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

Arts Council England Chair supports vision for the sustainability of rural arts during visit to brand new National Rural Touring Forum Head Quarters

Press Release1st May 2019

Arts Council England Chair supports the vision for the sustainability of rural arts during a visit to brand new National Rural Touring Forum Head Quarters 

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chairman of Arts Council England met with rural arts organisations at the headquarters of National Rural Touring Forum in the village of Stanford Dingley, West Berkshire. Sir Nick was joined by local ACE National Portfolio Organisations Water Mill Theatre, Corn Exchange Newbury, and personnel from cultural organisations such as LIVR, Metis Theatre, New Adventures, McCurdy & Co., Farnham Maltings and Julie’s Bicycle to discuss the sustainability of rural touring. The group spent time discussing green touring initiatives, the sustainability of rural arts, the relevance of professional rural touring and what it might look like in 10 years’ time. The outcome is an aim for a greater understanding of the potential for rural and green touring in England.

The visit was inspired by the appointment of NRTF Director, Holly Lombardo, the migration of its headquarters to the South East and the alignment of the sector’s ambitions with Arts Council England’s 10 Year Strategy consultation.

Rural communities make up nearly 20% of the UK population. Rural touring not only contributes to local economic growth it increases wellbeing, confidence and a sense of belonging in communities. Nick Serota’s visit marks an important shift in the value being given to rural arts and we are delighted to be leading the discussion”. Holly Lombardo, Director – National Rural Touring Forum

During the meeting, Sir Nick stated how important networks like the NRTF are for supporting the sector, sharing resources and the distribution of data.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Touring is an essential means for many people across the country to experience great arts and culture, particularly those who live in rural areas. But at the same time, we must take into consideration the environmental impact of touring. These calculations are complex, but It was incredibly positive to hear that these questions are front of mind for organisations like the National Rural Touring Forum and its stakeholders. I hope that we will continue to raise the profile and importance of touring, balancing any environmental impact against the need for people who live in rural areas to have the opportunity to experience art and culture

National Rural Touring Forum is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation supporting and promoting the importance of professional rural arts and touring through a network of programming schemes. Each year, across the UK schemes, work with 1,650 promoting groups, undertaking 110,000 voluntary hours, putting on productions to over 332,000 audience members who spend more than £1,000,000 on ticketed events. Rural touring is an innovative and thriving cultural sector equalling out opportunities for countryside audiences to access the arts.

To hear more about rural touring please visit our website – and watch our film

Notes to Editor:
In attendance:

  • Holly Lombardo – Director, National Rural Touring Forum
  • Peter McCurdy – Director, McCurdy & Co.
  • Chiara Biadali – Knowledge and Sector Intelligence Lead,
  • Julie’s Bicycle Charlotte Hall – Head of Programming and Engagement, Corn Exchange Newbury
  • Dawn Badland – Director, Applause Rural Touring
  • Gavin Stride – Director, Farnham Maltings
  • Imogen Kinchin – Executive Director, New Adventures
  • Leo Kellgren-Parker – Founder, LIVR
  • Natalie Jode – Executive Director, Creative Arts East Paul Hart – Director, The Watermill Theatre
  • Tom Speight – Chair, National Rural Touring Forum
  • Zoe Svendson – Artistic Director, Metis Theatre
  • Arts Council
  • Amy Vaughan – Director Touring and Cambridge, ACE
  • Debs Butler – Relationship Manager Touring, ACE South East
  • Hannah Bruce – Relationship Manager Touring, ACE London
  • Sir Nick Serota – Chair, Arts Council England

Photo Credits: Kevin Waldie

Meeting details: Took Place on 29th April 2019, between NRTF head Quarters, Manor Farm, Stanford Dingley and meeting room at The Bull Inn, Stanford Dingley, RG7 6LS

Discussion topic: Green and sustainable touring is what we are all striving for, it helps us work smartly, helps the planet and reduces our environmental impact. The group spent time discussing the sustainability of rural arts, green touring and environmental impact which will contribute to our broader conversations with the touring sector and to help inform ACE national plans for touring.

National Rural Touring Forum: NRTF is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation that networks, supports and advocates for the rural touring sector and as an organisation this enables them to operate in a lean and environmentally sustainable way. HQ in Stanford Dingley is a walk commute for the Director, who works in a small but perfectly formed recycled summer house, with no carbon footprint and shows smart use of limited public funds and resource. This has inspired the provocation.

From Nick Serota’s Guardian interview Nov 2018 on the Arts and Climate Change: 

If we are to avoid irreversible global warming that will have devastating economic and social consequences for the world, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required. This was the conclusion of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in October. We – the collective “we” – have been given 12 years to arrest climate change. The message is clear: everyone is responsible for creating a more environmentally sustainable world. And the arts and cultural sector is no exception.” Sir Nicholas Serota

South West Rural Touring Schemes Meet Up

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The NRTF offers a number of grants to contribute towards professional development and support the sector in attending conferences, setting up meaningful networks.

Today we hear from Claire Marshall, the Scheme Manager for Carn to Cove about how the grants enable the South West Rural Touring Schemes to meet up and why that’s important.

In February each year, the South West Rural Touring organisations take over a room in a pub in a little village in Devon to spend the day talking, sharing, eating biscuits, bonding, laughing and supporting each other. It’s one of two occasions each year that we all get together (the other being the NRTF conference) and has become an important link in the chain that makes up the South West rural touring network.

The face to face meetings allows us time out from our daily tasks to share what’s worked and what’s not in our individual programmes, to keep each other in the loop of local challenges – from funding issues and opportunities to staff changes and joint projects. The meetings give us the time to discuss and make plans for joint projects. This year we’re planning to develop, strengthen and sustain South West Rural Touring by putting together a proposal to apply for funding to support this work.

Our region is fairly geographically dispersed, so the NRTF travel grants mean that we can meet in a location which is fairly central to us all, and that means that we nearly always get a full attendance. One of the many joys of working in rural touring is feeling that you are a part of a larger whole, and being able to check in with those that inhabit your world is a really nourishing and restorative process – there really is nothing like a group hug to invigorate the rural touring senses!

The NRTF has a number of Professional Grants available sector support, concentrating on community, personal and project development. For more information on all our available grants visit the website here.

Have a rural touring story you’d like to tell? Get in touch with Stephie: