Dance in rural areas given green light as third phase of Rural Touring Dance Initiative receives national funding

Partnership between National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), The Place, Take Art and new partners Highlights and Sonia Sabri Company awarded funding of £400,000 from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and £450,000 from Arts Council England

I Infinite by Tom Dale Company
RTDI 3 image I Infinite by Tom Dale Company Photographer Rachel Bunce

Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI), a sector-defining partnership that brings high quality dance to rural audiences across the UK, has been awarded national funding of £400,000 from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and £450,000 from Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants. These two funding awards will ensure RTDI continues its important work over the next four years, building on its success by working with and supporting more rural touring schemes, venues and dance artists across England, Wales and Scotland.

As well as supporting 10 new associate venues to programme dance in rural areas and market towns, many of them in Levelling Up for Culture places, the funding will enable RTDI to support eight dance artists & companies per year to tour their work to rural areas, with over 200 performances and 90 workshops expected between autumn 2023 and summer 2026.

RTDI was launched in 2015 when The Place, National Rural Touring Forum, China Plate and Take Art joined forces to address the lack of quality dance in rural spaces. From the start, RTDI has introduced some of the UK’s top dance companies to rural touring including Ben Duke’s Lost Dog, Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, Uchenna Dance, Tom Dale Company, Scottish Dance Theatre, Mr & Mrs Clark, Jo Fong and George Orange, and Joshua ‘Vendetta’ Nash.

The Place is delighted that Arts Council England and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation have recognised the importance of RTDI in the dance and rural touring ecologies with these significant grants. RTDI has had a transformative effect on the dance artists who have toured through the programme during the first six years. They tell us how much they enjoy the welcome they receive from rural audiences and how it now influences their approach to making, touring and talking about their work. We look forward to more magical moments of brilliant dance across the UK for another four years.” Christina Elliot, Senior Producer, The Place

NRTF is honoured to have played a founding role in an initiative that has continued to develop audience connection to dance performances, alongside introducing the magic of rural and community touring to professional artists. We are excited for this next phase and can’t wait to see more amazing work in extraordinary places. Thank you to our funders for enabling this initiative to happen.” Holly Lombardo, Director, NRTF

The first phase of the project, RTDI 1, ran from 2015-2018 and was made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery funded Strategic Touring Programme. Due to its successes, in November 2017 the project was given a further £417,000 to develop a second phase of the project which ran until 2021.

Over the years RTDI has transformed UK rural dance touring. An evaluation report of the project’s second phase published in 2022, highlighted that 98% of audiences enjoyed watching the performances, with 88% saying the experience made them want to see more dance, demonstrating demand for high quality touring dance.

It is hard to put into words how special rural touring is. It is almost like visiting family you haven’t yet met.” – Artist, from the RTDI 2 evaluation report.

RTDI 3 will build on the lessons of the past two phases. RTDI 3 is anticipated to run from 2023-2026, and will see new partnerships with Highlights, a rural touring scheme working across the north of England, and Sonia Sabri Company, a Birmingham-based dance company presenting Kathak dance in a contemporary context.

RTDI 3 call out

Today, the partners announced a call out for artists to take part in RTDI. Artists with dance performances available to tour in autumn 2023 and spring 2024 are invited to apply via The Place’s website before 8 September 2022.

Artists will be supported through residencies in rural and community spaces, such as village halls, and via bursaries to adapt their existing pieces for rural touring, to develop the accessibility of their work, and to tour in an environmentally sustainable way.

For more information about RTDI, visit: Rural Touring Dance Initiative – NRTF

Call out for artists to apply to RTDI 3: