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Arts Council England Chair supports vision for the sustainability of rural arts during visit to brand new National Rural Touring Forum Head Quarters

Press Release1st May 2019

Arts Council England Chair supports the vision for the sustainability of rural arts during a visit to brand new National Rural Touring Forum Head Quarters 

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chairman of Arts Council England met with rural arts organisations at the headquarters of National Rural Touring Forum in the village of Stanford Dingley, West Berkshire. Sir Nick was joined by local ACE National Portfolio Organisations Water Mill Theatre, Corn Exchange Newbury, and personnel from cultural organisations such as LIVR, Metis Theatre, New Adventures, McCurdy & Co., Farnham Maltings and Julie’s Bicycle to discuss the sustainability of rural touring. The group spent time discussing green touring initiatives, the sustainability of rural arts, the relevance of professional rural touring and what it might look like in 10 years’ time. The outcome is an aim for a greater understanding of the potential for rural and green touring in England.

The visit was inspired by the appointment of NRTF Director, Holly Lombardo, the migration of its headquarters to the South East and the alignment of the sector’s ambitions with Arts Council England’s 10 Year Strategy consultation.


Rural communities make up nearly 20% of the UK population. Rural touring not only contributes to local economic growth it increases wellbeing, confidence and a sense of belonging in communities. Nick Serota’s visit marks an important shift in the value being given to rural arts and we are delighted to be leading the discussion”. Holly Lombardo, Director – National Rural Touring Forum

During the meeting, Sir Nick stated how important networks like the NRTF are for supporting the sector, sharing resources and the distribution of data.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Touring is an essential means for many people across the country to experience great arts and culture, particularly those who live in rural areas. But at the same time, we must take into consideration the environmental impact of touring. These calculations are complex, but It was incredibly positive to hear that these questions are front of mind for organisations like the National Rural Touring Forum and its stakeholders. I hope that we will continue to raise the profile and importance of touring, balancing any environmental impact against the need for people who live in rural areas to have the opportunity to experience art and culture

National Rural Touring Forum is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation supporting and promoting the importance of professional rural arts and touring through a network of programming schemes. Each year, across the UK schemes, work with 1,650 promoting groups, undertaking 110,000 voluntary hours, putting on productions to over 332,000 audience members who spend more than £1,000,000 on ticketed events. Rural touring is an innovative and thriving cultural sector equalling out opportunities for countryside audiences to access the arts.

To hear more about rural touring please visit our website –  www.ruraltouring.org and watch our film http://www.ruraltouring.org/work/rural-touring-advocacy-film


Notes to Editor:
In attendance:

  • Holly Lombardo – Director, National Rural Touring Forum
  • Peter McCurdy – Director, McCurdy & Co.
  • Chiara Biadali – Knowledge and Sector Intelligence Lead,
  • Julie’s Bicycle Charlotte Hall – Head of Programming and Engagement, Corn Exchange Newbury
  • Dawn Badland – Director, Applause Rural Touring
  • Gavin Stride – Director, Farnham Maltings
  • Imogen Kinchin – Executive Director, New Adventures
  • Leo Kellgren-Parker – Founder, LIVR
  • Natalie Jode – Executive Director, Creative Arts East Paul Hart – Director, The Watermill Theatre
  • Tom Speight – Chair, National Rural Touring Forum
  • Zoe Svendson – Artistic Director, Metis Theatre
  • Arts Council
  • Amy Vaughan – Director Touring and Cambridge, ACE
  • Debs Butler – Relationship Manager Touring, ACE South East
  • Hannah Bruce – Relationship Manager Touring, ACE London
  • Sir Nick Serota – Chair, Arts Council England

Photo Credits: Kevin Waldie

Meeting details: Took Place on 29th April 2019, between NRTF head Quarters, Manor Farm, Stanford Dingley and meeting room at The Bull Inn, Stanford Dingley, RG7 6LS

Discussion topic: Green and sustainable touring is what we are all striving for, it helps us work smartly, helps the planet and reduces our environmental impact. The group spent time discussing the sustainability of rural arts, green touring and environmental impact which will contribute to our broader conversations with the touring sector and to help inform ACE national plans for touring.

National Rural Touring Forum: NRTF is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation that networks, supports and advocates for the rural touring sector and as an organisation this enables them to operate in a lean and environmentally sustainable way. HQ in Stanford Dingley is a walk commute for the Director, who works in a small but perfectly formed recycled summer house, with no carbon footprint and shows smart use of limited public funds and resource. This has inspired the provocation.

From Nick Serota’s Guardian interview Nov 2018 on the Arts and Climate Change: 

If we are to avoid irreversible global warming that will have devastating economic and social consequences for the world, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required. This was the conclusion of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in October. We – the collective “we” – have been given 12 years to arrest climate change. The message is clear: everyone is responsible for creating a more environmentally sustainable world. And the arts and cultural sector is no exception.” Sir Nicholas Serota

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