Reaching out to home-grown talent

Gary McNairGary McNair
Gary McNair
Made in Scotland supports Scottish performers at the Fringe, including author and actor Gary McNair who shares his story

Since 2019 Made in Scotland has been supporting Scottish artists and companies to bring their work to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The initiative is designed to let participants share incredible pieces of music, dance and theatre and explore the international opportunities that arise from performing at the world’s largest arts festival.

One of the artists who has benefited from Made in Scotland is writer and performer Gary McNair, who is currently touring the country with his ode to legendary comedian Billy Connolly, ‘Dear Billy’.

Earlier in his career, Gary’s play ‘A Gambler’s Guide to Dying’ was first performed at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Made in Scotland Edinburgh Festival Fringe Showcase in 2015. Written and performed by Gary, the play told the story of a boy’s granddad who won a fortune betting on the 1966 football World Cup and, when diagnosed with cancer, gambled it all on living to see the year 2000. It has been described as “an intergenerational tale of what we live for and what we leave behind”. After premiering at the Traverse, the play was performed in venues around the world and achieved international success.

Gary says: “Being recognised in the Made in Scotland programme was great. It did a lot for the show, and for me. It meant that it got on the radar of loads of international promoters. When promoters spot that something is in the Made in Scotland programme they make a concerted effort to see it. There are thousands of shows out there so it gives approval and the promoters come in their numbers.

“The show went onto lots of places and a large part of that was because Made in Scotland gave people a chance to think about how it would work in different regions.”

Chris Snow, Head of Artist Services at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, says: “Since being established to support Scottish dance, theatre and music companies and artists to present their best work on an international stage, Made in Scotland has helped 273 shows to present on the Fringe to date. And we’re committed to continuing to help artists with this world-renowned initiative.”

Each year showcase participants are selected by an international panel, from composers to music journalists.

Some of the key aims of Made in Scotland are to:

  • Raise the profile of the work of Scottish dance, theatre and music companies/artists and offers them unique networking opportunities with promoters

  • Increase the number and diversity of international promoters coming to see Scottish work at the Fringe

  • Nurture and encourage international creative dialogue and the development of international collaborations by Scottish dance, theatre and music companies/artists

  • Support international touring opportunities for all Scottish dance, theatre and music companies/artists performing at the Fringe

  • Incorporate an onward touring fund which has, since 2009, supported over 100 productions in visiting more than 40 countries

  • offer training, support and advice to companies/artists so they can maximise the impact of their appearance in the showcase

Gary says: “Before Made in Scotland I hadn’t really done anything internationally. It played a big part in starting conversations and relationships and then being in international festivals.”

He was pleased that Made in Scotland featured a new piece of work from him, alongside other respected artists. “It felt like we were in really good company,” he says.

He adds that the showcase is still one of the first places he looks to find out who is performing at the Fringe each year. He likes the variety of shows it offers and how it shines a light on what Scottish companies are currently producing.

Gary says he would recommend Made in Scotland to performers and companies who feel they are ready for an international audience for their work.

“We were invited to lots of things like meetings of international delegates and promoters. It was really useful to find out what types of shows promoters were looking for,” he explains.

Made in Scotland has a lasting impact, for example in terms of contacts made, according to Gary. It helps performers get to know about other international festivals, what they focus on and how they are programmed.

“It’s a great initiative that we need to celebrate. Things can be tough and it can give such a leg up to people in terms of where they go next, where they might build bigger audiences and get more opportunities. I’ve gone on to work in places like America, Turkey, Japan and Korea and feel really fortunate.

Gary also fondly remembers winning The Scotsman Fringe First awards over the years, including his inaugural one in 2015 for ‘A Gambler’s Guide to Dying’. “It was like a cherry on the cake. I’m very lucky and grateful to have been recognised,” he says. 

Full information on national and international touring opportunities for companies who have been part of the Made in Scotland showcase since 2009 can be found on: