.

She has used responses to “freedom of information” requests and visits to anti-Trident demonstrations to help shape her script, which has been adapted to reflect the changing political landscape across the UK since its early stages of development, in the run-up to the independence referendum.

The theatre-maker, who will also perform in the solo show, has spent around two years exploring the submarine-based nuclear deterrent and the views of those whose lives have been touched by it.

Watt, who wrote part of the show during an artist residency which allowed her to watch MOD boats patrolling on Loch Long, says it will explore “what happens when the personal and political collide.”

The play, which will be premiered in Edinburgh in August as part of Summerhall’s programme, is partly-inspired by the fact that a number of Watt’s own relatives have worked at the base throughout her lifetime.

But Watt admitted she was also drawn to find out more about what went on at Faslane as she became drawn into the debate over Scotland’s future and Trident became a key battleground.

Controversy raged over whether the warhead-carrying submarines should be relocated to an alternative based in the event of Scots voting in favour of independence.

About 3,000 service personnel are based at Faslane - one of the Royal Navy’s three main operating bases - along with 800 family members and approximately 4,000 civilian workers.

Labour and the SNP were both opposed to the renewal of Trident in the run-up to the Holyrood elections, but the former’s candidate, Jackie Baillie, who had refused to back her party’s stance, was narrowly re-elected last week.

Watt’s show has been backed by both the National Theatre of Scotland and Creative Scotland. “Faslane” will be unveiled at the festival four years after a play about the nature of violence in public spaces - inspired by the mugging of a close friend in London - won her a Scotsman Fringe First Award.

Watt, a graduate of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, plans to tackle the global politics of Trident, along with “the personal struggle of taking a stance on the most divisive of issues.”

She said: “It was when Trident became a big topic during the referendum campaign that I started thinking about a show.

“I realised I didn’t really known anything about it. I decided I needed to start asking questions about Trident, discover what on earth it was and find out why it was so divisive.

“I felt I had a really interesting perspective, because a lot of my aunties and uncles and cousins have worked there throughout my whole lifetime in a broad range of roles at the base.

“Although I was brought up in Inverness, my family is really from Port Glasgow, Greenock and Helensburgh. We are very connected to the Clyde and were taken into the base to ply when we were kids.

“When the referendum came up and suddenly everybody started talking about Faslane, the number of jobs there and all the issues surrounding Trident I felt I should know a lot more when I have such a close connection.

“I got a bursary from Creative Scotland about two years ago to explore whether there was a show in the topic, started researching and then began meeting submariners and commodores at the base, some of the peace campers and other activists, as well as speaking to some of my own family.”