What is Rural Touring?

The village hall, church and school have traditionally been focal points for rural life. Because those buildings are regarded as part of the fabric of village social life they afford a familiar and informal space in which local people can enjoy the arts.

In 1982 Hampshire County Council established its first rural touring programme in recognition of the need to extend services to take greater account of rural communities. In so doing it became (alongside South East Wales and Lincolnshire) one of the key founders of the current wave of rural touring schemes.

In line with other initiatives these developments placed access at the forefront. They were driven primarily by the desire to overcome social, geographic, economic and psychological barriers that have historically inhibited the enjoyment of the arts by people in rural communities.

Organisations that deliver a rural touring programme vary in terms of the geographic area covered and legal or constitutional status. For example, there are three schemes that operate in separate parts of Devon, and while some schemes are located within the local authority system, others are independent registered charities or companies limited by guarantee.

Some schemes, have a broader remit and run a touring scheme as part of a larger rural arts development programme. Most organisations receive funding from District Councils, County Councils, Unitary Authorities and Arts Council England. The level of support varies significantly from area to area.

In a nut shell.

Rural touring schemes work with voluntary promoting groups (village hall committes, pubs, local schools, church halls, community groups) to bring professional performing companies and artists to perform in their village or community venue. 

The volunteers promote the event and work in partnership with the rural touring scheme. 

The rural touring scheme produces a menu of shows that they will support. 

The voluntary promoters choose from the menu and the scheme will book one or more dates for their region.

Often schemes will work together across regions to offer more dates. 

We've created a brief overview on rural touring, Rural Touring in a Nutshell that you can download for free from the Resources section of the site. More information is available from the publication Eyes Wide Open. Eyes Wide Open is available free to NRTF members from the Resources section and is available to buy for non-members from our Shop.

You can find out more about the wonderful people who make rural touring happen by reading our series of rural touring stories.

The films below are from Arts Alive, Night Out Wales, Highlights and Carn to Cove - four of our Rural Touring Scheme members - as well as Puppet State Theatre and Pentabus Theatre Company They give a really good picture of what rural touring is all about, including the benefits to local communities, local voluntary promoters and small venues, and artists and performers.