CONCERTA Case Study: Volunteers & Rural Touring

Volunteering sits at the heart of the rural touring programme. Most of the promoters are volunteers, every performance is supported by volunteers and many of the venues are run exclusively by volunteers; even those venues who employ professional staff utilise the help of a network of volunteers in promoting and supporting performances.

Case Study Taken from CONCERTA report

Historical NRTF data suggests that in any one year there is something in the region of 110,000 volunteer hours committed to supporting rural touring[1]. Given that during the five years of study, there were 9,467 performances in 4,354 venues this would mean that each performance had something in the region of 58 volunteer hours associated with it.

Our Case Study evidence would suggest that this substantially underestimates the amount of volunteer time dedicated to supporting rural touring performances. In Borwick and Priest Hutton Memorial Hall in Lancashire, for example, when researchers arrived at the venue three hours before the show was due to start, five volunteers were already hard at work in the venue putting up temporary staging, arranging tables and seats, helping the artists unload equipment and liaising with the artist’s technician in order to integrate the hall’s lighting and projection facilities into the technical requirements for the show. Behind the scenes other volunteers were preparing a meal to be eaten by the artists and their team before going on stage. As show time arrived, other volunteers arrived to operate ticket sales and regulate the door and seat audience members. When the show finished members of the audience stayed behind to help clear away the chairs and tables and put away the temporary staging. Volunteers helped the band load their van, put away the staging and it was a volunteer who swept the hall at the end of the night and switched off the lights and locked up, long after everyone else had gone home.

In Caunton Dean in Nottinghamshire, different volunteers take on responsibility for ticket sales, for poster distribution and for preparing food as well as preparing the venue. In Devoran, in Cornwall a group of volunteer parents organise a whole programme of children’s shows and activities.

Even in venues with professional staff, the amount of volunteer time dedicated to a performance far outweighs the amount of professional time. In Wem Town Hall, for instance, for the performance of Just Us dance company, there was one duty manager on duty during the whole event; however audience members arriving at the venue bought their tickets from a volunteer in the box office, ordered and were served their pre-show and interval refreshments from a volunteer and were greeted and seated by volunteers. At the end of the night volunteers cleared the hall and put away seating. Night after night, this scene is repeated in all the venues participating in rural touring.

Every performance is supported by a rich network of volunteers and volunteer labour, but it is important to understand that volunteering goes far beyond preparing the venue and helping out on the night.

A point emphasised repeatedly through the study fieldwork is that ‘voluntary’ does not equate to poor quality. Artists interviewed talked about the professionalism of locally-run venues. Promoters talked with pride about the different roles that volunteers took on and the professional way they carried them out. Schemes themselves operate a contractual relationship, which demands the same kind of accountability from volunteer promoters as it would from professionals. 

This is a very important point. While the NRTF and local Schemes offer a range of packages of support to promoters, there is very little practical support around supporting volunteers and volunteering as such. Venues that have paid staff, have some capacity to run schemes to recruit and support volunteers, but the reality for most voluntarily-run venues is that most promoters rely on a group of people to help them out who receive very little in the way of support or training. Usually they are people who have self-nominated or are known previously to the promoter.  Often the groups of volunteers stay relatively fixed over time and promoters often say that it is difficult or impossible to get new people involved.

“People tend to mix and match for other activities but no one come forwards for the arts” … no-one younger wants to come forwards to help you see” (Volunteer Promoter)

Although it is understandable that there may be a reluctance for new people to get involved, interestingly our audience survey responses (Section 3.12) indicate that there is a small but significant number of local audience members who would be willing to get involved and to help out. This would appear to be an opportunity for future development and could contribute both to sustainability and to succession planning in local venues.

Our Case Studies indicated, as does the literature, that there are a range of motives for people to volunteer at rural touring events.  One volunteer started to help-out because his wife was volunteering, another found that it was a great way to meet people after moving to the area and developed a range of friendships as a result. All the volunteers we talked to expressed a real sense of pride and enjoyment from their volunteering.

“We get a buzz out of it and people enjoy themselves obviously… and when people come up at the end of the show and say that was a blooming good show. Best yet or whatever.”

“I do get enormous satisfaction from the village hall being a success for putting on things that people enjoy and making a bit of money. I do get emotional. You know, I mean I enjoy it coming to fruition and when it comes off we all have a good time.”

“I never ever would have thought, ‘I’ll go and watch a ballet’, and it’s just changed me and enabled me to watch things and see things that I never thought I would enjoy even. Some of them are hard work …”

“Just remembered, I forgot to say why I was doing it and it’s the same reason as everyone else has, as in it’s nice to meet people and I genuinely believe the same things as you, the Town Hall is important but also for selfish reasons that, because I have used it for myself as a venue to do my art, where I have received some income, so it only seems fair to balance that with supporting it on a voluntary basis as well.”

The benefits of volunteering are many and varied. Our conversations with volunteers, promoters and with schemes identify many benefits both to individuals and to communities that accrue from volunteering. These range from the individual skills and health and wellbeing outcomes to the more macro community benefits related to increased community capacity, richer social and cultural interaction and civic society. Some of thing volunteers reported to us included the following quotes:

“It anchors you to the community.” 

“It’s enabled me and now makes me watch things I never thought I would watch.”

“I really wanted to put something back into the community.”

“It makes you more positive about where you live.”

Individual volunteers were much more likely to talk about their personal benefits, often related to a greater sense of involvement, friendship, purpose and pride with being involved and associated with touring events.

“… and so I came here because I returned back to the village after a bereavement and really was looking for an out to get to know people. So, that, yeah, and have met lovely, lovely people”.

Yet it was notable also that many people who started volunteering on rural touring activities had ended up being involved in other projects and skills and confidence learned through being involved in the touring events had soon transferred to other activities.

For example, we gathered many examples in our study of how volunteering on arts events often leads to and generates other arts activity. In one example, in Borwick and Priest Hutton in Lancashire, a core group of volunteers were so inspired after hosting professional acts in their local hall that they decided to form their own ceilidh band, and which is now a fixture at many local events and has proved both an asset to the local community as well as of great personal value to those involved. Another example was in Wem, where an individual who saw that after attending a film performance, the audience tended to stay and chat about the film, through this experience she was inspired to introduce film performances as part of her volunteering with U3A.

Rural touring, then, both builds and further enables community capacity. In Caunton Dean in Nottinghamshire, for example, the local history society was set up partly as a result of interests and social contacts fermented at rural touring events.  Today, many of those involved in supporting the rural touring events now also support local history society events. As a result of the experience gained through rural touring events the organisers know what goes into planning and promoting events and have the mechanisms for publicity such as the parish magazine and word of mouth networks, and which they have the skills to exploit. They now host guest speakers. Equally, all the village events benefit from this skill and legacy; village fetes, MacMillan coffee mornings, bring and buy sales, Christmas events, all reflect the fact that there is an embedded knowledge of what goes on into promoting successful events that interviewees connected back to having been fostered through rural touring experience.

Another example, from Borwick and Priest Hutton, illustrates very graphically how volunteering can lead to very practical and substantial economic outcomes. In this part of Lancashire, the local speeds for broadband were extremely slow and many people had been talking about how this was hampering the development of business and other initiatives locally. The promoter in conversation with other volunteers he worked with at the memorial hall on arts events saw the opportunity to do something about it. The immediate circle of people he asked to support him were the same group of volunteers who supported the arts events. Over two years this group met one day a week to physically dig and install the community broadband across the local countryside which resulted in the local community installing a hyper-fast broadband infrastructure at a fraction of the cost that it would have been if a professional company had undertaken the work. Already after two years, there are reports of more local businesses springing up and at least one media company has relocated to the area as a result of the development[1]. Although Borwick and Priest Hutton is a particularly strong example of the knock-on effects of volunteering, it is a powerful reminder that many people who start off volunteering in one area of activity often get involved in other volunteering when the opportunity arises

“Really, in an area like this, you’ve got huge human potentials. People with tremendous talents and experience and so on and often an enormous willingness to get involved and work hard and all the rest of it, but most frequently what’s missing is anyone to catalyse that process. I mean, if you’re prepared to do that, I mean, for me, relatively small amounts of effort can get a huge payback in terms of what you can achieve.” (Volunteer Borwick and Priest Hutton)

Our Case Studies indicated how volunteers involved in rural touring events are involved in a myriad of ways in their local communities. Although rural touring events are just one of the many activities that volunteers support, they enjoy a symbiotic relationship with other areas of volunteer activity, and if rural touring wasn’t always the catalyst which started many volunteers off on their volunteering journey, it continues to sustain and develop this critical capacity for rural communities well beyond the arts.


For more information on CONCERTA see – https://www.ruraltouring.org/project/concerta-social-impact-study-2/

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

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

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

8 reasons to attend this years conference if you’re a promoter…

Friday, May 10, 2019

Tickets for this years NRTF conference are now on sale. We know, we know, we’ve mentioned it a thousand times already on social media, but no doubt one or two of you will have missed the news.

In the past, we’ve alternated every other year between a conference and a showcase, but this year we’re combining the two to give you the chance to see work that you may wish to programme in the future as well as the space to catch up with peers, colleagues and sector news.
If you’re a promoter and you’ve never been to one of our conferences or showcases before and are worried that the conference might not be for you, then we’re here to assure you it is, so without further ado here are 8 reasons you should attend this year’s conference as a promoter.

1. It’s a place to meet other promoters from across the country…
Being a promoter is a busy job, and chances are most of the time you’re so focussed on your next event, that other than at menu launch parties (if your scheme has them) you have very few opportunities to meet other promoters. The conference is an excellent opportunity to meet other like-minded people from across the country. A chance to support and bounce ideas off one another, and invaluable headspace for thinking about promoting as a whole. Meeting people in the same boat as you can really recharge the batteries, and helps you build your own support network.

2. You’ll be provoked to think differently…
With meeting lots of new people, comes lots of new ideas. Whether it’s a fellow promoter suggesting new ways of advertising your event or one of our fantastic showcases that lets you see the world in a slightly different way, the conference is a chance to be provoked. We all know that promoting and audiences are forever changing, and our thinking should be too.

3. It’s a reminder that what we all do matters…
When you’re in the thick of it, trying your hardest to sell tickets, and work out the logistics of putting on an event it can be easy to forget why we all do what we do. But leaving your home turf and surrounding yourself with like-minded people, seeing new shows, and hearing about what rural touring beyond your area is doing, is just the reminder we all need, that what we do, matters.

4. It’s a chance to raise concerns, challenges, and find solutions together…
It’s not always smooth sailing, and you may have some concerns about rural touring, upcoming shows, or the national picture. This is where the conference side of this event comes in. We want to share with you, but we also want to hear from you. Our ‘Big Conversations’ will address some critical areas of concerns you may have and there will be plenty of time to have big conversations of your own.

5. You’ll get to see shows you might want to programme in the future – and ones you may never have considered…
When it comes to booking shows you want to be confident you’re bringing the very best to your venue, and the best way to do that is to see the work for yourself beforehand. This year we’ve listened to your feedback from previous showcases and programmed a fantastic range of work, that is either already rural touring ready or is in the process of being made. There will also be a range of work that you may have never considered before. We always want to be bringing the best new artists and work into the sector, and we know you do too.

6. There’s a session specifically about developing partnerships and audiences…
Worried that the conference will be aimed solely at schemes? It won’t be. Every session will have something valuable for promoters in it. Whether that’s our CONCERTA session all about our national social impact study, or one of our big conversations, there will be key learning and conversation points for everyone. And on top of that, we have a session specifically for promoters, by promoters, all about building partnerships and developing your audiences – something we know is never far from any promoters mind!

7. It’s a chance to hear about national projects and future opportunities…
A lot is going on in the world of rural touring. From the Rural Touring Dance Initiative to Applauses Outdoor project. The conference is a great chance to hear about new projects and opportunities that may come your way and the all-important learning that has come from them. 

8. The National Rural Touring Awards…
And of course, we couldn’t write a blog post about the conference without mentioning the annual National Rural Touring Awards. You’ve been nominating the shows, artists, projects and people that deserve national recognition, and the award ceremony will take place on the second night of the conference. A chance not only to celebrate our award nominees and winners but the work that we all do to make sure rural communities have the same access to art as their urban counterparts. We’ll raise a drink to that!

And that’s it, 8 reasons you should attend this years conference/showcase if you’re a promoter. We’re sure we’ve missed some, so if you’ve previously attended an NRTF conference, let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, what was the best thing you go out of it. And if you haven’t already, be sure to book your conference tickets here: http://2qsr4y.attendify.io/ by scrolling to the bottom of the page, and completing the information required.

Rural Touring Recipes: Spice Lentil Soup

Friday, March 1, 2019

“A good stand by for promoters, especially when faced with a  range of dietary requirements and limited time to eat before a performance …”

Here it is! The first of our Rural Touring Recipes. This hearty recipe for Spiced Lentil soup comes from Highlights Promoter Sally Seed.

Sally Seed has been a Highlights Rural Touring Scheme volunteer promoter for Orton Market Hall in Cumbria for about 12 years. She’s hosted lots of one-man and one-woman shows as well as children’s theatre groups and larger bands – sometimes as many as 8 or more. Lasagne and spicy sausage casserole have been favourites for an early evening meal in the past and vegetarian versions are possible of both but, if it’s getting complicated and needs to be kept simple, she’s found that a soup recipe from her son’s cookery lessons at school is a great stand-by.

Spiced Lentil Soup – serves 6-8

  • 30ml vegetable oil
  • 2 onions – chopped
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 4 celery sticks – chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves – crushed
  • 15ml curry powder
  • 5ml ground coriander
  • 100g red lentils
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 750 ml vegetable stock
  • Seasoning salt and pepper
  • 25g creamed coconut

1. Heat oil in a large pan and cook the onions, carrots and celery over a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in the garlic and spices and cook for another minute or two.

3. Add the lentils, tomatoes and stock, cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

4. Remove from the heat, stir in the coconut until it melts and adjust the seasoning to taste.

5. Liquidise or blend until smooth. This recipe also freezes well if you need to make it in advance. I’ve served this with local fresh bread (even a gluten-free bread on a couple of occasions) and cheese (vegan or otherwise) and it always seems to be appreciated with requests for seconds.

We’re looking for more Rural Touring recipes to help promoters feed casts and themselves before the show! Especially things that can be prepared in advance and cater for special dietary requirements!

Do you have a recipe for the perfect pie or hearty hot pot? We want to hear from you: admin@nrtf.org.uk

Rural Touring Recipes

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

We’ve been thinking of practical ways we can help promoters – with every aspect of hosting a rural touring event. One thing that comes up a lot when we talk about rural touring is hospitality.

Lots of Rural Touring promoters feed artists with a homemade meal before their show!
Sounds like a lovely, simple thing, right? But when you consider the logistics of this it can be quite the task…

Whatever you make has to:

  • Often feed a fairly large number of people – the artists, stage manager, the promoter, any other volunteers that have come along to help. 
  • Has to meet any dietary requirements people have – vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, allergies 
  • Usually has to be made in advance – and easy to heat up, kitchens in rural touring venues come in all shapes and sizes! 
  • Be fuss-free – so that the promoter and the artists can eat without it getting in the way of making sure the show the show goes up on time! 

We thought it might be good to collect some easy. batch cook recipes that promoters are using all in one place… and it doesn’t have to be just promoters that send us ideas – artists what do you want to eat when you’re on tour? If you have a dietary requirement what’s an easy thing people can whip up for you that they might not have realised is suitable?

If you have any recipes or tips you’d like to share with us, please comment below. They could be links to other recipe sites, advice, or just preferences on biscuits!

Or email us admin@nrtf.org.uk – who knows maybe one day we could publish a Rural Touring Recipe Book!

Ps. obviously it wouldn’t be a blog post about rural touring and food if we didn’t mention cake, we’d also love to hear your sweet recipes!

Attending a Menu Launch Party

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Attending a Promoters’ show menu launch event is a bit like opening a box of chocolates. You know your eyes will light up as you get to see everything, you know you’ll get a bit of guidance, but then you know you’ll be left to just sit back, feel spoilt, and get to pick the ones you really like.

This was the happy position I found myself in at the delightfully named Bardon Mill and Henshaw Village Hall (was there an argument over which name came first ?) in Northumberland last month, where two dozen Highlights Promoters got together for their twice-yearly meeting. A chance to mingle, to make face to face contact with Highlights HQ staff, and to discover which shows had been selected to be offered up to be booked for the Spring. Highlights cover a huge area, stretching from the Lake District to the Northumberland coast – and usually, they run four Promoters evenings every six months so that everyone has got a chance to get to one.

 But actually, for me, what’s just as important is the chance to be able to say hello to all the other Promoters. It can be quite a lonely role at times, acting as cheerleader, front of house, box office and bed and breakfast host, let alone setting out the chairs and tables and making sure the heating’s switched on. The opportunity to compare notes, see which Past shows worked and which didn’t, and let off a bit of steam about hire charges, raffle prizes and wobbly tables can definitely be good for the soul. And it’s also a chance to pinch a good idea or two. And to nose around another village hall.

And it’s nice to be a little bit spoilt. A few tasty cakes and buns go a long way to making the evening feel special. And to hear words of thanks from Highlights HQ really matters too, because they know how much work goes into being a Promoter. Equally, there is a lot of reciprocated respect, love and admiration from Promoters for rural touring scheme staff who go above and beyond to make everything happen across the UK’s 30 rural touring schemes.

So all hail to the Promoter menu launches. If you’re a Promoter like me, try to get along to them whenever you can because they’re about so much more than just the new season. And if you’re a Scheme director – my advice always – never skimp on the food….

Audiences across the North are guaranteed a great Spring 2019 offer – I know because I’ve seen it .
Tom Speight Highlights Promoter and NRTF Chair