Latest News

  • News for Villages in Action Rural Touring Promoters, Artists and Rural Audiences in Devon

    Following the announcement of Villages in Action withdrawing from organising  rural touring in Devon and the closure of the office in May 2017, Carn to Cove, the rural touring scheme  in Cornwall has, at the invitation of the Board of Trustees of ViA,  stepped in  to run a caretaker season for  the  Autumn of this year and Spring of 2018.  The three Devon district councils which are the current stalwart funders of ViA - Teignbridge, East Devon and West Devon - welcomed this initiative to preserve a vibrant community resource. 

    The team at Carn to Cove (Tim Smithies and Claire Marshall) invited all Devon villages to a presentation evening in April and from the 16 Devon village promoters who attended and others who were circulated, events have already been booked for the Autumn.   A full “menu” for the Spring 2018 will be presented to villages in September.

    Tim Smithies,  Project Director at Carn to Cove.  said “This is a temporary solution to preserve an important arts network and a volunteer resource developed over many years and we are hoping to explore longer term solutions  which will keep Devon’s villages “in the rural touring loop” in the next few months.    This network provides jobs, rural economic activity, social benefit, artistic excellence and joy for many remote communities – we thank the funders and the volunteers who are sticking with us. ” 

    Catherine Devenish, Chair of the ViA Trustees said “We are very grateful that Carn to Cove have stepped in to run this caretaker season and we look forward to working with them. The ViA board believes that this is a great opportunity which will secure the future of rural touring and continue to support rural communities in Devon, as well as being an exciting development for the arts sector in the South West.”

    The intention is to produce a distinct programme of events, and maintain the current ViA website to publicise upcoming events. For the 2017/18 season, there will be direct financial support for Devon

    villages where the three councils continue to support arts events at local level.  All other villages in ViA that would like to can book artists can do so but for the present without subsidy or risk share.  All

    ViA promoters will be invited to a “Menu Party” which will take place on 26th September at Blisland Village Hall in East Cornwall (close to the A30) and on 27th September at 7pm at Stockland Village Hall in East Devon  outlining  the support we can offer.

    Performing artists wishing to be considered for inclusion in the September menu (for the January – June 2018 ViA and Carn to Cove season) should contact the Carn to Cove office on 01209 312500.

  • Programme update for Being Bold and last chance to book your place at the NRTF conference

    If you’re not booked yet – book today!

    A final reminder that this year’s NRTF conference, hosted by New Perspectives and Northants Touring Arts is fast approaching!

    Being Bold takes place at Nottingham Lakeside Arts at the University of Nottingham on Wednesday 28th and Thursday 29th June 2017.

    We have over 120 delegates attending from across the country each day and if you haven’t already, now is the time to book your place to be part of the conversation.

    Over two days a mix of rural touring scheme staff and board members, volunteer promoters, artists, performers and Arts Council England representatives will take part and join the debate in a series of focussed sessions highlighting dance, spoken word, the significance of place, children and young people, disability and fundraising.

    The clock is ticking, but there is still time to book a place at the conference. Booking for a full time place closes at 10.00am on Monday 19th June and for day places Wednesday 21st June.

    Here’s a brief outline to help you decide whether to join for the full conference or single days:

    BEING BOLD: Wednesday 28 June 2017, 1.30pm – 6.30pm

    •         Keynote speech from celebrated writer, theatre maker and Fun Palaces Co-Director Stella Duffy OBE

    •         Update on the national rural dance initiative with an extract from tour de force Uchenna Dance

    •         Spoken word and the rural challenge
    News from leading initative The Inn Crowd, the South East and East of England’s programme of spoken word inspired events in rural pubs, plus insights from artist producers, plus contrasting extracts from Rob Gee and Sophia Walker, chaired by James Urquart, Arts Council England

    •         The importance of place.
    A session from New Perspectives where theatre makers Jack McNamara, Alan Lyddiard and Michael Pinchbeck share approaches to two very different theatre pieces, with rural insights from Dr Jo Robinson, University of Nottingham
    PLUS 7pm until late

    •         Conference Dinner and TicketSource Rural Touring Awards
    Hosted by Stella Duffy OBE, featuring awards presented by leading researcher and writer Francois Matarasso, China Plate Co-Director Ed Collier, writer and associate editor of the Stage Lyn Gardner and Becci Speight, CEO of The Woodland Trust

    BEING BOLD: Thursday 29 June 2017, 9.45am – 4.30pm

    •         An interactive morning exploring, interrogating and discussing work for, by and with children and young people led by Little Earthquake, with special guest The Bone Ensemble. 

    The morning features an extract from Where’s My Igloo Gone, a production grounded in science and powered by the imagination which will lead into a wider conversation on inclusion and disability in a rural context.

    •        In the afternoon, Fundraising Fundamentals from 2.00pm - 4.30pm offers you the chance to engage with experts in specialist areas of fundraising who will work with you to spark fresh ideas to build on in order to gain new investment for professional arts in your communities and across networks. We are grateful to Arts Funding and Philanthropy for an award towards this afternoon training session.

    The fundraising workshops will offer a choice between:
    Getting started, trusts and foundations, individual giving and sponsorship, and online fundraising.

    Practical conference information, including check in details, parking and general logistics will be emailed to delegates a week in advance of the conference.

    Further information about Fundraising Fundamentals is available in the resources section of the website - here.

    A big thank you to all who have booked, and remember there’s still time to book a place if you’re quick!

    FULL CONFERENCE (which includes the Dinner, TicketSource Rural Touring Awards and overnight accommodation) booking deadline: 10am Monday 19th June book now

    DAY CONFERENCE booking deadine: midday Wednesday 21st June book now

    We look forward to welcoming you in Nottingham!

    If you have any queries, please contact Sally at

  • Shortlist announced for TicketSource Rural Touring Awards

    Over 700 Nominations received across six categories celebrating every aspect of the sector
    Image credit: Tom Middleton
    The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) has announced the shortlist for the first ever awards celebrating rural touring in the UK. Over 700 individuals nominated productions, venues, promoters, schemes, and staff for the award (please find the shortlist below). The shortlist will now go before an independent judging panel comprising Guardian journalist Lyn Gardner, writer and researcher Francois Matarasso, Ed Collier of independent producing studio China Plate and Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of The Woodland Trust. Judges will be looking for brilliant stories, examples of good, enthusiastic and dedicated practice and forward-looking work.
    Categories are focused on the key areas of rural touring success: the most welcoming village halls and community venues, the best promoters (many of whom are volunteers), the most supportive touring schemes, the best new individuals and companies in the sector, and the most innovative and inspirational shows.
    The NRTF Special Award was open to all nominations with the judges looking for an amazing story from the world of rural touring – and the nominees reflect long term engagement with specific local communities which have been valued over many years: Christine Smith, a promoter for the Night Out scheme since 2002, Duncan MacInnes, Artistic Director of SEALL for the last 26 years, and recently retired Director of Artreach, Ian Scott.
    Nominations across all categories were made by audiences (who made around 55% of nominations), as well as touring scheme staff, artists and promoters. Audience numbers in 2015/16 were in excess of 332,000 across NTRF shows, and since the first Nation Rural Touring Forum figures in 2006/07 there has been an increase in audience numbers of 26%, reflecting a huge increase in the amount of work that is reaching and being enjoyed by rural audiences, which requires the support of the local schemes that make up the NTRF.
    Director and NRTF board member Elizabeth Freestone said, “We are delighted by the number of nominations that we received for our first ever rural touring awards. It shows the interest and enthusiasm that exists amongst audiences, promoters, touring schemes and artists for this area of work. It's thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteer promoters, of hard-working performers, of committed touring schemes and of loyal audiences that rural touring is vibrant and thriving. The RTAs will allow us to publicly show gratitude to those individuals who have made a real difference to a community over the past year.”
    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.
    The presentation of awards will take place on 28 th June at Nottingham University at the NRTF annual conference. Further details on the shortlist can be downloaded here: awards-shortlist- announced
    Full list of Nominees:
    Rural Touring Newcomer
    Lila Dance, South East
    Tony Leonard, Landlord of Roebuck Inn in Laughton and The Snowdrop Inn in Lewes, Sussex
    Hannah Prior, Arts Alive Board member and co-director of I-gnition, Shropshire
    Best Promoter
    Sue Cottam - Bradworthy Village Hall, Devon
    Des George - Neuadd Dyfi, Wales
    Rebecca Smith - Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon
    Most innovative and/or inspirational show
    The Deluge – Lila Dance, South East,
    Paradise Lost (Lies unopen beside me) – Lost Dog, South East
    Labels – Worklight Theatre, South West
    Most Supportive Touring Scheme
    Arts Alive – Shropshire and Herefordshire
    Carn to Cove - Cornwall
    Highlights Rural Touring Scheme – Cumbria, County Durham, Northumberland
    Most Welcoming Village Hall
    Felton Village Hall – Northumberland
    Melbourne Assembly Rooms – Derbyshire
    Quatt Village Hall – Shropshire
    NRTF Special Award
    Duncan MacInnes, Artistic Director – SEALL, Isle of Skye
    Ian Scott, Director – Artreach, Dorset
    Christine Smith, Promoter – Night Out Wales
  • Rural Touring Dance Initiative season draws to a close

    The final shows of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative season are fast approaching - Here is all you need to know about Lost Dog's "Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me)...

    The award-winning actor/dancer BEN DUKE’s one-man show: ‘Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me)’
    UK dates presented by Rural Touring Dance Initiative from the North East to the Deep South of England…
    2016 National Dance Critics Award for Outstanding Male Performance
    2016 Nominated for South Bank Sky Arts Award for Dance
    “With little more than a wooden chair and a bucketful of chickpeas, Ben Duke extrapolates Milton’s epic in a virtuoso tour-de- force.” (The Stage 5*) LOST DOG, the highly entertaining dance/theatre company is fronted by its Artistic Director BEN DUKE whose one-man show, ‘PARADISE LOST (LIES UNOPENED BESIDE ME)’ has been performing to critical acclaim and capacity audiences since its premiere in 2015.
    A one-man staging of Milton’s epic Paradise Lost which combines theatre, comedy and movement, this is a journey through the story of the creation of everything condensed into 80 minutes, beginning with Lucifer’s rebellion and ending with Adam and Eve’s expulsion from The Garden of Eden.  
    Ben Duke plays all the characters, creates all the scenes and, despite his best efforts, falls a little short of perfection. “It’s a show for anyone who has created anything (child, garden, paper aeroplane) and then watched it spiral out of control,” he says.
    In May Ben is partnering once again with the Rural Touring Dance Initiative to take ‘Paradise Lost’ to more community spaces and rural hubs around the UK. It’s an extension of the partnership that worked so well in autumn 2016 and there are plans for more dates at the end of the year.
    ‘Paradise Lost…’ tour dates in May:
    May 12th Cumbria – The Kirkgate Centre, Cockermouth 
    May 13th Durham – The Witham Barnard Castle
    May 14th Northumberland – Amble Parish Hall Amble Parish Hall
    May 1 th West Midlands – Thimblemill Library, Smethwick 
    May 19th Strike a Light, Gloucester Cathedral
    May 20th Marlborough, Wilts – St Mary’s Church, Great Bedwyn 
    Says Claire Smith, Project Manager at Rural Dance Initiative: “We are thrilled to be able to offer Lost Dog again on the Rural Touring Dance Initiative. The response from the autumn shows was so positive. Shows like 'Paradise Lost' are really switching new audiences onto dance. The high level of professionalism combined with Ben’s inventive storytelling style makes it an absolute hit with audiences.”
    Ralph Lister, Development Director adds: “The aim of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative is to enable more touring and making of dance to and for rural areas.  Very little dance tours to rural areas; this initiative will address issues and challenges on both the supply and demand side of the equation. More companies will be encouraged to take their work out of a regular ‘black box’ setting into village halls and it will create opportunities for many more rural touring staff and volunteer promoters to see exciting and engaging dance on a broad spectrum and to then programme and promote these shows to their local village audience. The project has attracted funding from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund until 2018.”
    Q&A with BEN DUKE:
    1.When did you first read Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’?
    BEN: I read the poem at university; I had to study it in depth, write about it, go to lectures on it and by the end of that I was completely amazed by it.   I decided first that I wanted to make a solo and then I tried to think of the most ridiculous thing to try and stage on my own…
    2. How did you go about writing the show?
    BEN: The first thing was a short section that still exists in the show in which I am both God creating heaven and myself trying to get my children to school.  From there I followed Milton's version of the story but constantly allowed myself to be side tracked and distracted by events in my own life. So rather than write a specific script, it developed as I worked on it.
    3. You’ve been performing ‘PARADISE LOST…’ on and off for over two years – have you changed the show in that time?
    BEN: I haven’t made big changes but it has gradually morphed.  At the beginning it was important to me that there was no script…that I knew which bits of the story I wanted to tell but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to tell them.  There is still no script but what I say each night has become more similar.  I have perhaps lost some of the chaos of the early shows but it has gained more clarity as a result.  I also think it’s easier to play a solo for this long than a duet or group piece because my playing partner is the audience and each night the audience is different and so my experience of performing it is different.
    3. This May you’re working with Arts Alive to take the show to rural audiences - what are your thoughts about those dates?  
    BEN: I’m a big fan of rural touring; I travelled around Somerset and North Yorkshire last year and took ‘Paradise Lost…’ to some lovely small venues in towns and villages there. It’s not a show that was made with these venues in mind but we edited it slightly to fit into libraries and village halls and I think it worked really well. The difference between performing in theatres and village halls is that in the theatre you feel like the host but in a village hall you are definitely the guest.  I am looking forward to being a guest in some harder to find corners of the UK this May.
    4. What’s audience reaction like?
    BEN: Audience response can be wildly different and it doesn’t matter where you are, it’s completely unpredictable.  There was a show where the audience really started laughing very early and they laughed such a lot, it felt a bit like a stand-up comedy show and that gave the show a very different feel; it felt hard to turn the corner into the darker moments. There have also been some quiet audiences and in that situation the show feels sadder.   
    5. What’s it like being soaked with water every night?
    BEN: Standing fully clothed in a shower of water gives me a very real sense of transformation.  I want to be rained on at that exact point in the show.  If the water is cold the experience becomes physically difficult as the body tenses – in one show the water was so cold I started getting a brain freeze headache – in another the water was so hot I was scalded by it and surrounded by a cloud of steam which I think changed the image somewhat!
    6. What’s next for Ben Duke and Lost Dog?
    BEN: I’m making a piece for Rambert which will premiere later this year; I’m working on a duet based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet; I have an idea for a one-man comedy show based on the incredible writing of the Holocaust survivor and psychotherapist Viktor Frankl; and I’ve got an idea of a circus version of The House of Bernarda Alba featuring a real horse and some chickens…