Poll of National Rural Touring Forum members finds attendance up 26% over past decade
Image: Fol Espoir’s Instructions for an American Serviceman in Britain
Audience numbers for professional shows in rural communities in England, Wales and Scotland are increasing according to figures collected by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF).
Audience numbers attending shows in rural venues, often village halls, and at outdoor rural events have increased 26% since 2006/7, when the NRTF began polling members bi-annually to offer a snapshot of the rural touring sector as it stands. The total number of people to see a show on the rural touring circuit in 2015/16 was 332,140, an increase of 7.5% on the previous survey covering 2012/13.
During 2015/16 there were 2,856 live performances in rural venues across England, Wales and Scotland resulting in a total box office take of £1,096,943 (up from £956,665 in 2006/7). Shows that sold well at rural touring venues last year include Kali Theatre’s My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding, Fol Espoir’s Instructions for an American Serviceman in Britain, Vamos Theatre’s The Best Thing and Apphia Campbell’s Black is the Color of my Voice. The NRTF is the membership organisation for rural touring and represents 26 touring schemes around the country.
Shows are staged by promoter groups, usually run by volunteers, with the support of the local schemes. The NRTF estimates that there are currently 1,659 promoter groups across England Wales and Scotland, with 43 of these designated Young Promoter schemes which allow under 25s to get involved with programming a venue. The survey also demonstrates the importance of volunteering to rural touring with 112,568 volunteer hours recorded across all member schemes in 2015/6. The NRTF estimates the value of this time at £1,125,680.
Speaking about the results Ralph Lister, Development Director for the NRTF said:
“The growth in touring professional work into rural areas is a testament to the dedication of many small, rurally based, arts organisations working across the UK. The National Rural Touring Forum is proud to profile this work which is culturally diverse, of a high quality and which demonstrates the appetite in rural areas to see exciting and dynamic shows in their local and often quirky venues. This national network also provides many small-scale companies and artists with a critically important touring opportunity, enabling them to thrive and prosper”
National Rural Touring Forum is a member-led organisation that works strategically with partners to develop work and deliver high quality art experiences that strengthen rural and other communities. It provides the rural touring network with training, information and networking services and enable international partnerships and commissions. The organisation aims to promote better understanding of the value of rural and community touring through research and advocacy. For a quick look at some of the key findings, see out At A Glance document here.
Exciting news from Blaize...
We have successfully danced right across the north of England! And we have a film to prove it!
We twirled through market towns and shopping malls with groups of eager flashmobs. We performed in intimate spaces such as living rooms and village halls.
We carried out workshops in schools and community organisations, working with dancers of all ages and abilities – including a group of retirees! And we left an impression wherever we went.
Audiences were spellbound with our magical performances of BMX dancing, duets and solos using both traditional and contemporary techniques.
They were charmed by Indian Dance guru Pratap Pawar, who has danced for both the Queen and JFK.
They were awestruck by the skills of Keelan Phillips, BMX Champion of the Flatlands. And they were bowled over by the vision and energy of Balbir Singh Dance Company (BSDC) staff who worked so hard to deliver a programme of dance so diverse it will remain in the minds of those who took part or watched for years to come.
In short, we engaged with sell-out audiences and people from all walks of life, sharing with them a joy and love of dance.
And we loved every minute of it.
We were greatly aided in our ambitious quest by teaming up with northern members of the NRTF, including Cheshire Rural Touring Arts, ArtERY Live, Live Lincs, Highlights Rural Touring Scheme, Spot On Lancashire and Arts Out West (all members of the NRTF).
We hope you enjoy our film!
The NRTF are starting to gather and share little nuggets of what we might call "best practice" around the rural touring networks. There are lots of us doing similar things, from promoters to artists to scheme managers to members of our audiences, even, and there are lots of good ideas out there that we want people to share.
Each week, we will post on twitter and facebook a "Top Tip" from someone - probably no more than 25 seconds long - which will also sit here on the NRTF website into the future. The idea is that someone else might see it and think "I/we could do that too." Please look out for them as they appear - and please think about whether you too could offer up a Top Tip. Get in touch with us if you want to make some - you might be a performer, a promoter, a member of the audience or a scheme manager - it's very easy, all we need from you is the short raw video clip from your phone or tablet and we will do the rest.
Once we have shared the top tips they will stored in the Our Work section of the website for you refer to whenever you like.
If you'd like to offer some advice please send your top tip videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somerset Arts organisation Take Art, in partnership with Surrey Arts and China Plate, has received £92k from the Arts Council’s Strategic Touring Fund and £24k from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for the Early Years regional Theatre project Hopper, focusing in Somerset and Surrey in 2017/18.The pioneering Early Years project will create opportunities for over 3,500 babies and pre-school children to experience and influence the development of great art and culture in their Early Years setting.Taking place over two years, Hopper will bring specially created theatre shows into theatres, pre-schools, nurseries, libraries and children’s centres, focusing on children from poorer less advantaged areas.Phil Gibby the SW Area Director for the Arts Council said, “We’re really pleased to be supporting Hopper as we believe that all children and young people, whoever they are and wherever they live, should have the opportunity to experience the richness of arts and culture.”Hopper will also support seven theatre companies in developing 70+ high quality and relevant performances. Children and Early Years staff will be invited to take part in the development process. This means that the companies can work with the under fives to make the best shows possible for them.Gina Westbrook, Director of Early Years at Take Art said, “A significant part of Hopper is to stimulate greater interest among companies to develop new work and take it into Early Years settings. Hopper will also enable children to have a voice in how this new work is made for them.”Phil Gibby went onto say, “The project looks set to develop a local, sustainable touring infrastructure for Early Years work and build strong and productive relationships.”During the project Take Art will work in partnership with Surrey Arts and China Plate and also with key local theatres; The Brewhouse in Taunton; Bridgwater Arts Centre, The egg in Bath and Camberley Theatre in Surrey.Hopper will start in January 2017, with a year of development and planning, followed by a three seasons of touring and performance.Take Art is currently recruiting an experienced Project Manager to oversee the relationship between the Early Years settings and the companies. Click here to find out more.Hopper is launching a national call out to identify artists/companies interested in developing new shows. Please visit the Take Art website or click here for more information.