Rural Touring in the UK happens in lots of different ways. There are, of course, rural-based theatres and arts venues that will have a full tech set up and their own programming teams, who operate much the same as their urban counterparts. Alongside this, rural community venues such as village halls, pubs and libraries also host professional arts events, to provide their communities with a rich cultural offering.
One way of rural touring is to work directly with these community venues. You may book the hall for your show, or in some cases, the hall may book you directly or you may agree on a box office split. The other way and the way that the NRTF is predominantly involved is through Rural Touring Schemes.
Rural Touring Schemes act like the programming department for a theatre or arts venue, except instead of programming different spaces within one building, they work with a network of volunteer promoters and rural venues to programme shows across a geographical area (usually they cover a county or two).
Each Rural Touring Scheme works slightly differently (depending on their size/funding etc.) but the basic model is this…
Artists apply to be programmed with the scheme (like you would with a theatre venue). Schemes then liaise with artists to pencil in dates, usually two or three dates, discuss fees etc. and make sure their work is appropriate for their rural touring spaces.
They then put together a menu of shows, which they send out to their rural venues and their volunteer promoters. This menu will offer a variety of music, theatre, children’s work, dance etc. Each scheme has different sized seasons and menus depending on their funding.
From this the venues and volunteer promoters tell the schemes which show, or shows, they would like for their halls, based on their space, knowledge of their audience, and importantly what dates are available in the venue diary.
The schemes then take in all of these expressions of interest, and piece together the season – like a giant jigsaw. They will then confirm with the artists which halls or venues they’ll be heading to on which date.
The artists then provide the halls and promoters with the marketing material. The volunteer promoter is responsible for promoting the event and selling the tickets, helping the artists get in on the day, and hosting the event on the night. The schemes are there to support the artists and the venues with marketing, or any teething problems that come up along the way. Schemes will usually produce a season brochure which is sent out across their location and to their mailing lists, they will run social media campaigns and support online ticket sales via their websites (but again this differs from scheme to scheme).
Schemes tend to guarantee the artist a set fee per show, rather than working on box office splits etc. but as I said each one operates ever so slightly differently. Some schemes also cover overnight stays or will facilitate homestays.
Take a read of this blog post to find out more about getting programmed by a scheme:https://www.ruraltouring.org/how-to-get-your-show-rural-touring-the-importance-of-doing-your-homework/