Audiences for rural touring growing

Poll of National Rural Touring Forum members finds attendance up 26% over past decade

Image: Fol Espoir’s Instructions for an American Serviceman in Britain

Audience numbers for professional shows in rural communities in England, Wales and Scotland are increasing according to figures collected by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF).

Audience numbers attending shows in rural venues, often village halls, and at outdoor rural events have increased 26% since 2006/7, when the NRTF began polling members bi-annually to offer a snapshot of the rural touring sector as it stands. The total number of people to see a show on the rural touring circuit in 2015/16 was 332,140, an increase of 7.5% on the previous survey covering 2012/13.

During 2015/16 there were 2,856 live performances in rural venues across England, Wales and Scotland resulting in a total box office take of £1,096,943 (up from £956,665 in 2006/7). Shows that sold well at rural touring venues last year include Kali Theatre’s My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding, Fol Espoir’s Instructions for an American Serviceman in Britain, Vamos Theatre’s The Best Thing and Apphia Campbell’s Black is the Color of my Voice. The NRTF is the membership organisation for rural touring and represents 26 touring schemes around the country.

Shows are staged by promoter groups, usually run by volunteers, with the support of the local schemes. The NRTF estimates that there are currently 1,659 promoter groups across England Wales and Scotland, with 43 of these designated Young Promoter schemes which allow under 25s to get involved with programming a venue. The survey also demonstrates the importance of volunteering to rural touring with 112,568 volunteer hours recorded across all member schemes in 2015/6. The NRTF estimates the value of this time at £1,125,680.

Speaking about the results Ralph Lister, Development Director for the NRTF said:

“The growth in touring professional work into rural areas is a testament to the dedication of many small, rurally based, arts organisations working across the UK. The National Rural Touring Forum is proud to profile this work which is culturally diverse, of a high quality and which demonstrates the appetite in rural areas to see exciting and dynamic shows in their local and often quirky venues. This national network also provides many small-scale companies and artists with a critically important touring opportunity, enabling them to thrive and prosper”

National Rural Touring Forum is a member-led organisation that works strategically with partners to develop work and deliver high quality art experiences that strengthen rural and other communities. It provides the rural touring network with training, information and networking services and enable international partnerships and commissions. The organisation aims to promote better understanding of the value of rural and community touring through research and advocacy. For a quick look at some of the key findings, see out At A Glance document here