Every August the NRTF and Rural Touring Schemes heads to Edinburgh Fringe to look for companies hoping to give their show life after the festival – and this year is no different. Each year we host a ‘Rural Touring in the UK’ event for artists to attend to find out more about how our sector works and meet the key people involved. If you’re heading up to the Fringe, you are probably already exhausted thinking about everything you’ll have to do promoting and performing your show. And while your focus should no doubt be on wowing programmers and audiences with your work, it is essential to put aside time to think about what happens next? Can we suggest you use some of that planning time to attend our event on Saturday 17th August, 3pm at Fringe Central?
If you do, here is what you can expect from the event… 1. A Comprehensive Overview of Rural Touring… Never heard of Rural Touring before? Heard of it but not sure how it works? This session will give you a strong understanding of what Rural Touring is and how it works. From the types of venues that rural touring works with, how volunteer promoters work, and what the process of programming work is. 2. A Chance to Hear Directly From Scheme Managers and Programmers… Straight from the horse’s mouth, hear from Scheme managers what they’re looking for when they are programming for rural touring. From technical capacities, marketing materials and the timelines they work to. 3. Upcoming opportunities… Whether you’re a dance company looking to hear more about the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, an outdoors performer or a spoken word artist. Across the NRTF and the Rural Touring Schemes, there are opportunities beyond regular programming. Commissions, open call-outs and more, this session will be able to point you in the right direction. 4. Find out where you can find out more… There will be a lot of information to take in during the session, but don’t worry, we don’t expect you to absorb it all at once! The session will point you in the direction of all the information and resources you need to follow up everything you learn! 5. Get your questions answered and introduce yourself… We make time in all our industry sessions for your questions, and after the session, you’ll have time to speak to the members of our panel and the other Rural Touring sector people in the room.
NRTF Director Holly Lombardo was invited to speak at a symposium run by Gulbenkian Foundation (UK) called A Civic Role for Arts Organisations: Relevance, Risks, Rewards. 21st June, London, Wellcome Trust: Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls (1 – 5.30pm)
This London conference at the Wellcome Collection, focused on ‘Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’. Popular topics included ways to make cultural spaces more welcoming to all citizens; the need for deep and meaningful engagement; and calls for change in the sector so that staffing and visitors reflected the diverse population of London.
Talking about the Civic role the
arts play… The opening perspectives were from Sir Nick Serota, (Chair of
Arts Council England) and Delia Barker (Roundhouse). Speakers included Tristram Hunt (V&A) Tania Wilmer
(Future Arts Centres) Matt Peacock (With One Voice) Victoria Pomery and Karen
Eslea (Turner Contemporary) Helen Featherstone (Yorkshire Sculpture Park) Ruth
Mackenzie (Theatre du Chatelet) Tony Butler (Derby Museums) Ruby Baker and
Khadijah Ibrahiim (Poet in the City). – David Tovey – (With One Voice/One
Festival of Homeless Arts), Holly Lombardo (National Rural Touring Forum) and
David Bryan (XTEND).
We explored – what does it mean to play a civic role? For some arts organisations, it is at the heart of their mission and practice; others think it is not relevant. Communities are questioning whether the public money that arts organisations receive is benefiting local people; there are hard questions to be asked and there are no easy answers.
Following the two-year Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) is working with partners across the country to support a series of conferences. They shared experiences, discussed, debated and imagined the significance of a civic role for arts organisations and the relevance they hold within our communities. Speakers share the innovative, sometimes radical, ways in which they are developing their arts organisation’s civic role.
Cultural spaces, whether they are building-based, conceptual, virtual, pop-up or temporary locations outdoors, can play a pivotal role in developing creativity, enriching lives and communities and fostering social cohesion. A majority of cultural spaces are funded with public money, we continue to create new spaces but who is benefiting and how are communities involved in making the decisions? How relevant is the work that is produced to the lives and ambitions of the communities that cultural spaces are located within?
The conference started with key perspectives addressing the topic: Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’ within the overarching theme of Relevance, Risks and Rewards, followed by interventions, presentations, and panels: ‘Re-imagining our cultural spaces’ and ‘New space, who will come?’ Opening perspective from Sir Nick Serota, Chair, ACE
National Rural Touring Forum supports rural touring schemes, promoters, artists and communities to bring high quality and professional creative experiences to rural venues and audiences. It does this through advocating on behalf of the sector, creating national projects, networking, showcasing and hosting an annual conference.
What is rural touring and why is it different to urban touring?
Rural touring is where professional performances take place in rural venues. These rural venues usually take the form of a Village Hall or Community Centre, but can also be pubs, libraries and outdoors. They are rarely fully equipped arts venues. Performances are programmed by a rural touring scheme, who will curate a varied season of events. Instead of all the events taking place in a couple of rooms in one building, they take place in lots of venues across a specific geographical area, sometimes whole counties, sometimes even further. Rural touring work is very different from touring to city centres or venues in urban areas. Artists express high regard for rural touring venues and the level of professionalism from the promoters. They often talk about their appreciation of a certain “magic” and warmth of the audiences that happens at rural events which aren’t the same at larger halls or festivals.
“The heart of the reason why it’s different from a town centre art centre is that the audience knows each other. That contributes to the other thing that is distinctive, which is that rural touring events become part of shared memory, part of what builds community. So, for both of those reasons, I think that it is a very distinctive kind of artistic experience.” François Matarasso, March 2019
Touring is inherently greener than venue-based work. Large venues consume vast amounts of energy and expel lots of carbon. People invariably drive to them – or drive to a station to get a train to get to a city where the venue is. Small-scale touring – where one van is on the road for a small cast – has a low carbon footprint in comparison. Rural touring is generally set in villages where many audiences walk to the venue. And if they don’t walk, they live usually within a 10-mile radius, so journeys are short. Previous NRTF annual surveys report that 90% of audiences travel for less than 10 minutes to get to their village hall.
Rural touring couldn’t happen without promoters who host the events. They work with the schemes to identify which performance or artist is the most relevant for their audience and do everything from box-office to get-ins, promotion, hosting artists. Many know their audiences on a first name basis.
Volunteering sits at the heart of rural touring; most promoters are volunteers. Venues employing professional staff utilise the help of a network of dedicated helpers. Promoters maintain an engaged audience for shows, know what they like and are aware of the level of risk they are comfortable in taking in their programme.
All genres of work are represented in rural touring. Creative practitioners and performing companies are selected via recommendations, showcasing, introductions, festivals and seeking out shows independently. They all have a few things in common – flexibility, relevance to the audience, and professional quality work.
“It’s about putting artists in front of audiences and audiences in front of artists. Everything else is fundamentally about getting that moment working Properly. Our job is to make sure that that marriage is right and the right communities, the right shows and the right artists end up in the right place at the right time and that’s very important to us.” Director, rural touring scheme
Health in the Community
Rural touring brings high-quality arts to people who otherwise would not have access to it. This can contribute to reducing the effects of isolation and to developing community cohesion, while also strengthening the capacity of local people to organise and to develop themselves. Bringing quality, diverse, and challenging arts activity has been shown to be integral to catalysing and supporting community life in rural areas, especially as other village ‘anchors’ such as shops and pubs have diminished. The act of programming touring arts into rural areas generates a range of individual and community benefits, including personal development, improved well-being and supporting community buildings and infrastructures such as pubs, halls and schools. The strengthening of existing community organisations through networking and volunteering and bringing people together positively fosters community cohesion by reducing loneliness, breaking down age barriers and even, enhanced local democracy.
The Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) began in 2015. Its aim was to introduce dance, in particular, contemporary dance, into rural areas where there was very little happening. RTDI offers a menu list to schemes and promoters alongside several incentives ranging from financial to marketing support. RTDI runs training labs and ongoing provision to artists who want to develop work in rural areas. The result has been a considerable increase in the number of contemporary dance performances taking place in rural areas as well as the number of creative practitioners developing work suitable for touring to rural venues.
CONCERTA – has been a national study of the benefits, for local community development, of a relatively under-researched form of creative activity: rural touring arts. In 2016, Arts Council England (ACE) launched the second round of calls for proposals to the Research Grants Programme. The call sought proposals aimed at collaborative research work to develop the evidence base around the impact of arts and culture. The role of the Research Grants Programme is to generate evidence: ■ to better understand the impact of arts and culture; ■ to make the best case for arts and culture in the context of reduced public spending; and ■ to promote greater collaboration and co-operation between the arts and cultural sector and research partners.
Benefits and Impact of Rural Touring
RT acts as an agent between the local agenda and creative work being made
RT sector doesn’t just tour work that is already touring – it commissions and premiers too
When the country is becoming more ‘place-based’ RT addresses localism by creating work with national appeal
RT is ahead of the curve when it comes to non-traditional touring spaces in comparison to town and city-based touring
It supports professional performance into rural areas, engaging residents in cultural experiences
Thanks to RT, audiences in rural areas can enjoy the same opportunities to see and appreciate the arts on their doorsteps as urban counterparts
RT supports skills development and cohesion
RT gives opportunities to address social mobility and people living in deprivation
RT contributes to local economic growth
RT can change individual and community perceptions of art and culture, increasing confidence and a sense of belonging in people
RT helps facilitate a greater understanding of what local provision should be delivered and how this could be achieved
RT helps drive improvements in local facilities
RT supports the development of strong local networks and volunteering in a range of activities.
RT is a driver for promoting a year-round calendar of events and activities
RT positively contributes to wellbeing including social and emotional development
RT fosters the empowerment of young people
RT encourages social inclusion and integration into the wider community
RT encourages the arts to be more integrated into the school curriculum
National Rural Touring Forum was invited to attend a professional development day about Rural Touring at Latitude Festival by the touring team at Arts Council England.
Held in the Faraway Forest, ACE host a series of funding and advice workshops from their shed. Artists performing at the festival can attend, book in and meet the Arts Council representatives and guests. We got to be a part of this, along with Natalie from with Creative Arts East. Latitude Festival is an annual music festival that takes place in Henham Park, near Southwold, Suffolk, England. It was first held in July 2006 and has been held every year since.
It isn’t just music, it plays host to many performing arts stages. Latitude is one of the best performing arts festivals in Europe with involvement from the UK’s leading theatre and dance companies.
Programmed into the Festival are emerging performing companies alongside longer-standing professional groups all with quality touring shows. It was great to meet a mix and range of people. Thank you to Arts Council for having us along!
After a glitzy awards ceremony at the Hi-VIS: NRTF Conference 2019, held in Bangor, Wales 2 – 4 July 2019. National Rural Touring Forum is delighted to announce the winners of Rural Touring Awards 2019. Hosting the awards was Kate Fox, stand up poet, who was joined by the nominees and the majority of the rural touring sector, including schemes, programmers, directors and performers to celebrate the talent and passion of this vibrant creative sector.
The Awards enable the NRTF to raise the profile of the professionalism prevalent in rural touring. It is an opportunity to draw attention to the quality of performance and performing companies as well as to collaborations and the network of individuals who go above and beyond on behalf of the health and cohesion of their local community. The awards reward not just the winners but everyone who has performed, organised and taken part in rural arts & touring.
The awards were judged by three industry professionals – Jude Henderson, Director – Federation of Scottish Theatres, Ian McMillan – poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster and Kate Green, Deputy Editor – Country Life Magazine.
Breakthrough Performance of the Year ·
Touring Scheme Collaboration of the Year ·
Favourite Performance of the Year – best show you saw ·
Voluntary Promoter or Voluntary Promoting Group of the Year ·
BIO: I’m 20 and live in Chirnside in Berwickshire, in the Scottish Borders. I have lived in the Borders all my life. I like the Borders, but transport is a real problem, it is difficult to get anywhere quickly on public transport from Chirnside.I love music, both listening and playing and am also really interested in sound engineering. I also enjoy photography and have recently started taking photographs at Live events. QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: “I’m surprised by the nomination but honoured to have been nominated and glad to be making a positive impact on rural touring”
JUDGES THOUGHTS: It feels to me that Jasmine has gone deeper into the idea of what Rural Touring is, and she seems like a really bright prospect for the future.
QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Since Joining Borders YoungCreative Jasmine has shown real commitment to the project” Anon.
Break Through Performance of the Year Nominees – Sophia Hatfield from Stute Theatre, Theatre company Dante or Die, Haunted Man by Kindred Theatre WINNER – Sophia Hatfield from Stute Theatre
BIO: ‘Common Lore’ is a fast-paced, multi-skilled solo show by actor and theatre-maker Sophia Hatfield (aka Stute Theatre), which retells Angela Carter’s collection of Fairy Tales for a modern, young rural audience. A fast-paced fusion of rap, spoken-word, live electronic music, multi-rolling and physical theatre, this production attempted to push the boundaries of solo storytelling through the creative use of technology – with live projections and sound cues triggered entirely by the performer on a mobile phone as part of the action. Inspired by interviews with young people in libraries across the North West, this show took relevant, inspiring theatre to libraries, youth theatres, schools and rural venues engaging young people who do not traditionally access theatre.
QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: I am absolutely delighted that the creativity, ambition, passion and hard work of the wonderful team behind Common Lore has been recognised through this nomination. Whilst incredibly rewarding, creating and touring theatre for young adults can be challenging. From the very first commissioning meeting with Spot On, through rehearsals and when touring the show, I was blown away by the enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of the many rural touring organisations who made this show happen. The rural touring community took a risk on a new piece, with the hope of welcoming and inspiring the next generation of theatre audiences, whilst supporting Stute Theatre as an emerging company and I’m incredibly grateful. Thank you so much!
JUDGES THOUGHTS: This feels really ground-breaking because of its brief to appeal to young people in Library spaces. I like the idea of the show and the way it was written and performed.
QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Sophia uses these three stories to reflect on what it is like to be an un-wealthy 18-year-old in the north, yet it is done with wit, humour, and sophistication. Students, apprentices, grandparents and anyone else who was ever 18 will love this piece” Anon
Nominees – Karen Jeremiah, Theatr Bara Caws & Sian Kerry, Arts Alive WINNER – Theatr Bara Caws
BIO: Bara Caws was established over forty years ago to fulfil the demand for professional theatre for the Welsh community in the Welsh community and we are by now the oldest professional community theatre working through the medium of Welsh. We continue to provide a unique service to our grassroots audiences at the heart of our nation and are proud to be recognised as a mainstay of the Welsh theatrical landscape.
QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: We at Theatr Bara Caws are delighted to have been nominated and shortlisted for the National Rural Touring Awards 2019. It’s wonderful to know that our work continues to be appreciated throughout Wales, and we feel passionate that we must continue to strive with our mission of presenting a high quality diverse artistic programme at the very hearts of our communities. Recognition such as this nomination is greatly appreciated – thank you.
JUDGES THOUGHTS: I’m excited and moved by the fact that they make shows in Welsh, creating new work in a so-called minority language and challenging the rest of us about our ideas about what art is and what it can be.
QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Theatr Bara Caws is a community theatre company who present original, relevant work to the widest possible cross-section of people, offering theatrical experiences of the highest quality, bringing entertainment and excitement, ingenuity and relevance to the hearts of communities in Wales” Anon
Favourite Performance of the Year
Nominees – I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost – Little Earthquake, Excalibow by Bowjangles& Brilliance by Farnham Maltings
WINNER – I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost – Little Earthquake
BIO: Gareth Nicholls and Philip Holyman, aka Walsall-based theatre company Little Earthquake, have been together for 17 years, making work with each other for 14 years and have been married for (almost) one year. Little Earthquake observes one commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Bore” — and our next big not boring project is MoonFest, a nine-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing which runs between 16th – 24th July 2019. (Our first wedding anniversary happens to coincide with the day on which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the surface of the Moon.)
QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: “We are very proud rural tourers — the network gives us a unique opportunity to connect with, learn from and, most of all, entertain audiences who live outside the catchment areas of major metropolitan arts venues, up and down the country.It is thanks to the very existence of the rural touring sector — and to the hard work of the thousands of people who support it, both paid and unpaid — that artists like us get to build these lasting relationships with audiences in the first place.
Our “Favourite Performance of the Year” nomination has come directly from audience members who have experienced and enjoyed our work — and being shortlisted for this award is a massive validation of our most fundamental ambition for Little Earthquake: to make audiences the most important ingredient in everything we do.”
JUDGES THOUGHTS: This show had clearly really made the audience think about the issues, as well as entertaining them.
QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “I even shed a tear as there was a real element of truth to the story. I think out of all the shows I have seen this year it was the most emotionally impactful.” Anon
Touring Scheme Collaboration of the year Nominees – The Northern Consortium, Carn to Cove and Villages in Action & The Inn Crowd WINNER – The Inn Crowd
BIO: InnCrowd is a partnership project from Applause Rural Touring, Creative Arts East and the National Centre for Writing. The project supports rural pubs throughout the South East and East of England to host exciting and inspiring spoken word, poetry and storytelling performances in their pubs reaching and engaging with non-traditional arts audiences. This collaborative project also engages national Charity Pub is the Hub as an advisory partner supporting the project with pub industry expertise and advice. A key aspect of the project is the support Inn Crowd gives some of the UK’s best spoken word artists to create, develop and tour their work to new areas. Started in 2016, the scope and range of the project has increased year on year with overwhelming responses from audiences and landlords alike w over 200 performances have taken place primarily in the southeast and further afield in collaboration with rural touring organisations nationally.
Voluntary Promoter or Voluntary Promoting Group of the Year Nominees – Gaynor Morgan Rees and Gwyneth Kensler, David Lane & Yvonne Brown and the committee at The Dog Inn, Belthorn WINNER – Gaynor Morgan Rees and Gwyneth Kensler
BIO: Gwyneth Kensler – Brought up in Holywell, I attended Bangor University in 1960. I married my husband in 1965 and then spent time living and working abroad. We settled in Denbigh in 1980.
After a career teaching French and Spanish, I stood as a town and county councilor in 1995 and remain a county councilor. I joined the Theatr Twm o’r Nant committee in 1983 and became a secretary in 1988. About 12 years ago I successfully applied for grants of £.75m to make the theatre as DDA friendly as possible; our theatre is now flourishing thanks to our dedicated team of volunteers.
Gaynor Morgan Rees – Born and bred in AbercwmIboi, South Wales, I have been working as a professional actress on stage, radio, and television for over half a century. I moved to Denbigh in 1982; I have been a town councilor since 2004 and was mayor in 2012. I met Gwyneth in 1983 and we soon became involved with Theatr Twm o’r Nant. Since the refurbishment of the theatre 10 years ago, I have been the booking officer. The theatre has to be self-supporting since it does not receive any subsidy; we are all volunteers and give up our time for free.
QUOTE FROM NOMINEEs: “We are delighted to have been nominated by Night Out Wales with whom we have a close and happy relationship. Without the sponsorship of the Night Out Scheme, we would not be able to hold professional performances at Theatr Twm o’r Nant. We have a full, varied and exciting programme.”
“What a surprise and also an honour. With funding for the arts so greatly reduced, we are pleased to be able to do what we can to help promote the arts in Wales.”
JUDGES THOUGHTS: They have obviously done an amazing job over 20 years – people like this make the world go around
QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “For over twenty years formidable double act Gaynor Morgan Rees and Gwyneth Kensler from Theatr Twm o’r Nant in Denbigh have booked performances through the Night Out scheme in both English and Welsh. In the last four years, they have promoted 36 shows (so far) and we anticipate many more to come.”
This short form is designed to help you asses whether or not your show is Rural Touring ready. We take you through the very basic needs of rural touring and give you a list of things to consider. We also point you to other helpful resources and pages along the way. Please note this form is NOT a way of submitting your show to be considered for touring but should be used as a tool to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to approach schemes.