Our Highlights of 2013

2013’s been another great year for the NRTF, with some of our highlights listed below.

We’ve seen an increase in membership, with three new Touring Schemes joining the network – The Touring Network in the Highlands and Islands, The Theatre Orchard in Somerset and Performance Republic in South Yorkshire – and more companies and artists becoming members. We’ve also opened up membership to small venues and voluntary promoters this year, inviting more people to join the conversation on the development of rural and small scale touring.

Our conference and showcase in July saw us take over the Macrobert Centre in Stirling for three days of networking, workshops, lively discussions and fantastic showcase performances. With support from Creative Scotland, North East Arts Touring, Federation of Scottish Theatres and the Touring Network (previously Promoters Arts Network) the event attracted over 120 delegates from across the UK and further afield.

Our partnership working this year has seen us work with an exciting range of partners:

Following on from the successful Countryboy’s Struggle tour, our partnership with Contact Theatre continues with a tour of The Novice Detective by Sophie Willan, winner of the 2012 Flying Solo commission. Supported by a grant from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, the 50-date tour kicked off this Autumn, working with rural touring schemes and local voluntary promoters to further develop the young promoters network established in 2012 as part of the Countryboy’s Struggle tour. See our latest news for an update from producer Oliver Sykes.

Our successful partnership with Jazz Services continued, with the Jazz Services Rural Touring Support Scheme supporting high quality jazz artists to tour rural venues across the UK. Christine Tobin and Michael Janisch have both toured throughout 2013 and the winners of the awards for 2013/14 – Fumi Okiji’s Old Time Jazz Band, Sue Richardson and Heads South – will hit the road in 2014. Feedback from artists, promoters and audiences has been universally positive.

We were delighted to join forces with PANDA (Performing Arts Network and Development Agency) this year on the further development of their pitching and mentoring scheme. The scheme offers companies and artists the chance to pitch ideas for rural touring to touring scheme representatives from across the North of England. All participating artists receive detailed feedback on their pitches and shows along with contacts in touring schemes to aid with the development of the work for rural touring.

We are also delighted to be working with Rasa theatre company to bring a tour of States of Verbal Undress to 15 rural and small-scale venues in Spring 2014. The tour will be supported by workshops exploring personal histories and themes of migration with different groups within villages (WI, young farmers, local history groups etc).

Our partnership with independent producers China Plate this year saw Paul Warwick and Ed Collier compile a list of recommended shows for our Edinburgh Village Hall project in August (see below). China Plate are also working with Alex Wright of York Theatre Royal on the curation of our New Directions showcase event, to be held at York Theatre Royal 15th-17th July next year. See our latest news for information on the showcase application process.

Our Edinburgh Village Hall project expanded this year with representatives from touring schemes across the UK receiving bursaries to attend the Edinburgh Fringe with one of their voluntary promoters. China Plate curated a list of recommended shows and an incredible 160 different shows were reviewed by the NRTF members who took part. 2013 also saw the further development of our Introduction to Rural Touring event, where around 100 companies and artists were given the opportunity to find out more about rural touring and meet representatives from touring schemes and voluntary promoters.

Finally, we’ve been continuing with the development of our website as a tool to support our members in networking; sharing news, information and resources; and collaborating on booking tours. Our discussion boards have proved a lively forum for sharing information and discussing all things rural touring, with weekly discussion updates going out to all NRTF members, and they’ve become another useful shop window for companies and artists creating work for rural and small venues.

With exciting plans in the pipeline for 2014 we’re looking forward to another fantastic year for rural touring!

Jazz Services A Thousand Kisses Deep Tour the performers view!

Dave Whitford gave us a snapshot of "A Thousand Kisses Deep" rural tour so far:

We've been very lucky to work with and receive a lot of help and support from ‘Jazz Services’ in the past but this is our first time to work with the ‘National Rural Touring Forum’. This tour is a result of the NRTF/Jazz Services scheme. Both organisations do great work supporting live music and the arts. For more information about the touring scheme and to find out more about these organisations, please visit. http://www.jazzservices.org.uk/     https://www.ruraltouring.org

We're just about half way through our NRTF/Jazz Services tour now. It’s our first experience of rural touring and the 16 gigs we’ve done so far have taken us to Devon, Somerset, Cheshire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Rutland, County Durham, Cumbria, Northumberland and Dorset.

It's been a great experience and we've found the audiences very warm and receptive. The local promoters have been extremely friendly, helpful and accommodating. They've provided us with plenty of good home cooked food along the way too. We've also been enjoying seeing parts of the country that none of us have visited before.

I think the thing that has struck us the most is the sense of community and the open mindedness towards live music. We've had people specifically coming to see our show because of the program we're performing, but there was also a sense of people coming to see the show simply because it was happening on their doorstep. Our shared musical background traditionally sees us playing mainly in clubs or theatres in large towns and cities, so its been a very different, but thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience playing in small towns and villages, sometimes where the population is only a hundred or so people.

I'd recommend Rural Touring to anyone as it's an informal and highly sociable way of bringing your music to people who wouldn't normally get to hear it. There's something wonderful about playing in a small and intimate space, almost like playing in a friend's living room. We've felt very welcome in the communities we've visited so far and are really looking forward to hitting the road again in 2014.

"Doing the Rural Touring circuit has taught me that community spirit is alive and well and thriving up and down the country. I've witnessed first hand that people are hungry for live music. These intimate performances provide the perfect catalyst for uniting people and reinforcing bonds. " Christine Tobin

None of us are particularly prolific photographers but a few of highlights include:

Christine made some new friends in Somerset and the next tour might be done in a traditional Gypsy caravan.

The village library in Great Budworth

NRTF writes:

Over the past few years NRTF has developed a partnership with Jazz Services to bring high quality jazz artists to perform in village and community venues across the country.  We are currently in the middle of a 35 date tour by Christine Tobin with Dave Whitford and Phil Robson performing their version of Leonard Cohen songs – A Thousand Kisses Deep. 

Feedback from touring schemes and audiences has been great and a recent Arts Council artistic assessment found that "Their opening piece was, despite the theme of the show, Joni Mitchell‟s song The Priest, and set the tone for the evening with its clear acoustic sound, rich and perfectly-intoned vocals and assured instrumental playing. The trio conveyed a sense of enjoyment in each others playing, which also beamed itself onto the audience… Her skills show that she is amongst a small select group of virtuoso British vocal artists who are able to make genuine and excellent improvisatory contributions to jazz performance beyond the initial content and delivery of the melody and lyrics." 

Looks like schemes, audiences and performers are enjoying this NRTF/Jazz Services project.

York Theatre Royal Tender for Two Rural Commissions announced

In July this year, Alex Wright came along to the NRTF conference in Stirling to talk about York Theatre Royal ON OUR TURF project and we are delighted to hear about the next steps.

York Theatre Royal announce two £15,000 commissions to create remarkable new work in rural communities.

On Our Turf is a big new idea. It’s about lots of things, but it’s mainly about how we start to make, create, imagine and share work between a wide group of people. It’s about how we turn our audience in to makers, about how we give ownership over our artistic landscape to the communities we work in, and how us and our communities find new ways to imagine and create work together.

These are the first two commissions out of four between now and September 2015. We are looking for remarkable companies, directors, writers, designers, makers, animateurs, choreographers, composers or any other sort of artists who can work in a community to create a high impact piece of work on a local, regional and national level. On Our Turf is a partnership between York Theatre Royal and the arts or community centres in our market towns: Pocklington, Easingwold, Selby and Helmsley in Yorkshire. In 2014 Pocklington and Easingwold will create two high impact shows. These shows will:

– Be created and delivered by the community
– Be led / directed by a professional, imaginative and ground breaking artist or company
– Not be performed in a traditional performance space
– Will tour to the other three partner towns

There are no stipulations as to what form these pieces need to take. It could be a story for a five mile rural walk ending in a country pub; it could be a sound installation for the back of a Landrover. We anticipate performing to 300+ audience over a weekend, however this could be 2 performances to 150 audience or 60 performances to 5 audience. Each show/piece must be transferable/translatable to the other three towns, as such you wouldn’t be able to devise a performance for the river in Selby without checking the waterways in Helmsley, Easingwold and Pocklington. These will be delivered as charged for events for audiences with good scope for free activities around the ‘fringes’ of the main piece.

Commission 1: Pocklington
The work will open to the public on the 5 & 6 April 2014 and tour to the other three towns on the subsequent three weekends.

Commission 2: Easingwold
The work will open to the public on the 28 & 29 June 2014 and tour to the other three towns on the subsequent three weekends.

We anticipate a 3 month making period with each of the communities. However this does not necessarily mean three solid months in that community. We will ask you for a draft schedule as part of the application, the level of work commensurate with the fee.

In September 2014 all four communities will produce a touring festival, #LittleFest, which should feature further bespoke made work from both Pocklington and Easingwold, made with and in response to the Commissioned Artist and the previously created work. Each commissioned artist will work and have contact with the communities until the end of September 2014.

What is key to us is the forward thinking and imaginative approach to creating truly groundbreaking work with rural communities. Our aim across On Our Turf is to investigate how communities can become a creative catalyst and occupy a vital place within the national arts sector, not as a ‘community programming’ aspect but rather as the passionate, animated and progressive heartbeat in each of our regions. The legacy of On Our Turf is incredibly important and these initial two years begin a considerable investigation in to how we make this type of work, method and community focus a sustainable and important feature in the future of modern British culture.

If you are interested in either of these commissions, please consider the following:

  • What form or expression of work would you seek to create and realise within a community
  • Some brief information about Pocklington and Easingwold is attached. From this, what strikes you as interesting stimulus
  • How you would work with a wide community to create high quality, nationally important work
  • How you would access, reach and maintain a creative relationship with various sectors of the community from business, schools, individuals, those already engaged and those harder to reach participants.
  • What you as an artist or company would bring to this style of generating work

For more information and how to apply go to http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/job/OOTcommission.php . Or download the attached document to the right of this piece.

Farnham Maltings – The Iranian Feast

NRTF Associate Member Farnham Maltings have been touring village halls and arts centres across the UK with The Iranian Feast – A play with food from the heart of Persia.

We invite you to join us to feast on traditionally Persian food prepared by Abbas, his wife and daughter with help from their friends and neighbours. Part thriller, part cookery lesson this is a story of a family working out how life will be in the future. One that is surprising, uplifting and a celebration of being alive. Going in the pot are fresh herbs, spices, sweet vegetables, and Eli’s mother’s secret ingredient.

The show is thought-provoking and topical, confronting political and social issues in Iran. This is an honest and moving story of a family in an oppressed society. And together with the ‘feast’ has given audiences the opportunity to enjoy this unique experience with their neighbours keeping alive a community spirit.

”This piece started four years ago when the writer Kevin Dyer and I visited Tehran to run a series of workshops at the Fadjr festival. That visit confounded and delighted both of us in equal measure. We saw an astonishing range of work in theatres brim full of audiences, with people sitting on every step and children hoisted onto laps. And what struck us was how alive these spaces are. In Iran making theatre is extremely challenging. The work has to first be sanctioned by the state and can only be presented in theatres owned and managed by the state, a government official sitting in on every rehearsal with the authority to censor or stop a particular performance. Men and women cannot touch or sing or dance. Despite all these challenges theatre makers manage, somehow, to say everything from the stage. Whilst in the UK, where we can say anything, much of the work on the stage says nothing. 

So here we are four years later, making a contemporary Iranian play for village halls. Demonstrating, once again, that some of the most relevant, experimental and new work can arrive from the most surprising of places. Our hope is that by the time ‘The Iranian Feast’ is over you have spent time in the company of friends, that we might understand something new about the world and ourselves, and that we are reminded of our common humanity.”    Gavin Stride, Producer

We premiered the show here at Farnham Maltings before going to the North, then down to the South-West, then heading over to Wales and finally, the company was in Scotland for the last week of the two month tour. We have had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback in response to the show and here’s a sample –

“This is the third time that we’ve had Farnham Maltings and every performance has been good but this one was outstanding. The play is innovative in its staging and the food, which was delicious. The play is topical, very funny at times but extremely thought provoking. […] Audience feedback was all very positive. […] This show wasn’t just a performance it was an experience which moved me a great deal.”
Promoter, Thomas Cranmer Centre, Aslockton

“The play was certainly a mixture of the bitter and the sweet.  I think the sharing and caring that was established by the feast lulled us until we were woken up and reminded of the repressive regime that surrounded the storyline.  A topical piece that invited us to think, but was entertainment all the same.  Needless to say, we all delighted in the culinary offerings! […] We are very grateful to be able to receive quality professional productions, like yours, with the help of the Live & Local subsidised scheme.” Chairman of Spring Bank Arts Centre, New Mills, High Peak

“[…] drew in the audience with its intimacy and good humour, ratcheted up the drama as we grew to care for its characters and delivered a powerful finale which had you thinking way after the performance was over. […] The writing was finely judged with its contrasting moods and totally compelling towards the end as the family wrestled with working out the right thing to do.” Audience member, Anslow Village Hall

“Totally immersive, beautifully acted and truly engaging.  Food for the body, mind and soul, opening a window onto another world from ours.” Audience member, Whittingham Village Hall

For more information on The Iranian Feast tour, please visit our website. We will be re-touring the show in 2015.

In spring 2014, we will be re-touring In Praise of Elephants – a celebration of the greatest animal on the planet and a touching story of a quiet man turning 60 trying to make sense of the world. Like you, we are committed to reaching and developing relationships with a wider rural audience and with this in mind we would be keen to know if you’d like to be a part of the spring tour next year? 

If you are interested in booking the show please contact Janice Brittain on Janice.brittain@farnahmmaltings.com

NRTF and RASA Theatre Company States of Verbal Undress Tour

NRTF is working with RASA theatre company and the rural touring schemes and small scale venues in the North to bring States of Verbal Undress to rural and small scale venues in Spring 2014.

Who do you think you are?  Would your identity change if you moved to the next town or across continents?  In this vibrant and dynamic show, a cast of distinguished performers from diverse backgrounds have come together in a unique quest to find the voices of Britain today. Based on interviews with Burmese, Iranian, Singhalese, Tamil, Chinese, Vietnamese and Britons with a multiplicity of identities, the show takes a poignant, funny and insightful look at what happens when new identities slip, when our roots show, and when, caught off guard, we are revealed in a state of “verbal undress”.

States of Verbal Undress truly reflects what we share as a people rather than what makes us different. When we stand in the voice of another, we truly understand…

Photo of Rani Moorthy

Following the huge success of previous shows ‘Curry Tales’ and ‘Handful of Henna’, Tamil-Malaysian writer/performer Rani Moorthy continues her journey into migrant stories by inviting Anglo-Burmese director/performer Cilla Baynes, Iranian director/performer Mehrdad Seyf and British East Asian director/performer David Tse to collaborate on a unique quest to find the voices of Britain today. Two years of interviewing bold and fascinating characters from at times elusive communities makes for a rare soundscape on stage.

From a Chinese man who grew up in Jamaica to a Burmese activist to a Vietnamese drag artist, this verbatim piece is a dynamic, insightful and distinctive production celebrating the voices of the New Britain.

Rasa means taste of feeling in Malay, the essence of the sap of life in Tamil and the 9 rasas or emotions that an artist evokes in Sanskrit theatre. Rasa, in all its meanings, reflects the cultural background of artistic director Rani Moorthy. Since its beginnings in 1998, Manchester based, Rasa has created 7 critically acclaimed, award nominated productions that have toured nationally and internationally. Rasa artistically celebrates the universal and enduring migrant experience and their displacements and dislocations, whether from Sri Lanka or Wales or Cambodia or Kenya, enable us to create dynamic theatre that is both epic and intimate.

The tour will be supported with drama and creative writing workshops which explore personal histories and themes of migration through stories and creative writing.  The workshops will target specific groups within villages – WI, local history groups, Young Farmers etc.  They will also link to schools to explore intergenerational themes. Initial ideas discussed with Rani are the offer of two different workshops.

  1.  Memory to Magic: A creative drama workshop which could be inter-generational. Grandparents and teenage grandchildren interview each other with the aim of reflecting the speech patterns, accent and expressions of the other generation, to gain a better understanding of age related matters in a refreshing unexpected light.
  2. Learning to Listen:  Similar interviews are used  as inspiration for creative writing. A similar process will take place, but the interviews will be passed to another person in the group to imagine the character behind the voice.

As well as the 15 small, rural and community venues in the North supported via the NRTF project,  RASA will be premiering States of Verbal Undress at The Lowry, Salford and touring to other theatres and rural touring schemes nationally.

“This partnership project allows us to offer our promoters in village and community halls, the chance to programme good quality, culturally diverse work that is contemporary in nature. The additional support attached to this project means we can support our promoters both financially and practically to develop audiences for this show and hopefully, for cross cultural theatre in the future. We look forward to touring States of Verbal Undress across 3 counties in the spring.” Esther Hingle, Highlights Rural Touring Scheme Outreach Worker.

“Rasa’s first foray into rural touring was so significant it was featured on Countryfile in 2004. Rasa as a company is committed to changing and challenging our perceptions about the migrant experience be it from a little Cheshire village to London, from Cambodia to Wales or in my case from Sri Lanka to Malaysia to Singapore to Manchester. The migrant experience, that is, the sense of dislocation, the feeling of isolation, the need to feel a part of a community and the reinvention of your identity, is different only by degree and intensity. I have found rural audiences immensely open to my work and embrace the idea that strong, accessible stories about the human condition are valuable connective tissue between people.” Rani Moorthy, Artistic Director, Rasa

“We look forward to hearing more about the piece as it develops and to getting feedback from the company, the touring schemes, venues, promoters and audiences”.  Alice Porter NRTF co-ordinator

PANDA and NRTF join forces with the Nothern Touring Schemes Pitching and Mentoring Project

National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) are delighted to be involved in this project and are looking forward to introducing our members to the work of the Performing Arts Network and Development Agency (PANDA) and putting PANDA members in touch with the rural touring network. See the Our Work section for more information on partnership projects the NRTF is involved with.

The next stage of the PANDA and NRTF pitching and mentoring project gets under way next week when representatives from touring schemes across the North get together with PANDA to discuss the next pitching and mentoring day.

The project has developed from an initial partnership between PANDA and Cheshire and Lanchashire rural touring schemes which grew to include other schemes in the North and led (amongst other things) to internationally renowned street performing companies Artisani and Avanti Display successfully applying for Arts Council Grants for the Arts funding to develop and tour a new show especially created for indoor rural venues.

The result is the wonderful 6 Impossible Things! An evening of circus, science, mayhem and a little magic. 6 Impossible Things is a performance that unites film makers, sculptors, taxidermists and magicians in a comedy-theatrical spectacular. Two experienced performers keep audiences guessing with an exceptional show that also stars the creations of this exceptional group of artists. Full of bizarre twists and turns, they present a magic carpet ride to a topsy turvy world where nothing is as it seems. And, most marvellous of all, demonstrate that it’s the same old world that we wake up to day after day.

We are also delighted that the writer and performer Denise Kennedy, who pitched her show Bella (the true story of the woman who went from Music Hall to running Blackfriars Boxing ring) to the mentoring scheme in 2012, and with help from PANDA and from her allocated mentor at Cheshire rural touring scheme submitted a Grants for the Arts funding application this year which was successful.  We hope to hear more about Bella in due course.

The following stage of the project saw NRTF becoming involved and an expanded group of touring schemes from across the North gathered to watch a new batch of selected companies and performers pitching their ideas. Each artist had a captive audience of rural touring programmers for their presentations and the opportunity for an informal chat about the work afterwards.

The pitching day in 2013 saw presentations from:

Geli Berg from the Lingua Franca Music Agency; Emma Dunn from Dansformation; Ali Dunican from Quarantine; Janine Waters from The Edge; Lucy Frost from Molly Orange Street; Ben Power from Moving Shadows; and Bill Palmer; and James Macpherson from Avanti and Artizani gave an update on their 6 Impossible Things piece.

We look forward to seeing some of the work on rural touring menues in due course.

“The pitches demonstrated a broad range of practices and innovative ideas that were indeed exciting to witness. It is even more exciting to consider the relationships that will be emerging from the conversations between artists and programmers. Each artist has since received personal feedback on their pitch and show as well as future contacts to aid in the development of the piece for rural touring. As a successful event for both artists and programmers, the PANDA rural touring scheme is going from strength to strength, attracting more programmers and developing more opportunities for artists.” Jodean Sumner for PANDA

The project has grown now to include reciprocal partnership opportunities for PANDA and NRTF together with a desire for the project to directly benefit touring schemes in the North and also to impact on the rest of the country.

“The aims of the project have been developing over time and as well as Northern area benefits we hope to see benefits across the country.  One of NRTF’s major aims is to raise the profile of rural touring amongst artists and companies and to encourage them to understand and be passionate about making work specifically for rural touring, thereby helping to make high quality, new and interesting work available for UK-wide schemes to programme and book. We will learn from PANDA and the touring schemes and artists involved in this project about how to effectively mentor and support emerging companies and those new to rural touring. The learning gained by working with PANDA will be shared with other partners who have expressed interest in how to mentor and support emerging companies”  Alice Porter NRTF

More details of the project can be found in the Our Work section of this website.

Welcome to Russ Tunney, newly appointed Director at Pound Arts Trust!

We’re delighted to welcome Russ Tunney, who’s just taken up the post of Director at Pound Arts Trust:

Having just taken up my new post as Director of Pound Arts (hub for Rural Touring South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire) I am frantically reaching out to introduce myself to as many partners, collaborators, artists, and  customers as I can. I was attracted to the post at Pound Arts largely because of the passionate commitment the company has to rural touring. I have a zealous belief in the responsibility that arts organisations have to their communities and to animate dialogue, debate and cultural fulfilment in their regions. If we don’t do it who will? I hope that in my time at Pound Arts we will build on the excellent foundation laid down by my predecessors and extend the already huge impact that we make into our communities. This introduction is also an open invitation for people to get in touch if you think that you can help us do it…

I come from a theatre background – I have worked for most of my career in what used to be called regional rep theatres and have worked both as a manager and also as an artist. I am a theatre director and writer and whilst I have worked a lot in conventional theatre spaces it is also true that a considerable amount of my work been produced in or toured to unconventional spaces. My shows play often in village halls, schools, churches, community centres, once in a cattle market and amazingly two years ago aboard a historic steamship. I know what it is like to produce, promote and make work on the rural touring circuit and I understand how vital this work can be in providing a sprinkling of joy in these communities. I live in Salisbury and drive over the great Plain each morning to work – I pass so many village halls knowing that what I do in the office that morning will help create an evening of pleasure in that very venue at some point. It’s a good feeling, and in these times of reduced central support for what we do, it’s a good remainder of why arts organisations are there – we exist to bring audiences and artists together. I look forward to seeing you at an event at some point in the future!

Russ Tunney
Director, Pound Arts Trust

Welcome to new Touring Scheme member, Performance Republic!

We’re delighted to welcome new Rural Touring Scheme member Performance Republic to the NRTF – here’s an overview of the development of South Yorkshire’s new touring scheme:

Point Blank have been producing and developing theatre and arts projects in South Yorkshire for over a decade. In the last 3 years we’ve taken on a pub and have become increasingly accustomed to playing host to artists. Creative Director, Steve Jackson says,“This change in perspective had us casting our eye over venue provision for gigging artists in South Yorkshire as well as ruminating on why we always travelled outside our region to see the best small scale touring work.”

It turns out the Arts Council In Yorkshire had been thinking the same thoughts and about 18 months ago the NRTF brought an NRTF/ACE report to Point Blank’s attention that made the case for the need for urban and rural touring for South Yorkshire and it was very much in line with our own observations.

Over a year ago, we were invited to the Northern Touring Schemes meeting to learn more how schemes operate and were inspired to see such inter-regional co-operation and hear how the original model of rural village hall touring had evolved to encompass all manner of venues, projects and audiences. Steve says, “Our team recognised the dynamism of the development workers, officers and promoters within the cluster of northern schemes. All excelled in their roles and were constantly pushing the boundaries of ambition and excellence while also working highly cooperatively” Although this impressed, Steve goes on to say  “We were a tiny bit in awe of what our neighbours had achieved! And we were still a little uncertain whether we would fit in as our sub-region was not as expansively rural as the other schemes ”.

Finally, we attended the Warwick NRTF 2012 New Directions showcase and as Artistic Director Amy Beard comments “We were blown away by the diversity of approaches to touring schemes and the diversity of touring shows being booked and touring projects being developed.” Amy goes on to say “Schemes such as Black Country Touring buoyed us up with their urban touring scheme and initiatives involving disability group promoters; young promoters and so on – we were completely convinced that although part of a national network, a scheme could really evolve to suit it’s particular geography and communities”.

Amy and Steve left the conference absolutely certain that a touring scheme could have a great impact in South Yorkshire and support from Helen Featherstone (Arts Council England) strengthened our confidence that we could pilot a programme on a very unique basis.

A meeting was held with local authority officers and stakeholders by one of our key partners – Rotherham College of Arts and Technology – and support was garnered on the prospect that our scheme could also begin to commission arts projects locally alongside hosting visiting work. This was exactly our aspiration and part of the inspiration we took from schemes across the country in developing and animating activity that complemented  hosting guest artists.  Thereafter our development worker, Rachel Boyce, began to invite promoters and venues from pubs to community centres, to libraries and even a hospital to explore the many ways in which South Yorkshire audiences could engage in touring arts.

Gill Vickers from the NRTF board and Livelincs gave us some great advice and guidance leading to a successful grant application to Arts Council England for the pilot of Performance Republic, our name for South Yorkshire’s new touring network, and as Rachel comments “We have been working flat out to get our scheme up and running ever since!

The pilot programme is supporting 10 venue and promoter groups across the region which through the Autumn ’13 and Spring ’14 season will bring a minimum of 25 performances and 15 workshops and provide training in identified needs areas alongside developing our touring infrastructure in South Yorkshire. Point Blank have been working with Bobby Tiwana  (former Black country Touring Producer) as mentor with his serendipitous relocation to our region.

Point Blank’s new administrator, Jo Lettin, is getting to grips with providing artist menus and identifying support needs for venues, “Programming is a little on the late side for Autumn although the bookings are coming in thick and fast!

All this is on the back of seeing work, meeting producers and artists (plus quoffing whiskey and celidhing) at the NRTF Conference in Stirling this July and taking 2 adult promoters and a young promoter to Edinburgh with support from the NRTF’s bursary scheme. Our young promoter, Maisy Hunter, from the isolated steel town of Stocksbridge, is hoping to submit some of her reviews to the NRTF website, “I have never seen so many amazing shows in my life from dancing carrier bags to birds nesting on people’s heads!” Point Blank were put up in beautiful accommodation at a bargain price and warmly hosted by  Rhiannon McIntyre of The Touring Network. Alongside this great hospitality,  the NRTF’s excellent relationship with Fringe Central made booking our shows and the overall experience a breeze and a great pleasure. 

As to our first season Jo Lettin reveals , “A particular programme highlight is Action Hero’s ‘A Western’ perfectly suited for those new to theatre in our pub, The Riverside, this November.” We discovered this gem at NRTF’s 2012 New Directions showcase, through one of China Plate’s many excellent recommendations and though not everyone loved it as much as us – our experience piloting an interactive show with our pub regulars (Tin Boxes’ lovely, Pint Dreams) we know its the sort of theatre that will bring everyone together and push the expectations of what art in our pub could be.  44 tickets have already pre-sold before our official publicity has gone out!

Being a member of NRTF has really helped us in our development stage. It’s an understatement to say its been wonderfully encouraging to have access to a network of tour promoters who have experienced it all before and are on-hand to offer advice if needed. Jo, who is only 3 months into her post at Point Blank, says, “The resources and forum on the NRTF website have been a gift – it has been one of the best informed new projects I have undertaken”.

We want to say an enormous thank you to so many of you in the network that have helped, inspired and given us the confidence to get going – from voluntary promoters, to the NRTF board, to development workers, officers, artists, producers and so on – too many to name. Whether in a formal meeting or more often than not over a coffee or a ceilidh you have been so welcoming and so positive. That more than anything has given us the fuel to bring our new scheme to life. We are proud and privileged to be a part of the network – South Yorkshire is now on the National Rural Touring Map!

Thanks from Steve, Amy,  Rachel and Jo at Point Blank and from all our South Yorkshire promoters!

Welcome to new Touring Scheme member, The Touring Network!

We’re delighted to welcome new Touring Scheme member The Touring Network to the NRTF. Here’s an overview of their work:

The Touring Network supports those who enable professional performing arts events in some of the most remote and beautiful places in Scotland.

Originally called the Promoters Arts Network (PAN) and established in 1998 as a membership-led organisation, whose aim was to bring together a loose-knit group of Highland promoters, The Touring Network now supports almost 100 promoters across the whole of the Highlands & Islands. Members stretch from Shetland in the North Sea all the way down to the Kintyre Peninsula on the south-west coast, an area the same size as Belgium, but without the infrastructure.

Our vision is to see rural touring be a central, celebrated and indispensable part of the cultural life of Scotland. The Touring Network exists to:

  • Enable remarkable live performances of the highest level.
  • Transform people as promoters, performers and audiences.
  • Create vibrant places to live, work and visit.

Through our work we support, connect, and represent:


We provide help, advice and training for promoters, in particular, those that are volunteers.  Whether they are putting on their first ever show or have been running events for years, we are here to provide help and support.


We provide a forum for voluntary promoters across the Highlands and Islands to connect and network, sharing knowledge, skills and resources. We develop relationships between promoters and performers, helping the highest standard of performances to reach people in isolated communities.


We work on behalf of our members, and alongside partner organisations, to strengthen and support the rural touring ecology as a whole, ensuring that touring and promoting remain accessible and relevant to all.
Whilst the majority of our members programme their own individual seasons, our Supported Touring scheme also enables us to support performances in under-represented geographic areas and genres. At the moment, we are able to offer contemporary theatre, children’s theatre and dance shows to our promoters at a subsidised rate. Our Spring/Summer season of Supported Touring this year saw 8 shows visit 17 different promoters across the network.

With the support of AmbITion, we have also developed a custom-built online platform called Tourbook, which connects rural promoters with each other, and with professional performers of all genres. It provides a space for performers to promote their shows and for promoters to share their activities and offer mutual support. It’s a bit like the Facebook of promoting, and the Trip Advisor of touring. Although still in development, the platform is proving to be a valuable tool for our promoters, and we will be providing access to performers in the coming weeks.

We at The Touring Network are pleased to be one of the NRTF’s newest touring scheme members. The opportunity to easily network with rural promoters throughout the rest of the UK is invaluable, especially since it is often quite easy to feel isolated in the Highlands.

Jazz Services / NRTF Rural Touring Support Scheme 2013/14 – successful applicants announced

As part of NRTF’s on-going partnership with Jazz Services we are delighted to announce the recipients of the 2013/14 Rural Touring Support Scheme.

Similar to Jazz Services National Touring Support Scheme, it is designed to assist bands with funding for touring in the UK, but rather than focussing on established venues, the Rural scheme works with the National Rural Touring Forum to present the selected artists to audiences in venues and locations less well served by the touring arts scene. 

This project started off with the successful touring of Stu Brown Sextet, Raymond Scott Project and Philip Clouts Quartet in 2012.  In 2013/14 rural venues will enjoy performances by Michal Janisch Purpose Built Quartet and Christine Tobin’s “A thousand Kisses Deep” tours to over 35 rural venues around the country.

We are delighted to announce that for 2013/14, the three bands chosen are:

Fumi Okiji’s Old Time Jazz Band

Sue Richardson

Heads South

These three bands will be presented to the Rural Touring Schemes and small venue associate members and will be available to tour throughout 2014 and 2015.

We’ll have more news on this as the process gets underway in future months, but for now we’d like to congratulate the successful bands and offer our thanks to all the many worthy applicants who submitted an application and thanks also to Esther Hingle from Highlights Rural Touring Scheme who joined David Porter on the Jazz Services selection panel.