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  • National Rural Touring Forum launches 2nd Annual Rural Touring Awards

    • New categories and judges unveiled as awards recognizing achievement in rural touring return
    • Winners to be announced at a ceremony on 27th June by poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan

    Following a successful inaugural year which recognised volunteers, staff and artists working in rural touring in the UK, the NRTF today announces the return of the Rural Touring Awards. Nominations open today for awards across six categories, including three new awards; for Music Performance, Young Person and Touring Scheme Collaboration of the Year.

    Anyone working in rural touring from performers, to voluntary promoters at village halls and the staff of rural touring networks are eligible to nominate. Potential nominees include artists, volunteer promoters, venues and touring schemes with nominations remaining open until 26th April, after which a shortlist will be drawn up by industry peers.

    The shortlist will be announced on 7 May and winners will then be chosen from the nominees by a panel of judges, made up of arts industry and rural experts. This year, they are playwright Sayan Kent (My Big Fat Cow Pat Wedding), journalist Natasha Tripney (Reviews Editor and Joint Chief Critic, The Stage) Des George of  Neuadd Dyfi Community Hall, (winner of Rural Touring Award for Best Promoter 2017), and Deborah Clarke of Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE).

    Awards will be made during a ceremony at Worcester University held on 27th June during the NRTF’s New Directions showcase. The presentation will be made by poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan (BBC Radio 3’s The Verb). 

    The 2018 Rural Touring Award categories are as follows:

    • Music Performance of the Year
    • Touring Scheme Collaboration of the Year
    • Stage Performance of the Year
    • Voluntary Promoter or Voluntary Promoting Group of the Year
    • Young Person of the Year
    • The NRTF Special award

    The new Music Performance category recognises the quantity and quality of live music on the rural touring circuit and is distinct from the Stage Performance of the Year Award, which covers achievement in theatre, dance, spoken word or comedy. Touring Scheme Collaboration of the Year will reward outstanding examples of partnership working, whether in commissioning artists, seeking sponsors or audience development.

    The NRTF special award is open to all - from touring schemes and volunteers to artists or touring companies – and seeks to recognise an individual or a group who has made an outstanding contribution to the world of rural touring.

    Speaking about the 2018 awards, NRTF Director Holly Lombardo said “We are really looking forward to reading the nominations and hearing about the amazing people who make Rural Touring such an incredible network”. 
    Rural touring is a growing sector of the UK’s arts industry with NRTF figures indicating that audience numbers attending shows in village halls and at outdoor rural events have increased 26% since 2006/7.

    #RuralTAwards | @ruraltouring | #ruraltouring |

    Rural Touring Awards

    The 2018 awards cover activity which has taken place between Spring 2017-Spring 2018. Further information on award categories and eligibility can be found here:

    Those eligible to submit nominations for the awards can do so here:

    Those shortlisted for awards will be notified during w/c 1 May and the shortlist announced on 7 May. The shortlisted nominees will be invited to attend the award ceremony on 27th June at Worcester University as part of the New Directions showcase. New Directions (26-28 June) is a bi-annual showcase of contemporary performance available for rural touring curated by independent producing studio China Plate.

  • Arts Alive Secure £100,000 funding from Arts Council England for ‘Creative Conversations’

    ​Photo Credit: Florence Fox

    Arts Council England is proud to be investing £100,000 to help older people across Shropshire celebrate creativity socially.

    Arts Alive, the rural touring scheme for Shropshire, is delighted to announce that it has been awarded £100,000 for Creative Conversations,  a new cross sector, rural partnership project working with older people over three years.

    The funding is part of the Celebrating Age programme, jointly funded by the Arts Council through the National Lottery and the Baring Foundation, to tackle issues of social isolation and wellbeing in older people, encouraging them to join in group activities focused around arts and culture.

    Creative Conversations will link experienced agencies for arts -Arts Alive, MediaActive, Qube - and health - Age UK, Shropshire Council, Shropshire Provider's Consortium members to help create a programme of events that reaches and benefits older people.

    Covering areas across Shropshire, it will deliver creative workshops, training, residencies, performances and exhibitions for and with older people in the region. Participants and carers will be able to come together to share and celebrate elders’ stories and creativity.

    Sian Kerry, director of Arts Alive said “This is a tremendous boost for creative work with older people in the county. Through Creative Conversations and in partnership with Wem Based MediaActive we will work in day centres, care homes and community spaces, giving older people a chance to work with artists and participate in creative activities ranging from storytelling, music, singing and digital media.”

    We are thrilled to be awarded one of only 16 grants made across England.

    Arts Alive and Media Active will launch the Creative Conversations programme in the autumn 2018.

    For more information please contact Sian Kerry 01588 620883 option 1 or email

  • A Note from the New Director of the NRTF - Holly Lombardo

    Dear NRTF Members and Associates,

    It is an absolute honour to be taking on the role of Director of your organisation.

    A bit about me - I have worked in creative industries at a senior level for over 16 years. I founded the Brighton Fringe in 2004, managing it to become the 3rd largest Arts Fringe Festival in the world. I was a senior manager at the Edinburgh Fringe Society and Director of an Edinburgh Fringe venue. I have worked within some of the UK’s largest international Festivals. In 2007 I pooled my knowledge of the creative sector to found World Fringe Network, which links over 230 Fringe Festivals across the globe. As well as this I have lectured Universities on event & business management. I was an Assessor for the Arts Council England, where one of my assessments was the NRTF and I have been an Executive Trustee of the British Arts Festival Association for 8 years. I was recently Project Director for Wooden O Theatres and have just left my position as the Artistic Director of Fusion Arts Oxford.

    Throughout my career one tread has remained; my passion for networking and generating platforms for creative development, linking up and facilitating opportunities for artists and audiences. I am ambitious and can see the wider picture for national and international cultural tends and am comfortable liaising with cultural leaders.

    I realise I have big shoes to fill and a 20-year legacy to uphold as Director of the National Rural Touring Forum, a success I plan to build on. I’m excited to get started, meeting as many of you as possible and getting to know the organisation and everyone involved.


    Until then - very best wishes

    Holly Lombardo

  • Ten Companies Dance into Rural Village Halls

    Dance treats from the Rural Dance Touring Initiative sees returning favourites and new offerings in rural villages

    bgroup, Point Of Echoes 9 Feb – 17 Mar
    Splitmilk, The Little Love Cabaret 14 Feb – 10 May
    Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, May Contain Food – May Contain You 23 Feb – 28 Mar
    Keira Martin, Here Comes Trouble 2 – 3 Mar
    Lost Dog, Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me)
    8 – 17 Mar
    Just Us Dance Theatre, It’s Between Us 9 – 16 Mar
    Joan Clevillé Plan B For Utopia 23 – 24 Mar
    James Wilton, Last Man Standing 13 – 24 Apr
    Hiccup, May-We-Go-Round 26 Apr
    Curious Seed Chalk About 11 May – 1 Jun

    Continuing to bring new and adapted dance work to village halls and other small rural venues across the UK often unreached by touring arts companies, the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) is serving up a feast of performances with ten dance companies in Spring 2018. The National Rural Touring Forum’s (NRTF) three-year dance focused scheme – which has now been extended for another three years – served up its first ‘menu’ of work to regional touring schemes in 2016, and their Spring programme is a continuation of their second menu which started last Autumn.

    Point of Echoes by bgroup is the first new work commissioned by the RTDI, especially for the rural touring circuit. Set on an unnamed lighthouse, at an unknown time, somewhere on the coast of England, Point of Echoes is created by renowned UK choreographer Ben Wright and musician and writer Stuart Warwick. After performances in RTDI’s second menu in Autumn 2017, it receives a full tour this Spring.

    Other shows continuing to tour with RTDI from last Autumn include James Wilton Dance’s Last Man Standing based on Terry Pratchett’s The Last Hero, Here Comes Trouble choreographed by Keira Martin and directed by Charlotte Vincent, Just Us Dance Theatre’s It’s Between Us, and The Hiccup Project with May – We – Go – Round.

    From the first menu of work presented in Autumn 2016, three favourites will return to RTDI: Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, May Contain Food, May Contain You, a witty dance and music production encouraging audiences to bring their own locally produced food to the theatre and consider the sensory, cultural and social implications of food, Joan Clevillé’s Plan B for Utopia about how creativity and imagination can change the world, and Lost Dog’s Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) which won the Most Innovative/Inspirational Show at the inaugural Ticketsource National Rural Touring Forum Awards in June.

    Two brand shows to tour RTDI this spring are The Little Love Cabaret from Spiltmilk is a scrapbook of real-life love stories from contributors aged 2 – 93 from across the country. Somewhere between a sketch show, dance performance, confessional, and a gushing love letter, Spiltmilk Dance rejoice in all things that make life brilliant. Finally, Chalk About from Curious Seed turns the stage into a gigantic chalkboard to explore the nature of identity.

    Speaking about the tours, Claire Smith, Project Manager of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative said We have been delighted with the response to our fabulous cohort of companies in this our 2nd RTDI Menu – companies new to Rural Touring and those returning for a second time are very excited by the reaction of audiences. We have seen audiences new to dance returning to see more – they liked it so much first time round!”

    The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is an ongoing scheme which has recently been extended until 2021 for making and touring dance performances to and for rural areas. Made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery-funded Strategic Touring Programme, the initiative is led by National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), which joined with dance institution The Place, arts charity Take Art and independent producing studio China Plate to deliver the scheme.

    @rural_dance | #ruraldance |

    Listings information
    Please note dates may be subject to change, please contact local schemes for confirmed details

    bgroup, Points of Echoes 

    Live and Local  Friday 9th Feb – Saturday 10th Feb
    Night Out Wales Thursday 15th Feb
    Wiltshire, Rural Arts Friday 16th Feb
    Carn to Cove, Cornwall Weds 21st Feb  - Saturday 24th Feb (no performance Thursday)
    Highlights, Cumbria Friday 2nd Mar
    Workshops Fleetwood Thursday 8th Mar
    Spot On, Lancashire Friday 9th Mar
    Live Lincs Sunday 11th Mar
    Night Out Wales Saturday 17th Mar
    Spiltmilk, The Little Love Cabaret 

    Black Country Touring -  Wolverhampton  Wednesday 14th Feb
    Black Country Touring - Smethwick Thursday 15th Feb
    Wiltshire Rural Arts Friday 16th Feb
    Spot On, Lancashire Saturday 3rd Mar
    Night Out Wales Thursday 10th May
    Luca Silvestini’s Protein, May Contain Food, May Contain You 

    Arts Alive, Shropshire/Hereforshire Friday 23rd Feb
    Spot On, Lancashire Saturday 10th Mar
    Highlights, Cumbria Friday 16th Mar – Saturday 17th Mar
    Take Art, Somerset Saturday 24th Mar
    Night Out, Wales Wednesday 28th Mar
    Keira Martin, Here Comes Trouble

    Take Art, Somerset FrIday 2nd Mar
    Air in G, Gloucestershire Saturday 3rd Mar
    Lost Dog, Paradise Lost  

    Carn to Cove, Cornwall Thursday 8th Mar – Saturday 10th Mar
    Artsreach Dorset Saturday 24th Mar
    Arts Alive Shropshire Wednesday 21st Mar
    NEAT Scotland Friday 16th Mar – Saturday 17th Mar
    Just Us Dance, Its Between Us 

    Theatre Artsreach, Dorset Friday 9th Mar
    Carn to Cove, Cornwall Saturday 10th Mar
    Arts Alive Mini residency, Thursday 15th Mar & Friday 16th Mar
    Joan Clevillé, Plan B for Utopia 

    Rural Arts On Tour, N. Yorkshire  Friday 23rd Mar – Saturday 24th Mar

    James Wilton Last Man Standing 

    Independent -Theatre Orchard Friday 13th Apr

    Beaford Arts, Devon Saturday 14th Apr

    Carn to Cove ( Leviathan ) Tuesday 24th Apr

    The Hiccup Project, May-We-Go-Round

    Independent - Strike A Light  Thursday 26th Apr

    Curious Seed

    Highlights, Cumbria Friday 11th May
    Cheshire Rural Touring Arts Sat 12th May 2pm
    NEAT  Scotland Thursday 18th May – Friday 19th May
    Carn to Cove, Cornwall Saturday 26th May
    Wiltshire Rural Arts Sunday 27th May
    Creative Arts East - Youth Residency Tuesday 29th  - Thursday 31st May
    Black Country Touring Friday 1st June
    Notes to editors

    The NRTF has identified a paucity of dance on the rural touring circuit and the development of a dance project is evident in its business plan. As a result of a fruitful relationship that has developed with The Place and a successful dance showcase at the New Directions Conference 2014, curated in partnership with China Plate, there is momentum to develop dance and rural touring - 89% of conference attenders scored the dance showcase highly or very highly. Through its members the NRTF can access a huge rural touring circuit with over 2,000 promoters. Individual rural touring schemes will play an integral role in the successful roll out of the project.

    The Place has been a driving force for contemporary dance in the UK for 45 years. The Place is unique and is comprised of; a training organisation, a producing and receiving theatre, a home for a national touring company and a hub for hundreds of independent artists. Our artist development department provides professional development, training, residencies, commissioning and producing support for dance artists at each stage of their career. Having developed a relationship with the NRTF and after attending the New Directions Conference there is an understanding, excitement and new commitment to supporting dance artists and the dance sector to engage with and take advantage of rural touring opportunities.

    China Plate’s portfolio of activity encompasses developing, making and programming new work. They have worked closely with the NRTF for a number of years and curated the New Directions Showcase Festivals in 2012, 2014 & 2016 and programmed the Edinburgh Village Halls Project 2011 – 2013. They are interested in the interrogation of ideas and form and believe that rural communities should have direct access to the highest quality contemporary work. The cross over between dance and theatre is of particular interest and over the last few years China Plate has developed close links with Dance East, programming dance with them into the Pulse theatre festival and worked with Warwick Arts Centre to programme, commission and develop work with a number of choreographers including Charlotte Vincent, Tom Dale and Aakash Odedra.

    Over the last decade Take Art has hosted the Somerset county dance agency, supporting the infrastructure for the development and promotion of professional dance in Somerset.  It has also run a rural touring scheme since 1987 and the services have worked and gained experience together. Take Art was the lead county dance agency in Up Close, the first south west rural touring dance project in partnership with Dance South West in 2007. The current Dance Director toured rural schemes extensively as a dancer with Pretty Good Girl Dance Theatre in 2009 and 2010. Its hands on experience of and commitment to dance and rural touring at a local level provides the partnership with a grounded perspective.

    The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is a partnership project led by The National Rural Touring Forum with The Place, China Plate and Take Art. The project is funded by Arts Council England through its Strategic Touring Fund.