NRTF launches free conference to support artists and rural arts

The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) is launching a brand new free online conference in October focussed on how to futureproof the rural arts sector. Called “Horizons”, the 4-day conference will be online and digital, taking place every Tuesday in October with follow up sessions every Friday morning.

The conference – which is now an annual fixture in the arts calendar – is an opportunity to bring the rural touring community together for a series of discussions, masterclasses and performances, offering inspiring talks, industry led panel discussions, and opportunities to network.

“There is a definite need for all involved in the rural touring sector to come together this year to share, learn and watch!” said Holly Lombardo, Director NRTF. “Now more than ever we need to collaborate and support each other. The conference is a brilliant chance to do that.”

This year’s all-digital conference is set under four themes. Equality and Diversity, Library Touring, Futureproofing and Mental Health and Leadership. Speakers and performers include Amanda Palmer of Inc Arts, Dave Young – The Shouting Mute, Ellie Liddell-Crewe from Unlimited, Terry Adams – Diversity Office Arts Council England, Pam Horton from The Eden Project leadership programmes, Liz Pugh of Walk the Plank Theatre, Luke Wright Poet, Paule Constable Artist and sustainability campaigner.

“We aim to make the conference as accessible as possible. Not only is it free, it’s digital and there will be BSL interpreting where possible and captioning on all recorded content” Jess Huffman NRTF Project Manager.

The gathering continues 6 months of support for the rural arts sector from NRTF, firefighting the unknown and supporting those artists whose livelihoods have been devastated by the pandemic. Since the first performance cancellation in March, NRTF has worked in collaboration with the 30 rural touring schemes across the UK to react and directly support the creative sector. NRTF repurposed its budget, created weekly zoom conversations for the sector, and launched “Rural Touring Unlocked” which has led to 6 collaborative projects being developed in the sector. NRTF also announced free membership for artists for 12 months.

“Many of our rural audiences have not been able to access digital shows.  It is with huge thanks an NRTF Rural Touring Unlocked grant, we were able to commission three rural touring artists to create broadcast ready pieces in partnership with BBC Radio Cumbria”. Kate Lynch, Director Highlights Rural Touring

NRTF has also been advocating loudly on behalf of the sector, joining round tables from DCMS, Arts Council England, Creative Industries Federation as well as many other conversations.

“It is important the rural arts voices are heard. The conversations and needs of the creative sector are different to those in cities and towns and the nuances of this needs to be communicated” Holly Lombardo, Director NRTF

The conference is open to anyone who is interested in the rural arts as a performer, as an organiser or as a leader in the arts sector. Thanks go to Arts Council England for supporting the NRTF in delivering this event.

Tickets can be booked here –

Highlights Rural Touring comes direct to your homes this September

During lockdown, Highlights Rural Touring Scheme commissioned musician Rob Heron , storyteller Nick Hennessey and the team behind the sell-out theatre show Ladies That Bus to each create a short piece for radio. Created by rural touring artists, specifically for rural audiences, these pieces of work will be broadcast first on BBC Radio Cumbria’s The Arty Show, next Monday 14 September before being made available online.

Musician Rob Heron hails from Penrith, and has played many Highlights venues with his Newcastle based Tea Pad Orchestra. He brings a taste of ‘Newcastle’s finest swing-honkytonk- rockabilly band (fRoots)’ to the broadcast.

South Lakeland based Nick Hennessey forges a bridge between the song and the spoken word, as an internationally acclaimed storyteller, playwright, folk singer, song writer and musician.

In early 2020, Ladies That Bus sold out venues across Cumbria with their comedy drama based on the 555 bus route from Lancaster to Keswick.

BBC Radio Cumbria presenter Helen Millican will also interview the artists, village hall promoters and audience members during the show.

Highlights has partnered with rural touring schemes Arts Out West , Cumbria and Carn to Cove , Cornwall to ensure that offline arts content can be provided to rural communities at this time. With funding from the National Rural Touring Forum .


 Monday 14 September 7pm – 10pm 
BBC Radio Cumbria The Arty Show 
95.6FM 96.1FM Digital

Rule of 6 – What Does it Mean?

How does the rule of 6 effect live performance?

The main difference is this is now law rather than advisory.

The answer is in point 2a of this Government update on regulations:-

“From 14 September, whether indoors or outdoors people from different households must not meet in groups of more than 6. This limit does not apply to meetings of a single household group or support bubble which is more than 6 people. Community facilities following COVID-19 secure guidelines can host more than 6 people in total, but no one should visit or socialise in a group of greater than 6. Further information on social contact rules, social distancing and the exemptions that exist can be found on the guidance on meeting with others safely. These rules will not apply to workplaces or education settings, alongside other exemptions.”

From a recent The Stage article –

While groups of more than six will not be allowed to gather, certain exemptions have been made by government to allow the economy to continue recovering.

These include theatres and live venues that are following Covid-secure guidelines.

According to a guidance document published by the government, “venues following Covid-19 secure guidelines can host more than six people in total, but no one should visit or socialise in a group of greater than six”.

“It is also important that people from different households (who are not meeting as a support bubble) remain socially distanced,” it added.

Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do

2.11) Venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host more than 6 people in total, but no one should visit in a group of greater than 6. When you visit one of these places, such as a pub, shop, leisure venue, restaurant or place of worship you should:

  • follow the limits on the number of other people you should meet with as a group (it will be illegal to be in a group of more than six from outside of your household)
  • avoid social interaction with anyone outside the group you are with, even if you see other people you know
  • provide your contact details to the organiser so that you can be contacted if needed by the NHS Test and Trace programme

3.14) Can I go to the theatre or a concert?

You can now attend indoor and outdoor performances, for example dramatic, musical or comedy shows.

If you are watching the performance, you should:

  • sit with people from your household or support bubble
  • socially distance from people you do not live with (or who are not in your support bubble)

Public Campaign for the Arts – Arts Map

Public Campaign For The Arts Launches Arts Map, Charting The Status And Value Of Arts Organisations Across The UK.

The soon to open tab has lots of Rural Touring Schemes there!

The Public Campaign for the Arts has launched a major new online platform, creating an unprecedented support link between UK citizens and their cultural organisations.

The Arts Map, available now at, enables anyone to find and support arts companies near them. It was funded entirely by small donations from over a thousand members of the public.

All UK arts organisations are invited to add themselves to the Map, and to share updates as they try to recover from the impacts of Covid-19. Users can search the Map by their postcode; check the status of local companies; send messages of support by video, audio or written text; and offer financial support by making a donation.

The Map offers a real-time, national and local picture of arts organisations’ recovery status. Over time, as stories and messages are added, it will prove the value of the arts to people and places across the UK.

Theatre Tax Relief

TTR is available from 1 September 2014. Your company will be entitled to claim TTR if: – it is a Theatrical Production Company – it is a Qualifying theatrical production – it has a minimum 25% EEA expenditure – there is no need for a Cultural Test – it has 2 rates of payable credit, 25% for touring productions, and 20% for others.

What is Theatre Tax Relief (TTR)?

TTR is basically an extra deduction that theatre production companies can claim on their profits when they produce a show.

Who Can Claim?

To be eligible you must meet the following criteria:

  • A theatrical production company
  • Produced a qualifying[1] theatrical production
  • The show must play before a live paying audience to Jo Public, or for educational purposes
  • Must have a minimum of 25% expenditure within the EEA (European Economic Area)

The production can be based in a single location or a tour (there is a higher rate you can claim for touring productions)

How does it work?

In a nutshell, you produce a separate Profit & Loss Account for each show you produce, and within that you identify the production costs that are in the EEA. These production costs are then used as an extra deduction from your taxable profit (essentially you can claim double the amount of expenses for production costs).

What happens I don’t have any taxable profits?

This is the best bit about TTR! You get a refund from HMRC! Equal to 20% of the loss

Do you have an example?

Sure, imagine your production company, Beardy Productions Limited, produced a show at a local theatre for a week. It was open to Jo Public for £20 a ticket.

It cost the company £10,000 in production costs and £6,000 in running costs. You would be able to claim an extra £10,000 against the profit you made.

So if you made a profit of £5,000 you take an extra £10,000 off your profit to arrive at a loss of £5,000. That £5,000 can be surrendered for a tax refund of £1,000! Imagine how much beard glitter you can buy with that!

[1] A theatrical production is a dramatic production or a ballet that is not specifically excluded by the legislation from being regarded as a theatrical production.

Dante or Die presents ‘USER NOT FOUND: A VIDEO PODCAST’

Created by Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan 
Written by Chris Goode - Directed by Daphna Attias 
Performed by Terry O’Donovan

Creative Technology Design by Marmelo Digital and Sound Design by Yaniv Fridel
Video Content by Preference Studio.

Experience on demand from Thursday 10 September at 7.30pm and available until 10 March 2021

What happens to your digital life after you die? If there was a magic button, would you delete your online existence?

User Not Found is a new immersive video podcast from acclaimed theatre makers Dante or Die , about what happens to our online identities after we die. Inspired by the company’s hit live show, this new digital theatrical event will be available to experience for free, in partnership with the Guardian Newspaper on Dante or Die’s YouTube channel and The Guardian website.

Terry and Luka were together for nine years until Luka left Terry. Then Luka died leaving Terry as his online legacy executor.

Co-Artistic Director Terry O’Donovan will reprise his celebrated performance for this new digital adaptation of the critically acclaimed 2018/19 live show. With support from digital development agency, The Space and Arts Council England, the company has created a virtual site-specific world which explores the ethics of digital ownership, public and private grief and shifting notions of connection and community.

In a rapidly changing digital age, a story of contemporary grief unfolds through this intimate, funny performance that gently interrogates our need for connection and the fate of our digital afterlives.

Dante or Die have collaborated with digital agency Marmelo Digital, to transform the bespoke app created for the live show into a digital theatrical experience.

Charge your phone, plug in your headphones and find a quiet space for this intimate, meditative and funny story of one man grappling with something deeply private.

Running time: 50 minutes
Age guidance: 14+
Embedded captioning can be turned on/off

User Not Found has been designed for smartphones with headphones; the viewer experience will not be the same on a desktop/ipad. It will work on any smartphone model and with in/over ear headphones. Free streaming is available from 10 September 2020 for six months.

Annual General Meeting Notice

The AGM of the National Rural Touring Forum will take place on

Tuesday 22nd September 2020 11am, Online via Zoom (link will be sent to members of NRTF 1 day Prior)

AGM Agenda

  1. Meeting open
  1. Attendance & Apologise
  1. Minutes of last AGM
  1. Matters arising from the minutes
  1. Annual Trustee Report
  1. Annual Accounts
  1. Appointment of auditors

Re-appoint Aspley’s, 21 Bampton Street, Tiverton EX16 6AA

  1. Motion to make a change in MOA’s
  1. AOB
  2. Close meeting


(A company limited by guarantee)

Charity Number: 1062366
Company Number: 03319947
PDF 337kb Download

AGM Minutes 2019

2019 NOTES

The AGM of the National Rural Touring Forum took place on

Thursday 4 July 2019 at 9.30am Pontio, Bangor University during NRTF Conference

  1. Meeting open
  2. Attendance –

Tom Speight – NRTF

Holly Lombardo  – NRTF

Sue Robinson – Spot On

John Laidlaw – Live & Local

Ed O’Driscoll – Air in G

Natalie Jode – Creative Arts East

Philip Holyman – Little Earthquake

Dawn Badland – Applause Rural Touring

Emyr Bell – North East Arts Touring

John Stanley – Swayfield MOF

Heather Ashew – Highlights

Sarah Perkin – Take Art

Rosie Cross – Highlights

Gail Ferrin – Blaize, Artery

Jen Henry – Cheshire Rural Touring

Anne Crabtree – Cheshire Rural Touring

Lyndsey Wilson – Spot On

Jo Gatenby – Rural Arts

Kerry Bartlett – Artsreach

Claire Marshall – Carn to Cove

Yvonne Gallimore – Artsreach

Katherine Roberts – The Library Presents

Emma Bedford – Wemm Town Hall, Arts Alive

Rhiannon McIntyre – The Touring Network

  1. Minutes of last AGM

Added 2018 date – Tom Signed Minutes

Accepted – No Amends (Nominated by Ed O’Driscoll, seconded by John Laidlaw)

  1. Matters arising from the minutes


  1. Annual Trustee Report – Adoption of report

Noted – Gone to Accountants. It has been a busy year.

Report Adopted [nominated by Chris Bridgeman, seconded by Anne Crabtree]

  1. Annual Accounts

Financial Notes: – Core carry forward of £36,967 with £19,000 now held on reserve = Total unreserved funds £55,967

Dance Project carry forward of £84,400, CONCERTA carry forward of £62,230 = Total Restricted funds £146,630

Overall total = £202,597

Accounts Adopted (Nominated by Ed O’Driscoll, seconded by John Laidlaw)

Chair to stated – The NRTF board should consist of no less than 3 and no more than 10 members and in addition the board can co-opt up to 3 members.

Chair stated – there are a couple of vacancies to the board.  The board will be reviewing board membership in the Autumn 2019 and will seek to recruit additional board members to fill any identified skills gaps.  Anyone interested should email Holly NRTF Director.

  1. Appointment of auditors

Re-appoint Aspley’s, 21 Bampton Street, Tiverton EX16 6AA

Adoption of Auditors [nominated by Ed O’Driscoll, seconded by Natalie Jode]

  1. Motion to make a change in MOA’s

The Board of Directors are reviewing how Directors are appointed to the Board – Currently only scheme representatives can be full members of the board anyone else is a co-opted member with a 4-year term limit. As we want to diversify the board, we intend to amend the Memorandum of Articles to enable us to keep at least 50% of the board from scheme representatives and 50% from interested individuals or organisations who full fill gaps in the skills audit of present board.

We will discuss this in the coming months and enable the members a minimum of 4 weeks to review any changes before we call an Extraordinary General meeting to legally make changes. [NO action required]

  1. Motion to change membership fees 2020/2021

Paper sent in advance. Quick run through. Discussed in the room.

We are implementing 3% rise in fees starting April 1st 2020

                [nominated by John Laidlaw, seconded by Natalie Jode]

  1. AOB

Date of Next AGM is to be determined

  1. Close meeting

The meeting is formally closed by the Chair Tom Speight

New Podcast Shares Extraordinary Stories from Rural Communities

Stories from the Sticks is a brand new podcast featuring tales from rural communities created by Scratchworks Theatre supported by Arts Council England. Scratchworks has toured theatre shows to isolated communities across the South – West and nationally for many years and the theatre-makers have met many wonderful characters along the way. City-dwellers themselves, Laura, Siân and Alice
have always appreciated being welcomed into remote villages to hear stories of love, history, local myth and community spirit.

‘We’ve heard some amazing tales from people in villages across the UK. Lockdown
has turned everything upside down – we can’t perform in these communities right
now – so instead we’re providing a platform to share their stories with the wider

Laura Doble, Scratchworks Theatre

The series will consist of 6 episodes, each one interviewing a guest or several guests from a different region. The first episode features Eddie from Dolton, a well-known character who moved to North Devon 37 years ago. A retired plumber, recalls carnivals, jubilee celebrations, motorbikes, stuffed-dog doorstops and the time Charlie Watts from The Rolling Stones made him a cup of tea. As Scratchworks say: ‘Dolton is a no-nonsense ‘get the job done’ kind of place with a cheeky smile
you can’t help but find infectious’.

The interviews are interwoven with original music by Jack Dean plus narration and singing in Scratchworks’ signature style giving a distinctly theatrical feel to the podcast. The company are also keen to receive creative responses from listeners: ‘We’re hoping these podcasts will inspire others to get creative too. We’re asking people to creatively respond to the question ‘If the place where you live was a dessert- what would it be?’ People can send in responses in any format – drawings, photos, music, short films – and we’ll share them on the Scratchworks website.’

Stories from the Sticks can be downloaded from most podcast platforms including Apple, Spotify, Deezer, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and A Cast. A subtitled version is provided on Youtube. All links can be found via

Creative responses to the podcast should be sent to

Notes to Editors

The series was created and written by Laura Doble, Alice Higginson-Clarke and Siân
Keen of Scratchworks Theatre. Music for the series was created by Jack Dean. The
series was edited by Andrew Armfield.
The series is supported by Arts Council England.

About Scratchworks Theatre
Scratchworks are a physical ensemble of three women who work collaboratively to
create highly visual, playful theatre from scratch. Founded in Exeter in 2013, they
share a passion for creating original stories and use a diverse mix of physical
movement, puppetry and live music to entertain and inspire our audiences.
Recent touring locations include New Diorama Theatre, Greenwich Theatre,
Battersea Arts Centre, PULSE Festival Ipswich, Salisbury Arts Centre, Theatre
Royal Bath and VAULT Festival where we received the ‘Festival Spirit Award’ 2017.
We have also received an NSDF award for ‘Best Overall Body of Creative Work’ at
the Edinburgh Fringe 2013 as well as nominations for the Charlie Hartill award 2016
and the IYAF: Best of Brighton Fringe Theatre Award 2017.

Media Contact
Alice Higginson-Clarke
Co-Artistic Director
07753 129518

Village Hall Heating Systems

Here is some advice from ACRE

Air blown and fan heaters – Questions have been asked about whether these should be used. When it comes to cold weather the hall will need a working heating system and replacing it would be a major capital item, so such systems will need to be used. It might help to think about the risk. Hopefully, this will provide some reassurance:

• The Government guidance not to use hot air hand dryers was withdrawn (as reflected in the second version of the ACRE Information Sheet).

• In response to previous queries about this, attention was drawn to buildings guidance which indicated that risk could be relatively low because it would require an infected person to be near the air intake for the virus to be transmitted via the heating (or ventilation) system. A similar principle may well apply with fan heaters. If the air intake is outside the building (i.e. 100% fresh air), this is less of a risk.

• The Government Sports guidance on energetic exercise (e.g. Zumba) requires 100% fresh air ventilation because droplet transmission is more of a risk with energetic activity. So, the context of sedate and now socially distanced activities, village and community halls should be lower risk.

• If the air intake is indoors and the committee are worried, rather than replacing the heating, it would probably be more cost-effective not to host Zumba or similar energetic indoor sports until the risk level has further reduced to a point where all indoor activity without social distancing is again allowed.



Lobby your Local MP and Local Authorities

It has NEVER been more important to state your claim on the Comprehensive Spending Review this Autumn.

During the Pandemic, the government has recognised the importance of the arts in this country. They cannot deny its value in terms of jobs, export, cohesion and how it supports wellbeing. This is shown in the huge “bailout” fund of £1.57 Billion to save the creative industries. This treasury money is for those in crisis now and who are likely to go insolvent THIS FINANCIAL YEAR!! It is not for recovery or future investment. If your crisis point will fall in the next financial year, then the Comprehensive Spending Review is where your energy is best spent!

Renegotiation has begun on what the next three years of spend looks like. This is what your local authority gets, this is what the Arts Councils get.

MPs always reflect that when they go door to door no one ever expresses how important the arts are. They express concern about local toilets closing, potholes and schools needing more resources. While these are valid issues, so is cultural delivery.

National Rural Touring Forum take the helpful and supportive approach to lobbying. Rural Touring has something MPs, Local Authorities and Arts Council need. We have a solution to the problem of how to access the people in the heart of communities, how to build community cohesion, wellbeing, and resilience. They will be making the case to the treasury, so they need to know about you!

I urge you now to use this letter as a template to contact your local MP, the head of local authorities, funders and alike to get our collective voice heard. Do it ASAP, like next week! Please do edit it, add your stats, your stories and how important what you do is to communities, business, and opportunity. We need to ensure the Spending Review factors in regional investment and the levelling up agenda

How to find you local MP and Lord –