SCOTTISH artists are being given the freedom to fail in a unique new project. The initiative is allowing them to work with others from four different countries on the topic of failure.

Called Push+, it is funded by Creative-Europe, the European Union’s programme supporting the cultural, creative and audiovisual sectors.

The project is being led by Imaginate, the national organisation in Scotland for the promotion, development and celebration of theatre and dance for children and young people.

“Our society, including the arts sector, is not usually very supportive of failure yet to be successful at anything you need the right to fail,” said Imaginate’s creative development director Fiona Ferguson.

A year of activity around the initiative has begun with a “Failure Lab” in Belgium where three artists who are based in Scotland, have been working with 12 artists from Belgium, Norway, Ireland and Denmark during a 10-day residency.

READ MORE: The Monster and Mary Shelly tours Scotland to mark 200 years

The Scots include dancer and theatre maker Emma Jayne Park, from Gretna, who told the National she felt the topic was particularly important at the moment.

“Society is failing more visibly than I have ever experienced and we are living in a capitalist system where people now seek to profit from our feelings of failure – just look at the self-help and mindfulness industry,” she said. “Very few people are managing to get by with the impact of austerity and current political chaos.

“I feel the topic is experiencing a bit of a zeitgeist moment because a lot of people feel like they are failing chronically which is exacerbating the current mental health crisis.”

Park said she had always had a strong relationship with failure and had unknowingly been exploring it in her work for years – from her failing body in It’s Not Over Yet, which documents her remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to Experts In Short Trousers which gave five-year-olds the opportunity to show they are experts in their world who should maybe be listened to more.

Now, she said, she wants to use failure explicitly as a subject matter.

“As a freelancer, there is a lot of scope to feel like you are failing the whole time,” said Park.

“The arts are under resourced and, in order to survive, gatekeepers often try to move with trends, find ‘the next big thing’, or squeeze budgets which perpetuates the narrative that working in the arts should be competitive. You have to work quickly, self-promote and self-sustain.

“Without potential for a regular income, there is ongoing pressure to make ends meet whilst aspiring to a work/life balance. You can also be subjected to a lot of criticism that does not recognise the different constraints being juggled – you can pour your heart and soul into something on a very small budget and it will be reviewed to the same standard as a work with a budget of £100,000.”

Park added: “Unfortunately, I believe the greatest currency in society and the arts at present is the ability to overwork. Those who can’t work excessively struggle to move forward unless they are privileged in other ways such as financially or through being part of pre-established networks. If you are from a working class background or have health care needs, it is very difficult to keep up.

“I am interested in how we create our own expectations, work to avoid imposing failure on others and recognise that being average is a pretty good place to be because it is the seemingly small things that add up to a quality of a life.’’

Park said her participation in the Failure Lab would contribute to research for three pieces of performance she hopes to make in 2021.