Local Play with National Significance – The Common Hopes to Hit the Road

NRTF members Beaford Arts and China Plate worked together to produce The Common:

An inspiringly insightful piece of contemporary theatre with important messages for our collective future – we ARE the land” … Positive response to Beaford Arts’ The Common might just get this show on the road.

After two sellout performances of this series of dramatic dialogues about our relationship with the local environment, Beaford Arts hopes to take The Common on a national tour.

Lucy Deasy, General Manager of Beaford Arts, says “Our objective as the cultural partner of the North Devon Nature Improvement Area (NIA) was to create a piece about the value of the land. Our mission was to engage with two local communities, work within them, engage them and produce a show that would resonate with the varied audience within those communities.”

Feedback from those who saw the shows in Dolton and Hatherleigh, where The Common was researched, developed and performed, certainly seems to indicate success “It was a triumph. Full of admiration for the performers. Very moving and you got the Devon nuances.” 

Others wanted to share the love @ruthresearch tweeted “A lovely evening in the company of @beaford & @YourOldChina last night, do hope there is a longer life for #TheCommon” and another comment simply says “Brill! Sock it to Whitehall”

Producer, Fin Irwin worked with theatre company China Plate to create the show “It has been a pleasure to work on a project that has had such a high and diverse level of engagement. From the environmentalists to the local farmer and the pub landlord, everyone has had a story to tell and has been keen to tell it. The positive response from the participants and audience alike was overwhelming and proved that this project will create a lasting legacy in the memories of those who saw it.”

This is a local production with national significance. The rural issues explored in The Common are relevant to communities nationwide and Beaford Arts hopes to roll the show out to the other eleven Nature Improvement Areas around the country “Our future goal is to tour the play to other NIAs, Westminster and maybe beyond.” says Lucy Deasy.

New Directions 2014 – Participant Feedback

The bi-annual rural touring showcase festival, New Directions, took place in York from 15th – 17th July this year. Featuring showcase performances by 38 performers and companies, the event was attended by over 100 delegates including touring scheme representatives, voluntary promoters, artistic companies, small venues and funders.

The opportunity to meet Promoters, venues, agencies, artists and funders was immensely useful. And to actually see and experience quality work fit for rural touring was important in understanding the product and the relationship between Artist/company and Promoter.”

The showcase took place at York Theatre Royal and at The Fauconberg Arms in Coxwold, where The Little Festival Of Everything saw performances in a range of non-traditional spaces, from the pub itself to the surrounding fields, a car, a caravan and a minibus. A new departure for 2014 was a focus on dance for rural touring, with four dance companies invited to showcase their work and talk to promoters and touring schemes.

“Fantastically organised, felt like going to a mini Edinburgh festival but without all the dashing between shows and all the hard work done for us!”

Delegates were asked to feedback on the event and the results have been summarized in a report that can be downloaded from the Resources section of the NRTF website.

“I thought the whole conference was fantastic. I returned home with a real buzz and lots of ideas of how to promote new events in our community.”

The report contains feedback on all elements of New Directions and closes with recommendations for future events.

Next year’s NRTF conference, taking place at Wymondham College in Norfolk from 14-16 July, will focus on networking, discussion and debate, with some showcase sessions. Applications are now open to performers and companies wishing to showcase at the event.

The next New Directions showcase will take place in Falmouth, Cornwall in July 2016.

Our Highlights From 2014

We’ve had another fantastic year in 2014 – here are some of our highlights from the past 12 months:

Our partnership with Contact Theatre started 2014 with a 42-date tour of The Novice Detective by Sophie Willan, involving 14 rural touring schemes and their young promoter groups, 81 creative workshops for young people and over 1,600 audience members. Sophie was the winner of the 2012 Flying Solo Rural Touring commission and the NRTF/Contact partnership is now working with Jackie Hagan, the 2013 winner, on her show Some People Have Too Many Legs. Jackie showcased work in progress at our New Directions event in July and is now working with Take Art and Beaford Arts and audiences of young people on developing the show for a 2015 tour.

Our partnership with PANDA (Performing Arts Network and Development Agency) on their pitching and mentoring scheme saw eight companies invited in March to pitch to a panel made up of touring scheme representatives and voluntary promoters. A full overview of the 2014 pitching and mentoring scheme can be found in this article.  Chanje Kunda, one of the artists selected to pitch, was invited to our New Directions showcase in July, presenting an excerpt from Amsterdam. Chanje’s work was very well received at New Directions  and it’s hoped that she’ll soon be appearing in village halls around the country.

We were also delighted to work with Rasa theatre company to bring a tour of States of Verbal Undress to 13 rural and small-scale venues in the Spring this year, supported by workshops and post-show Q&A’s. One of the key aims for the project was to look at ways of developing new audiences for culturally diverse work in rural areas and an evaluation of the tour can be found here.

Our bi-annual New Directions showcase in July saw over 100 delegates and 38 performers and companies take over York Theatre Royal for three days of fantastic showcases, discussions and networking. A new addition to the showcase was the Little Festival of Everything at the Fauconberg Arms pub in Coxwold, an evening of showcase performances in non-traditional spaces. 2014 also saw a focus on dance for rural touring for the first time, with four dance companies showcasing their work. Philip Holyman, of Little Earthquake, has written about a theatre maker’s experience of New Directions and Cate Latchford told us about her experience of the event as a voluntary promoter. A summary of the feedback from the event can be found here.

Panta Rei Danseteater at New Directions 2014

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. The winners of the awards for 2014 – Fumi Okiji’s Old Time Jazz Band, Sue Richardson and Heads South – all took part in the Jazz Services showcase at New Directions and have been on the road throughout the Autumn, continuing their tours into 2015.

We were very pleased to be able to announce that the NRTF was successful in its application to remain an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) for 2015-18. This continued support from Arts Council England means that the NRTF will be able to continue our work in strengthening and supporting the rural touring sector and promoting a better understanding of the value of rural and community touring.

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. As our membership base grows, with associate membership now open to artists, companies, small venues, producers, promoters and festivals, we’re currently looking into how we can develop the site further in the future to make it an invaluable resource for the rural touring network. Feedback from members shows that the site continues to be a useful resource: 73% of NRTF members visit the website 1-4 times a month, 81% of members find the weekly discussion updates useful and 61% of touring schemes have booked performers and companies after they’ve posted information on a forthcoming tour on the site’s discussion boards.

With exciting plans in the pipeline for 2015 we’re looking forward to another fantastic year for rural touring!