In the first of a new series of features about the wonderful
people who make rural touring happen Sian Kerry, Co-Director of Arts
Alive Rural Touring Scheme, tells us her rural touring story…
What’s your involvement in rural touring?
Co-director of Arts Alive, covering Shropshire and Herefordshire. We set up a single county scheme in Shropshire then a second district scheme, that expanded, then we merged them into one charity. I do all the programming and development work of the live side (we also run Flicks in the sticks touring cinema).
What got you into rural touring in the first place?
Consultancy work, being asked to get professional venues in one county to be more joined up in their programming and marketing – and then to address the geographical gaps.
What are some of your rural touring highlights?
Generally – Packed halls, standing ovations, provocative, moving shows that people can’t believe they are experiencing in their hall, interaction of artists and audiences, seeing children enthralled, people telling me what a great experience they have had. Audiences not leaving but staying and talking about the show. Being told by audience members – sometimes years later – about shows that had made an impact and they remembered. So many moments of magic and humanity.
Specifically – a storytelling performance on the top of a hillfort illuminated by fire, with audience cosied up under blankets, feeling that we as humans have been sharing stories like this for centuries. My Big Fat Cow Pat Wedding – seeing the development from initial idea to production, and it being so well received across urban and rural audiences. Pop Up Opera’s ‘tea cup’ overture, open air one man Midsummer Night’s Dream in a rose garden on sunny afternoon with all the audience bowled over. Young promoters turning their hall into ‘London’ with street stalls and live music for Country Boys Struggle. Rani Moorthy’s Curry Tales, hearing back from the village that the next day that it was the talk of the local shop. Having Rani perform Pooja in a church – with post show teas served from the font. Kinder Gardens – wonderful European early year’s theatre for children, especially La Baracca from Italy. I could go on….
What would you say to anyone thinking of getting involved in rural touring?
Don’t do it to make your fortune or for any concept of ‘career progression’, but expect to be repaid in currency of inspiration, professional reward, stimulation, shared laughter, amazing moments, loyalty and commitment from promoters. Love the possibilities of RT rather than focus on the limitations, love the range of spaces, communities and people. It’s like running an arts centre covering 2,500 square miles with 100 different spaces. Why do you think schemes managers stay in the job so long?