If you’re a venue brand new to rural touring, and not sure how it all works or just looking for some advice on hosting your first event, we’ve gathered together all our most useful links and resources! And if you can’t find the answers in the posts below, remember you can always email us: email@example.com
On average it take 58 volunteer hours to host every single rural touring event, which might sound like a daunting task. We asked existing volunteering promoters from across the UK, why they host rural touring events in their venue, and what advice they would give to new venues looking to offer their communities something new…
Why do you host rural touring events in your venue?
‘An opportunity to host quality professional shows that can take us on a magical journey without us leaving our village.’ Des George Neuadd Dyfi
‘Because it’s a total treat to watch fabulous performances in intimate settings such as small village halls. Members of the community who may very well not see anything at all otherwise are given the opportunity for a lovely night out, usually close to home.’ Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“Live performance must be kept alive. It is a different experience to TV or Cinema and needs nurturing and supporting. It enriches your venue.” Steve and Fran, Hinton Martell, Tiny venue in Dorset
“Not for the money, that’s for sure. But the quality and standard of the actors and musicians and dancers etc is wonderful and to see and the number of people who come and say how did we get to be so lucky to have this experience locally. I believe village halls etc are there for many things and if one young person sees a live performance for the first time, or listens to artists telling them about their road to success, and is inspired , then you have done a good job.” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“It is a real pleasure to bring a show into our community and to see the pleasure it brings to our audiences. These schemes are so important for the more remote communities as they get people out socialising and give a feeling of belonging to an extended community. Our walls have closed in on us enough over the past couple of years and we need to break down the feeling of isolation which many have found.” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Partly because it opens doors for artists to reach communities, but it also allows us to present work that people might not see elsewhere. That diversity of programming is really important. Its also a great way to bring together parts of your community who may be distant from others, but are actually the same – they just might not know it.” John, The Civic Stourport
“To explore all ways of entertaining our community” DVHall Drayton Langport – On-the-Levels
“We are in a rural village with a large elderly population. They feel more comfortable in smaller venues, especially post Covid” Anonymous
What advice would you give to a village hall or venue approaching Rural Touring for the first time?
“Do it!” Des George Neuadd Dyfi
“Firstly, you’ll know that whatever show you are offered will be top quality, regardless of it’s type. It’s a great way to bring amazing acts to rural communities for not a huge amount of money. Great for community engagement.” Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“Remember that you are choosing artists for your community not yourselves. Talk to others about what they would come to.” Steve and Fran, Hinton Martell, Tiny venue in Dorset
“Think about the size of your venue and any particularly useful stand out features (say a high ceiling for acrobats or a recreation ground for outdoor events. Know your audience and old fashioned leaflets thru doors and paper tickets purchased at your local store still works alongside media channels” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“Don’t be put off, or feel daunted by the unknown. Yes, there can be a lot of work required to host shows, but there are many other nearby promoters with lots of experience who you can reach out to and be guided / mentored through the process. More importantly, the rural touring schemes and the NRTF are a great, friendly bunch who want nothing more than to see you succeed!” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Don’t be scared to try something unusual or different – it’s one of the best parts of Rural Touring – finding something different that your audience possibly wouldn’t see at a larger venue.” John, The Civic Stourport
“Make sure you have your ‘target’ audience in-focus. No good relying on your venue ‘faithful’ to turn-out for something they are not sure about.” DVHall Drayton Langport – On-the-Levels
“Use as many local village facebook groups as possible to advertise” Anonymous
Tell us about your favourite rural touring experience?
“There have been many. Two come to mind “The Chef Show” by Ragged Edge Productions. Life in a busy Indian restaurant, a brilliantly produced show which ended up with a superb curry produced by our local curry restaurant. Also Circo Rum bab production of L’Hotel!” Des George Neuadd Dyfi
“Too many to pinpoint one. If the ‘Farnham Maltings’ offer you a show – take it!” Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“We don’t have a favourite really, but John Etheridge and Vimala Rowe performing sublimely in the church and the Grahams raising the roof of the village hall are particularly powerful memories. Very different, but both so well worthwhile.” Steve and Fran, Hinton Martell, Tiny venue in Dorset
“The dance – Pheonix Dance from Leeds was a high spot, Opera North come each year and hearing them warming up in the hall to sing outside is a heart wrenching moment, Kate Fox explaining thru laughter about her diagnosis of adult autism, King lear being performed as snow stormed down outside , we did not get home till the following evening!” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“We promoted a show called “”Our June’s Wedding”” a few years ago, and the show started with a “”wedding”” in our local chuch, then moved on to a party in the Village Hall. The wedding was officiated over by our local vicar (in full gowns etc) and 90% of the audience turned up dressed for a wedding with all the big hats, posh frocks and suits etc. The atmosphere was brilliant, and the whole “”congregation”” walked to 500m to the Hall en masse only to be told that as they walked they were travelling forward in time by one year!! It was amazing!” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Mountain Music was an excellent show which combined storytelling with Americana music and was done in the round. ” Anonymous
Anything else you’d like to tell us about or share with new venues and promoters?
“Don’t expect to make a fortune, be prepared to take risks. Always look for quality. The touring schemes are there to help make it happen” Des George Neuadd Dyfi
“Just do it. Advertise locally via email. Build up your own emailing list or see if you can piggy-back an existing one. Social media is invaluable. Posters locally are good, but in my opinion don’t generate much of an interest. Distribute the brochures printed by your local touring scheme in relevant places such as exhibitions/museums/arty places. If you are able to make your own posters they are sometimes better than the official ones you will get sent which tend to over-complicate things with too much text and not enough space for venue details/dates in large lettering. You can use these electronically and the paper ones you get sent for notice boards.” Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“Make the artists welcome, us trustees use the time spent feeding them to join in and have a get together ourselves” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“As per my first comment, never be afraid to ask your local scheme for support and advice.” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Beg, Borrow, and Salvage whetever you can to make your event work – and use whatever you can (if you can) to make it an experience i.e. Serve food or popcorn for a movie; dress up in a costume themed to the event (and encorage audienec to do the same); dress the venue to suit if you can (we had a WW2 era band and we built a sandbagged checkpoint for FOH to check tickets at). Make it different to seeing a film in the cinema or a show in a larger venue – you are different so be different.” John, The Civic Stourport
“[We] Recently installed a large screen new projector and sound system. We have the Umbrella film license plus music license and are now holding our own monthly film nights which are proving popular. With the kit we now have we can widen the spectrum of entertainment no end.” DVHall Drayton Langport – On-the-Levels
“Don’t panic if early sales are disappointing. Especially with Covid, people in villages seem to leave it late to get tickets” Anonymous
What is rural touring?
Across the country thousands of rural venues, village halls, community spaces, libraries, schools and pubs host professional artists, performances and events for their community. Musicians, theatre companies and other artists tour to these spaces, alongside urban arts venues, reaching as many audiences as possible.
Rural Touring happens in many different shapes and forms. Some artists and companies organise their own tours independently directly with venues but one of the main ways the NRTF supports rural touring, is by working with Rural Touring Schemes.
What is a rural touring scheme?
A rural touring scheme is a bit like a traditional arts venue… except, instead of organising a programme of events in different rooms of one building, they work with lots of rural venues across a geographical location (usually a county or several).
Rural Touring Schemes, put together a menu of professional art events, for their volunteer promoters and venues to choose from. This means that the people that live in those rural communities, that know their venue and their audiences the best, can choose the show that best fits for them, while also having the confidence, that the Rural Touring Scheme has put together a quality offer. Often Rural Touring Schemes will have seen the shows they are offering in advance or will have worked with the artist before.
The promoters and venues then choose one or two events from this menu, and let the Schemes know which shows they’d be interested in and wat dates work for them. The scheme will then look at all the expressions of interest from all their venues and start to piece together the jigsaw… making sure that the venues have chosen shows that physically fit in their spaces, ensuring that the artist dates are spread out across the county so that you don’t have two venues next to each other trying to host the same thing etc.
Then the artists, promoters and venues, and the Rural Touring Scheme all work together to market the events. The promoter and venue are responsible for selling tickets, setting up their own box office in a way that works for them. The artist will provide the venues with all the leaflets and marketing materials they need, and the Rural touring Scheme will put together a season brochure (like the one you might get from your local arts venue) which has all the shows happening in their area in, and they’ll also look after their website and social media.
This is the basic Rural Touring Scheme model. There are around 30 Rural Touring Schemes across the UK. Each one works slightly differently depending on their size and how they are funded, but the majority are funded by Arts Council England (or Arts Council Wales/Creative Scotland). This means they can support venues in covering the fees for the artists, but how each Scheme does this is slightly different.
How do I get involved with a scheme?
You can find your nearest Rural Touring Scheme by browsing our Scheme Directory here. The map pin points are based on where the Schemes main office is but they often cover the whole county. If you have trouble finding your scheme, email us firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help.
Once you have found your local scheme you can contact them directly about becoming a promoter. You’ll find on most scheme websites they have more information about how they specifically work with volunteers and venues and a direct number or email address for you to contact them on
What if there isn’t a scheme that covers my area?
There are a handful of places in the UK not currently covered by a scheme (and we are all working to change that). If you think your venue is in one of these areas, contact us to make sure. As we mentioned before, there are ways of hosting professional rural touring events without being part of a scheme, and we can point you in the right direction for finding out about companies, or independently seeking out funding for your area.
It is also always worth making yourself known to your nearest scheme, even if they don’t currently cover your area. If they know that there is a venue near them actively wanting to promoter arts events, they can often help in other ways. Whether that is pointing artists who have spare dates in your direction, or linking you up with other organisations in your area.