Isla Cowan: 2024 recipient of the IASH/Traverse Playwrighting Fellowship

News 9 Nov 2023

The Traverse are delighted to announce that Isla Cowan has been granted the IASH/Traverse Playwriting Fellowship for 2024.

This Fellowship is a collaboration between IASH (the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, supporting innovative research and public engagement activities across the arts, humanities and social sciences) and the Traverse Theatre, Scotland’s leading New Writing Theatre.

The 2024 Creative Fellowship is here to commission, develop and support an exceptional and innovative playwright in the creation of a new piece of work that speaks to our lives now and into the future.

Our 2024 fellow, Isla Cowan, is a Scottish playwright, performer and director, based in Edinburgh, specialising in creating ecofeminist performance and believes in theatre that challenges both its audience and its makers. Isla was Winner of the 2022 Assembly ART Award and the 2021 Alpine Fellowship Theatre Prize, and recently Shortlisted for the Filipa Bragança Award, St Andrews Playwriting Award, and Phil Fox Award. Alongside her creative practice, Isla regularly leads and facilitates workshops - particularly on environmental theatre and eco-dramaturgy - for all ages and stages.

Isla's recent work for stage includes, amongst others, To the Bone (Pitlochry Festival Theatre), She Wolf (Assembly Roxy) Alright Sunshine (A Play, a Pie and a Pint @ Òran Mór) and And... And... And... (Strange Town Touring Company). Isla was selected as one of four playwrights to be mentored at Hampstead Theatre on the 2019 INSPIRE Playwrights Programme, mentored by Roy Williams, and was a Traverse Young Writer in 2021.

During her fellowship, Isla will be developing a new play about insects, apocalypse, and two women on the run. Exploring contemporary ecological issues surrounding farming and pollination practices, Isla’s play will ask important questions about interspecies relationships, science, and survival, set against a dramatic backdrop of capitalist ruins.

Isla reflected on being granted the fellowship by saying:

“With support from both IASH and the Traverse Theatre, I feel like this fellowship provides the ideal home for me and my work. I’m passionate about making theatre that is entertaining and moving, but also challenging – asking difficult socio-political questions and interrogating ideas of class, gender, and environmental responsibility, through compelling human stories and innovative dramatic forms.

Playwriting is a largely solitary pursuit, which can often be quite lonely. And, whilst I love the twists, and turns, and quiet revelations of the writing process, I’m also someone who craves a creative, collaborative environment in order to thrive. Being situated in, and engaging with, the inspiring, stimulating intellectual community at IASH will be an absolute dream, fuelling my playwriting practice and fostering exciting, new connections with artists and researchers. Simultaneously, working closely with the Traverse for practical, dramaturgical development will allow me to take risks in my writing and make new narrative and dramatic discoveries, with feedback and guidance from the theatre’s expert creative team – All providing the perfect support I need in order to write my most ambitious and dynamic play yet.”

Professor Lesley McAra, Director of IASH, said

"I am delighted to be able to welcome Isla Cowan to our community in 2024 as the 14th IASH-Traverse Creative Fellow. Her play will be thrilling, provocative and ambitious - all attributes that we prize at the University of Edinburgh. Following in the footsteps of Jo Clifford, Apphia Campbell and Peter Arnott, Isla will be able to benefit from access to world-class scholars and collections, but just as importantly, we will benefit from her commitment to exploring the intersecting themes of gender, class and environment through the arts."

Find out more about the Traverse/IASH Creative Fellowship here and keep your eyes peeled for further developments with Isla as she develops her work throughout 2024.