Rural Touring is unique in many ways, but one of the things that make it so special for artists is the feeling you get when a community welcomes you into their homes… some times quite literally.
Often, artists on rural tours, are heading so far off the beaten track, that staying overnight in a hotel just isn’t an option. So how do rural tourers solve this? Homestays with promoters. We’ve spoken many times about the extreme lengths promoters will go to in order to make rural touring happen in their community, and offering artists a bed for the night is yet another example. Here Oliver Carpenter from Mumbo-Jumbo talks about the joy of homestays.
One of the joys of Rural Touring is becoming ‘part of the community’ for the evening, and nothing says that more than being put up in people’s homes after the performance. We’ve had delightful experiences from the Scottish Borders (where they shut the village hall immediately after the show and the whole audience and band went straight down to the village pub together), to Somerset, where we were put up in the house of a lovely lady with a full sized snooker table!
This last weekend for our gigs with Creative Arts East was no exception, where the lovely people of Freckenham and Ovington put us up, let us pat their dogs, chatted about everything till late in the evening, gave us the odd snack and glass of wine and fed us lovely breakfasts the next morning. We like to leave them with something appropriate, so here they all are in their Mumbo-Jumbo aprons, and a MAHOOSIVE THANKYOU!
Rural Touring is a great opportunity for artists but we’d be lying if we said it always went smoothly. As with any tour, there can be bumps along the way. Today we hear from Up The Road Theatre about why they were so keen to get more involved with Rural Touring and how they handled it when things didn’t go to plan.
This March, Up The Road Theatre, are going back on the road. We toured our first production, Bardolph’s Box, in 2016, and dipped our toe in the rural touring scheme waters with Cheshire Rural Touring and Spot On. A great time was had by all. Especially those children at Lancaster Library – I think one of them is still wondering where that witch went. Peril at Sea is a very different kettle of fish. We’re sticking to our roots of very little technology, and it’s still all about story-telling, character and text. No projectors or SubZero SZPA’s required by this company. (I have no idea what that is by the way, but we don’t need one, thanks all the same.) This production is for adults rather than children, and it’s going to boathouses rather than libraries.
Up The Road Theatre are based in Kent. I went to school near Dover, a place that is not renowned for its thriving arts culture. In the days before High Speed, London was two hours plus on the train, and school trips meant getting back at 1am. By the time I got to university, I felt at a disadvantage. I hadn’t heard of half the artists and companies being talked about. I’d done my best at going to see shows in the West End but realised there was so much more out there. After university I wrote to Ivan Cutting at Eastern Angles, asking if he had any upcoming opportunities. I nearly didn’t go to the meeting as I’d already had a few treks across the country to be rejected or ignored and was feeling somewhat deflated. As it turned out, Ivan did have an opportunity and I found myself assistant director on a verbatim musical about New Towns. Obvious choice for someone with a Shakespeare masters. In my time with Eastern Angles we had a company trip to see their production The Long Life and Great Good Fortune of John Clare. That play still remains one of the best things I have ever seen, and we were in a village hall in Suffolk. I found that incredible and over the next few years with Eastern Angles I grew to understand what rural touring means to people. Up The Road Theatre started to emerge.
Our aim is to take work to those communities who have little access to live theatre, or the arts in general. Those communities who aren’t a short distance from a producing or receiving house. Those for whom seeing theatre means spending a great deal of money and getting back at 1am. For our current production, we wanted to focus on coastal communities, it being a show about the sea and set in a coastal community. I really wanted to up our engagement with rural touring schemes and we got onto the menus of the four schemes we applied to. Hurrah. We took a punt with 10 dates, and, unfortunately, the punt didn’t pay off. I know dates are never guaranteed but we had everything – images, trailer, copy, press release. We had a brand-new production made for coastal audiences, all self-contained, Q&As and workshops available, and we couldn’t make it work.
There could be a great many reasons why we weren’t picked up. I don’t know what those reasons are. I know for one venue it was a lack of available dates. Not getting those dates did cause difficulties. I have filled those six gaps, and thank you to those who stepped in and pulled me out of the hole. We’re looking forward to going to Cornwall with Carn to Cove and I’m really pleased to be taking the company back to Cumbria with Arts Out West. I pitched at the AOW menu launch event, it was interesting, informative and not nearly as scary as I thought it might be. We’re also with Spot On now too, which feels like being welcomed into a large, happy family. I have a brilliant trio of actors and I know audiences will take to them; I’m very excited to see what our cast will do with the script.
So if you’re around a coastal area in March and fancy coming to see our work, please do. The tour schedule is on our website. If you’d like to have a chat about rural touring or think this sounds like the sort of production you’d like to have on your menu, get in touch. My email address is on the website. I would like to take the show out again, there is interest. I’ll just need to have a lie down first.
I think rural touring is fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed the previous conferences I’ve been to. As a company, we might have been down, but we’re certainly not out. We’re a relatively new company, we’re a small company but ‘art not without ambition’. As ever, we’re on a learning curve, but at least it’s a curve going upwards.
Do you have a Rural Touring Story you’d like to share with us? Email Stephie: email@example.com
This short form is designed to help you asses whether or not your show is Rural Touring ready. We take you through the very basic needs of rural touring and give you a list of things to consider. We also point you to other helpful resources and pages along the way. Please note this form is NOT a way of submitting your show to be considered for touring but should be used as a tool to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to approach schemes.