Live & Local: Developing Artists in Rural Touring (DART)

Sally Rew, Company Administrator from Live & Local, provides an interesting overview of their DART development scheme, another example of a rural touring mentoring scheme for artists:

We have to thank Worcestershire County Arts Officer, Steve Wilson, a passionate advocate for artists, for initiating, and indeed funding, an artists’ development project in relation to Shindig (Worcestershire’s community touring scheme, which is delivered by Live & Local). Worcestershire County Council had previously delivered a successful visual artists’ development programme, but when it came to performing arts it was felt that the Shindig scheme was best placed to develop and deliver this, so as to benefit Worcestershire performers and the county’s arts venue infrastructure.

Live & Local created a project which would offer artists, groups and companies – in any performing art form – the chance to enter into a dialogue with rural touring and local small-scale touring venues. We advertised the opportunity through national, regional and local networks.

Live & Local was the Project Manager, taking charge of the delivery of the project, bringing others on board with suitable experience and expertise. We were keen to develop a project that was not simply about access to the community touring menu. We therefore recruited a panel who would work together to select the artists, provide feedback on their work, advise on marketing and touring opportunities at a DART-Day in November. The panel included: John Laidlaw (Executive Director of Live & Local) and Steve Wilson (Worcestershire County Arts Officer); two Shindig promoters; two Worcestershire arts venue managers/programmers; independent producers in theatre and music; a theatre-maker and a musician with experience of making shows for rural touring. This panel proved to be a valuable resource to the project and participating artists, bringing a breadth of experience to artist selection and advice-giving. It required a considerable time commitment of three full meeting days as well as reading all the applications and artists’ evaluations. However, panel members repeatedly affirmed that the whole experience was an interesting and valuable learning process.

DART-Day attendees

DART-Day took place on 20 November with the support of Number 8 Community Arts Centre, whose programmer, Emma Bangham, was a member of the DART panel. The panel had selected six groups to take part: two dance, two theatre, two music. It was an early start for many participants who had travelled some distance and already done their get-in in the theatre. We rewarded them with tea, coffee and pastries, and a very jolly ice-breaker activity that got everyone talking with each other. The morning then went into a series of 15 minute performance extracts, performed in the theatre to the panel and the other artists. Further tea and lunch breaks provided sustenance and the chance for artists and the panel to talk informally. In the afternoon each performance group received one-to-one feedback from the panel, and took part in small-group discussions offering tailored marketing advice and performance opportunities in Worcestershire.

After DART-Day, the panel was called together to formalise written feedback to artists and to share reflections on the DART process and ideas about the way forward. For many of the panel, Live & Local included, it has prompted thinking about formalising artists’ professional development opportunities that their organisations can offer; whether it be a village hall promoter offering to host a work in progress, or a venue manager creating a showcase event for local performers and promoters.

Live & Local is currently reviewing a range of possible levels of artist development support, with the intention of building a committed programme of activity into its business plan for 2015-18. We are keen to be in dialogue with other schemes that are supporting artists to develop their work for rural touring, working towards enhancing our network with a new generation of exciting shows.

Sally Rew
Company Administrator, Live & Local

More information about DART is available on the project website: http://developingartistsinruraltouring.wordpress.com/