Sally’s Rural Touring Story

Next in our series of features about the brilliant people who make rural touring happen, Sally Seed tells us her rural touring story. Sally's the volunteer promoter for the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme in the village of Orton, about two miles from Tebay Services near the M6 motorway in Cumbria:

What's your involvement in rural touring?

I’ve been a volunteer promoter with Highlights in the Eden District of Cumbria for about ten years now.  Initially, that means that I am involved in choosing the performances for our venue, Orton Market Hall, from a menu that the Highlights team put together. A friend who is also a local volunteer and I try to go along to the presentations about each menu so that we can find out a bit more about what’s available. We then decide on which ones would work best for us.

Once we’ve had our two shows per season confirmed, I then lead on promoting them, liaising with the performers or their agents on the practicalities, organising the day of the show, hosting the performance and then sorting out the box office takings. 

For a typical show, my jobs cover just about everything.  I’d reserve the Hall, overprint or label publicity materials and go around putting it up on local noticeboards, send out press releases, create social media events and invitations, put out the chairs, cook a meal for the performers, serve interval refreshments (with other regular volunteers from the village) and put those same chairs away to leave the Hall clear for badminton or Pilates or whatever is happening the next morning!

What got you into rural touring in the first place?

I have always gone along and supported the rural touring performances in Orton – and elsewhere in neighbouring villages – ever since we moved to Cumbria about 15 years ago.  The fact that I was a regular was spotted by the local promoter at the time, she got me a bit more involved and then asked if she could hand it over completely.  I work in PR and communications so the publicity part of the role is no problem at all and I enjoy meeting the performers and seeing the show come together.

What are some of your rural touring highlights?

There have been lots of highlights in those ten years.  We’ve had some amazing musicians, charismatic performers and some really moving drama and storytelling too. 

The Polyjesters, a slightly crazy band from Canada with two brothers at its core, were an immediate favourite and their return visit after a couple of years attracted one of our biggest audiences ever as their reputation had spread fast.  After that second performance, they even continued playing in the village pub due to popular demand!

Another highlight was the musician, John Kirkpatrick who brought his Victorian Farmer’s Year in Song show to Orton.  He was quite moved to realise, chatting to people in the interval, that there were a couple of elderly gentlemen in the audience who, 60 or 70 years previously, would have been just the sort of young farm workers working with traditional horses he was singing about.  That was quite an emotional evening and a bit special.

What would you say to anyone thinking about getting involved in rural touring?

Go for it. 

It’s a really good way of ensuring that your village hall or venue is well used and derives a benefit too, you’ll meet plenty of fascinating people – not only performers but also the other promoters and volunteers – and you’re part of something that really makes a difference for people. 

We gather our audience from about a 20 mile radius, even further afield sometimes, but we also provide a night of entertainment as good as anything in a big city for people here in the village.  Some of those locals wouldn’t be able to travel any distance to a theatre or would find a commercial show too expensive.  I think my best experience on that was the classical guitarist, Eduardo Niebla.  He performed in Orton Market Hall one evening as part of the Highlights season and then, about four months later, he was playing in the Birmingham Symphony Hall.  I think our Orton audience got pretty good value from their £8 tickets compared with commercial prices!

You can read more of our rural touring stories here.


  • sian kerry


    Thanks Sally, none of it would be possible without people like you! just off to serve supper to Mambo Jambo playing my local VH tonight





    Great memories of Orton and Sally (and some delicious food!).  Rural Touring at its best for both artists and audiences. Thank you.

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