Libraries Week

Tell us what you’re up to!

Libraries Week is an annual showcase and celebration of the best that libraries have to offer. Taking  place between the 4th and 10th October, Libraries week 2021 will be celebrating the nation’s much-loved libraries and the central role that libraries play in their community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion. 

The Touring Arts In Libraries (TAIL) project is all about boosting the ambition of libraries to deliver a programme of touring work. We know taking arts into these open, friendly, public spaces is both positive and inspiring not just for those communities but also for library staff, and artists. 

We want to promote Rural Touring arts activities in libraries by sharing your events with our project partners, forum members and followers.

So don’t hesitate to email Jess Huffman TAIL project manager on with links and details of what you’re up to. Let us help you to shout about it!

What else is the TAIL project doing for Libraries week? 

Our monthly mail out will highlight the latest project news and opportunities for libraries, schemes and artists. Including touring shows, new library specific commissions, Go See Grants, and artists workshops.

On Monday 11th October as part of our Mechanics: Online Rural Touring Workshops for Artists, we’ll be running an interactive session that will include feedback from artists with library touring experience and a chance to pitch your own creative ideas. 

To join us or find out more about the Mechanics Workshops programme go to: 

For more information on Libraries week go to: 

Keep up to date by following @librariesweek and share your plans at #LibrariesWeek.

For more information on the NRTF’s Touring Arts in Libraries (TAIL) project go to: 


Truth Sleuth in Thrills, Chills and Chemical Spills

A choose your own adventure by Modest Genius

Hello! We’re delighted to let you know about Modest Genius’ brand new ‘choose your own adventure’ digital game, that will be available for communities, festivals, libraries, organisations, schools & venues to engage with across the UK and the world from June 2021

Truth Sleuth in Thrills, Chills and Chemical Spills is an interactive storybook with a series of binary choices that take the player on branching narratives. The game explores bias and trusted sources, linking the player’s choices to integrity level. In order to win the game you must maintain a high integrity level so that the town of Amberville believe in your accusations.

Modest Genius have developed a choose-your-own-adventure style computer game. Through an original and engaging interactive story set in the library, discover tools for revealing bias, recognising hidden agenda and separating fact from opinion.

Average gameplay time: 60 minutes

Age guidance: 7+

Truth Sleuth needs you…

From June 2021 we are inviting communities, festivals, libraries, organisations, schools & venues to engage with our digital offer, by offering your audiences the opportunity to play Truth Sleuth as part of your digital programme. The game will be available to download for FREE – with generous support and funding we are in a position to make this game as accessible as reach as far and wide as possible as we learn to live, think, come together and adapt to these topsy turvy times.

If you would be interested in finding out more, in hosting and sharing this digital piece with your audience and communities please email Pound Arts at

Facebook – @modestgeniustheatrecompany/@thepoundartscentre

Instagram – @truthsleuth_mgtc/@poundarts

Twitter – @poundarts

Website –




Monday, October 14, 2019The NRTF recently sent Gail Ferrin from Blaize ArtERY & Live Lincs Touring to ‘Braw Revealed’ using one of our CPD grants. Here we hear about what she learnt. 

I recently had the opportunity to attend Braw Revealed billed as ‘a day of learning, sharing and doing for anyone looking to contribute to the innovation of rural touring’, which took place at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, Scotland. Representing the NRTF, I went to hear about the project and see if I had some ideas to contribute to the day.

On arrival, I found a room full of delegates from across a wide spectrum of arts, including; development officers, marketing & communications officers, venue directors, performers, touring organisations and programmers, representatives of various forums, event managers, lecturers and other arts development professionals.

I also noted the quote displayed on the screen – which set an interesting tone to the day;
“I thought it was going to be shite but it was actually quite good” Neil – audience member Isle of Eigg

The day began with an overview of Braw – a two-year-long action research project which is almost complete. Described as a project which is ‘examining artistic vibrancy, relevance and impact by deepening the relationships between three devising performers and three rural communities’ I was interested to hear about the impact and learning from this process.

Jo Maclean, CEO of the Touring Network and Lisa Baxter of The Experience Business led the day and began describing the project ‘What we did, why and how we did it’. They explained that they would explore and share what happened when they propelled 3 devising artists, 3 promoters and 1 first-time animater into an open-ended experiment into rural touring – examining what happened when trialing some new approaches (with some spectacularly good and not-so-good results!). What followed was a series of sessions where the assembled delegates heard a review of the three areas and projects, from promoter and artist perspective – Birds of Paradise Theatre, Creative Electric and Lochgoilhead, Vanishing Point and the Idle of Eigg then Saffy Setohy, The Work Room and Forres , Finhorn Bay Arts. There seemed to be some more successful experiences and those which perhaps hadn’t accomplished quite what they could have. However, all acknowledged it had been good to try. 
It seemed that perhaps a two-year project timeline was too long to keep audiences and participants involved and that some of the initial energy dissipated as time went on. The team also acknowledge they should have put in place a tighter brief and been clearer on expectations of all involved, including promoters, companies, the animater, and artists.

At the end of the day, the delegates were asked to contribute to some questions around what happens next for Braw.

Overall an informative and interesting day, which mainly consisted of hearing from all of those involved in the Braw project, and some comments and feedback from delegates who offered some opinions, suggestions, and observations after hearing about the process, results, feelings of promoters, audiences, and artists who were involved.
One of the main points I came away with from the day is just how important promoters are, they are key to the success of projects like this, they know their communities and yet they have limited capacity and should not be expected to work as hard on getting projects up and running and sustaining a lot of local involvement over a long period, without funding and other support.

Gail Ferrin – Blaize ArtERY & Live Lincs Touring

CONCERTA Presentation at Hi-Vis: NRTF Conference 2019

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The first of our ‘Big Conversations’ at this years NRTF Conference ‘Hi-Vis: Value, Impact and Sucess of Rural Touring’ focussed on our CONCERTA Social Impact Study.

The CONCERTA Listen Up and Shout Out session gave delegates a chance to hear an overview of the studies undertaken by Coventry University, the research methods used, and the results produced.

The presentation was given by Nick Henry, one of the lead researchers on the project and filmed by RB Films.

You can watch the whole thing above (with subtitles provided by Youtube) or flick through the slides below to get a detailed overview of the project.

NRTF CONCERTA Presentation

What to Expect from the ‘Rural Touring in the UK’ event at Ed Fringe

Monday, July 29, 2019

Every August the NRTF and Rural Touring Schemes heads to Edinburgh Fringe to look for companies hoping to give their show life after the festival – and this year is no different.
Each year we host a ‘Rural Touring in the UK’ event for artists to attend to find out more about how our sector works and meet the key people involved. 
If you’re heading up to the Fringe, you are probably already exhausted thinking about everything you’ll have to do promoting and performing your show. And while your focus should no doubt be on wowing programmers and audiences with your work, it is essential to put aside time to think about what happens next?
Can we suggest you use some of that planning time to attend our event on Saturday 17th August, 3pm at Fringe Central?

If you do, here is what you can expect from the event… 1. A Comprehensive Overview of Rural Touring…
Never heard of Rural Touring before? Heard of it but not sure how it works? This session will give you a strong understanding of what Rural Touring is and how it works. From the types of venues that rural touring works with, how volunteer promoters work, and what the process of programming work is.
2. A Chance to Hear Directly From Scheme Managers and Programmers…
Straight from the horse’s mouth, hear from Scheme managers what they’re looking for when they are programming for rural touring. From technical capacities, marketing materials and the timelines they work to.
3. Upcoming opportunities…
Whether you’re a dance company looking to hear more about the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, an outdoors performer or a spoken word artist. Across the NRTF and the Rural Touring Schemes, there are opportunities beyond regular programming. Commissions, open call-outs and more, this session will be able to point you in the right direction.
4. Find out where you can find out more…
There will be a lot of information to take in during the session, but don’t worry, we don’t expect you to absorb it all at once! The session will point you in the direction of all the information and resources you need to follow up everything you learn!
5. Get your questions answered and introduce yourself… We make time in all our industry sessions for your questions, and after the session, you’ll have time to speak to the members of our panel and the other Rural Touring sector people in the room.

NRTF attends – A Civic Role for Arts Organisations Day

Friday, July 26, 2019

NRTF Director Holly Lombardo was invited to speak at a symposium run by Gulbenkian Foundation (UK) called A Civic Role for Arts Organisations: Relevance, Risks, Rewards. 21st June, London, Wellcome Trust: Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls (1 – 5.30pm)

This London conference at the Wellcome Collection, focused on ‘Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’. Popular topics included ways to make cultural spaces more welcoming to all citizens; the need for deep and meaningful engagement; and calls for change in the sector so that staffing and visitors reflected the diverse population of London.

Talking about the Civic role the arts play… The opening perspectives were from Sir Nick Serota, (Chair of Arts Council England) and Delia Barker (Roundhouse).
Speakers included Tristram Hunt (V&A) Tania Wilmer (Future Arts Centres) Matt Peacock (With One Voice) Victoria Pomery and Karen Eslea (Turner Contemporary) Helen Featherstone (Yorkshire Sculpture Park) Ruth Mackenzie (Theatre du Chatelet) Tony Butler (Derby Museums) Ruby Baker and Khadijah Ibrahiim (Poet in the City). – David Tovey – (With One Voice/One Festival of Homeless Arts), Holly Lombardo (National Rural Touring Forum) and David Bryan (XTEND).

We explored – what does it mean to play a civic role? For some arts organisations, it is at the heart of their mission and practice; others think it is not relevant. Communities are questioning whether the public money that arts organisations receive is benefiting local people; there are hard questions to be asked and there are no easy answers.

Following the two-year Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) is working with partners across the country to support a series of conferences. They shared experiences, discussed, debated and imagined the significance of a civic role for arts organisations and the relevance they hold within our communities. Speakers share the innovative, sometimes radical, ways in which they are developing their arts organisation’s civic role.

Cultural spaces, whether they are building-based, conceptual, virtual, pop-up or temporary locations outdoors, can play a pivotal role in developing creativity, enriching lives and communities and fostering social cohesion. A majority of cultural spaces are funded with public money, we continue to create new spaces but who is benefiting and how are communities involved in making the decisions? How relevant is the work that is produced to the lives and ambitions of the communities that cultural spaces are located within?

The conference started with key perspectives addressing the topic: Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’ within the overarching theme of Relevance, Risks and Rewards, followed by interventions, presentations, and panels: ‘Re-imagining our cultural spaces’ and ‘New space, who will come?’ Opening perspective from Sir Nick Serota, Chair, ACE 

Delegates at the events were treated to a sneak preview of a new publication, ‘What Would Joan Littlewood Say?’. The collection of essays by leaders in the arts and cultural sector argues that arts organisations should do more for and with the communities they are part of. You can read an online version

What is Rural Touring and Why is it Important?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

What is National Rural Touring Forum?

National Rural Touring Forum supports rural touring schemes, promoters, artists and communities to bring high quality and professional creative experiences to rural venues and audiences. It does this through advocating on behalf of the sector, creating national projects, networking, showcasing and hosting an annual conference.

What is rural touring and why is it different to urban touring?

Rural touring is where professional performances take place in rural venues. These rural venues usually take the form of a Village Hall or Community Centre, but can also be pubs, libraries and outdoors. They are rarely fully equipped arts venues. Performances are programmed by a rural touring scheme, who will curate a varied season of events. Instead of all the events taking place in a couple of rooms in one building, they take place in lots of venues across a specific geographical area, sometimes whole counties, sometimes even further. Rural touring work is very different from touring to city centres or venues in urban areas. Artists express high regard for rural touring venues and the level of professionalism from the promoters. They often talk about their appreciation of a certain “magic” and warmth of the audiences that happens at rural events which aren’t the same at larger halls or festivals.

“The heart of the reason why it’s different from a town centre art centre is that the audience knows each other. That contributes to the other thing that is distinctive, which is that rural touring events become part of shared memory, part of what builds community. So, for both of those reasons, I think that it is a very distinctive kind of artistic experience.” François Matarasso, March

Green Touring

Touring is inherently greener than venue-based work. Large venues consume vast amounts of energy and expel lots of carbon. People invariably drive to them – or drive to a station to get a train to get to a city where the venue is. Small-scale touring – where one van is on the road for a small cast – has a low carbon footprint in comparison. Rural touring is generally set in villages where many audiences walk to the venue. And if they don’t walk, they live usually within a 10-mile radius, so journeys are short. Previous NRTF annual surveys report that 90% of audiences travel for less than 10 minutes to get to their village hall.

Rural Promoters

Rural touring couldn’t happen without promoters who host the events. They work with the schemes to identify which performance or artist is the most relevant for their audience and do everything from box-office to get-ins, promotion, hosting artists. Many know their audiences on a first name basis.

Volunteering sits at the heart of rural touring; most promoters are volunteers. Venues employing professional staff utilise the help of a network of dedicated helpers. Promoters maintain an engaged audience for shows, know what they like and are aware of the level of risk they are comfortable in taking in their programme.


All genres of work are represented in rural touring. Creative practitioners and performing companies are selected via recommendations, showcasing, introductions, festivals and seeking out shows independently. They all have a few things in common – flexibility, relevance to the audience, and professional quality work.

It’s about putting artists in front of audiences and audiences in front of artists. Everything else is fundamentally about getting that moment working Properly. Our job is to make sure that that marriage is right and the right communities, the right shows and the right artists end up in the right place at the right time and that’s very important to us.” Director, rural touring scheme

Health in the Community

Rural touring brings high-quality arts to people who otherwise would not have access to it. This can contribute to reducing the effects of isolation and to developing community cohesion, while also strengthening the capacity of local people to organise and to develop themselves.
Bringing quality, diverse, and challenging arts activity has been shown to be integral to catalysing and supporting community life in rural areas, especially as other village ‘anchors’ such as shops and pubs have diminished. The act of programming touring arts into rural areas generates a range of individual and community benefits, including personal development, improved well-being and supporting community buildings and infrastructures such as pubs, halls and schools. The strengthening of existing community organisations through networking and volunteering and bringing people together positively fosters community cohesion by reducing loneliness, breaking down age barriers and even, enhanced local democracy. 


The Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) began in 2015. Its aim was to introduce dance, in particular, contemporary dance, into rural areas where there was very little happening. RTDI offers a menu list to schemes and promoters alongside several incentives ranging from financial to marketing support. RTDI runs training labs and ongoing provision to artists who want to develop work in rural areas. The result has been a considerable increase in the number of contemporary dance performances taking place in rural areas as well as the number of creative practitioners developing work suitable for touring to rural venues.

CONCERTA – has been a national study of the benefits, for local community development, of a relatively under-researched form of creative activity: rural touring arts. In 2016, Arts Council England (ACE) launched the second round of calls for proposals to the Research Grants Programme. The call sought proposals aimed at collaborative research work to develop the evidence base around the impact of arts and culture. The role of the Research Grants Programme is to generate evidence: ■     to better understand the impact of arts and culture; ■     to make the best case for arts and culture in the context of reduced public spending; and ■     to promote greater collaboration and co-operation between the arts and cultural sector and research partners.

Benefits and Impact of Rural Touring

  • RT acts as an agent between the local agenda and creative work being made
  • RT sector doesn’t just tour work that is already touring – it commissions and premiers too
  • When the country is becoming more ‘place-based’ RT addresses localism by creating work with national appeal
  • RT is ahead of the curve when it comes to non-traditional touring spaces in comparison to town and city-based touring
  • It supports professional performance into rural areas, engaging residents in cultural experiences
  • Thanks to RT, audiences in rural areas can enjoy the same opportunities to see and appreciate the arts on their doorsteps as urban counterparts
  • RT supports skills development and cohesion
  • RT gives opportunities to address social mobility and people living in deprivation
  • RT contributes to local economic growth
  • RT can change individual and community perceptions of art and culture, increasing confidence and a sense of belonging in people
  • RT helps facilitate a greater understanding of what local provision should be delivered and how this could be achieved
  • RT helps drive improvements in local facilities
  • RT supports the development of strong local networks and volunteering in a range of activities.
  • RT is a driver for promoting a year-round calendar of events and activities
  • RT positively contributes to wellbeing including social and emotional development
  • RT fosters the empowerment of young people
  • RT encourages social inclusion and integration into the wider community
  • RT encourages the arts to be more integrated into the school curriculum
  • RT supports staff training in arts development

NRTF at Latitude Festival

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

National Rural Touring Forum was invited to attend a professional development day about Rural Touring at Latitude Festival by the touring team at Arts Council England.

Held in the Faraway Forest, ACE host a series of funding and advice workshops from their shed. Artists performing at the festival can attend, book in and meet the Arts Council representatives and guests. We got to be a part of this, along with Natalie from with Creative Arts East.
Latitude Festival is an annual music festival that takes place in Henham Park, near Southwold, Suffolk, England. It was first held in July 2006 and has been held every year since. 

It isn’t just music, it plays host to many performing arts stages. Latitude is one of the best performing arts festivals in Europe with involvement from the UK’s leading theatre and dance companies. 

Programmed into the Festival are emerging performing companies alongside longer-standing professional groups all with quality touring shows. It was great to meet a mix and range of people.
Thank you to Arts Council for having us along!

Rural Touring Award Winners Announced 2019

Friday, July 5, 2019

Press ReleaseJuly 2019 

2019 Rural Touring Awards Winners Announced!

A shining example of the talent being seen by countryside audiences every year

After a glitzy awards ceremony at the Hi-VIS: NRTF Conference 2019, held in Bangor, Wales 2 – 4 July 2019. National Rural Touring Forum is delighted to announce the winners of Rural Touring Awards 2019. Hosting the awards was Kate Fox, stand up poet, who was joined by the nominees and the majority of the rural touring sector, including schemes, programmers, directors and performers to celebrate the talent and passion of this vibrant creative sector. 

The Awards enable the NRTF to raise the profile of the professionalism prevalent in rural touring. It is an opportunity to draw attention to the quality of performance and performing companies as well as to collaborations and the network of individuals who go above and beyond on behalf of the health and cohesion of their local community. The awards reward not just the winners but everyone who has performed, organised and taken part in rural arts & touring.

The awards were judged by three industry professionals – Jude Henderson, Director – Federation of Scottish Theatres, Ian McMillan – poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster and Kate Green, Deputy Editor – Country Life Magazine.

Awards Categories:        

Breakthrough Performance of the Year ·        

Touring Scheme Collaboration of the Year ·        

Favourite Performance of the Year – best show you saw ·        

Voluntary Promoter or Voluntary Promoting Group of the Year ·        

Young Person of the Year ·        

The NRTF Special Award

Full information on Shortlist –

Young Person of the Year

Nominees – Jasmin Lowrie (20) & Sam Pullen (14)
WINNER – Jasmine Lowrie

BIO: I’m 20 and live in Chirnside in Berwickshire, in the Scottish Borders. I have lived in the Borders all my life. I like the Borders, but transport is a real problem, it is difficult to get anywhere quickly on public transport from Chirnside.I love music, both listening and playing and am also really interested in sound engineering. I also enjoy photography and have recently started taking photographs at Live events.
QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: “I’m surprised by the nomination but honoured to have been nominated and glad to be making a positive impact on rural touring”

JUDGES THOUGHTS: It feels to me that Jasmine has gone deeper into the idea of what Rural Touring is, and she seems like a really bright prospect for the future.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Since Joining Borders YoungCreative Jasmine has shown real commitment to the project” Anon.

Break Through Performance of the Year

Nominees – Sophia Hatfield from Stute Theatre, Theatre company Dante or Die, Haunted Man by Kindred Theatre
WINNER – Sophia Hatfield from Stute Theatre

BIO: ‘Common Lore’ is a fast-paced, multi-skilled solo show by actor and theatre-maker Sophia Hatfield (aka Stute Theatre), which retells Angela Carter’s collection of Fairy Tales for a modern, young rural audience. A fast-paced fusion of rap, spoken-word, live electronic music, multi-rolling and physical theatre, this production attempted to push the boundaries of solo storytelling through the creative use of technology – with live projections and sound cues triggered entirely by the performer on a mobile phone as part of the action. Inspired by interviews with young people in libraries across the North West, this show took relevant, inspiring theatre to libraries, youth theatres, schools and rural venues engaging young people who do not traditionally access theatre.

Stute Theatre – Live Performance in Community Spaces, Schools and

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: I am absolutely delighted that the creativity, ambition, passion and hard work of the wonderful team behind Common Lore has been recognised through this nomination. Whilst incredibly rewarding, creating and touring theatre for young adults can be challenging. From the very first commissioning meeting with Spot On, through rehearsals and when touring the show, I was blown away by the enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of the many rural touring organisations who made this show happen. The rural touring community took a risk on a new piece, with the hope of welcoming and inspiring the next generation of theatre audiences, whilst supporting Stute Theatre as an emerging company and I’m incredibly grateful. Thank you so much!

JUDGES THOUGHTS: This feels really ground-breaking because of its brief to appeal to young people in Library spaces. I like the idea of the show and the way it was written and performed.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Sophia uses these three stories to reflect on what it is like to be an un-wealthy 18-year-old in the north, yet it is done with wit, humour, and sophistication. Students, apprentices, grandparents and anyone else who was ever 18 will love this piece” Anon

Special Award

Nominees – Karen Jeremiah, Theatr Bara Caws & Sian Kerry, Arts Alive
WINNER – Theatr Bara Caws

BIO: Bara Caws was established over forty years ago to fulfil the demand for professional theatre for the Welsh community in the Welsh community and we are by now the oldest professional community theatre working through the medium of Welsh. We continue to provide a unique service to our grassroots audiences at the heart of our nation and are proud to be recognised as a mainstay of the Welsh theatrical landscape.

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: We at Theatr Bara Caws are delighted to have been nominated and shortlisted for the National Rural Touring Awards 2019. It’s wonderful to know that our work continues to be appreciated throughout Wales, and we feel passionate that we must continue to strive with our mission of presenting a high quality diverse artistic programme at the very hearts of our communities. Recognition such as this nomination is greatly appreciated – thank you.

JUDGES THOUGHTS: I’m excited and moved by the fact that they make shows in Welsh, creating new work in a so-called minority language and challenging the rest of us about our ideas about what art is and what it can be.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Theatr Bara Caws is a community theatre company who present original, relevant work to the widest possible cross-section of people, offering theatrical experiences of the highest quality, bringing entertainment and excitement, ingenuity and relevance to the hearts of communities in Wales” Anon

Favourite Performance of the Year

Nominees – I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost – Little Earthquake, Excalibow by Bowjangles& Brilliance by Farnham Maltings

WINNER – I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost – Little Earthquake

BIO: Gareth Nicholls and Philip Holyman, aka Walsall-based theatre company Little Earthquake, have been together for 17 years, making work with each other for 14 years and have been married for (almost) one year. Little Earthquake observes one commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Bore” — and our next big not boring project is MoonFest, a nine-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing which runs between 16th – 24th July 2019. (Our first wedding anniversary happens to coincide with the day on which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the surface of the Moon.)

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: “We are very proud rural tourers — the network gives us a unique opportunity to connect with, learn from and, most of all, entertain audiences who live outside the catchment areas of major metropolitan arts venues, up and down the country.It is thanks to the very existence of the rural touring sector — and to the hard work of the thousands of people who support it, both paid and unpaid — that artists like us get to build these lasting relationships with audiences in the first place.

Our “Favourite Performance of the Year” nomination has come directly from audience members who have experienced and enjoyed our work — and being shortlisted for this award is a massive validation of our most fundamental ambition for Little Earthquake: to make audiences the most important ingredient in everything we do.”

JUDGES THOUGHTS: This show had clearly really made the audience think about the issues, as well as entertaining them.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “I even shed a tear as there was a real element of truth to the story. I think out of all the shows I have seen this year it was the most emotionally impactful.” Anon

Touring Scheme Collaboration of the year 

Nominees – The Northern Consortium, Carn to Cove and Villages in Action & The Inn Crowd
WINNER – The Inn Crowd

BIO: InnCrowd is a partnership project from Applause Rural Touring, Creative Arts East and the National Centre for Writing.  The project supports rural pubs throughout the South East and East of England to host exciting and inspiring spoken word, poetry and storytelling performances in their pubs reaching and engaging with non-traditional arts audiences. This collaborative project also engages national Charity Pub is the Hub as an advisory partner supporting the project with pub industry expertise and advice. A key aspect of the project is the support Inn Crowd gives some of the UK’s best spoken word artists to create, develop and tour their work to new areas. Started in 2016, the scope and range of the project has increased year on year with overwhelming responses from audiences and landlords alike w over 200 performances have taken place primarily in the southeast and further afield in collaboration with rural touring organisations nationally.

Voluntary Promoter or Voluntary Promoting Group of the Year

Nominees – Gaynor Morgan Rees and Gwyneth Kensler, David Lane & Yvonne Brown and the committee at The Dog Inn, Belthorn
WINNER – Gaynor Morgan Rees and Gwyneth Kensler

BIO: Gwyneth Kensler – Brought up in Holywell, I attended Bangor University in 1960. I married my husband in 1965 and then spent time living and working abroad. We settled in Denbigh in 1980.

After a career teaching French and Spanish, I stood as a town and county councilor in 1995 and remain a county councilor. I joined the Theatr Twm o’r Nant committee in 1983 and became a secretary in 1988. About 12 years ago I successfully applied for grants of £.75m to make the theatre as DDA friendly as possible; our theatre is now flourishing thanks to our dedicated team of volunteers.

Gaynor Morgan Rees – Born and bred in AbercwmIboi, South Wales, I have been working as a professional actress on stage, radio, and television for over half a century. I moved to Denbigh in 1982; I have been a town councilor since 2004 and was mayor in 2012.  I met Gwyneth in 1983 and we soon became involved with Theatr Twm o’r Nant.  Since the refurbishment of the theatre 10 years ago, I have been the booking officer. The theatre has to be self-supporting since it does not receive any subsidy; we are all volunteers and give up our time for free.

QUOTE FROM NOMINEEs: “We are delighted to have been nominated by Night Out Wales with whom we have a close and happy relationship. Without the sponsorship of the Night Out Scheme, we would not be able to hold professional performances at Theatr Twm o’r Nant. We have a full, varied and exciting programme.”

“What a surprise and also an honour. With funding for the arts so greatly reduced, we are pleased to be able to do what we can to help promote the arts in Wales.”

JUDGES THOUGHTS: They have obviously done an amazing job over 20 years – people like this make the world go around

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “For over twenty years formidable double act Gaynor Morgan Rees and Gwyneth Kensler from Theatr Twm o’r Nant in Denbigh have booked performances through the Night Out scheme in both English and Welsh.  In the last four years, they have promoted 36 shows (so far) and we anticipate many more to come.”

More information on the awards and full explanations can be found on the NRTF website –
To hear more about rural touring please visit our website – and watch our film

For more information contact Lombardo, Director, National Rural Touring Forum

CONCERTA – Contributing to Community Enhancement through Rural Touring Arts

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Executive Summary

The CONCERTA Project

In 2016, Arts Council England (ACE) launched the second round of calls for proposals to the Research Grants Programme. The call sought proposals aimed at collaborative research work to develop the evidence base around the impact of arts and culture. The role of the Research Grants Programme is to generate evidence:

■     to better understand the impact of arts and culture;

■     to make the best case for arts and culture in the context of reduced public spending; and

■     to promote greater collaboration and co-operation between the arts and cultural sector and research partners.

CONCERTA has been a national study of the benefits, for local community development, of a relatively under-researched form of creative activity: rural touring arts.

Devised by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) (Lead Applicant), in collaboration with the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) at Coventry University (Research Partner), the CONCERTA project (Contributing to Community Enhancement through Rural Touring Arts) was provided with funding of circa £150,000 by ACE under the terms of the Research Grants Programme for the period from December 2016 until March 2019. NRTF was the Lead Partner and accountable body, with oversight provided by a Steering Group, chaired by NRTF and including ACE and the NRTF Board.
CONCERTA has been based on a mixed methods research design, combining the development of a national, geo-referenced data-driven evidence base of professional rural touring activity with the production of a series of more qualitative case studies of the impact of touring rural arts.
The choice of case studies included a return to some of those areas studied by Matarasso (2004) Only Connect in consideration of the potential of the cumulative impact of rural touring through time.

The project was designed to support NRTF and its Scheme members in their professional activities.

The project encompassed five methodological strands:

■     Rural Touring Schemes organisational characteristics, activities and impacts: An on-line questionnaire was sent to all 24 English Rural Touring Schemes funded in 2016.

■     Mapping the patterns and characteristics of English rural touring arts activity: a comprehensive, geo-referenced evidence base of five years of English Rural Touring Scheme activity, for all 24 English Rural Touring Schemes funded in 2016. This comprises over 700 digital maps. Activity data collected through the scheme survey has been combined geographically (using ESRI ArcGIS) with socioeconomic data from sources such as Census (, Neighbourhood statistics (www.neighbourhood. and Employment (

■     Case Studies of the impacts of rural touring activities:–    Five Core Caseswere selected reflecting levels of ‘rurality’ in Rural Touring Schemes;-  Two ‘Cumulative’ Cases and an interview with François Matarasso – representing a return to local rural touring areas previously studied by Matarasso (2004); and- Two ‘Non-Scheme’ Rural (touring) Arts Investigations to investigate the possible benefits and impacts of other, often amateur, arts-based activities, rather than professional Touring Schemes. In the spirit of co-design and partnership, these cases were undertaken by NRTF with oversight by Coventry University.

■     Supporting professional touring development and wider dissemination: a range of knowledge transfer and technical expertise activities to support NRTF, their membership Schemes and broader understanding of the characteristics and benefits of professional rural touring.

Rural Touring Schemes: Delivering arts and culture to rural communities

Below is an example of one of the national maps produced from Scheme data, representing number of different art-form types by location in 2012-2017, by Scheme, mapped against national Rural Urban Classification 10. 

In summary, the Rural Touring Schemes represent a set of small, relatively stable, long-established organisations.

Overall, annual turnovers are low, and very low in some instances, and this is reflected in employment structures. These range from between one and ten employees, often supported by a freelancer or several. The Schemes exhibit substantial variety in terms of company structure. Some are private companies, some are effectively franchises or projects run by other companies, and some are community interest companies. Many of the more established companies are charities.

Between them the Schemes deliver annually between 2,000 to 2,500 events, incorporating a wide portfolio of art-form performances and a small number of more interactive activities (including workshops, training, etc.). These are distributed across between 800 to 1,000 venues although there is some evidence that venue numbers may be dropping. Over the last five years, the Schemes have jointly delivered 9,500 events to audiences numbering just over 700,000. Annual average audiences per event sit at a highly consistent 70 to 80 person annual average.

ACE funding is core to the sector, with 21 of the 24 Schemes attaining National Portfolio Organisation status, and seven in which ACE funding accounts for over fifty percent of funding. Ticket sales represent around a third of Scheme incomes, with notable variation across Schemes. Local Authorities remain the other main funder, although at an increasingly low scale.Change dynamics are evident across the sector but one relationship is clear: simply put, the greater the turnover, the more staff are employed, the more freelancers used and the more events are programmed.

The impacts of rural touring
Table ES1 (overleaf) summarises the range of impacts of rural touring identified by the research. Bringing arts activity – quality, diverse, and challenging arts activity – to a substantial range of accessible and remote rural areas, rural touring has been shown to be integral to catalysing and supporting community life in English rural areas, especially as other villages ‘anchors’ have diminished.
The act of bringing touring arts to rural areas (engagement and participation) generates a range of individual and community benefits, including personal development and well-being, community assets and capacity and, ultimately, stronger rural communities.
Table ES1: The Impacts of Rural Touring Arts

Promotes participation in the arts and creative activity
EngagementParticipationInspiration·            Provides and catalyses high-quality, accessible, affordable, arts activity in people’s own local rural communities·            Encourages engagement with the arts and creative activity, including a broader appreciation of the arts and its diversity·            Inspires audiences to attend other, and a wider variety of, arts and culture events·            Inspires people to take up a personal interest in the arts and creative activity – and raises the aspirations of those who already participate·            Potential individual health and well-being outcomes given generation of emotion, thought, challenge, captivation, empowerment, etc. through engagement and participation
Builds art and community assetsActivitiesBuildings·            Develops new programmes and strands of village activity, including the identification, rethinking and re-using of existing assets·            Provides an income stream for local activities, facilities and employment·            Supports  the provision of new community centres and facilities, including their development as arts venues·            Acts as a ‘magnet’ to other arts activities to encourage the development of cultural hubs, venues and events·            Contribute to, and potentially form, ‘community anchors’ – and their capacity to deliver broader services, and social, economic and rural development
Generates individual and community capacity  VolunteeringSkillsNetworksActivism·            Brings local people together to plan and support activity in arts and culture – volunteering ·            Develops individual confidence and skills·            Generates volunteering, interest groups and social networks·            Generates voluntary activity and self-organisation beyond the arts – community activism
Builds stronger senses of communityInclusionIdentityCohesionSafety
·            Brings people together:-         Reduces social isolation and builds (new) social relationships-         Provides non-threatening environments (e.g. for challenging experiences/ people with protected characteristics)-         Promotes diversity and challenges stereotypes-         Develops community cohesion·            Develops a sense of pride in, and belonging to, community·            Reduces fear and contributes to community safety

Issues, challenges and good practice

In providing an updated national overview of the organisational characteristics, activities, and impacts of the ACE-funded English Rural Touring Schemes, a number of issues were raised by interviewees (Table ES2). These centred around aspects such as: funding and sustaining the rural touring arts model; strategy and rationale (and achievement of them); and, operational effectiveness.TableES2: Issues for Rural Touring Arts

Funding Quality PerformancesThe reducing subsidy model reaching a point where it is becoming unviable to programmeFinancial models and pressures leading to lack of risk and ‘safe programming’ – can communities be rewarded for riskier programming?What is quality anyway?
Limits of the modelTouring model focusses companies on touring performances only – missed opportunities for innovative workshops/ community arts/ targeted commissions etc.Contradictions of promoting high-quality professional events through unpaid volunteers – and the growing challenges of ‘professionalisation’Skills concentrated in the hands of a small number of peopleSpread too thinly?
DiversityAchieving cultural diversity throughout the rural touring modelLack of work around protected characteristics
SuccessionNarrow and shrinking group of ageing promoters – and volunteersLimited work to develop skill and succession in communities
Who benefits and who comes to events?Are touring shows catering for an audience who would access the arts anyway?Could the spending have more impact if it was better targeted?What do we know about the local people who do not attend?

The research was able also to point to examples of responses to such challenges across the Schemes. Table ES3 overleaf provides some examples of Good Practice identified during the research programme.
Table ES3: Good Practice Examples in Rural Touring Arts[1]

NRTFProgrammes to promote quality and innovation at a local level e.g. Rural Touring Dance Initiative (in partnership with The Place, Take Art and China Plate)
Schemes Targeted development schemes for promoters (Young Promoters Scheme Black Country Touring  and  Creative Arts East)Collaboration and joint projects between schemes for strategic outcomes (Shropshire and Black Country “My Big Fat Cow Pat Wedding”)Using programming to challenge racism and promote diversity (Spot on Lancashire, “The Chef Show”)Targeted support for Promoters (Village Ventures/ Live and Local  – patch based link workers)Tailored support schemes for artists (Developing Artists For Rural Touring (DART) Scheme, Live and Local)Transparent, tiered risk-based subsidy rating for different performances (Spot on Lancashire)Pitching Meetings bringing local promoters together before each season to consider the whole menu of shows as a group, talk through what would work for them and organise dates together (Carn to Cove)
Volunteer support and training (Wem Town Hall)Community capacity building (Borwick and Priest Hutton)Driving wider programming through the use of rural touring programme to test out/ pilot approaches/art-form/ artists (Bulkington Community and Conference Centre)


Recommendation 1: Given learning from this research, further enhance the NRTF Annual Survey instrument. Consider how this supports regular sector-level development of impact reporting.
Recommendation 2:
NRTF to consider further the role of Rural Touring Schemes within current policy horizons over and above engagement and participation in the arts, such as in ‘supporting anchors of local community/rural development’, ‘contribution to civil society capacity’, ‘enhancing social cohesion’ and, ‘delivery of health and well-being’.
Recommendation 3:
Continued recognition and development of NRTF sector support to Schemes – communication and feedback; training, dissemination of reports, guides and resource packs (‘help fuel’); and, strategic programmes to promote excellence and innovation at a local level.
Recommendation 4:
For the sector and its stakeholders to consider strategic responses to key challenges raised by this Report: Succession and Sustainability; Sustainability: funding and finance; and Diversity and Cohesion.
Recommendation 5:
To consider research on Rural Touring Arts and Health and Well-Being as a substantial emerging research priority.

[1] These examples are drawn solely from the Report Case Studies. Good practice examples exist across the Rural Touring Schemes