Women in business & folklore focus of new storytelling work

88 creative projects receive over £1.9m in latest round of  Creative Scotland’s Open Fund

Award winning Storyteller Shona Cowie confronts the state of Scotland’s high streets through the legend of Maggie Osborne - a woman burnt as a witch for seemingly building a flourishing business, in just one night, With The Devil’s Assistance.  

A highly physical storytelling performance from Shona Cowie drawing on mime, clown, and improvisation, with original live music from accordionist Neil Sutcliffe; this is a story of women in business, witches and power. 

It reckons with the legacy of Scottish ‘Witch’ hunts, and asks the audience directly; what do you want and need from your town centres? 

Cowie received funding towards the development, rehearsal and production of the show, which is now being premiered at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Netherbow Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe throughout August. 

Shona Cowie comments: “Inspired by a story of my hometown, I’m using traditional storytelling, mime and original music to revisit the life and death of Maggie Osborne who was burnt as a witch, executed on Ayr high street, for daring to build a flourishing business as a 17th century woman.  

“The legend claims Osborne’s success was due only to the Devil’s Assistance. Maggie is cited as the inspiration for Nannie the Witch who chases Tam o’ Shanter across the Doon river. Her story resonates today in the treatment of women and minority voices in business and in our local communities.” 

The following projects are also among the 88 creative practitioners and organisations receiving a total of over £1.9m in the latest round of Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.   

At a glance: 

  • Project X is a multi-disciplinary, collectively run organisation based in Scotland, platforming dance of the African and Caribbean Diaspora. Funding will enable them to continue their core activity and undertake a period of reflection and forward planning. 
  • Bute Noir 2022 crime fiction festival taking place in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute featuring bestselling authors from across the UK and beyond. 
  • Raw Material plan to deliver a Scotland-wide Women of the World Festival in autumn 2023 and beyond.    
  • Dolly Parton Saved My Life is a new play by Taylor Dyson about grief, family, women and complex relationships. Directed by Calum Kelly, with an ensemble of local actor-musicians, the company will host free theatre events in Dundee & Fife over September and October 2022. 
  • The return of Tiree Music Festival’s Elevate Stage providing opportunities for young and emerging artists, programmed in partnership with organisations such as Hands Up for Trad, X-PO North and Showcase Scotland. 
  • A Love Beyond - a new production from acclaimed writer, director and actor Ramesh Meyyappan that explores love and ageing. The production will have its world premiere as part of the Manipulate Festival in 2023. 
  • A new album from Stephen McAll AKA Constant Follower and Scott William Urquhart exploring the gaps in human knowledge surrounding our existence and the 'magic' of nature which fills the void. 
  • A new dance-theatre piece from Shotput created specifically for rural venues exploring the relationship between siblings to examine metaphoric and found families, contested histories, and memory. 
  • Poet.shuts.clock is an innovative new collaboration album from Scottish/Italian double bassist and author Roberto Cassani and Scottish Saxophonist, composer and producer Fraser A Campbell

Paul Burns, Interim Deputy Director of Arts & Engagement at Creative Scotland said: “Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, who raise over £30 million for good causes across the UK every week, this month’s round of Open Fund funds a variety of works that support wellbeing and engagement with the arts, while examining a range of important issues that affect us all in society.”  

The full list of Open Fund recipients in this round is available on Creative Scotland’s website

Contact Information

Olivia Carr

Media Relations & PR Coordinator

Creative Scotland

0141 302 1708

07970 962 322


Notes to editors

Open Fund 

  • In June 2022, Creative Scotland’s Open Fund made 88 funding awards, totalling £1,918,774.  
  • The Open Fund has no deadlines, and full eligibility criteria and application guidance can be found on the Creative Scotland website.  

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Further information at creativescotland.com. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about the value of art and creativity in Scotland and join in at www.ourcreativevoice.scot 

Shona Cowie is an experienced storyteller, facilitator and director with a broad international career. After training with the Central School of Speech and Drama and L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq, she founded story-education company Fosforo, in São Paulo, Brazil and travelled with her collective Senza across Europe and Tunisia to research and platform stories of Mediterranean migration.  

Since 2018 she has worked closely with European leaders in applied storytelling - The Village Storytelling Centre - with whom her work was awarded by the Scottish Civic Trust as ‘exceptional work with young people’. She ran pioneering storytelling projects in the care and recovery sectors and became one of Glasgow Life’s 2019 Artists in Residents. Recently, Shona joined the Executive Committee of the Federation of European Storytellers as their Young Storytellers' Representative. She is dedicated to living heritage and bringing front and centre those who have been pushed aside in our stories. 

Image credit: With The Devil’s Assistance by Shona Cowie.