"I WAS on the Kilmarnock to Auchinleck bus and Scots is alive and well on that bus. I wasn’t prepared for hearing fluent organic, articulate, hilarious Scots on a bus showed me that Scots isn’t dead.”

So reflected, Martin Travers (below), author and creative producer of new Clydesdale based theatre company, Brawclan, who sat across from me in George Square on a sun-kissed lunchtime – not a phrase you get to type that often – to tell me all about why, after over 20 years of being at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, now was the time to get all metaphorically hot and bothered about a new theatre company in Lanarkshire and the visit to those there parts by the sister of an English literary legend. 

Based on a nightly stop in Lanark from the detail of a tour of Scotland by Dorothy Wordsworth, in 1803, Travers’ new play, Secret Wrapped in Lead will premiere on July 19 and run until the July 29, in a limited tour – limited to Clydesdale that is. 

The National:

Travers, fascinated by both language and history, was enthusiastically keen to explain that Brawclan is heralded for a bold ambition – the celebration of and handing over of a language – Scots. 

“We have spent a lot of money on Shakespeare plays and Opera in this country and I think we know that audiences are cultured enough and are excited enough to go on a journey where they don’t know every single word,”  he explained.

Brawclan’s journey is all about harnessing that sense of enquiry on to the future of Scots, as Travers went on further to explain: “We are going to build this and hand it over to young theatre makers who are coming through. 

“We realise that if we keep the language with our generation, it is going to die, and I think theatre is a brilliant way to get young people interested in it. Any young people we have come into contact with so far are like sponges for Scots.”

But it is more than a mission, it has clear artistic licences at its heart.  “I have always had this feeling that all Scottish voices belong on Scottish stages because I think that audiences connect with versions of themselves.

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We are inundated with this otherness of culture that comes at us and being Scottish makes us think that’s better than us. Our culture is really quite good and really quite strong, and the Scots language is  as important as all the castle roofs we have got.”

It’s a point Travers was keen to develop further. “How much money are we spending on castle roofs, on draining the lakes that are all round these castles that people go and see once a year? 

“It’s amazing we have that heritage but language for me is the biggest castle and it’s not getting any money spent on it, so we feel and are driven to preserve the language because it is our generation that grew up hearing people in their 70s and 80s speaking the turn of the century Lallans and if we don’t share that with young people that is going to be lost.”

But the pressure is tough as Travers admitted. “The important thing is that their stories have to be better than anyone else’s because that’s how you win – you win by choosing Scots and not having it imposed. 

“In the past there have been stories which have been hidden in the Scots that might not have made it in English.”  For Travers this makes it vital it is anchored in community. “It’s going to be a long journey and Brawclan is all about place. What is important for us is people coming on the journey with us. We want to seduce people into Scots, and we do that by giving them an entry into  the language.”

Secret Wrapped in Lead is a play was sparked by Travers moving into Lanark, as he continued with enthusiasm: “Lanark is quite historical with all these historical buildings, and there is a pub which used to be the Coaching Inn with a plaque outside it which said ‘Wordsworth, Taylor Coleridge and Dorothy stayed here one night’.

That stuck with me. That’s amazing that when everybody has gone on the Grand Tour to Europe they come up  to Scotland.”  It was a visit that did more than spark an interest as Dorothy kept a journal which Travers was able to delve into. 

“When I read it, I was like, Hallelujah! There are wee gems in the journal which are proper kind of Alan Garner world with kids with honeysuckle braided in their hair, barefoot and coming up the valley. And I fell in love with the characters, especially the landlady Mrs Otto.”

As for a Wordsworth making an appearance in a play told in Scots: “One English voice in a Scots play tells everyone that the play is for everybody and it’s not saying you are in the gang, or you are not in the gang.”

Brawclan’s approach has brought in Creative Scotland, Wind Farm investment, Biggar Community Council and the Hopetoun Arms, meaning partnership is very central, but for Brawclan it is mainly about the  young folk. 

“My whole faith is in the young people of Scotland because I believe they are savvy, and I think that at a cultural level they are really articulate. If we can help young people connect with their heritage, then brilliant,” said Travers.

Brawclan may have bold ambition, but it will retain a Clydesdale focus. “I think there is a new way of making theatre that isn’t building based. There are so many places to play in Clydesdale. Building a theatre is so 1990s. We have stripped it right back and that’s the ethos and it is about being able to keep the costs down and make more theatre.”

Of course, Brawclan is also influenced by that bus journey Travers took when coming to Cumnock to work with the Tryst, on that bus to Auchinleck. 

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“If our actors can have that same fluency as those folk on that bus to Auchinleck, then we have done our job. There is a rhythm and a pace to Scots that is onomatopoeic. It’s beautiful to write in it and beautifully to hear it done.”  Mind you he also admitted that “I just want people to come down to Clydesdale for a day out”.

Tickets for Secret Wrapped in Lead are available HERE, and are priced on a pay what you decide basis. Audience members can book in advance, without making a payment.

After they’ve seen the show, they decide what they think it’s worth and pay by cash or card. If they haven’t enjoyed the show at all, they don’t have to pay anything.

Dates: Wednesday July 19 7.30pm, Leadhills Village Hall, Ramsay Road, ML12 6YA; Friday July 12, 7.30pm, Arts At Loaningdale, Carwood Road, ML12 6LX; Saturday July 22 7.30pm, Arts At Loaningdale, Carwood Road, ML12 6LX. For the rest of the dates see brawclan.com