Rural Touring Dance Initiative – Selected Companies announced

We are delighted to announce that the newly selected dance companies taking part in our Rural Touring Dance Initiative are:

Lost Dog, Protein, Joan Clevillé Dance and Lîla Dance selected from 155 companies and artists applying to an open call out.  These companies will join Panta Rei, Phoenix Dance, Spilt Milk and Sonia Sabri Company (selected as part of New Directions 2014) touring to rural communities across the UK.

A further five companies; James Wilton Dance, Sarah Blanc’s Moxie Brawl, Tom Dale Company, Greg Wohead and Ben Wright’s bgroup, have been shortlisted to receive a potential commission of £45K to create a new show. As part of the initiative these five companies will take part in a week long residency ‘The Darkroom’ where their ideas will be developed and explored further.

All companies will attend ‘The Lab’ a three-day specially designed course to be held at national folk arts centre, Halsway Manor in Somerset 19-21 October. The course will focus on addressing the challenges of re-working a production so that it can adapt to the variety of spaces that make up the rural touring network.

For more information on the project  and to download the press release attached to this announcement go to

For more information about the companies:

James Wilton Dance –
Sarah Blanc –
Tom Dale Company –
Greg Wohead –
bgroup –
Lost Dog  –
Protein  –
Joan Clevillé Dance –
Lîla Dance –

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What’s it like to experience dance up close?

Nicola Burgess helps and advises promoters in Mid-Wales and has worked closely with Night Out rural touring. Here, Nicola blogs about her experience seeing Panta Rei Dance Theatre up close at Aberdyfi Village Hall. Panta Rei are one of the six Rural Touring Dance Initiative companies touring work to rural areas across the UK this autumn. Here’s what Nicola had to say…

Dance usually requires a lot of room. Dance companies traditionally are comprised of a large number of dancers, and their bodies need a lot of floor space to move around in, and high ceilings for leaping and bounding.

But what would it be like to witness dancers up close in a small rural venue? After all, rural touring tends to require small scale, paired down performances that will fit into village halls and small communal spaces. To ask dance companies to fit their programmes into such spaces would surely be to ask them to make a compromise that would be detrimental to their work?

This is not the case with Panta Rei, a touring dance company from Norway. Their show I Wish Her Well is a poignant portrayal of the passing of time in which we are brought up close to the performers in an extraordinary but never uncomfortable way. When I first saw it, I was surprised to find myself weeping quietly, along with a large number of the audience, after the first twenty minutes. Surprised because I wasn’t expecting to be so moved by something as ‘abstract’ as dance and surprised by the startling realisation that I totally ‘got it’ despite having no training or background in dance.

Panta Rei – “I Wish Her Well”

The piece does have a heart-rending soundtrack that sweeps you along as it evokes the bittersweet theme of the passing of time and I was enchanted by the extraordinary tenderness communicated directly to us by the dancers. The beauty of their bodies, the gentleness and warmth of their movement, and their generosity towards us the audience, was hugely affecting. But I can’t help feeling that just being allowed to be closer to the performance made the experience incredibly powerful.  It was a rare opportunity to get near enough to experience dance properly.

Panta Rei is touring their work around the UK thanks to the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, which was launched last year and aims to bring contemporary dance to village halls and community venues around the country. You can find out more information about this wonderful project here and find out if any of the dance companies involved are coming to a village near you here.

Nicola blogs regularly on the powys promoters website.

Rural Touring Dance Initiative Commission Announced

bgroup’s Ben Wright returns to the UK to make intimate new piece for village halls

Lighthouse-inspired work is the first commission for the Rural Touring Dance Initiative

Choreographer/Director Ben Wright is to make his first work in the UK since 2013 following a commission from the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, launched last year by The Place, National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), Take Art and China Plate to bring contemporary dance to village halls and community venues around the country.

The Keepers will be a seafaring story conceived for small spaces, told through dance and music. Ben Wright will collaborate with musician and writer Stuart Warwick to explore an eerie relationship between two keepers at an isolated lighthouse. The Keepers will be a haunting tale of love, death and monsters, accompanied by original music. Designer Will Holt will design a set that evokes the intimacy of a lighthouse within each venue the production visits.

Ben Wright

Speaking about the commission Ben Wright said “After spending the last 3 years creating dance for large-scale venues in Sweden, this prospect of being invited to village halls to share work in an intimate and tangible way is extremely beguiling. The rural touring circuit offers a unique opportunity for artists to meet and entertain people up close and on their turf. It is the nature of this invitation that I am most enamoured with, this chance to present dance work at the behest of individuals who are so passionate about staging theatrical events at the heart of their communities”

Ralph Lister of the NRTF and Take Art said “We loved the idea of Ben making a ‘jewel’ of a show, small and perfect; taking the best that dance has to offer, combining it with high production values, creating an immersive piece that takes place within the intimate setting of a village hall”

Eddie Nixon, Director, The Place said “This initiative was about bringing ambitious dance to rural touring and The Keepers is just that. A big idea, created by hugely experienced artists, for places where you can literally feel the dancers moving and hear every breath. We’re all delighted that b-group are making this show with us.”

The Keepers will be created during Summer 2017 and will begin touring later in the year. Productions for rural touring are selected by local promoters from a menu of available shows, so the exact regions the production are not yet known but could include villages from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands.

Ben Wright is an independent artist working in contemporary dance, Opera and Theatre. He trained at The Ballet Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and worked primarily as a performer between 1991 – 2006. Since January 2014 he has been the Associate Artistic Director of Skanes Dansteater in Sweden, where this month he will debut his new production To see the world while the light last at Malmo Opera.

Other recent choreography credits include work for The Royal Opera House, National Theatre Wales, Washington National Opera, The Donmar Warehouse, The Michael Grandage Company, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Opera and The Metropolitan Opera New York. As a performer he created the role of the Prince in the original cast of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and has danced with Ricochet, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Richard Alston Dance Company and Stan Won’t Dance before forming bgroup in 2008.

Celebrating 25 Years of Artsreach

We’d like to wish Artsreach a very happy 25th birthday from all of here at the NRTF!

Throughout 2015 Dorset’s rural touring scheme marks its 25th birthday.

When Artsreach first launched in March 1990, just nine rural villages were signed up to host a live, professional performance in their community venue. Over the last 25 years, the scheme has grown gradually and now counts some sixty rural communities on its circuit, right across Dorset, with each venue run by a team of voluntary promoters. To date, Artsreach has brought a total of at least 3,300 professional live performances to the County, including international, national and local artists and spanning the genres of music, theatre, dance, children’s shows, comedy, cabaret and more.

Ian Scott, who is soon to retire as Director, reflected on the qualities of small scale and wide horizons that he hopes have always kept the scheme’s programming fresh and ‘hand made’ in feel.

You can see from the recent summer programme how unexpected elements of the programme can be. It was not that long ago that we received a call to say that the Landmark Trust had a special idea to celebrate its 50th anniversary – the installation of an Antony Gormley sculpture near the Clavell tower at Kimmeridge in Purbeck this May. The Trust had obtained funding to commission a celebratory choral piece to mark the occasion and we were lucky enough to be able to approach a local choir leader and her musicians and singers to work on this, alongside other musical contributions on the day from our friends associated with the South Dorset Ridgeway choir. We are, I suppose, mostly known for our winter indoor shows, usually in village halls, but have also recently enjoyed bringing outdoor theatre to the County, which provides an incredible range of atmospheric settings for live performance.”

Artsreach plans to celebrate with a special birthday event at The Exchange, Sturminster Newton on 24th September. Compered by poet Matt Harvey, audiences can expect appearances from members of klezmer band She’Koyokh, acclaimed Turkish vocalist Cigdem Aslan, singers from London based Bulgarian Voices and the agile string quartet Bowjangles. The event will unite friends and supporters of the scheme, both old and new, and will officially launch the new Artsreach Autumn Programme.

The collective achievement of volunteer promoters and top quality artists over the last twenty-five years has been extraordinary. As leading cultural analyst, Francois Matarasso recently said of rural touring:

audience and artists share a joyous experience, life enhancing and even, sometimes, life changing: regular marvels, indeed” Francois Matarasso, A Wider Horizon’

Mumbo Jumbo’s Rural Touring Story

Mumbo-Jumbo – Acoustic Close Harmony Multi-instrumentalist Singer/Songwriting Trio

Performers for Live & Local, Spot On Lancashire and Arts Out West (so far!)

By Oliver Carpenter

Some years ago I went with some friends to my first Shindig (Worcestershire) Rural Touring performance at our local village hall. It was a piece of comedy theatre and we had a ball. The village hall atmosphere, small and intimate setting and the quality of the performance was great, as was the sheer incongruity of 85 people crammed into a little village hall in the middle of nowhere to see some high quality professional theatre.

Having been a musician for twenty years I saw the possibility of taking our acoustic trio into village halls and tried to get onto the official circuit – unsuccessfully. So we started putting on our own gigs in village halls across Worcestershire in conjunction with local people to help us promote them and they were great fun and perfect for the band. We’d hire the hall, put on the bar, sell the tickets etc and now have half a dozen village halls we regularly play with more asking us to play at their village hall each year.

But we also wanted to get on the official Rural Touring network so we went on Live & Local’s Artist Development Programme (DART) and PANDA’s Rural Touring workshop scheme and those have really helped us move forward in the way we promote ourselves to the Schemes, and have evolved our specific village hall show.

As a close-harmony, singer-songwriting, piano-based trio somewhere to the left of blues and the right of folk, we really enjoy the intimate conversational vibe of the village hall environment. We can take the audience from poignant songs about old soldiers to funny songs about bald spots and back; we can go off in unexpected directions of music and humour to match the atmosphere or location; and we can carry the audience along with singing or kazooing along (everyone gets a kazoo in our RT show) with selected songs.

And in our short Rural Touring career to date there have been so many highlights;

– A bleak Monday night in Derbyshire where a roomful of people braved the weather to enjoy the show, and laughed and sang along to songs they had never heard before. Seventy-two people singing the chorus of Phil’s song ‘Rejoice in Life’ a capella as the rain tipped down outside. 

– A show in Lancashire where, before the show, we heard the local ukulele group rehearsed in the village hall so we invited them along to join in on a couple of songs (it sold some extra tickets and created a unique musical moment).

– A show in Shropshire, one of our own promoted village halls, where someone from the village brought the most amazing array of cakes for sale which became a bit of a theme for the night.

Would we encourage other people to get involved in the Rural Touring circuit – absolutely yes (so long as they don’t end up with any of our slots!). It is a marvellous arrangement where communities come together, performers get to share what they do, in odd shaped rooms. Locations take on the personality of the promoter, everyone is there to enjoy themselves and make the most of an opportunity which is slightly unlikely in terms of the location and the performer quality.

 We love Rural Touring – so bring it on, the more the merrier!! 

 Mumbo-Jumbo were nominated in the British Blues Awards for Best Song/Songwriters. 

Rural Touring Autumn 2016 Highlights

Highlights of the National Rural Touring Forum autumn 2016 season include an acclaimed show from Theatre503 alongside jazz drumming, Bhangra and robot actors.

Rhum and Clay – 64 Squares 

Kali Theatre – My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding

Northumberland Theatre Company – How to Make a Killing in Bollywood

Theatre 503 and Bristol Old Vic – And then came the Nightjars

Centric Theatre Company – Giants on the Hill

Pipeline Theatre – Spillikin

Kali Theatre Company’s “My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding”

This Autumn, village halls and community spaces across the UK will play host to a huge variety of live performances hosted by local Rural Touring Schemes and supported by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF). Some shows tackle explicitly rural issues, others are ideal for performing in intimate spaces with the audience close to the action, all offer a great night out to the communities they visit.

Here are a few highlights:

Rhum and Clay’s 64 Squares tours Norfolk (20-27 Oct), a one man show about memory, madness and chess performed by three actors and a drummer. Accompanied by a live jazz percussive score, this energetic and contemporary piece is adapted from Stefan Zweig’s The Royal Game.

Kali Theatre’s My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding tours the UK (28 Sep-13 Nov) including Devon and North Yorkshire, inviting audiences to join Clare and Arjun’s wedding reception, in a fast moving mixed marriage comedy drama, full of misunderstanding and mishaps with plenty of neat twists – and a Bhangra dance for everyone at the end.  

Northumberland Theatre Company’s How to Make a Killing in Bollywood (18 Sep- 5 Nov) touring Scotland and border country is a musical comedy about two best friends who head for Bollywood in search of fame and fortune in a play about friendship and ambition, punctuated with a fantastic music and infectious Bollywood dance moves.

Theatre 503 & Bristol Old Vic present And then came the Nightjars, (20 Sept – 22 Oct) touring Somerset, with a distinctly rural theme: the 2001 UK outbreak of foot-and- mouth disease. Bea Roberts’ play is a story of male friendship against the odds, and a tribute to vanishing ways of rural life.

“Intensely funny… a small gem from a writer to watch” Daily Telegraph (And then came the Nightjars)

Also touring from this Autumn throughout the Midlands is Centric Theatre Company’s Giants on the Hill, a new play about the wind farms debate powered by onstage bicycles, and Pipeline Theatre’s Spillikin, which tours Shropshire, Herefordshire, Cornwall and North Yorkshire, featuring a real working robot as a main character in this piece about artificial intelligence, Alzheimer’s disease and love.

Full listings information of the all the autumn 2016 highlights can be downloaded here.

Pipeline Theatre’s “Spillikin”

Creative donation box commission

A commission to create creative donation boxes for Arts Alive and Highlights.

Two rural touring schemes in receipt of an award from the Arts Council Catalyst: Evolve fund. Arts Alive and Highlights are able to double any public donation from September 16 – August 19.

One of the strands of the bid is creating donation boxes to have at live events that are fun and appealing.

We are seeking to commission a design for donation boxes that are

  • Arts Alive/Highlights branded
  • Quirky or stylish
  • Distinctive and individual – reflecting the creative side of the organisations
  • Postable (light and able to be flat packed)
  • Have a slot for small envelopes
  • Robust enough to last a few postings and three years’ service
  • Reflect the range and quality of our work

There will also be a designed, printed envelope for contributions as part of this brief. We envisage producing a minimum of 25 boxes for each scheme, and 3k envelopes, with the same design but different branding. Schemes will provide the copy for the envelopes and boxes. There is total design and production budget for boxes and envelopes of £3000.

Designers are invited to submit their ideas and costs. We will select and support three proposals with £100 to be developed further before choosing one to be produced. Deadline for initial proposals is October 10th 2016 and we will contact a shortlist of 3 by Oct 17th.

We aim to have the boxes in use at events by December 1st.

Please email your proposals to by Oct 10th

For more information contact Arts Alive, Blue Barn, Green Lane, Churchstoke, SY156EN or T: 01588 620883 option 1

PRESS RELEASE Dance hits the Country Road

First shows to tour villages around the UK as part of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative:

Panta Rei I Wish Her Well | 2 – 9 Oct

Luca Silvestrini’s Protein May Contain Food (May Contain You) | 6 -29 Oct

Lost Dog Paradise Lost (lies open beside me) | 7 – 15 Oct

Spilt Milk Say Dance/Blast from the Past  | 13 Oct – 26 Nov

Joan Cleville Plan B for Utopia | 11- 12 Nov

Lila Dance Deluge | 18 &19 Nov

Joan Cleville “Plan B for Utopia”

Last year, the Rural Touring Dance Initiative was launched to bring contemporary dance to village halls and community venues around the country. This Autumn the first cohort of shows are set to tour, having been selected from a menu of shows by local programmers, many of whom are volunteers seeking work to stage in their local communities. 

The selected companies represent a variety of styles, and each show has either been designed for performance in village halls, or specially adapted from existing repertoire by the company. A programme of activities to get audiences involved has been designed by each company to accompany the shows: Lost Dog’s Ben Duke will lead discussions on creation, poetry and parenthood; Protein will invite audiences to bring local specialities to eat and share at May Contain Food – May Contain You, and Lîla Dance will recruit an extended cast from the community to be part of dance experience The Deluge.

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is a three year scheme for making and touring dance performances to and for rural areas. Made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery-funded Strategic Touring Programme, the initiative is led by National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), which joined with dance institution The Place, arts charity Take Art and independent producing studio China Plate to deliver the scheme. These shows are the first to tour as part of the initiative, with companies chosen from hundreds of applications in response to a call out issued at last year’s launch.

Later this year, the National Rural Dance Initiative will announce the first company it will commission to make new work especially for the rural touring circuit. In England and Wales, 10.3 million people live in the countryside and rural touring is a vital way of reaching communities who might not otherwise have access to the performing arts. Founded in 1997, the NRTF is a member-led organisation that works to deliver high quality art experiences that strengthen communities, providing the rural touring network with training, information and networking services as well as promoting better understanding of the rural touring network through research and advocacy.

NRTF’s Development Director Ralph Listersaid, “Currently only a very small amount of dance tours to rural areas; this initiative will address issues and challenges on both the supply and demand side of the equation. More companies will be encouraged and supported to take their work out of a regular ‘black box’ setting into village halls, with all the delights and issues that brings with it. In addition it will create opportunities for many more rural touring staff and volunteer promoters to see exciting and engaging dance on a broad spectrum and to then programme and promote these shows to their local village audience.”

You can see full details of the dance companies performing in rural venues in autumn 2016 here.

Young Promoters National Conference

Creative Arts East is delighted to invite you to the Young Promoters National Conference, ‘ENCOURAGE, CREATE, PROMOTE’ on 18th October, at The Mix, Stowmarket.

ENCOURAGE, CREATE, PROMOTE; is the first dedicated national event that has come together to celebrate and share the diverse Young Promoters programmes that are happening all over the UK.

It will be an opportunity to hear about the work Creative Arts East has been doing over the past seven years, and specifically the Young Music funded Young Promoters programme which has been developing since 2012. The event will also showcase how other organisations across the country run young promoters programmes in places such as Wales, Lincolnshire, and Gloucestershire

The day will give delegates the chance to hear about best practice; discuss the challenges that organisations have faced; find out how to get involved in already existing programmes; get tips on how to set up your own young promoters groups and networks; and the opportunity to experience what being a young promoter feels like.

This is a FREE event, but advanced booking is essential . Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

We hope that you will join us on 18th October, and to reserve your place please email or call 01953 713390 By Thursday 13th October.

Highlights seeking fundraiser

Freelance Fundraiser

Fee £10,000 – 1 year

Job Description

Highlights works with volunteers across Cumbria, Northumberland and Co Durham to deliver a programme of high quality theatre, music, dance, children’s performances and an annual contemporary craft exhibition to venues in some of the most rurally isolated areas in the country. We work with over 70 village hall venues and deliver over 150 professional events per year.
We are looking for an experienced fundraiser to join our small team based in Appleby in Cumbria. The successful applicant will have a track record of raising significant sums and be able to develop new funding ideas. They will be expected to research and devise appropriate and attractive fundraising bids to generate funds from Trusts & Foundations. In addition, develop relations with commercial companies to attract corporate giving.

Key attributes are:

  • Excellent organisational and administrative skills
  • Creative thinker with enthusiasm for the arts
  • Confidence in and enthusiasm for communicating with people
  • Strong time management and administrative skills
  • Strong networking skills
  • Ability to be self-motivated and work unsupervised
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Ability to work to deadlines.
  • Experience of the arts and the arts funding environment

The contract holder will have access to office space in Appleby if required but it is not essential to be based in the office. The successful candidate will be supported by Highlights’ Co-Directors, Administrator and Board. This is a busy, but fun and fascinating job for anyone who is interested in the arts, and fundraising.

Applicants should apply by email to Please send a covering letter and CV.
Closing date for applications are Thurs 1 Sep. The contract will commence November 2016.