Rural Touring Dance Initiative – call out for artists

The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) has joined forces with The Place, Take Art and China Plate to launch a new 3 year initiative for touring to and making dance for rural areas, funded by Arts Council England through their Strategic Touring programme.

We are seeking artists to take part in this project. There are opportunities to tour existing shows to rural locations, and we are offering one production award of up to £45,000 to make a new show for rural touring.

Through the Rural Touring Dance Initiative we seek to work with dance artists to develop and tour new work to rural audiences. Dance is underrepresented on the rural touring circuit and we want to increase opportunities for rural audiences to experience brilliant new dance.
We’re looking for…

Existing shows

Artists who have a show which you think is ready to tour rurally, or ready with some adaptations, and is available to tour in autumn 2016 and/or spring 2017.

New ideas

Artists who have an idea for a show you would like to make, which you think would work well on the rural touring circuit.

The deadline for applications to take part is 10am on Friday 11th September. Full details on the scheme and how to apply can be found on The Place website at

Three year Rural Touring Dance Initiative launches

The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) today launches a major three year project which will substantially increase dance touring in rural England, Wales and Scotland. The launch takes place on the second day of the NRTF’s three day Annual Conference, this year held in Wymondham, Norfolk with speakers including Arts Council England’s Michelle Dickson. Aimed at addressing the current underrepresentation of dance in rural touring, (Arts Council England’s ‘Rural evidence and data review’ (March 2015) found that only 2% of NPO funded dance companies toured to rural areas in 2012/13), The Rural Touring Dance Initiative will have a total budget of £500,000 (£379,560 of which represents a successful bid to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund).  Planning for the three year programme started in May 2015 with the project finishing in July 2018.

Phoenix Dance (c) Richard Moran

The project will be delivered in partnership with one of the UK’s premier centres for contemporary dance, The Place, independent theatre studio and development specialists, China Plate and Somerset’s rural touring scheme and county dance agency, Take Art. Activity will include dance performance touring to rural areas, with a total of 115 shows being promoted in partnership with NRTF member rural touring schemes UK-wide through two menus of work running September to May 16/17 and September to May 17/18. The first menu of work will be offered to schemes in January 2016, and will include work from Phoenix Dance, Sonia Sabri, SpiltMilk, and Norwegian Dance Company Panta Rei.

Ralph Lister, Development Director for NRTF comments:

“This is a really exciting opportunity to raise the quality and range of dance work available to audiences living in rural areas. The Initiative is also an invitation to dance companies to discover the delights that rural touring can offer. Each of the project partners bring a complementary set of knowledge skills to the initiative and in addition we acknowledge the crucial role our rural touring scheme members will play, developing and supporting volunteer village promoters to expand their appetite for dance.”

Sonia Sabri Company

The project will also include a week-long ‘Darkroom’ residency for four dance companies to develop ideas for rural touring. This will take place in November 2015 and will include time spent working in a village hall environment. Two companies will then be offered seed commissions of £3,600 each to further develop shows.

A full production award of £45,000 will be given to a company for a show to tour as part of the second menu.

Eddie Nixon, Director of Theatre and Artist Development, The Place comments:

“We’re delighted to be working with NRTF, China Plate and Take Art on this project. We’re looking forward to introducing rural audiences around the country to the rich diversity of performance that dance artists are making at the moment, and to supporting those dance artists to embrace the huge opportunities that rural touring has to offer.

As part of our artist development programme at The Place, we work with dance makers to develop new audiences and build sustainable livelihoods, as well as to hone their craft, and this project supports all these areas in an exciting new direction.”

SpliltMilk Dance (c) James Dodd

Michelle Dickson, Director Touring and Director North, Arts Council England comments:

‘I am delighted that we are supporting the Rural Touring Dance Initiative through our National Lottery funded Strategic touring programme. This project has been driven by the rural demand for exceptional performance. The partnership between Take Art, The Place and China Plate will not only create and tour high quality dance to audiences in village halls across the country, but it will also develop skills in rural touring in dance companies and local promoters which should help to ensure a long term legacy.’

Panta Rei Danseteater

The project will also include two 2.5 day ‘Introduction to Rural Touring’ ‘labs’ aimed at dance companies wanting to engage with rural touring, Children & Young People Residencies, and an enhanced dance showcase at  NRTF’s Annual Conference in July 2016 and July 2017.

Marketing support will be provided by a co-ordinator who will be appointed to the project, alongside ‘Go & See’ grants which will enable less confident touring schemes wishing to promote dance to either visit schemes who have a track record in putting on dance shows or to invite a successful touring scheme promoting dance to visit them.


Companies and artists who are interested in applying can visit to download an application form and FAQs. The closing date for applications is at 10am on Friday 11 September 2015.

Programme announced for The NRTF Annual Conference 2015

We are delighted to announce the full programme for our annual conference, which will include the launch of a new book charting the purpose and social value of rural touring, ‘A Wider Horizon’ from researcher and writer François Matarasso, as well as Arts Council England’s Head of Touring and North, Michelle Dickson.  Michelle will speak on the topic of ‘The Strategic Touring Programme, Next Steps and Developments,’ and she will also join a series of breakout sessions in the afternoon discussing what ‘strategic’ means for rural touring.

Other speakers at the conference include ACE’s Paul Bristow, Director, Strategic Partnerships, who will discuss the recently published ‘Rural Evidence Review’ with NRTF’s Director of Development, Ralph Lister. There will also be talks by Steve Miller, Head of Arts & Museums for Norfolk County Council, as well as presentations and performances from companies including New Perspectives, Kali Theatre and one on one surgeries with The Audience Agency.   

NRTF will also launch its new Rural Touring Dance Initiative at the conference, supported by £379,560 of Strategic Touring funding.

NRTF is working in partnership with Creative Arts East on the conference whose theme this year is to explore the idea that “Rural Touring is great at audience engagement.”

  • In 2012/13 the rural touring network supported 2,407 rural communities to promote over 3,762 live professional arts performances for a combined audience of 308,976                 
  • Research shows that rural touring reaches many people who never or rarely access the arts and that it makes a valuable contribution to community life.

The three day event comprises of showcases, workshops, debate, discussion and networking and is fully booked for this year, with over 120 delegates attending, including touring scheme workers, promoters, venues, funders, local authority officers and members and artists and performers.

Showcasing is an important part of the conference, allowing touring schemes, venues and voluntary promoters to see work, share experiences and broaden their knowledge of work available.

Artsreach help the Landmark Trust celebrate their 50th Anniversary with LAND by Antony Gormley

In celebration of the Landmark Trust’s 50th Anniversary, Clavell Tower in Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset is one of only five special Landmark Trust sites across Britain selected to host ‘LAND’, a temporary installation by sculptor Antony Gormley. Over a special Golden Weekend of celebration in May, choirs and musicians at 25 Landmark Trust sites across Britain performed a new composition by musician Kerry Andrew in a shared ‘Golden Moment’.

Kimmeridge Landmark – Antony Gormley (c) Roland Tarr

At Kimmeridge, Sammy Hurden led the locally based Freedance Choir in performing their interpretation of this Anthem, and other works in response to the dramatic coastline of this area. The Ridgeway Singers & Band also performed pieces of local significance, and all events on the day were coordinated by Artsreach.

Procession from Clavell Tower (c) Roland Tarr

Take a look at this stunning compliation of photographs from the day, overlaid with the Freedance Choir performing ‘An Anthem for Landmark’.

NRTF seeks Rural Touring Dance Initiative Co-ordinator

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 Co-ordinator 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.

Please use this link for the recruitment pack and application form and feel free to forward the link to appropriate colleagues or contacts.

Closing date for applications is noon on Tuesday 7th July.

Jackie Hagan wins Best Spoken Word Show at the Saboteur Awards

Jackie Hagan’s show Some People Have Too Many Legs, developed and toured as part of the NRTF and Contact Theatre partnership, has been awarded Best Spoken Word Show in the Saboteur Awards 2015.

The Saboteur Awards celebrate the best in independent literature (poetry, short stories and live performance) and winners are selected via a public vote.

Huge congratulations to Jackie from all of us here at the NRTF!

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

Chris Bridgman newly appointed Artistic Manager for Kirkgate Arts in Cumbria

Chris Bridgman recently took up his new role as Artistic Manager for Kirkgate Arts, including management of Cumbria’s Rural Touring Scheme, Arts Out West. We asked how he’s settling in…

Well, it looks like I’ve got a Proper Job at last. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding (consciously or otherwise) full-time, long-term employment in favour of a selection box of freelance and part-time work. I don’t want to create an unnecessarily romantic picture of complete fecklessness. I did run North West Playwrights (developing and supporting script-writers) for more than a decade. But that was part-time, allowing for all sorts of forays into acting, directing, teaching…

I’ve just had a very enjoyable spell as Creative Producer for Litfest in Lancaster, curating the annual festival, and developing a range of other projects across the year. But that was also part-time; whereas Artistic Manager for Kirkgate Arts is most definitely full-time. It’s actually two jobs: programming the Kirkgate Arts Centre in Cockermouth, and managing Arts Out West, the Rural Touring Scheme for West Cumbria.

I guess in this role I’m a poacher turned gamekeeper. A theatre company I set up with writer Crystal Stewart – boojum – was the first to be introduced to rural touring through the PANDA/Cheshire Rural Touring mentoring project. Ten years ago. (OMG! Really?!). Now I’m looking forward to the showcase day for the current crop of mentees – the enterprise now involving 6 schemes across the North and West Midlands.

More recently I’ve been back to my acting roots, performing in Rocket Theatre’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. This has had considerable exposure in rural touring schemes, from Hampshire to Aberdeenshire; and rather startlingly, immediately after I was offered this post, we played three of the Arts Out West venues – a great introduction to my new constituency. On the first of those three nights Peter Normington, the seasoned promoter at Ireby, had great pleasure in being able to announce that present in the hall were Caroline Aston, the current Arts Out West Manager, as well as her predecessor, Bob Pritchard. And her successor would be…Chris, who’d just been pratting about in a range of broadly-drawn characters.

I owe huge thanks to Peter, who took me on a grand safari of our region; to Caroline, for an intense and invaluable two-week hand-over process; and to all at Highlights, our NPO partner, who created a very successful joint event for promoters, and are generally being very tolerant of (and helpful to) my getting-up-to-speed process. I’m also very grateful to all at the Kirkgate, who are being immensely supportive and welcoming. It’s been a great pleasure meeting the promoters and seeing some excellent performances out in the villages. Two months in, the autumn menu’s been finalised, and I’ve managed to experience around half of our halls – either just visiting, seeing a show – or performing in one. Plenty more work to be done – and plenty more pleasures to look forward to.

Some People Have Too Many Legs – Young Promoters in Glossopdale

As part of her tour of Some People Have Too Many Legs, Jackie Hagan worked with a group of young promoters from Glossopdale Community College.

Students were involved in all aspects of promoting the show and preparing the venue and also had the opportunity to take part in a performance workshop with Jackie.

Big thanks to High Peak Community Arts for putting together this film and thanks and well done to the Glossopdale Young Promoters!

NRTF successful in Arts Council England Strategic Touring application May 2015

We are delighted to announce that the NRTF has been successful in its bid to secure £379,560 through the Arts Council of England Strategic Touring funds to support a dance and rural areas touring initiative, with NRTF member schemes as key delivery partners. Working with project partners, The Place, China Plate and Take Art, we are embarking on a 3-year project to enable substantially more dance touring to take place in rural England, Wales and Scotland as well as encouraging more dance companies and artists to engage with the rural touring sector. The project has a total budget of £500,000 and more detail will follow as plans for a launch are finalised.

The Strategic Touring programme is designed to encourage collaboration between organisations, so that more people across England experience and are inspired by the arts, particularly in places which rely on touring for much of their arts provision. Its aims are that people across England have improved access to great art visiting their local area. 

This includes:

  • better access to high quality work for people in places in England which rely on touring for much of their arts provision
  • more high quality work to reach people and places with the least engagement
  • more high quality work on tour connecting more effectively with people across a wide range of venues
  • stronger relationships forged between those involved in artistic, audience and programme development on both the supply and demand side of touring
  • a wide range of high quality work on tour, including in particular more work by and for children and young people, and more work by and for people from diverse backgrounds