Rural Touring Recipes: Spice Lentil Soup

Friday, March 1, 2019

“A good stand by for promoters, especially when faced with a  range of dietary requirements and limited time to eat before a performance …”

Here it is! The first of our Rural Touring Recipes. This hearty recipe for Spiced Lentil soup comes from Highlights Promoter Sally Seed.

Sally Seed has been a Highlights Rural Touring Scheme volunteer promoter for Orton Market Hall in Cumbria for about 12 years. She’s hosted lots of one-man and one-woman shows as well as children’s theatre groups and larger bands – sometimes as many as 8 or more. Lasagne and spicy sausage casserole have been favourites for an early evening meal in the past and vegetarian versions are possible of both but, if it’s getting complicated and needs to be kept simple, she’s found that a soup recipe from her son’s cookery lessons at school is a great stand-by.

Spiced Lentil Soup – serves 6-8

  • 30ml vegetable oil
  • 2 onions – chopped
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 4 celery sticks – chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves – crushed
  • 15ml curry powder
  • 5ml ground coriander
  • 100g red lentils
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 750 ml vegetable stock
  • Seasoning salt and pepper
  • 25g creamed coconut

1. Heat oil in a large pan and cook the onions, carrots and celery over a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in the garlic and spices and cook for another minute or two.

3. Add the lentils, tomatoes and stock, cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

4. Remove from the heat, stir in the coconut until it melts and adjust the seasoning to taste.

5. Liquidise or blend until smooth. This recipe also freezes well if you need to make it in advance. I’ve served this with local fresh bread (even a gluten-free bread on a couple of occasions) and cheese (vegan or otherwise) and it always seems to be appreciated with requests for seconds.

We’re looking for more Rural Touring recipes to help promoters feed casts and themselves before the show! Especially things that can be prepared in advance and cater for special dietary requirements!

Do you have a recipe for the perfect pie or hearty hot pot? We want to hear from you: admin@nrtf.org.uk

Saying Goodbye To Rural Arts’ Director Angela Hall

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Angela Hall has stepped down as the Director of Rural Arts after more than 26 years. Home to ON Tour, the rural touring scheme for North Yorkshire, East Cleveland and the Tees Valley, Rural Arts delivers a range of participatory and professional arts programmes at its own venue, The Courthouse in Thirsk, and beyond.

Angela established Rural Arts in 1992 with support from Arts Council England and eight North Yorkshire local authorities. ON Tour was launched in 1997 as one of the first formalised rural touring schemes in the country. Over 300 village halls registered on the scheme, and the model of working with local volunteers and seasonal touring is still in place today. Today, the annual programme consists of over 65 live music, dance and theatre performances across 2,500 square miles.

Speaking about her time at Rural Arts, Angela said: “Rural Arts reaches the people other organisations can’t – I’ve run workshops in fields, set up dark rooms in people’s toilets, and worked in army tents with only fairy lights for illumination. I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved here and plan to stay involved by volunteering where I can.”

Angela hands over the role to a former colleague, Max May, who re-joins Rural Arts from London-based theatre company Access All Areas. Max started his career as a volunteer and then intern with Rural Arts, before being appointed Communications and Engagement Officer in 2014. He said:

“Rural Arts plays a vital role in bringing high-quality performance to our local rural communities. I’m looking forward to continuing Angela’s work and building on her brilliant legacy to ensure Rural Arts is vibrant, resilient and sector-leading.”

Rural Arts bids a fond farewell to its director and wishes her the best of luck in her future creative endeavours, as she pursues her own creative practice in ceramics and printmaking.

Artist Perspective: Up The Road Theatre

Friday, February 15, 2019

Rural Touring is a great opportunity for artists but we’d be lying if we said it always went smoothly. As with any tour, there can be bumps along the way. Today we hear from Up The Road Theatre about why they were so keen to get more involved with Rural Touring and how they handled it when things didn’t go to plan.

This March, Up The Road Theatre, are going back on the road. We toured our first production, Bardolph’s Box, in 2016, and dipped our toe in the rural touring scheme waters with Cheshire Rural Touring and Spot On. A great time was had by all. Especially those children at Lancaster Library – I think one of them is still wondering where that witch went. Peril at Sea is a very different kettle of fish. We’re sticking to our roots of very little technology, and it’s still all about story-telling, character and text. No projectors or SubZero SZPA’s required by this company. (I have no idea what that is by the way, but we don’t need one, thanks all the same.) This production is for adults rather than children, and it’s going to boathouses rather than libraries.

Up The Road Theatre are based in Kent. I went to school near Dover, a place that is not renowned for its thriving arts culture. In the days before High Speed, London was two hours plus on the train, and school trips meant getting back at 1am. By the time I got to university, I felt at a disadvantage. I hadn’t heard of half the artists and companies being talked about. I’d done my best at going to see shows in the West End but realised there was so much more out there. After university I wrote to Ivan Cutting at Eastern Angles, asking if he had any upcoming opportunities. I nearly didn’t go to the meeting as I’d already had a few treks across the country to be rejected or ignored and was feeling somewhat deflated. As it turned out, Ivan did have an opportunity and I found myself assistant director on a verbatim musical about New Towns. Obvious choice for someone with a Shakespeare masters. In my time with Eastern Angles we had a company trip to see their production The Long Life and Great Good Fortune of John Clare. That play still remains one of the best things I have ever seen, and we were in a village hall in Suffolk. I found that incredible and over the next few years with Eastern Angles I grew to understand what rural touring means to people. Up The Road Theatre started to emerge.

Our aim is to take work to those communities who have little access to live theatre, or the arts in general. Those communities who aren’t a short distance from a producing or receiving house. Those for whom seeing theatre means spending a great deal of money and getting back at 1am. For our current production, we wanted to focus on coastal communities, it being a show about the sea and set in a coastal community. I really wanted to up our engagement with rural touring schemes and we got onto the menus of the four schemes we applied to. Hurrah. We took a punt with 10 dates, and, unfortunately, the punt didn’t pay off. I know dates are never guaranteed but we had everything – images, trailer, copy, press release. We had a brand-new production made for coastal audiences, all self-contained, Q&As and workshops available, and we couldn’t make it work.

There could be a great many reasons why we weren’t picked up. I don’t know what those reasons are. I know for one venue it was a lack of available dates. Not getting those dates did cause difficulties. I have filled those six gaps, and thank you to those who stepped in and pulled me out of the hole. We’re looking forward to going to Cornwall with Carn to Cove and I’m really pleased to be taking the company back to Cumbria with Arts Out West. I pitched at the AOW menu launch event, it was interesting, informative and not nearly as scary as I thought it might be. We’re also with Spot On now too, which feels like being welcomed into a large, happy family. I have a brilliant trio of actors and I know audiences will take to them; I’m very excited to see what our cast will do with the script.

So if you’re around a coastal area in March and fancy coming to see our work, please do. The tour schedule is on our website. If you’d like to have a chat about rural touring or think this sounds like the sort of production you’d like to have on your menu, get in touch. My email address is on the website. I would like to take the show out again, there is interest. I’ll just need to have a lie down first.

I think rural touring is fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed the previous conferences I’ve been to. As a company, we might have been down, but we’re certainly not out. We’re a relatively new company, we’re a small company but ‘art not without ambition’. As ever, we’re on a learning curve, but at least it’s a curve going upwards.

Do you have a Rural Touring Story you’d like to share with us?  Email Stephie: admin@nrtf.org.uk

South West Rural Touring Schemes Meet Up

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The NRTF offers a number of grants to contribute towards professional development and support the sector in attending conferences, setting up meaningful networks.

Today we hear from Claire Marshall, the Scheme Manager for Carn to Cove about how the grants enable the South West Rural Touring Schemes to meet up and why that’s important.

In February each year, the South West Rural Touring organisations take over a room in a pub in a little village in Devon to spend the day talking, sharing, eating biscuits, bonding, laughing and supporting each other. It’s one of two occasions each year that we all get together (the other being the NRTF conference) and has become an important link in the chain that makes up the South West rural touring network.


The face to face meetings allows us time out from our daily tasks to share what’s worked and what’s not in our individual programmes, to keep each other in the loop of local challenges – from funding issues and opportunities to staff changes and joint projects. The meetings give us the time to discuss and make plans for joint projects. This year we’re planning to develop, strengthen and sustain South West Rural Touring by putting together a proposal to apply for funding to support this work.

Our region is fairly geographically dispersed, so the NRTF travel grants mean that we can meet in a location which is fairly central to us all, and that means that we nearly always get a full attendance. One of the many joys of working in rural touring is feeling that you are a part of a larger whole, and being able to check in with those that inhabit your world is a really nourishing and restorative process – there really is nothing like a group hug to invigorate the rural touring senses!

The NRTF has a number of Professional Grants available sector support, concentrating on community, personal and project development. For more information on all our available grants visit the website here.

Have a rural touring story you’d like to tell? Get in touch with Stephie: admin@nrtf.org.uk.

Rural Touring Recipes

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

We’ve been thinking of practical ways we can help promoters – with every aspect of hosting a rural touring event. One thing that comes up a lot when we talk about rural touring is hospitality.

Lots of Rural Touring promoters feed artists with a homemade meal before their show!
Sounds like a lovely, simple thing, right? But when you consider the logistics of this it can be quite the task…

Whatever you make has to:

  • Often feed a fairly large number of people – the artists, stage manager, the promoter, any other volunteers that have come along to help. 
  • Has to meet any dietary requirements people have – vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, allergies 
  • Usually has to be made in advance – and easy to heat up, kitchens in rural touring venues come in all shapes and sizes! 
  • Be fuss-free – so that the promoter and the artists can eat without it getting in the way of making sure the show the show goes up on time! 

We thought it might be good to collect some easy. batch cook recipes that promoters are using all in one place… and it doesn’t have to be just promoters that send us ideas – artists what do you want to eat when you’re on tour? If you have a dietary requirement what’s an easy thing people can whip up for you that they might not have realised is suitable?

If you have any recipes or tips you’d like to share with us, please comment below. They could be links to other recipe sites, advice, or just preferences on biscuits!

Or email us admin@nrtf.org.uk – who knows maybe one day we could publish a Rural Touring Recipe Book!

Ps. obviously it wouldn’t be a blog post about rural touring and food if we didn’t mention cake, we’d also love to hear your sweet recipes!

Guest Blog: Blaize Village Halls Week Interview with Worlaby Village Hall promoter

Friday, January 25, 2019

This Week is National Village Halls Week, and the NRTF have teamed up with ACRE to celebrate along with our rural touring schemes, promoters and artists. All week we will be releasing new content here on the blog and over on our Social Media to celebrate just how much Village Halls do for their community.

Today we have a guest blog post from Blaize who deliver Rural Touring events through Live Lincs and Artery. To find out more about Blaize and their programming visit their website. 

Remember if you have a Rural Touring Story you’d like to share, email us admin@nrtf.org.uk!




Here at Blaize, we join the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) to celebrate #VillageHallsWeek! Village venues play a vital role in the lives of many rural communities.  Today we hear from one of our valued promoters, Richard Beeforth, who is responsible for our Live Lincs’ events at Worlaby Village Hall in North Lincolnshire. Richard explains;


Worlaby is a small village in North Lincolnshire but despite its size, it has great community spirit and is a nice place to live. The village pub closed some years ago so our village hall is the hub for most community activity and is very well used. We have a fairly new village hall and our Village Hall Committee works hard to maintain and improve it. 

The Live Lincs rural touring scheme has been superb for Worlaby and the surrounding area. Not only providing quality entertainment for our residents but providing much-needed income for the upkeep of the hall. Because the quality of acts has been consistently high, it makes it easy for me, as a promoter, to sell tickets. I usually only have to put out a promotion email to our locals and the demand for tickets comes flooding in!

We usually fill the hall which creates a great atmosphere for the entertainers as well as providing a memorable night for the residents.  As a promoter of the scheme for Worlaby, the most rewarding time is getting good feedback from our audience after a performance. I then feel satisfied that I have chosen well! It’s particularly rewarding when the entertainers also provide good feedback that we have looked after them well.

Thanks to my wife Pam and our volunteer helpers, performers always get well fed at Worlaby!

I hope the funding for this scheme continues and Blaize continues to provide such a high standard and diverse mix of entertainers. Long may it continue!

Richard Beeforth
LiveLincs Promoter.

How The NRTF Works with Village Halls – and how you can join in!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Water Yeat Village Hall, a Highlights Rural Touring Venue

This week is National Village Halls Week and across the country thousands of village halls are hosting special events, on top of their already packed schedules, to celebrate.

Village Halls are integral to the work of rural touring.  Of course, rural touring events happen in spaces of all shapes, sizes and varieties. From community centres to libraries, but Village Halls play a huge role in providing their communities with arts and culture activities, through rural touring and otherwise.

But how does the NRTF work with these village halls?

Through Schemes

Our main link to village halls is through the Rural Touring Schemes. Schemes cover specific geographical areas and most will put together a programme of events, like any theatre or venue would do, across a season. However, instead of programming several rooms or spaces within one building they are programming work across whole areas, using Village Halls and other community venues.

The NRTF works closely with Schemes to advocate for arts and culture within rural areas and to support them in being able to continue our joint mission of making every village a cultural hub.

You can find your nearest Rural Touring Scheme here.

Through Specific Projects

As well as supporting schemes in their core work, the NRTF is also a partner in a number of projects which directly help Village Halls and Schemes to deliver high-quality performances in their spaces and areas.

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is one such project. Contemporary dance suitable for rural spaces is hard to come by – the RTDI aims to change that! We work with dance companies to think about how they can make work suitable for rural spaces, and we work with schemes and promoters to help them build audiences.

Another project we are currently helping to deliver is a Social Impact Study ‘CONCERTA’ which has been a national research project into how rural touring impacts rural areas, from delivering culture on your doorstep to making long term social and economic impacts on a community.

You can find out more about Our Work here.

Via our Membership

If you’re a Village Hall promoter already associated with a scheme then you can join the NRTF as a member. This gives you access to our discussion boards where you can pose questions and discuss rural touring with colleagues nationally. You’ll receive weekly bulletins which highlight funding opportunities along with other things, and you’ll get access to some small grants and early access to conferences and other events.

If you’re a village hall and you’re not yet associated with a local Rural Touring Scheme then we can help put you in touch! And if there isn’t a scheme in your area (very unlikely) then we can help connect you to rural touring artists and other projects.

Find out more about becoming an NRTF member here.

Guest Blog: Blaize interview Jazz Musician Dave Newton

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

This Week is National Village Halls Week, and the NRTF have teamed up with ACRE to celebrate along with our rural touring schemes, promoters and artists. All week we will be releasing new content here on the blog and over on our Social Media to celebrate just how much Village Halls do for their community.

Today we have a guest blog post from Blaize who deliver Rural Touring events through Live Lincs (North Lincolnshire) and Artery (East Yorkshire).

To find out more about Blaize and their programming visit their website. 

Remember if you have a Rural Touring Story you’d like to share, email us admin@nrtf.org.uk


This week, (22-28 Jan) The National Rural Touring Forum highlights the vital role that village halls can play in rural communities.

Here at Blaize, we decided to join the celebrations! We decided it would a good idea to hear from one of the acts we commissioned about their experiences of touring small venues. Last season audiences in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire couldn’t get enough of jazz musicians, Dave Newton and Alan Barnes and having heard them play, we can understand why. The two have been playing duets together for over 40 years. These multi award-winning performers cover a vast repertoire from Louis Armstrong to Chick Corea. Their fantastic music, coupled with their interaction with smaller, more intimate audiences is what made each of their tour dates with us such a fabulous success. We spoke to Dave about what it was like for him, playing to audiences in village venues. Here is what he shared with us.

Q. Ok, Dave, so you’ve obviously performed to audiences large and small – what’s the largest audience you’ve ever played before and what’s the smallest? (roughly) Which do you prefer (if any) and why?


A. The largest physical audience I can remember was when I played as part of the support group for a Frank Sinatra concert at Ibrox football stadium and that was about 10,000 people but playing live solo piano for radio broadcasts on Radio 2 where the audiences would have been in hundreds of thousands was probably more nerve-wracking. As to the smallest, I sometimes play for people in their house and that can be to as little as ten folk lounging on easy chairs in a nice room with a lovely grand piano that might not get used very often. I really don’t have a preference. I enjoy playing in most settings.


Q. What do you like about rural touring? You build a very good rapport with your audience – does it feel more intimate in a rural setting? What is the secret of connecting with an audience – is it easier or harder in a smaller venue?

A. Rural touring for the most part, means playing to people that are unfamiliar with jazz or improvised music but having it brought closer to them means it’s easier to pluck up the courage and go and see for themselves that it’s not as esoteric, discordant or unfathomable as some would have them believe. In fact, if delivered with some humour, it can actually be quite entertaining. The village hall is a wonderful setting to hear acoustic music as you are up close and there’s no distraction which give the listener the chance to absorb themselves in the music completely.

Q. Do you have any anecdotes about rural touring you could share with us?

A.I can’t think of any anecdotes other than the apologies forthcoming from a lady who was running one particular village hall who was five minutes late in arriving because she’d been up in the hills ‘doing the lambing’ all afternoon and had forgotten the time! They really are fantastic people who deserve fantastic music.

Q. Is it difficult being on the road, driving long distances away from home or is it just something you get used to?

A. I love getting into the car and going somewhere new so it’s always been 50% of the job for me and as a result, nowhere feels obscure, just different.

Q. Why do you think rural touring is important? Should we make an effort to do more of it? 

A. The feedback from our rural audiences has been marvellous and very vocal from people who once lived in cities but now live a country life and are thrilled the city has come to them for a change.

Q. Is it difficult working in smaller halls with equipment etc and sound?

A. We have never had any technical difficulties as there’s only the two of us and there’s never a shortage of plug points or anything of that nature. In fact, it’s usually much easier to get in and out of village halls as you can get the car right up to the door!

Q. What would you say to other large acts considering the rural touring circuit? 

As long as a group has keyboard equipment of their own, I would encourage anybody to get involved in rural touring if I thought their music was the right mixture of ingredients. I can only reiterate my observation of earlier, that the audiences and especially the volunteers, really are fantastic people who deserve fantastic music.


If you’re an artist looking to get more involved with Rural Touring then be sure to check out NRTF Membership here.