Why is Rural Touring so Important?

Rural Touring Advocacy

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 from 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
2019


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.

Performers

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. 

Rural Touring Stats

1,650 Performing Groups

110,000 Voluntary Hours

332,000 Audience Members

£1,000,000 Box Office Sales

2,500 events

1,000 venues

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

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 https://civicroleartsinquiry.gulbenkian.org.uk/resources/what-would-joan-littlewood-say

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
2019

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.

Performers

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. 

NRTF PROJECTS

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 Awards Nominees Announced for 2019!

Friday, June 14, 2019
Press Release June 2019

Rural Touring Awards are a shining example of the talent being seen by countryside audiences every year

National Rural Touring Forum is delighted to announce the shortlist for NRTF Rural Touring Awards 2019. Hundreds of performing companies, individuals and groups were nominated this year. It is always a difficult decision to shortlist and decide the winners as the competition is so high.
The Awards celebrate the breadth, passion and professionalism prevalent in the rural touring sector. They also recognise the quality of the arts, the promoters, venues and wider industry. They are 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.
Winners will be announced at the Hi-VIS: NRTF Conference 2019, being held in Bangor, Wales 2 – 4 July 2019. Hosting the awards is Kate Fox, stand up poet, who will be joined by the nominees and many from the rural touring sector, including schemes, programmers, directors and performers.
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.

AWARD NOMINATIONS SHORTLIST 2019

Young Person of the Year
Jasmine Lowrie, 20
“I’m surprised by the nomination but honoured to have been nominated and glad to be making a positive impact on rural touring” Jasmin

Sam Pullen, 14
“Sam is clearly an exceptional young person with a bright future in our industry.” Judge

Break Through Performance of the Year
Sophia Hatfield from Stute Theatre
“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”. Sophia

Theatre company Dante or Die “Working with the guest cast members in each location around the country was an absolute pleasure and an inspiration” Dante or Die

Haunted Man by Kindred Theatre  “I enjoyed the description of transforming the space into a theatre, demonstrating that rural touring isn’t always about small, intimate performances.” Judge




Special Award
Karen Jeremiah, Creative Arts East
“I love the idea of her pushing the boundaries of what rural touring can be and do!” Judge

TheatrBara Caws  “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.” Judge

Sian Allen, Arts Alive “I feel honoured and humbled and also a bit thrilled. Rural Touring is such a team effort – I don’t think any one person can ever be assigned particular credit for any aspect of its gloriousness” Sian

Favourite Performance of the Year

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost – Little Earthquake
“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. Our “Favourite Performance of the Year” nomination has come directly from audience members who have experienced and enjoyed our work” Phil

Excalibow by Bowjangles  “We have been Rural Touring for a decade now and it remains one of our favourite things to do as a group. Of course, none of it would be possible without the dedication of the staff organising the scheme menus, the devotion of the volunteer promoters or the enthusiasm of the audiences who make every show we do an absolute delight. We are truly honoured to have been nominated for this award!”

Brilliance by Farnham Maltings “Hearing that your efforts and ambitions chime with peers from across the country is both humbling and hugely motivating. Knowing that it matters, as we all do, that artists can make contemporary, experimental, playful work in village halls is a truth that needs to universally be understood” Gavin Henderson, Farnham Maltings

Touring Scheme Collaboration of the year

The Northern Consortium  Co-working and Partnerships: Five rural touring schemes in the North: Spot On (Lancashire); Cheshire Rural Touring; Arts Out West (West Cumbria); Highlights (East Cumbria, Northumberland, County Durham) and ArtERY live/liveLincs (East Riding of Yorkshire & North Lincolnshire), along with Arts Alive (Shropshire & Herefordshire), Rural Arts (North Yorkshire), form an un-constituted, informal strategic alliance

Carn toCove and Villages in Action  “We are really excited to be part of the rural touring awards this year, as they are becoming an established part of the NRTF year. We are really honoured to be shortlisted, as we know how much great work goes on in our sector and we are very much looking forward to meeting up with colleagues and friends at the Award Ceremony” Claire, Carn to Cove

The InnCrowd  “This is a fabulous, ground-breaking scheme bringing performance to new spaces and bringing new life and new ideas to those spaces” Judge



Voluntary Promoter or Voluntary Promoting Group of the Year

Gaynor Morgan Rees and Gwyneth Kensler  “They have obviously done an amazing job over 20 years – people like this make the world go around” Judge

David Lane  “Thrilled and surprised to be nominated, not just for me, but also for my wonderful team of helpers. Grateful to our audiences who are prepared to give something new a try; to the brilliant performers who thrill and surprise us; and to the fab Head Office staff who are always there to help us.” David

Yvonne Brown and the committee at The Dog Inn, Belthorn  “We are absolutely amazed to be nominated and short-listed for this award. With the help of Spot-on Lancashire, we have brought new and varied arts performances to Belthorn, and these have been well-received, and we intend to continue to offer these experiences. ” Yvonne


More information on the awards and full explanations can be found on the NRTF website –https://www.ruraltouring.org/work/national-rural-touring-awards-2019
To hear more about rural touring please visit our website –  www.ruraltouring.org and watch our film https://www.ruraltouring.org/work/rural-touring-advocacy-film

Full details of Rural Touring Award Nominees 2019

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Everyone on the Rural Touring Award shortlist has been chosen from a wider list of publicly nominated individuals, events and organisations. The nomination portal was advertised far and wide throughout the sector via email and social media.

Judges

  • Jude Henderson, Director – Federation of Scottish Theatres
  • Ian McMillan – poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster
  • Kate Green, Deputy Editor – Country Life Magazine

“What a fabulous, ambitious and ground-breaking collection of people and ideas!” Ian McMillan, 2019 Rural Touring Award Judge

Priority Judging Criteria

  • Highlighting steps forward, art form development, surprising stories, creative case.
  • Cross section of regions represented· 
  • accessibility and disability lead work
  • support of new and emerging talent
  • working with young people·
  • diversity in the arts
  • sustainability
  • raising the profile of rural touring

More on Criteria for individual awards here – https://www.ruraltouring.org/work/national-rural-touring-awards-2019

Young Person of the Year

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 Boarders Young Creative Jasmine has shown real commitment to the project” Anon.

Sam Pullen

BIO: I have a huge interest in lighting and the Neuadd Dyfi has given me the opportunity to expand my interest and build my knowledge. I really do love it when the touring shows come in as I’m able to see how they work bringing pretty much everything with them. 
I feel that I am so lucky to be able to do all of this when I am so young. I am hoping that I can continue Learning and gaining experience so when I leave school I have the knowledge to continue with a career within this field.

JUDGES THOUGHTS: Sam is clearly an exceptional young person with a bright future in our industry. I wish him every success in his training and next steps.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Sam Pullen is an exceptional young man. Since 2017 when he was just 13 he has been helping out at all the Night out Shows we have had at the Neuadd Dyfi. When I say help I really mean help. He helps with the get in with the get out. Rigging lights setting chairs and clearing away at the end. If there is nothing to do he finds something. If it’s raining you will find him outside welcoming members of the audience with an umbrella.” Anon 

Break Through Performance of the Year

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 TheatreLive Performance in Community Spaces, Schools and Theatres. www.stutetheatre.co.uk

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

Theatre company Dante or DieBIO:Dante or Diemakes bold and ambitious site-specific performances that tour across the country and internationally. The company gently transforms ordinary spaces to create unique and intimate theatrical experiences.Led by co-founders Daphna Attias and Terry O’Donovan, their original productions interrogate and celebrate contemporary human stories that take place in everyday buildings –  from hotel rooms to swimming pools to cafés. They have collaborated with leading arts venues across the UK including Traverse Theatre, The Lowry & The Almeida alongside grassroots organisations in the localities in which they make work. Dante or Die are SITELINES Associate Artists at South Street Reading, which champions performance in unusual locations

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE:We are absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for a National Rural Touring Award for Take On Me. Working with the guest cast members in each location around the country was an absolute pleasure and an inspiration. To every leisure centre that said yes to making this beast of a show take over your building – thank you! We hope to see more spaces being turned into theatrical landscapes over the next year of rural touring!” – Co-Artistic Directors Daphna Attias & Terry O’Donovan

JUDGES THOUGHTS: The innovative and inclusive approach to local people and local places was really impressive

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Dante or Die’s ‘Take On Me’ tour was an absolutely incredible project to be involved in last year, and definitely one of the most outstanding, unique productions that traveled to rural Norfolk in 2018.” Creative Arts East

The Haunted Man by Kindred Theatre

BIO: Kindred Theatre was set up in 2016 to bring big stories into small spaces; our aim is to let audiences listen and see stories, old and new, in their communities, made for their spaces and relevant to their lives.  It was formed by two theatre professionals, both from rural backgrounds, who have spent many years working in and loving the joyful and welcoming experience of rural touring and wanting to bring theatrical adventures into small communities. 

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: “We’re thrilled to be shortlisted for this award. After many years of working with the Networks and various rural touring companies, it’s a real pleasure to feel that our first adventure with our new company touched audiences in the way it did and brought about this recognition.” 

JUDGES THOUGHTS: I enjoyed the description of transforming the space into a theatre, demonstrating that rural touring isn’t always about small, intimate performances.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “This was the largest staged production I have seen in rural venues. Full stage and lighting and sound really transformed the space, which felt like a theatre. The production quality was so high, and acting was superb.” Anon 

Special Award

Karen Jeremiah

BIO: Growing up I was always involved in, and at my happiest when I was involved in theatre and performance.  I studied Visual Arts as a mature student and that led to my passion (fuelled also by some frustration) for the arts, in all forms, being for everyone.  I established a few of my own small festivals and sculpture trails where the focus was on the process of bringing people together and enabling anyone to take part at whatever level they felt comfortable with, rather than purely the end product.  It was through discovering this really strong belief that led me to find the part-time administrative role at Creative Arts East.  Their ethos and that of rural touring schemes as a whole seemed a perfect fit for me.  I have been very fortunate to have been given opportunities and career progression well beyond my qualifications and experience and am glad that it seems to have worked out ok for me and the lovely and very supportive team I work with!

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: Surprised, to say the least!  I am constantly blown away by the ambition and dedication of my rural touring peers, so feeling very humbled by this nomination.

JUDGES THOUGHTS: I love the idea of her pushing the boundaries of what rural touring can be and do!

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Karen as a person is absolutely bursting with energy, creativity, and enthusiasm, and she has thrown all of this into developing the Creative Arts East Live! rural touring scheme into what it is today. She is a real ‘yes’ person – she is constantly striving to push the boundaries of what rural touring can be and do.” Creative Arts East 

Theatr Bara Caws 

BIO: Bara Caws was established over forty years ago to fulfill 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 passionately 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

Sian Allen

BIO: Brought up in rural Essex with no cinema or theatre within 20 miles, I had no concept of the arts as a professional possibility till I went to University. After uni I worked in producing and touring the main house, studio theatres, touring community, TIE  and studio companies, until I found my true vocation of Rural Touring. I have had the best, most creatively rich time working with fun, innovative, clever, dedicated people. Artists, volunteer promoters, fellow scheme managers have become collaborators and friends. I love collectively making opportunities for human connection that people think and talk about long after the event is over.

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: How do I feel? Honoured and humbled (and TBH also a bit thrilled). Rural Touring is such a team effort – I don’t think any one person can ever be assigned particular credit for any aspect of its gloriousness

JUDGES THOUGHTS: Sian is clearly a lynchpin in her local area; one of those ‘without whom’ people who are so vital to rural touring theatre and to their communities as a whole

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Sian was totally dedicated to Arts Alive for her twenty-year tenure, during which time she put on 2,500 live performances from 700 companies in front of 125,000 people, a record that will have been surpassed by very few” Anon

Favourite Performance of the Year

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

Excalibow by Bowjangles

BIO: Bowjangles are a unique singing, dancing, comedy string quartet who are well known on the Rural Touring circuit for their musical comedy theatre shows. The group have been performing together for 11 years and in that time have travelled the world extensively performing in theatres and halls, at arts festivals, in schools, hospitals, the occasional prison and even in a forest in the dead of night. They also love performing at cabarets, private events and functions, and occasionally you might even see them on TV, or doing a street show. In 2018 Bowjangles won the coveted ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ Award for their show ‘Excalibow’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: We have been Rural Touring for a decade now and it remains one of our favourite things to do as a group. Of course, none of it would be possible without the dedication of the staff organising the scheme menus, the devotion of the volunteer promoters or the enthusiasm of the audiences who make every show we do an absolute delight. We are truly honored to have been nominated for this award!”

JUDGES THOUGHTS: The energy in this show was palpable, and the image of people from 5 to 93 enjoying work together was brilliant.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Unbelievable Performance Skills – playing, singing, dancing, acrobatics, hilariously funny. Stunning all round performance. Entirely unique concept.” Anon

Brilliance by Farnham Maltings

BIO: Farnham Maltings is a cultural organisation committed to increasing the range, quality and audience for contemporary theatre across South East England. One key element of that work is exploring the ways we meet the needs and ambitions of villages and market towns with whom we commission, produce and tour new theatre work.

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: “Hearing that your efforts and ambitions chime with peers from across the country is both humbling and hugely motivating. Knowing that it matters, as we all do, that artists can make contemporary, experimental, playful work in village halls is a truth that needs to universally understand”

JUDGES THOUGHTS:  I like the idea of the intimacy of this show

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “The story had elements that were immediately recognisable to village inhabitants. It appealed to all age groups. The audience was close to the action and became very involved in the fortunes of the characters. A little sleight of hand with the ingenious set brought the show to a magical conclusion. Ideal winter show.” Anon 

Touring Scheme Collaboration of the Year

The northern consortium

BIO: Co-working and Partnerships:  Five rural touring schemes in the North: Spot On (Lancashire); Cheshire Rural Touring; Arts Out West (West Cumbria); Highlights (East Cumbria, Northumberland, County Durham) and ArtERY live/liveLincs (East Riding of Yorkshire & North Lincolnshire), along with Arts Alive (Shropshire & Herefordshire), form an unconstituted, informal strategic alliance. The schemes have collaborated since 1999,  with Arts Alive joining later, demonstrating creative programming, strength and resilience, delivering projects to the value of over £1,000,000 in jointly commissioned tours by professional touring artists and companies from the UK and internationally. The artistic quality of work in the region is increased by working cooperatively on joint ventures and increases opportunities for artists. This method of working is often cited by ACE as a model of good practice in consortia working. The methods employed use the skills and expertise of the scheme managers. Funding bids, tour programming, management, financial leadership and risk are shared amongst the participating schemes.The five schemes also collaborate with other rural schemes in the north (North Yorkshire and East Cleveland).  Recently we formed new relationships with the emerging Rural Touring schemes in the South Of Scotland (Ayrshire; Borders; Dumfries & Galloway). 

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: Sue Robinson: “The combination of the professional trust we have in our northern consortium partners, combined with the APA’s commitment to us means we have as a consortium been able to punch above our weight, touring Canadian companies to our venues for over 15 years. Without this regional and  international partnership, such activity would be simply impossible.We are very excited with this nomination!”

JUDGES THOUGHTS: This is clearly a strong and sustained partnership, delivering major benefits for their communities by working together. I loved the connection with Canada, and the reference to work in French.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Together the consortium also have worked together to address issues in rural touring, such as finding diverse companies and work and supporting artists to rural tour.” Anon

Carn to Cove and Villages in Action

BIO:Carn to Cove is the touring scheme in Cornwall and has been running for 18 years. It has a network of 85+ village halls and community spaces and programmes around 120 events per year in two seasons. When Villages in Action, the neighbouring scheme in Devon, running a similar sized project announced its intention to close in 2017, Carn to Cove stepped in to offer the network of promoters access to its own menu parties and
subsequently won funding to stabilise the scheme and appraise several options to ensure its ultimate sustainability.

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: We are really excited to be part of the rural touring awards this year, as they are becoming an established part of the NRTF year. We are really honoured to be shortlisted, as we know how much great work goes on in our sector and we are very much looking forward to meeting up with colleagues and friends at the Award Ceremony

JUDGES THOUGHTS: SOS rural touring: this collaboration has actually saved provision for a community, and pride in that achievement shines through in the nomination.  

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “Villages in Action was to close.  The promoters were very front footed about working with Carn to Cove.  Despite capacity worries, the system seems to be working very well.  I am proud that people cared enough.  I am proud that Cornwall and Devon can work together so well.  I am proud that communities care enough to keep work happening across the village halls” Anon

Inn Crowd

BIO: Inn Crowd is a partnership project from Applause Rural Touring, Creative Arts East and 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.

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: “We are delighted that Inn Crowd has been shortlisted for an NRTF award. Our Inn Crowd partnerships and collaborations make it fabulous to be a part of’. Inn Crowd team

JUDGES THOUGHTS: This is a fabulous, ground-breaking scheme bringing performance to new spaces and bringing new life and new ideas to those spaces

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “The opportunity to host Inn Crowd performances has opened up the chance to host live events in some of our more challenging locations! Anon 


Voluntary Promoter or Voluntary Promoting Group of the Year

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 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 NOMINEE: “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.”

David Lane

BIO: Retired businessman David has had a lifelong involvement with live performance. Realising at a very young age that he was no performer, he turned to the backstage arts, and has at various times been a makeup artist, stagehand, set builder, lighting designer and operator, director, producer, and festival organiser (all unpaid!).

He stumbled across Live & Local in 2012, and immediately knew that promoting professional shows would be a fantastic opportunity to bring great art to his busy community centre. With his fabulous team of helpers, he has put on 44 shows of all genres to almost capacity audiences.

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: How do I feel? “Thrilled and surprised to be nominated, not just for me, but also for my wonderful team of helpers. Grateful to our audiences who are prepared to give something new a try; to the brilliant performers who thrill and surprise us; and to the fab Head Office staff who are always there to help us.”

JUDGES THOUGHTS: I was particularly impressed by the extent of David’s engagement with companies to expand their thinking about rural venues and audiences.  This is a person who clearly lives and breathes rural touring, to the benefit not only of his own community but to people all over the UK.

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “David is an outstanding example of a forward-thinking, committed rural touring promoter who goes the extra mile, and his efforts deserve recognition.” Anon 


Yvonne Brown and the committee at The Dog Inn, Belthorn

BIO: The Community of Belthorn bought the Dog Inn, their village pub, from a developer in 2015, and became Lancashire’s first Community-owned pub. Part of the commitment to the community was to host a variety of events – the village doesn’t have a village hall, church or church hall, so the Pub has always been the main focus of activities. We hosted our first Rural Touring event about one year after opening, in our new Community room upstairs at the pub – even before the room had a carpet! This was a performance by Howard Haigh and was a sell-out. Since then, we have hosted 2 or 3 performances each year, which have attracted both local audiences, and those travelling from further afield. Performances such as the ones we have hosted are new for the Community of Belthorn, but appear to be very much in demand. “

QUOTE FROM NOMINEE: ” We are absolutely amazed to be nominated and short-listed for this award. With the help of Spot-on Lancashire, we have brought new and varied arts performances to Belthorn, and these have been well-received, and we intend to continue to offer these experiences. “

JUDGES THOUGHTS: This is a fantastic, multi-generational initiative, putting the pub at the heart of community life.   I like the fact that the committee is nominated along with Yvonne, although she’s clearly a driving force!

QUOTE FROM PUBLIC NOMINATION: “All of the work Yvonne and the committee do is aimed at combating social isolation in this rural community by using the pub as a central point of contact for its residents. Spot On is incredibly proud to be one of many activities that ensure Belthorn is a thriving community and it is people like Yvonne Brown who make that happen.” Anon

How To Get Your Show Rural Touring: The Importance of Doing Your Homework

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The most frequently asked question we get here at the NRTF from artists is ‘How do I get my show programmed for rural touring?’ and our biggest piece of advice is always the same: do your homework.

This piece of advice works on all levels – whether you’re brand new to rural touring or have years of experience under your belt – just like the rest of the arts world, the sector is ever evolving, so there will always be something new to learn that will help you get your show on the road.

But let’s start, as they say, at the very beginning.

If you’re brand new to rural touring, make sure you really really understand what is required of a rural touring show. The best way to do this? Go out and see shows that are already doing what you want to do. Look at how they fit in the spaces, look at the audiences they are attracting, speak to the companies doing the work. You will need to be self-sufficient. Your tech requirements will need to be fulfilled by you, and even then, it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. 

Speak to the promoter at the event, ask them what they like booking, what they don’t (remember each promoter and venue is different, so don’t just speak to one!). Ask them what things they consider when taking a show, and what makes their life easier. Incorporate this into your thinking as early on in your process as possible and we promise it will pay off.

Introduce yourself to your local scheme (if you go and see something relatively close to you, there is likely to be someone from the scheme in the audience). Not sure where your nearest scheme is? Take a look at our map.

All schemes are invested in developing new work and introducing new companies to the sector – they’re full of advice and will often give you as much time as they can to help. It’s always good for them to know you’ve already started exploring the sector for yourself. Take on board what they say i.e. just because a cast of 12 might be small scale to you, it doesn’t mean it’s small for the scheme. Work out these definitions early on and your life will be much smoother down the line! 

Don’t forget you can download ‘Eyes Wide Open’ an introduction to rural touring for artists for free when you become a member of the NRTF- it’s a great way to begin arming yourself with the knowledge you need.

Once you’ve done all this, and feel your show is the right fit, remember not all schemes’ programme in the same way. Look beyond your local scheme. Take the time to look at the type of work individual schemes are programming, when they programme and how they want you to submit your work for their menu. Some schemes have very specific forms they want you to fill in while others are happy to take tour packs. One of the most important things you can do? Find out the name of the person programming, and personalise emails. Blanket emails while efficient, can set off alarm bells, whereas a more personalised email highlights that you’ve done your homework and probably really understand rural touring. Think of it like you would contact different individual venues – you wouldn’t email a music venue if you were a theatre company, or a dance house if you were a storyteller. Putting in the work upfront pays off in the long run.

A note on tour packs – even if you find schemes want you to fill in a specific form, it’s a good idea to put a tour pack together anyway. For a start, it means you then have all the information you need for the form in one place, and also it’s likely that the scheme and promoters will want to see it further down the line. Not sure what to put in your tour pack? We have a free infographic for that.

A top tip for artists who have rural toured in the past, but don’t seem to be getting as many bookings now, maybe it’s time to refresh what you’re providing schemes with and how you approach them. Go back into your tour pack and ask ‘What is missing?’ Has something changed in how the schemes you’ve worked with in the past are operating now? Is there a new programmer or are they currently focusing on a particular type of work?  If you’ve already toured extensively in one region maybe try somewhere new and go back to those other schemes when you have new work to offer them. Schemes want to support high-quality artists, and a good show can easily tour for more than one season, it’s not unusual for a scheme to reprogramme work that has gone down particularly well, but at the same time schemes and venues also want to offer their audiences a variety of work. 

If your work is quite niche or specialist, it’s a good idea to look at what is already happening in the sector. Many schemes will have separate projects which help develop work in specific areas. For example ‘The Inn Crowd’ which looks specifically at spoken word artists, or our very own Rural Touring Dance Initiative. These projects support not only you as an artist, but the schemes in programming you, and the promoters in developing an audience for your work – they can be a great way into rural touring.

The rural touring sector is wide and varied, and there is a lot going on behind the scenes, to develop new work, to support artists and to continue to programme high-quality shows for audiences across the UK. Arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible and then staying in touch with what schemes are working on is the best way to get your show programmed for rural touring. Well, that, and making sure the show is as good as it can be in the first place 😉

Remember the NRTF is here to support everyone involved in Rural Touring. We have some top tip videos on our website to help you do your homework in bite-sized chunks, and by becoming a member you can access our resources, and discussion boards which are a great way to introduce yourselves, ask questions and keep up to date with what is happening in the world of rural touring.

We’re also running introductions to rural touring at both Brighton (3rd May) and Edinburgh Fringe (date to be confirmed) this year. These are a great way to hear from scheme managers and promoters working in rural touring about what they are looking for. 

Do you have a burning rural touring question you’d like answered on our blog? A golden piece of advice to give, or a story to share? Drop Stephie an email admin@nrtf.org.uk and we’ll get to work!