2013’s been another great year for the NRTF, with some of our highlights listed below.
We’ve seen an increase in membership, with three new Touring Schemes joining the network – The Touring Network in the Highlands and Islands, The Theatre Orchard in Somerset and Performance Republic in South Yorkshire – and more companies and artists becoming members. We’ve also opened up membership to small venues and voluntary promoters this year, inviting more people to join the conversation on the development of rural and small scale touring.
Our conference and showcase in July saw us take over the Macrobert Centre in Stirling for three days of networking, workshops, lively discussions and fantastic showcase performances. With support from Creative Scotland, North East Arts Touring, Federation of Scottish Theatres and the Touring Network (previously Promoters Arts Network) the event attracted over 120 delegates from across the UK and further afield.
Our partnership working this year has seen us work with an exciting range of partners:
Following on from the successful Countryboy’s Struggle tour, our partnership with Contact Theatre continues with a tour of The Novice Detective by Sophie Willan, winner of the 2012 Flying Solo commission. Supported by a grant from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, the 50-date tour kicked off this Autumn, working with rural touring schemes and local voluntary promoters to further develop the young promoters network established in 2012 as part of the Countryboy’s Struggle tour. See our latest news for an update from producer Oliver Sykes.
Our successful partnership with Jazz Services continued, with the Jazz Services Rural Touring Support Scheme supporting high quality jazz artists to tour rural venues across the UK. Christine Tobin and Michael Janisch have both toured throughout 2013 and the winners of the awards for 2013/14 – Fumi Okiji’s Old Time Jazz Band, Sue Richardson and Heads South - will hit the road in 2014. Feedback from artists, promoters and audiences has been universally positive.
We were delighted to join forces with PANDA (Performing Arts Network and Development Agency) this year on the further development of their pitching and mentoring scheme. The scheme offers companies and artists the chance to pitch ideas for rural touring to touring scheme representatives from across the North of England. All participating artists receive detailed feedback on their pitches and shows along with contacts in touring schemes to aid with the development of the work for rural touring.
We are also delighted to be working with Rasa theatre company to bring a tour of States of Verbal Undress to 15 rural and small-scale venues in Spring 2014. The tour will be supported by workshops exploring personal histories and themes of migration with different groups within villages (WI, young farmers, local history groups etc).
Our partnership with independent producers China Plate this year saw Paul Warwick and Ed Collier compile a list of recommended shows for our Edinburgh Village Hall project in August (see below). China Plate are also working with Alex Wright of York Theatre Royal on the curation of our New Directions showcase event, to be held at York Theatre Royal 15th-17th July next year. See our latest news for information on the showcase application process.
Our Edinburgh Village Hall project expanded this year with representatives from touring schemes across the UK receiving bursaries to attend the Edinburgh Fringe with one of their voluntary promoters. China Plate curated a list of recommended shows and an incredible 160 different shows were reviewed by the NRTF members who took part. 2013 also saw the further development of our Introduction to Rural Touring event, where around 100 companies and artists were given the opportunity to find out more about rural touring and meet representatives from touring schemes and voluntary promoters.
Finally, we’ve been continuing with the development of our website as a tool to support our members in networking; sharing news, information and resources; and collaborating on booking tours. Our discussion boards have proved a lively forum for sharing information and discussing all things rural touring, with weekly discussion updates going out to all NRTF members, and they’ve become another useful shop window for companies and artists creating work for rural and small venues.
With exciting plans in the pipeline for 2014 we’re looking forward to another fantastic year for rural touring!
Dave Whitford gave us a snapshot of "A Thousand Kisses Deep" rural tour so far:
We've been very lucky to work with and receive a lot of help and support from ‘Jazz Services’ in the past but this is our first time to work with the ‘National Rural Touring Forum’. This tour is a result of the NRTF/Jazz Services scheme. Both organisations do great work supporting live music and the arts. For more information about the touring scheme and to find out more about these organisations, please visit. http://www.jazzservices.org.uk/ http://www.ruraltouring.org
We're just about half way through our NRTF/Jazz Services tour now. It’s our first experience of rural touring and the 16 gigs we’ve done so far have taken us to Devon, Somerset, Cheshire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Rutland, County Durham, Cumbria, Northumberland and Dorset.
It's been a great experience and we've found the audiences very warm and receptive. The local promoters have been extremely friendly, helpful and accommodating. They've provided us with plenty of good home cooked food along the way too. We've also been enjoying seeing parts of the country that none of us have visited before.
I think the thing that has struck us the most is the sense of community and the open mindedness towards live music. We've had people specifically coming to see our show because of the program we're performing, but there was also a sense of people coming to see the show simply because it was happening on their doorstep. Our shared musical background traditionally sees us playing mainly in clubs or theatres in large towns and cities, so its been a very different, but thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience playing in small towns and villages, sometimes where the population is only a hundred or so people.
I'd recommend Rural Touring to anyone as it's an informal and highly sociable way of bringing your music to people who wouldn't normally get to hear it. There's something wonderful about playing in a small and intimate space, almost like playing in a friend's living room. We've felt very welcome in the communities we've visited so far and are really looking forward to hitting the road again in 2014.
"Doing the Rural Touring circuit has taught me that community spirit is alive and well and thriving up and down the country. I've witnessed first hand that people are hungry for live music. These intimate performances provide the perfect catalyst for uniting people and reinforcing bonds. " Christine Tobin
None of us are particularly prolific photographers but a few of highlights include:
Christine made some new friends in Somerset and the next tour might be done in a traditional Gypsy caravan.
The village library in Great Budworth
Over the past few years NRTF has developed a partnership with Jazz Services to bring high quality jazz artists to perform in village and community venues across the country. We are currently in the middle of a 35 date tour by Christine Tobin with Dave Whitford and Phil Robson performing their version of Leonard Cohen songs - A Thousand Kisses Deep.
Feedback from touring schemes and audiences has been great and a recent Arts Council artistic assessment found that "Their opening piece was, despite the theme of the show, Joni Mitchell‟s song The Priest, and set the tone for the evening with its clear acoustic sound, rich and perfectly-intoned vocals and assured instrumental playing. The trio conveyed a sense of enjoyment in each others playing, which also beamed itself onto the audience... Her skills show that she is amongst a small select group of virtuoso British vocal artists who are able to make genuine and excellent improvisatory contributions to jazz performance beyond the initial content and delivery of the melody and lyrics."
Looks like schemes, audiences and performers are enjoying this NRTF/Jazz Services project.
In July this year, Alex Wright came along to the NRTF conference in Stirling to talk about York Theatre Royal ON OUR TURF project and we are delighted to hear about the next steps.
York Theatre Royal announce two £15,000 commissions to create remarkable new work in rural communities.
On Our Turf is a big new idea. It's about lots of things, but it's mainly about how we start to make, create, imagine and share work between a wide group of people. It's about how we turn our audience in to makers, about how we give ownership over our artistic landscape to the communities we work in, and how us and our communities find new ways to imagine and create work together.
These are the first two commissions out of four between now and September 2015. We are looking for remarkable companies, directors, writers, designers, makers, animateurs, choreographers, composers or any other sort of artists who can work in a community to create a high impact piece of work on a local, regional and national level. On Our Turf is a partnership between York Theatre Royal and the arts or community centres in our market towns: Pocklington, Easingwold, Selby and Helmsley in Yorkshire. In 2014 Pocklington and Easingwold will create two high impact shows. These shows will:
- Be created and delivered by the community
- Be led / directed by a professional, imaginative and ground breaking artist or company
- Not be performed in a traditional performance space
- Will tour to the other three partner towns
There are no stipulations as to what form these pieces need to take. It could be a story for a five mile rural walk ending in a country pub; it could be a sound installation for the back of a Landrover. We anticipate performing to 300+ audience over a weekend, however this could be 2 performances to 150 audience or 60 performances to 5 audience. Each show/piece must be transferable/translatable to the other three towns, as such you wouldn't be able to devise a performance for the river in Selby without checking the waterways in Helmsley, Easingwold and Pocklington. These will be delivered as charged for events for audiences with good scope for free activities around the ‘fringes’ of the main piece.
Commission 1: Pocklington
The work will open to the public on the 5 & 6 April 2014 and tour to the other three towns on the subsequent three weekends.
Commission 2: Easingwold
The work will open to the public on the 28 & 29 June 2014 and tour to the other three towns on the subsequent three weekends.
We anticipate a 3 month making period with each of the communities. However this does not necessarily mean three solid months in that community. We will ask you for a draft schedule as part of the application, the level of work commensurate with the fee.
In September 2014 all four communities will produce a touring festival, #LittleFest, which should feature further bespoke made work from both Pocklington and Easingwold, made with and in response to the Commissioned Artist and the previously created work. Each commissioned artist will work and have contact with the communities until the end of September 2014.
What is key to us is the forward thinking and imaginative approach to creating truly groundbreaking work with rural communities. Our aim across On Our Turf is to investigate how communities can become a creative catalyst and occupy a vital place within the national arts sector, not as a 'community programming' aspect but rather as the passionate, animated and progressive heartbeat in each of our regions. The legacy of On Our Turf is incredibly important and these initial two years begin a considerable investigation in to how we make this type of work, method and community focus a sustainable and important feature in the future of modern British culture.
If you are interested in either of these commissions, please consider the following:
- What form or expression of work would you seek to create and realise within a community
- Some brief information about Pocklington and Easingwold is attached. From this, what strikes you as interesting stimulus
- How you would work with a wide community to create high quality, nationally important work
- How you would access, reach and maintain a creative relationship with various sectors of the community from business, schools, individuals, those already engaged and those harder to reach participants.
- What you as an artist or company would bring to this style of generating work
For more information and how to apply go to http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/job/OOTcommission.php . Or download the attached document to the right of this piece.
We invite you to join us to feast on traditionally Persian food prepared by Abbas, his wife and daughter with help from their friends and neighbours. Part thriller, part cookery lesson this is a story of a family working out how life will be in the future. One that is surprising, uplifting and a celebration of being alive. Going in the pot are fresh herbs, spices, sweet vegetables, and Eli’s mother’s secret ingredient.
The show is thought-provoking and topical, confronting political and social issues in Iran. This is an honest and moving story of a family in an oppressed society. And together with the ‘feast’ has given audiences the opportunity to enjoy this unique experience with their neighbours keeping alive a community spirit.
”This piece started four years ago when the writer Kevin Dyer and I visited Tehran to run a series of workshops at the Fadjr festival. That visit confounded and delighted both of us in equal measure. We saw an astonishing range of work in theatres brim full of audiences, with people sitting on every step and children hoisted onto laps. And what struck us was how alive these spaces are. In Iran making theatre is extremely challenging. The work has to first be sanctioned by the state and can only be presented in theatres owned and managed by the state, a government official sitting in on every rehearsal with the authority to censor or stop a particular performance. Men and women cannot touch or sing or dance. Despite all these challenges theatre makers manage, somehow, to say everything from the stage. Whilst in the UK, where we can say anything, much of the work on the stage says nothing.
So here we are four years later, making a contemporary Iranian play for village halls. Demonstrating, once again, that some of the most relevant, experimental and new work can arrive from the most surprising of places. Our hope is that by the time ‘The Iranian Feast’ is over you have spent time in the company of friends, that we might understand something new about the world and ourselves, and that we are reminded of our common humanity.” Gavin Stride, Producer
We premiered the show here at Farnham Maltings before going to the North, then down to the South-West, then heading over to Wales and finally, the company was in Scotland for the last week of the two month tour. We have had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback in response to the show and here’s a sample -
“This is the third time that we’ve had Farnham Maltings and every performance has been good but this one was outstanding. The play is innovative in its staging and the food, which was delicious. The play is topical, very funny at times but extremely thought provoking. […] Audience feedback was all very positive. […] This show wasn’t just a performance it was an experience which moved me a great deal.”
Promoter, Thomas Cranmer Centre, Aslockton
“The play was certainly a mixture of the bitter and the sweet. I think the sharing and caring that was established by the feast lulled us until we were woken up and reminded of the repressive regime that surrounded the storyline. A topical piece that invited us to think, but was entertainment all the same. Needless to say, we all delighted in the culinary offerings! […] We are very grateful to be able to receive quality professional productions, like yours, with the help of the Live & Local subsidised scheme.” Chairman of Spring Bank Arts Centre, New Mills, High Peak
“[…] drew in the audience with its intimacy and good humour, ratcheted up the drama as we grew to care for its characters and delivered a powerful finale which had you thinking way after the performance was over. […] The writing was finely judged with its contrasting moods and totally compelling towards the end as the family wrestled with working out the right thing to do.” Audience member, Anslow Village Hall
“Totally immersive, beautifully acted and truly engaging. Food for the body, mind and soul, opening a window onto another world from ours.” Audience member, Whittingham Village Hall
For more information on The Iranian Feast tour, please visit our website. We will be re-touring the show in 2015.
In spring 2014, we will be re-touring In Praise of Elephants – a celebration of the greatest animal on the planet and a touching story of a quiet man turning 60 trying to make sense of the world. Like you, we are committed to reaching and developing relationships with a wider rural audience and with this in mind we would be keen to know if you’d like to be a part of the spring tour next year?
If you are interested in booking the show please contact Janice Brittain on Janice.firstname.lastname@example.org