Project Background - Rural Touring Dance Initiative

The Initiative is part of a 5-year strategic partnership with three key partners, The Place, China Plate and Take Art, and rural touring schemes, primarily in England but also in Wales and Scotland. Each partner has a specific and complementary skill set and the combined ambition is to address identified under-representation of dance in rural touring. Arts Council England's Rural Evidence and Data Review (March 2015) found that only 2% of NPO funded dance companies toured to rural areas in 2012/2013.

The partners will address the challenges of dance and rural touring by building a sustainable programme that provides solutions on the producing (supply) and presenting (demand) sides of the equation in order to better serve rural audiences. This audience development project also seeks to meet the needs of audiences through close, regular and structured consultation with rural communities and promoters. The culturally diverse range of work touring will be of a high quality and encompass work suitable for children, young people, older adults and families.

This ambition meets the aims of the Arts Council of England Strategic Touring Programme by making dance accessible to rural audiences, many of whom rely on rural touring to access arts provision, and in the process will target some areas of low arts engagement. This project has a national reach and will take place in all Arts Council regions.

There are three key project objectives on both sides:

Demand Side

• To meet existing demand for dance from rural audiences (including children and young people) by expanding the availability of  work
• To stimulate latent demand in rural areas where touring schemes have identified an appetite for dance by addressing structural and practical issues in promoting dance
• To take audiences on a journey that develops and extends their taste for dance through the introduction of a wider range of work

Supply Side

• To enable existing dance work available for rural touring to tour more widely
• To support companies to adapt tour ready shows that are suitable for rural touring
• To support dance artists interested in rural touring to create new work that responds to demand from rural touring

We will meet these objectives through four strands of activity:

Touring: the initiative will support and underwrite the costs of taking dance into rural areas, meeting a rising interest and demand for dance from rural audiences and promoters, supported by two curated national dance menus in years 2 and 3.

Professional development for rural promoters: the partners will ensure the project has a legacy by providing skills development opportunities and opportunities to see more dance work for scheme managers and promoters, including their close involvement in the commissioning process, as well as networking events and showcasing at the NRTF's New Directions showcases.

Audience development: the partners will work closely with rural touring scheme managers and promoters to reach and develop audiences for dance by providing a national menu of dance, which provides a regular and supported way for promoters to introduce dance to their audiences.

Creation & touring of new work: the partners will run an iterative process of development, seed commissioning and production for artists through which we will give 16 artists a comprehensive workshop introduction to adapting and making work for rural touring. The initiative will also include a Darkroom development programme for eight dance artists, two seed commissions and a full production award.

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative will have a total budget of £500,000 (£379,560 of which represents a successful bid to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund). Planning for the three-year programme started in May 2015 with the project finishing in July 2018.