Applause Outdoors 2016

Applause Rural Touring have launched Applause Outdoors 2016, bringing interactive family-friendly performances for outdoor events and festivals:

Applause Outdoors is offering six professional, contemporary arts performances to outdoor community events, fetes and festivals across Kent, East Sussex and West Sussex in 2016.

Three companies have been given development awards to build exciting, interactive performances, especially for outdoor events of this nature.

The companies and shows are:

Beautiful Creatures Theatre: OCTO-POT

A humorous and charming new walkabout performance, led by a quirky chef and his red and white checked serving trolley. Audiences will be surprised and delighted by the giant and grumpy octopus puppet as it emerges from the smoking, bubbling cooking pot, to play games, have a dance and fight an epic battle.

The Honk Project: The Dancing Day Trippers

Two eccentric vintage moped enthusiasts; a shining moped with a state-of-the-art sidecar, lots of instruments and a whole load of swing and jive are the main ingredients of The Honk Project’s latest delightful walkabout show!

Strangeface Theatre: Beached and Spaced

Using a tabletop as a puppet stage and silent disco style headphones Strangeface Theatre tell tiny tales suitable for all ages.

A co-commission from Applause and Gulbenkian bOing! International Family Festival for the development of a new family-friendly outdoor piece has been awarded to:

Acrojou: All At Sea

All at Sea is a roving performance combining interactive theatre with new technologies, melancholic humour, and the visual poetry for which Acrojou is renowned. All At Sea is an interactive ‘row-about’, consisting of a tiny wooden boat with its own fully functioning, mobile storm, complete with thunder and lightning flashes. Follow the ship’s pilot as he navigates his course all the while followed by his comically suspended cloud and continuous downpour.

We are also touring outdoor work by companies previously supported by Applause. The companies and shows are:

Dizzy O’Dare: The Giant Balloon Show

A crazy one-man show which sees the performer end up inside a giant balloon

Eric MacLennan: A Voyage Around My Bedroom

An extraordinary piece of art crossed with theatre where visitors are invited into a large Perspex cube containing a bed and are guided on a mini voyage around the room in the manner of a grand explorer.

Full details about the performances can be found in the Applause Outdoors Menu that you can download from the Applause website.

New Directions 2016 – applications now open for artists and companies wishing to showcase

We’re delighted to be inviting applications from artists, performers and producers as we work towards our bi-annual rural touring showcase festival, New Directions, which will take place at Falmouth University’s Academy of Music and Theatre Arts next year.

The aim of the event, taking place from 5-7 July 2016, is to introduce delegates to exciting high quality work suitable for rural touring and similarly to introduce a range of new artists and companies to the rural touring network.

Following on from their successful work for New Directions in both 2012 and 2014, China Plate have once again been engaged by NRTF to curate a programme for the 3-day event. New Directions 2016 will showcase a range of entertaining, surprising and stimulating performances which they describe as “being made for the curious and characterised by a spirit of adventure”.

With the aim of selecting bold and exciting work from a diverse range of artists that reflect the breadth and diversity of work presented by the rural touring network, we are seeking applications from all disciplines undertaking innovative work across the spectrum of contemporary theatre and dance.

Whilst actively seeking to engage with artists new to rural touring and to work with emerging artists, we also hope to feature established companies who are already familiar with rural touring but who are working on exciting, fresh new ideas and have aspirations to increase their reach to rural audiences.

Companies that are developing work ready to tour to UK rural venues following New Directions from Autumn 2016 through to Autumn 2018 will be prioritised. Whilst the working group are particularly looking for tour ready work, a limited number of shows in development will also be considered.

The showcase programme will be selected by a working group of China Plate, Carn to Cove (the Rural Touring Scheme for Cornwall and New Directions 2016 co-hosts) and the NRTF.

Companies interested in applying to be a part of New Directions should visit the Our Work section of our website, where you can download artist information and the application form.

Applications should be submitted by 14 February 2016 with successful applicants being notified by the end of March 2016.

Spot On Lancashire celebrates 20th Anniversary

Spot On, Lancashire’s Touring Network, celebrate 20 years of rural touring this year – happy birthday from all of us here at the NRTF! Sue Robinson, Spot On Director, looks back on the past 20 years:

Spot On Lancashire will be 20 this autumn. I can’t take the credit for starting it up, but I have been running it for a very long time. That’s the thing about rural touring. The sector nationally is full of people who find out how wonderful it is, and then stay put. Artists, managers and volunteer promoters.

Rural touring in England has been around for nearly three decades, and across England there are 36 networks and 2,000 village venues who are part of what we could now call a ‘movement’. Yet sometimes we struggle to be seen. It’s the little roads, I think, you have to look hard for them. Rural touring is not as visible as a traditional arts venue. We only exist when a show ‘pops up’ in a community.

This was just at the beginning of email, facebook didn’t exist, you had a long wait whilst lines formed for your webpage, and a time before the lottery. You would wait three months to hear about your £1,000 application to the regional arts board. Arts for Everyone transformed Spot On in 1998 when we joined a successful NRTF national bid. This set us on our journey to being regularly funded by North West Arts Board in 2002, and now part of the national portfolio. That investment, partnered with local authority support, has transformed the UK rural arts landscape and raised ambitions and expectations. 

Plenty of North West and UK artists have sustained a living, touring into rural areas across the country. We must be well over 1,500 Spot On events.

Spot On’s first Autumn season brochure from 1995 and their 10th Anniversary brochure from 2015

It’s not just about halls. We’ve placed work in churches, parks, campervans, storage cupboards, and even a metal whale on wheels. If we can fit an artist and an audience in it, it’s a venue.

The events wouldn’t happen without volunteers. They are the backbone of the network and about 40% of our service is delivered by people willing to give their time for free.

We became part of the new Northern Consortium, set up in 1999 following a successful bid to the Millennium Commission. In partnership with five other northern networks, we continue to support artists new to rural touring to develop work for the sector. This isn’t just about introducing artists to new audiences, it’s about nurturing talent, and assisting artists in sustaining a career in rural England.

Bringing international artists to the county is important. We’ve also connected the Centre of the UK with Middle Earth, hosting New Zealand musicians in Dunsop Bridge. It keeps us connected to the wider world, puts us on the map, and encourages tourism (they all go exploring when they are here). It gives people an idea that no hall is too small, or audience too remote.

Spot On’s 20th anniversary tour publicity

How will we look in 20 years time? It’s impossible to say. Two years ahead is daunting. Digital technology moves so fast, we have satellite broadcasting, and new ideas and new companies will develop and emerge.Funding will change, and priorities will shift. Communities will change too. But if we are still around, it’s due to artists, communities and investors all sticking together like glue; because time has shown that rural touring is an all round good thing.

NRTF seeks Project Manager for Rural Touring Dance Initiative

The National Rural Touring Forum has joined forces with The Place, Take Art and China Plate to launch a brand new 3 year initiative for touring and making dance to and for rural areas and are seeking an experienced Project Manager to underpin the project.

This is a key role and principal duties include brokering relationships between rural touring schemes, local volunteer village hall promoters, dance companies and artists and ensuring the programme of activity is integrated and delivered to an agreed timeline and on budget.

Deadline for applications is Monday 2nd November 2015.

Interviews will be held at Take Art, South Petherton, Somerset on Friday 27th November 2015.

Click here for more information and to download the recruitment pack and application form.

Jackie Hagan wins Creative Future Literary Award

Big congratulations from all of us here at the NRTF to Jackie Hagan, who has won a Creative Future Literary Award for her show Some People Have Too Many Legs!

The Creative Future Literary Awards is a national literary competition and high profile awards ceremony which celebrates talented writers who lack opportunities due to mental health issues, disability, health or social circumstance. Winners are selected by a panel of industry experts and prizes include £1000 of cash prizes & professional writing development support.

Colin Hambrook, of Disability Arts Online, reviewing the awards ceremony said: “I was struck by the affectionate portrait of Jackie Hagan’s ‘Edna’: a character whose impossible spirit cannot fail to invigorate. Edna features in Jackie’s one-woman show ‘Some People Have Too Many Legs’, which is a must-see when it tours again this winter.”

Some People Have Too Many Legs was developed as part of the partnership between Contact Theatre and the NRTF and Jackie is back on the road again this Autumn from 5th October. Full tour dates can be found here.

Rural Touring Seasonal Highlights – Autumn 2015

Nationally renowned producing theatre and an international line-up among the highlights touring rural venues throughout the country this autumn

Members of the National Rural Touring Forum once again dispel the misconception that the best art and cutting edge live performances can only be seen in the country’s major, cosmopolitan cities as a myriad of artists tour to what may be by some seen as less conventional venues this autumn and winter.

With the standard, variety and quantity of work on offer being extremely high, it has been a challenge for NRTF’s Development Director, Ralph Lister, to select his season highlights: “The quality of productions available on the Rural Touring circuit is truly phenomenal – something that constantly amazes people when they attend for the first time.” Ralph commented, adding: “This season, as ever, there is a staggering array of shows on offer featuring an eclectic mix of styles and genres, choosing a few highlights has been an almost impossible task”.

Included in the line-up leaving the cities behind is a production from the globally renowned West Yorkshire Playhouse, a Norwegian contemporary dance company and a Scottish-Zambian singer.

Beryl – West Yorkshire Playhouse

Joining rural touring for the first time, West Yorkshire Playhouse have taken to the road with their acclaimed production of Maxine Peake’s Beryl. Originally premiered at their Leeds home in 2014, the story follows the life of unsung sporting legend Beryl Burton “the greatest woman on two wheels”. Having received a string of hit reviews from respected national theatre critics, its arrival on the rural touring circuit in the form of a specially reworked, technically simpler version demonstrates clearly the strength of work available as part of these schemes.

James Brining, Artistic Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse is a strong advocate of touring to venues throughout the community:  “Being out in the communities is absolutely fundamental to what the Playhouse is about for me. It’s important because I believe we have a responsibility to give as many people as possible the opportunity to experience what we do. But it’s not just about our responsibility to make our work accessible, I also love the atmosphere and environment that this approach generates in the venues we visit.”

Joe Hennessey of Rural Arts North Yorkshire, one the schemes working with the West Yorkshire Playhouse on this project, said: “It is the first time West Yorkshire Playhouse have toured one of their shows rurally, and the opportunity to work with such an established theatre is something we cannot wait to do.

Behind The Mirror – Panta Rei Danseteater

Having first toured with Artsreach in Dorset in 2011, Norwegian contemporary dance company Panta Rei Danseteater return with Behind The Mirror. Featuring the Oslo-based company’s trademark of stunning choreography coupled with a distinctive soundscape, this take on the classic Alice Through The Looking Glass will be appearing with Take Art in Somerset, Rural Arts Wiltshire and Artsreach in Dorset and across the South West of England this November.

Audiences are ensured of a high paced, colourful dance experience with pulsating performances that are fantastically accessible.

Every Brilliant Thing – Paines Plough / Pentabus

The impressive combination of two champions of new writing, Paines Plough and Pentabus, head to Cheshire with Rural Touring Arts, to Hampshire with Hog the Limelight and to the Highlands with The Touring Network amongst other destinations to present a bold new play about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love. Each performance will be unique with members of the audiences being directly involved with the show.

Described by Lyn Gardner as “one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression – and possibly one of the funniest plays you’ll ever seem full stop”, this show, and its themes, will appeal to a wide range of audiences as well as reaching out to local mental health support groups.

The Red Chair – Clod Ensemble

Clod Ensemble made their mark at last year’s NRTF showcase with a stunning extract from this dark, original fairy tale. It is fantastic for rural touring that this surreal ballad is included in this exciting season.

Join acclaimed writer/performer Sarah Cameron as she works with Take Art in Somerset to take you on a journey through a world of extreme compulsion and eye watering complacency, where domestic drudgery happens on an operatic scale and a father’s dereliction of duty reaches epic proportions.

Dracula – Rabbit Theatre

The award-winning Rabbit Theatre and the ‘outrageously versatile’ performer David Mynne,  who will be well known for his extensive work with Cornish theatre company, Kneehigh – bring his one-man performance of Bram Stoker’s classic tale of the vampire. This monstrous, disturbing (and completely batty) tale of dark deeds, brought to rural touring by Pound Arts and Rural Arts Wiltshire, will thrill and seduce audiences (though children under 12 are advised not to attend).

The Devil’s Larder – Grid Iron Theatre Company

First produced for Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture, The Devil’s Larder is now coming exclusively to the Highlands with The Touring Network. This critically acclaimed site-specific promenade production based on the novel by Jim Crace examines how food can act as a catalyst for unleashing our fears, desires and taboos.

Other Highlights….
The full list of excellent performances taking place in rural areas throughout the country is too long to mention but other highlights include: Going Viral (Daniel Bye); A Christmas Carol (Living Spit); Salaam (Sonia Sabri Company); Some People Have Too Many Legs (Jackie Hagan/Contact Theatre); Strictly Balti (Travelling Light); Oddly (Norwich Puppet Theatre); Hands Up For Jonny Wilkinson’s Right Boot (Live Wire Theatre); and Bar Story (Etta Ermini Dance Theatre).

Rural Arts FRESH Initiative

Sophie Backhouse, of Rural Arts North Yorkshire, tells us about their FRESH pay-what-you-think initiative:

Last year we trialled a few pay-what-you-think events as a new way of marketing hard to sell performances.

Originally this was really a one-off idea to inspire audiences to give shows a go. However, we received brilliant feedback, with audience members mentioning that they attended because they didn’t have to commit financially, but then really enjoyed the show. So we realised it was a novel way of drawing people in to shows that they may not have heard of, or performance styles we haven’t often programmed.

At the start of 2015 we decided to put this approach in to practice, programming a summer of ‘Fresh’ performances which were all pay-what-you-think. We decided to use this platform to offer opportunities to emerging artists, as a way of viewing performances that haven’t been shown before or working with companies that were very new. We could then talk to them about the idea of rural touring and how their show could be adapted to work with us, this included advice on staging, marketing etc.

Vanessa Kisuule

Spoken word artist, Vanessa Kisuule

We also used this opportunity to increase our programming of performance poetry, being situated in Thirsk you would normally have to visit York to see a performance poetry night. With the pay-what-you-think aspect performance poetry was very successful, with people attending that had never visited Rural Arts before.

Audience feedback included:

“Totally refreshing to see a vibrant spoken word show in Thirsk. Great as a ‘Pay what you think’ event”
“It is a privilage and a delight to have an oppertunity to experience live poetry being performed. Thank you to the poet and Rural Arts”
“Not a poerty person usually – this was a revelation!”

The only drawback to this initiative is discussing artists fees, as you don’t know how much the performance will make. However, everyone we worked with was up for the challenge and appreciated the idea. We found that you often have to find the right balance of quality, as even though it’s essentially free to attend potential audience goers still wanted to see a high quality performance. We would recommend giving the idea a go, as it worked for us at The Courthouse.

NRTF Partnership with Contact Theatre – evaluation summary

A summary of the key findings and recommendations from the evaluation of the three-year partnership between the NRTF and Contact Theatre has been posted in the Our Work section of the NRTF site.

With the aim of producing new solo shows aimed at young audiences through the creation of a young promoters network, tthe project started with Maxwell Golden’s Countryboy’s Struggle in 2012/13, continued with Sophie Willan’s The Novice Detective in 2013/2014 and came to completion with Jackie Hagan’s Some People Have Too Many Legs in 2015.

Twenty-five touring schemes took part in the project, hosting 120 performances over the three years.

The evaluation includes recommendations in areas including:

  • organisational capacity for the producing partners
  • capacity building and skills development for small rural venues
  • involvement of young people in the commissioning and programming processes
  • considerations around marketing to a range of new audiences

The NRTF and Contact Theatre will be discussing in the Autumn what the next phase of development for the project might be.

Applause Outdoors – Invitation to Companies/Artists

In summer 2016, Applause Rural Touring will be programming outdoor performances into existing, locally organised village fetes, community festivals and similar events in Kent and Sussex. These events take place almost exclusively at weekends from May to September.

We are looking for companies / artists with an established interest and track record of working outdoors and interactively who would like to be part of this programme. We are seeking:

• Existing work which is in need of some development.

The Honk Project – The Dancing Day Trippers (Applause Outdoors 2015)

There is a total budget of £6,000 available to support up to 4 companies / artists to develop shows which have content appropriate for a village fete or local festival setting. Work should entertain and engage audiences, be self-sufficient (i.e. not require technical or other support / involvement by the host organisation) and be able to be accessed by diverse, non-age specific audiences in a range of time frames (i.e. does not require the audience to arrive at a certain time and remain for a set amount of time).

Performance dates will be booked only on satisfactory development of the piece and an agreed show fee (please see show fee guide below).

Please note:

• Technical Challenges

We will be placing work in a variety of community settings including events that can provide very little technical or other support – the more technical requirements you have, the fewer the possible bookings.

• Programming

Your piece will have to fit around other events in the host event programmes so please consider whether you require the audience to arrive at a certain time and remain for a set amount of time.

• Show Fee Guide

We hope to offer each artist/company about 7 bookings between May – September 2016. We expect a one-person show to go out for £350, a two-hander for £450 and a maximum of £550 for a show with a cast of 3 or more. (If you are applying, please ensure your piece is tourable within these price guides, the fee must include your travel costs)

• Artist / Company Administration

Artist / company administration needs to be strong. Applause will be responsible for booking a place and date for your show but the company will then be responsible for making specific arrangements and finalising details with host venues and promoters. Many of these hosts are volunteers and have no specialist theatre knowledge – you will need to be flexible and understanding.

• Availability

You need to have very good availability for weekends throughout May to September 2016.

Application Process

Please send a proposal (no longer than 2 sides of A4 – we cannot consider proposals that exceed this. Please do not send lots of images we’d prefer website links to examples of your work) including:

• Your background / track record

• A description of the piece proposed for this project and which elements you want to develop (e.g. you need to build a new piece of staging; you want to bring in someone to teach you specific skills; you want directorial or dramaturgical advice on the piece).

• An indication of how much money is required and what you will spend it on

We will expect most of the development work to take place between November 2015 and March 2016. Applause will require evidence (photos and / or video) of the work undertaken. Applause will provide support and practical advice during the development process.

Please send proposals by email to with the subject line “Applause Outdoors 2016 Proposal” by 9am Monday 21st September 2015. If you have been shortlisted, you will be notified by email by Friday 2nd October 2015. We will acknowledge receipt of your proposal, however, we regret we are unable to provide feedback to non-shortlisted applicants.

The Touring Network Appoints New Chief Executive Officer

The Touring Network (Highlands & Islands) are pleased to announce the appointment of Jo McLean as their Chief Executive Officer, a new post that has been created in order to consolidate and grow this innovative and creative company in one of the most spectacular regions of Scotland.

A former classical musician, who has played and toured with world class orchestras including the Hallé Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Opera and BBC orchestras, Jo joined the team at Cove Park in 2006, supporting the visual arts and crafts residencies and developing a series of music residencies to support emerging musicians and composers.  In 2011 Jo became senior producer for UZ Arts where she developed and produced a wide range of festivals and events, including one of the signature events for Homecoming 2014 – the International Launch of The Kelpies and the John Muir Festival.  Jo has worked as a consultant and producer across Scotland and internationally, commissioning small and large scale works across a wide range of art forms. More recently she has specialised in site responsive work in a European context.

“I am delighted to be joining the Touring Network and am very much looking forward to continuing the exciting work already underway.” Jo McLean

Jo will take up the post of Chief Executive Officer on 17 August 2015.

For more information, contact Rhiannon McIntyre, Services Manager, on 01463 231328 or

About the Touring Network:

The Touring Network exists to see rural touring be a central, celebrated and indispensable part of the cultural life of Scotland. We exist to enable live performances of the highest level, transforming people as promoters, performers and audiences to create vibrant places to live, work and visit.

Our venues cover over half the area of Scotland. We have promoters working in communities across Highland, Argyll & Bute, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, and Perthshire.

For more information, visit