About us

The National Rural Touring Forum represents a number of mainly rural touring schemes and rural arts development agencies, principally across England, that aim to help local people to promote high quality arts events and experiences in rural and other community venues.

The National Rural Touring Forum exists to work strategically with partners to develop work and deliver high quality art experiences that strengthen rural and other communities.

The organisation became formally constituted in 1997 and is a registered charity as well as a company limited by guarantee. In 2004 NRTF became an Arts Council England Regularly Funded Organisation. In 2011 NRTF applied successfully to become one of the Arts Council National Portfolio Organisations. In 2014 NRTF applied successfully for the second round of NPO funding taking the organisation to 2018.


The National Rural Touring Forum aspires to:

• High quality professional arts programmes suited to local needs and interests
• Fair partnerships between communities, organisations, artists and public bodies
• Diversity in artistic programming and among our audiences
• Creative innovation in arts practice, management and policy
• Maintaining and developing our unique relationship with thousands of community volunteers
• Developing International Village of Culture (IVOC) and establishing our links with international communities, organisations, artists and public bodies

AIM: 2011-2016:

The NRTF recognises that the sector is made up of a number of key constituents including touring schemes, voluntary promoters, small scale venues and festivals, performing companies and artists and other organisations that support small scale touring.  During the next five years, the National Rural Touring Forum aspires to “strengthen a thriving rural and community touring sector” under a new brand The Rural Touring Network (working title). 


We will do this through the following 3 objectives:

1. Provide the rural touring network with training, information and networking services

2. Enable innovative work, international partnerships and commissions

3. Promote better understanding of the value of rural and community touring through research and advocacy


The NRTF is a registered charity and a limited company and a regularly funded organisation of Arts Council England.  It is a member led organisation and the board comprises of representatives drawn from the membership. It does also have the facility to co-opt additional people with specialist skills onto the board. There are currently 12 board members:

• John Laidlaw –Executive Director Live & Local since its inception in 1994 (Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Shindig Worcestershire). John’s background is in small-scale, rural touring schemes, technical management and the design and management of permanent and temporary venues.  John is currently Chair of the NRTF.

• Dawn Badland – Director Applause Rural Touring. Dawn has eleven years experience in community arts as a practitioner and project manager.  Her background is in  both visual and performing arts.

• Natalie Jode - Natalie is the Executive Director at Creative Arts East, an Arts Council NPO working across Norfolk, Suffolk and East Anglia. Since joining the charity as Diversity & Inclusion Projects Officer and during a time of immense change Natalie helped build Creative Arts East’s diverse portfolio of projects and contracts, managing initiatives as part of large regional consortia and partnerships. Prior to this, Natalie was the Arts Officer for Fenland Arts, a small arts development charity working in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire. It was here that Natalie developed her enthusiasm for rural and participatory arts, and an understanding of the issues facing those living and working in this setting.

• Emyr Bell  – Executive Director at North East Arts Touring. Emyr has extensive experience of rural touring, both as a rural scheme manager and as a performer. Prior to his appointment at NEAT Emyr worked as a freelance actor for 17 years.

• Sally Anne Tye – Northamptonshire Rural Touring

• Ed O’Driscoll - Ed’s experience in the arts world combines a successful career as a commercial theatre producer with that of performer and arts professional. As a producer he has created and toured more than twenty number one productions including stage adaptations of ‘Dad’s Army’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Shaun the Sheep’ - the last of which played in the Middle East after 12 months on the road in the UK. In front of the curtain he was principal performer in the hit concert ‘Masters of the Musical’ for more than a decade presenting at more than 100 UK venues each year.
In addition to these commitments he also founded the rural touring scheme ‘Arts in Rural Gloucestershire’ (AIR in G) in 2000 and has worked for the charity since that time as Executive Director. He is also a founding member and Director of ‘Create Gloucestershire’ and has recently completed an MA in Social Media and at Birmingham City University; his research focused on crowdfunding for arts organisations.

• Barbara Tremewan - Barbara Tremewan has been a volunteer promoter in the Cornish village where she has lived for over 25 years. She was on the steering panel for the formation of Cornwall's rural touring scheme and has been a participant in the scheme since its foundation in 2001.

• Barbara Slack. Director Highlights Rural Touirng Scheme

• Chris Bridgman - Artistic Director of Arts Out West, the rural touring scheme for West Cumbria. Also programmes the Kirkgate Arts Centre in Cockermouth. He has experienced rural touring as an actor and director; and previous work has included programming Lancaster LitFest; heading North West Playwrights for many years; and leading the creation of the Northern Actors' Centre.

Co-opted Board members:

• Elizabeth Freestone - Elizabeth is a theatre director. She is the former Artistic Director of Pentabus for whom she directed many new plays that toured village halls across the country including Here I Belong and Each Slow Dusk. Her freelance directing work includes productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Greenwich, Theatre 503 and Southwark Playhouse. She has worked at the National Theatre, the Royal Court, Soho and Hampstead. She trained at the National Theatre Studio and Rose Bruford College. Elizabeth has also worked at the BBC and directed plays for Radio 4.

• Philip Holyman -  Philip is the co-Director of Little Earthquake, a theatre company based in Walsall which he has been running with Gareth Nicholls since 2005. Little Earthquake’s first piece for rural touring, The Tell-Tale Heart, visited five schemes in 2013-2014. The company teamed up with Black Country Touring to turn 100 primary schoolchildren into Young Producers between 2014-2015. Philip is also a Visiting Director at the University of Birmingham and Visiting Tutor at Birmingham School of Acting. www.little-earthquake.com / F — little.equake / T — @little_equake

• Tom Speight - Tom has been promoting professional shows in rural Cumbria since 2009 and has been on the board of the North's Highlights Rural Touring Scheme since 2012. He's worked for the BBC since 1996 as a journalist, trainer and change manager. He also runs a music festival, Music on the Marr (www.musiconthemarr.com), now in its eighth year. You can find him on twitter @tomspeight.


• Peter Gregory – Head Night Out,  Wales (observer).  Peter is one of the founder members of Nofit State Circus and spent many years touring across the UK in their big top. He has worked extensively in Circus, Theatre, Outdoor and Community arts as a performer, workshop leader, event organiser and administrator. Peter spent five years as Events programme manager at Cardiff Council before moving to rural touring in 2004 as Head of The Night Out scheme at the Arts Council of Wales.

NRTF currently contracts Creative Arts Promotion Ltd (CAP) to co-ordinate the network and manage all aspects of the day to day running of the organisation and to provide a central point of contact for those interested in finding out about the provision of arts at rural and local neighbourhood levels.  This role includes a strategic project and conference planning role, looking at opportunities up to 2016.  Creative Arts Promotion is an arts agency founded in 1994 by David and Alice Porter and works principally with local authorities and national organisations to develop arts programmes.  Current CAP contracts include the management of J-Night, an international jazz festival and concert series, and external evaluation for York Museums Trust and MLA.  David Porter is a regional council member of Arts Council England.

NRTF currently contracts Ralph Lister as a freelance development director advocating for the provision of arts at rural and local neighbourhood levels to government and non government agencies.   He is currently Executive Director of Take Art, one of the founder members of the NRTF, and was the chair from 1998 to 2004.