A new partnership between Cheshire Rural Touring Arts, Action Transport Theatre and KSP Productions has led to the development of a new touring show for rural venues. Claire Smith from CRTA tells us about how the partnership developed...
This autumn a show that began as a rural touring small scale development project will tour to 39 venues with the benefits and support that a £70,000 Grants for the Arts award brings with it.
It's been a long but fruitful journey that has at its heart a great partnership
Cheshire Rural Touring Arts ( CRTA ) has, for a number of years, stretched its limited resources to fund and make bespoke theatre work for rural young people. All the shows have been newly written with their source material coming directly from young people growing up in rural Cheshire. These professionally produced pieces have had limited touring dates within Cheshire.
When we embarked on our third project back in 2010 we worked with Cheshire based, young people's theatre company 'Action Transport Theatre' . Money was even harder to come by but a process that saw four young actor writers working on the research, writing and performance produced stunning results. There were two teenage characters in the final script, who are seen struggling to manage the challenges of their circumstances but the creative team soon realised that the show that was emerging was going to be for a much broader rural audience than originally anticipated. No additional funds were found so the tour of 'Twelve Miles From Nowhere ' went ahead using Action Transport's core funds and funds from CRTA's programming budget. The show toured to only 10 venues in the autumn of 2011.
It was provocative – it challenged cosy ideals of the 'rural farming story' but it resonated and its authenticity gave it a charm and quality that absorbed audiences.
And that's really where the journey of this rich process would have come to a halt if it wasn't for the desire and vision of those involved to take it further.
The partnership met to discuss future possibilities. We ventured to create a further relationship with independent producers, Karen Simpson and Liz Craven (KSP productions ) who not only had a history with the company and rural touring but had a successful track record in applying to Grants for the Arts. Karen had seen the original show and saw its potential, she also recognised that the partnership between a theatre company, a rural touring scheme (both NPOs) and a producer with her background would be highly attractive to the Arts Council. Karen undertook the huge task of writing the bid and in March this year we heard of its success.
…....so from little acorns....... !
Booking is now open for NRTF’s first conference and showcase in Scotland, which takes place from 8th to 10th July at Macrobert, Stirling. The “Developing Networks ” conference is hosted in association with NEAT (North East Arts Touring), The Touring Network (formerly Promoters Arts Network) and Federation of Scottish Theatres and supported by Creative Scotland and Arts Council, England. Early booking is recommended as places and accommodation are limited.
The annual NRTF conference and showcase is the major event in the UK rural touring scheme calendar and has been taking place since 1994. The conference brings together those involved in managing rural touring networks throughout the UK, who between them organise some 3,143 shows delivered to 222,039 audience members.
As rural touring gains prominence and the NRTF grows in size and membership, we are working with our colleagues in Scotland to bring delegates from across the UK, and further afield, to the Macrobert for 3 days of showcases, workshops, debate, discussion, social events and networking.
A major aim of this conference will be to support existing rural promoters and to encourage the development of new promoters and touring networks, especially in areas where coordinated activity does not currently exist.
NRTF wishes to involve new and existing promoters from across Scotland and the UK and would particularly like to encourage promoters that may not currently be part of any network to attend. Promoter bursaries are offered, subject to availability.
The conference will explore not only how to develop new touring schemes, models and consortia, but also how existing UK schemes are building, expanding and developing their activity.
Showcasing is an important part of NRTF conferences. It allows touring schemes, venues and voluntary promoters to see work from new companies, share experiences with other promoters and broaden their knowledge of work available. Companies attending the showcase include Macrobert, Nutshell, Magnetic North, Poor Boy, Camerata Ritmata, Puppet State, Fire Exit, the Flanagan Collective, Vision Mechanics, Pacific Curls (from New Zealand), the Ceilidh Minogues, Sophie Willan plus Canadian representatives.
We expect the conference to attract approximately 120 delegates from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland plus international delegates from New Zealand, Canada and other countries that have shown an interest in UK rural touring through NRTF’s International Village of Culture Project. Also present will be organisations and artists interested in rural touring and representatives from Creative Scotland, Arts Councils England and Arts Council Wales.
For more information, booking form and programme of conference and showcase events please click here.
The National Rural Touring Forum is opening its membership opportunities up to rural and community small scale venues across the UK.
For an introductory rate of just £25 p.a. you can join the National Rural Touring Forum as an associate member and become part of the UK wide rural touring network.
- Become a valued part of the rural touring network.
- Have a listing on the website - add links to your own website, include your twitter feed and Facebook page, add an image, help artists and companies specifically interested in rural and small scale touring find your contact details.
- Join in the discussions, ask for advice and information, update the network on your activity and find out what developments are happening elsewhere.
- Access our online resources free of charge.
- Receive a weekly discussion update by email.
- Receive a monthly newsletter by email.
- See who is touring and when. Performing company associates can post details of their forthcoming shows and touring information online.
- Take advantage the opportunity to join with touring scheme and other small scale venue members to bring high quality professional artists to your region.
- Receive reduced rate booking opportunities for NRTF conferences and showcase events. This year's NRTF conference and showcase event takes place at the Macrobert art centre in Stirling, Scotland from 8th - 10th July
- Take part in NRTF national touring opportunities. e.g. several of our small scale venue members were able to be part of our Countryboy's Struggle partnership tour with Contact Theatre company.
Here's what one small scale venue member said:
"I just wanted to tell you how well Country Boy's Struggle from Contact Theatre was received here last Monday. We are grateful to NRTF for enabling Pocklington Arts Centre to work with such a renowned company. We established a young promoters' group which became involved in the run-up to the show. They carried out publicity using social media, issued press releases and took part in the workshop on the day. It was a fabulous performance which ended with many of the 56 students who attended enthusing on twitter and facebook! Thank you for making this possible!"
For further information or to join as an associate please go to www.ruraltouring.org. To find out more email Alice at email@example.com or telephone 01904 466527
At the time of the completed independently written tour evaluation (13th February 2013) there had been 25 shows and 21 workshops with 22 Young Promoter Groups.
Feedback from audiences has been very positive, with the following quotes to give a sense of what people felt about the show:
"It was hilarious! Mint"
"It was funny, sad, soul bearing stuff, the birthing scene was great, the characters were all brilliant and the way you made each one of them come alive as a oneman show was genius"
"The performance was fantastic, and really blew the kids away (and the adults too!)".
We received the following feedback from Pocklington Arts Centre, one of the venues involved in the tour:
"I just wanted to tell you how well Country Boy's Struggle from Contact Theatre was received here last Monday. We are grateful to NRTF for enabling Pocklington Arts Centre to work with such a renowned company.
We established a young promoters' group which became involved in the run-up to the show. They carried out publicity using social media, issued press releases and took part in the workshop on the day. It was a fabulous performance which ended with many of the 56 students who attended enthusing on twitter and facebook!
Thank you for making this possible!"
The map below shows the venues involved in the national tour:
The project is ambitious as its intention is to create a new National Young Promoters Network. The evalaution is giving the partners an immense amount of information about how we can build on this first tour. We are about half way throught the tour and the learning is already being utilised.
Feedback from the rural touring schemes as well as the Young Promoters will guide the development of future tours and we hope to continue our relationship with Contact Theatre for the next 5 years at least. The development of new shows for rural touring working with young promoter groups has been incorporated into the Contact Theatre Flying Solo Festival and the NRTF are in conversation with Contact about the next steps.