Rural Touring Mentoring Scheme Celebrates its 10th Birthday!

Claire Smith, of Cheshire’s Rural Touring Arts, reflects on the past 10 years of the PANDA Rural Touring PItching and Mentoring Scheme:

Not being hugely precise in my record keeping (!) I had no idea that our project with PANDA in Manchester has this year been happening for 10 years until I unearthed some old documents in a clear our recently.

It seems fitting therefore that in this its 10th year it is returning to its roots in Cheshire.

In this time it’s grown from involving one scheme to now being a partnership with all seven of the Northern Rural Touring Schemes. The major key partner of course being PANDA, who support the companies that apply throughout the process and this year successfully applied for a Grants for Arts Award to enable the scheme to continue.  

There is an open application process via PANDA’s membership. This year we had 28 applicants and 7 companies have been shortlisted to attend a day in Chester where those companies will have a chance to sit down and have a ‘creative conversation’ with us as scheme managers about work they want to make or have made that might work for our rural audiences.

We particularly like to meet artists before they pin down too much so we can ‘rural proof’ their creative thoughts and become collaborators in their process.

It’s a real privilege to engage with the artistic side of what we do.  In my view we are sunk as programmers if we don’t remind ourselves regularly about the business of making the work that will ultimately pop up in our inboxes and fully appreciate what it takes to get it there.

I think over the years it has helped break down the ‘Us and Them’ attitude and has nurtured a more collaborative approach with companies.

It is very difficult to assess the quality or integrity of an artist or show without seeing or meeting with the people involved – this project is a great way of being able to do this.

For the companies, emerging and mid-career, who are often short of resources it’s a great opportunity to meet multiple scheme mangers in one hit and get backing for a show – support that can translate into a promise of multiple dates and  Grants for the Arts awards that are more likely to succeed as a result.

Really looking forward to our day on 15th June – where we will no doubt begin some long term relationships with companies and be reminded about why we got involved in this fabulous sector in the first place!

Thanks so much for all that [feedback]. Very useful, pertinent – and largely gratifying – comments!….I really can’t thank you enough for this brilliant scheme. It makes planning and producing a rural tour so much easier and less lonely!’  Sue McCormick – previous participant