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  • States of Verbal Undress - Project Evaluation

    States of Verbal Undress – rural tour was a partnership project between the NRTF, Manchester’s Rasa Theatre and 8 rural touring schemes/ associate venues in the north of England. The full evaluation of the project is now available to download from our Resources section but some of the key findings are mentioned below.

    The key aims of the project were to encourage promoters to take culturally diverse work that is contemporary and relevant; and to look at different ways to build an audience for this type of work, with the aim of informing audience development approaches in the future.

    The project offered financial and practical support through subsidy on the performances of States of Verbal Undress – a theatre piece about the migrant experience offered with an optional post show Q&A  - and attached workshops.  Additional funding was made available for each promoting venue to try out new marketing initiatives to increase and diversify audiences, and a freelance coordinator provided administrative support to the project on behalf of the NRTF and its participating members.  

    The tour saw 13 performances and 6 workshops programmed, with venues including three village halls, three secondary schools, four community centres and three small theatres/arts centres across six counties.

    States of Verbal Undress Audience at Swanland Village Hall

    Audience Development

    As one of the key aims of the project was to look at different ways to build audiences for this kind of work, the touring schemes, venues and promoters involved in the tour trialled a range of different audience development initiatives, including:

    • - Extending the evening through the inclusion of free food offer (this varied from inviting a local Asian chef to cook on site, working with migrant workers from a local restaurant to prepare a buffet and working with A Level food technology students)
    • - Working with community venues who were first time promoters of arts events
    • - Researching/compiling new mailing lists and mailings to diverse groups
    • - Extra staff time to target specific groups and widen print distribution
    • - Providing transport and subsidising participation of BME/migrant support groups
    • - First time paid advertising in local press and social media campaigns
    • - Encouraging diverse residents of the village to become involved in promoting and organising the event. 
    • - Targeting of community and writers groups, with special offers and discounts
    • - Building relationships with community/diverse groups
    • - Direct approaches to immigrant communities eg in shops and centres

    These initiatives met with mixed success. On the whole, it was found that the venues with most success were situated in smaller communities who used their word of mouth strength to generate interest. The food offer was also successful as it added a social aspect and offered a ‘good night as a whole’. It was thought that the small theatres involved in the tour perhaps struggled more because they couldn’t enjoy these benefits.  Social media faired less well and though it generated awareness of venue activities, didn’t translate to bookings.

    With half of the promoters reporting a slight increase in their audience diversity, some success was achieved through targeting of specific groups. Working with an organised BME/migrant support group proved more successful than direct approaches to these communities. Subsidy to facilitate attendance by groups had some success but special offers and combined ticket deals did not work.

    Whilst there is no single blueprint that would work for every venue, promoters welcomed the opportunity to try out new marketing activity. As a result of this project, all promoters made new links and contacts that will assist future marketing.

    Comments offered on the challenges of finding an audience for culturally diverse work included:

    • "The challenge is to attract an audience for contemporary culturally diverse work.  Audiences are more comfortable seeing diverse work which is considered traditional or ‘exotic’."
    • "In our rural villages there is little or no diversity of ethnicity"
    • "I don’t think the challenges around attracting audiences for this type of work are any different from the challenges around attracting audiences for serious theatre work.  We tend to find that audiences seem to prefer music, children’s theatre and theatre with a comedic edge to it, rather than “serious” theatre pieces.  It is always difficult."
    • "It needs to have an extra hook. Other USPs become important"
    • "Often it's 'fear of the unknown' which prevents bookings, but for others, this can also bring out the curious who want to know why such an event is happening in their village."
    • "Audiences may be held back by what they perceive as ‘risks’ of attending work that is outside what they normally see, they may worry that they won’t enjoy / understand what they watch."

    The findings of the evaluation report are being shared with all NRTF members, with an invitation to join discussions around audience development in rural areas for contemporary culturally diverse work.

    Audience Responses

    Audiences were overwhelmingly positive about the show and the Q&A that followed the performance, with feedback including:

    “Good for village venues and community participation. It's really important for shows such as this to come and inform rural communities of issues important and relevant to all of us.

    “We thoroughly enjoyed this thought provoking show – and gained a great deal of understanding from it. The staff and actors were great and very friendly. “

    Rani Moorthy, Rasa’s Artistic Director, felt that: “The tour exceeded our expectations especially how well it was received and how much of the issues of the play took on a fantastic resonance with the current news events with UKIP etc. People seemed to appreciate how the work spoke volumes about immigration but without hitting them on the head with issues. The humanity of the piece seemed to hit the right notes.”

    Summary of achievements

    All touring schemes and venues involved in the project made links and contacts that will help support future marketing of this type of work. Half felt that the diversity of their audience had increased, though marginally, and all said they were more likely to book culturally diverse work in the future.

    The project fulfilled its aims by: bringing quality contemporary diverse work to rural communities; delivering new audiences to host venues; enhancing debate about immigration amongst audience members; strengthening links with outside communities; providing new knowledge from audience development initiatives; and raising awareness (amongst touring schemes) of programming ‘contemporary’ culturally diverse work.

    What came out strongly from feedback was that promoters felt the project had given them more confidence and experience with this style of work and allowed them the resources to lay the ground work, undertake research and make connections and partnerships that will help with future marketing. This was greatly valued.

  • Applause Outdoors 2015 - Commission and Development Awards

    Applause Rural Touring have issued the following call out for artists and companies:

    Applause Outdoors 2015 Commission and Development Awards

    In summer 2015, Applause Rural Touring will be programming outdoor performances into existing, locally organised village fetes, community festivals and similar events in Kent and Sussex.

    We are looking for companies / artists with an established interest and track record of working outdoors and interactively who would like to be part of this programme. We are seeking:

    • Work which is in need of some development to receive Development Awards
    • One piece to receive a special Co-Commission award from Applause, Fuse Festival Medway and Gulbenkian bOing ! International Family Festival.

    Please see the full brief, which can be downloaded by clicking on the title of this article then downloading the PDF from the right hand column.

    Or visit: for further details.

    Please forward this information to any contacts that would also be interested.

    With best wishes,
    The Applause team

  • Black Country Touring - Call Out for Artists and Companies for Alchemy Black Country

    Black Country Touring have issued the following call out for artists and companies:


    Next year at the end of May,  Black Country Touring will be hosting Alchemy Black Country, a festival inspired by The South Asian Culture and its influences across Britain today.

    The festival, originally pioneered by the Southbank Centre in London, will for the first time take place at three other locations across the country including the Black Country.

    We are on the lookout for shows, performances and workshops that have South Asian influences that can potentially be a part of this festival.

    Full details on the submission process can be found in the PDF that you can download by clicking on the title of this post and then cliking on the link in the downloads column on the right hand side.

  • Rural Arts ON Tour’s Magic Lantern Tales Marks Cenenary of First World War

    Yorkshire’s finest poet is marking the centenary by teaming up with award-winning documentary photographer Ian Beesley to create a new show, Magic Lantern Tales.

    Ian McMillan, described by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy as “one of today’s greatest poetry performers”, tells the stories of men who fought in the first world war and lived to tell the tale, while a real ‘magic lantern’ – one of the very first types of projector – provides stunning, atmospheric accompanying images. The piece reminds an audience that although often seen in great sweeps, war is but ‘people against people’, and that every person has a story to tell.

    Using real memories to bring back to life the humanity rather than the brutality of war, “the past and the present come together in pictures and poems that take the audience back” said veteran poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan. “The room will be dark but the pictures and the poems will light up the spirit!”

    The show will tour to Gilling East, Potto and Settle as part of ON Tour, a scheme that brings professional performance to rural venues across North Yorkshire and East Cleveland. Ran by Thirsk-based charity Rural Arts, this season has seen dance, music and drama play to 500 people in its first two months alone.

    “We’re particularly happy to welcome Ian and Ian to the ON Tour family, not least because they’re both Yorkshiremen themselves” said John Hamilton May of Rural Arts. “Ian Beesley was born in Bradford, whilst McMillan is Barnsley through and through”

    At Gilling East, the performance will be accompanied by beautiful artworks from contemporary gallery Bils & Rye, who have carefully selected pieces responding to the themes of the evening. All work will be for sale, and a donation of profits will be made to the Village Hall Committee, as part of a project funded by Ryedale District Council.

    “We’re thrilled to showcase our artists’ unique and distinctive work at what is set to be a wonderful evening”, said Bils & Rye co-owner, Nick Bentley. “Linking independent businesses and arts events is a great initiative to not only strengthen the local economy but prove our area’s vibrancy to tourists and visitors. Hopefully our art – and the words and images of Ian and Ian – prove that Yorkshire is and will always be a place to come back to.”

    Magic Lantern Tales will play at:

    Gilling East Village Hall, Wednesday 19th November, bar and art viewing from 6.30, performance at 7.30pm. Tickets £10, 01347 889335.

    Potto Village Hall, Thursday 20th November, 8pm. Adults £10, U18s £5, 01642 701797.

    Settle Victoria Hall, Friday 21st November, 8pm. Tickets £12, 01729 825718.

    Tickets are also available online at


    Rural Arts is funded by Arts Council England, Ryedale District Council and Craven District Council. Any profits made from ON Tour events are reinvested into the charitable activities of the organization.