Saying Goodbye To Rural Arts’ Director Angela Hall

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Angela Hall has stepped down as the Director of Rural Arts after more than 26 years. Home to ON Tour, the rural touring scheme for North Yorkshire, East Cleveland and the Tees Valley, Rural Arts delivers a range of participatory and professional arts programmes at its own venue, The Courthouse in Thirsk, and beyond.

Angela established Rural Arts in 1992 with support from Arts Council England and eight North Yorkshire local authorities. ON Tour was launched in 1997 as one of the first formalised rural touring schemes in the country. Over 300 village halls registered on the scheme, and the model of working with local volunteers and seasonal touring is still in place today. Today, the annual programme consists of over 65 live music, dance and theatre performances across 2,500 square miles.

Speaking about her time at Rural Arts, Angela said: “Rural Arts reaches the people other organisations can’t – I’ve run workshops in fields, set up dark rooms in people’s toilets, and worked in army tents with only fairy lights for illumination. I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved here and plan to stay involved by volunteering where I can.”

Angela hands over the role to a former colleague, Max May, who re-joins Rural Arts from London-based theatre company Access All Areas. Max started his career as a volunteer and then intern with Rural Arts, before being appointed Communications and Engagement Officer in 2014. He said:

“Rural Arts plays a vital role in bringing high-quality performance to our local rural communities. I’m looking forward to continuing Angela’s work and building on her brilliant legacy to ensure Rural Arts is vibrant, resilient and sector-leading.”

Rural Arts bids a fond farewell to its director and wishes her the best of luck in her future creative endeavours, as she pursues her own creative practice in ceramics and printmaking.

A Very Special Thank You to Barbara Slack

Thursday, December 13, 2018

As 2018 finishes as does Barbara Slacks’ time as co-director of the rural touring scheme Highlights when she retires at the end of the month. Barbara has been at the helm of Highlights, and a much treasured rural touring colleague, for over 20 years. Back in summer, we celebrated Barbara and all her wonderful work, with the much deserved, NRTF Special Award. Her colleague, friend and Highlights co-director, Rosie Cross, gave a speech which left many of us with tears in our eyes.

To say thank you once again to Barbara for all the wonderful work she has done for Rural Touring in the UK, we wanted to share Rosie’s speech once more. Don’t worry though, we’re not letting Barbara go that easily – Barbara will continue to host rural touring events as a voluntary promoter in Appleby, Cumbria, for years to come! 

21 years ago in 1997, as the arts officer for one of the District Councils in the North Pennines, I interviewed Barbara for the job of Director for the brand new Highlights Rural Touring Scheme. 10 years later in 2007, she interviewed me for the position of Co-Director of Highlights. Since that time, I’ve had the great good fortune to be her job share partner.

Back in 1997, Highlights worked with a handful of venues in the 4 districts which made up the North Pennines. Barbara grew the scheme to what it is today, with nearly 70 venues, covering 3 counties. She secured regular funding from ACE and from the 3 County Councils – as well as numerous project grants over the years. Remember that NRTF also was constituted in 1997. In those early years, Barbara got involved in the small network of Rural Touring Schemes which were starting up around eh country.

And in the year 1999, she hosted one of the earliest NRTF conferences in Appleby in Cumbria. Of course, the NRTF conferences then weren’t quite the large affairs that they are today; but also remember that at that time, there was only Barbara at Highlights and she pretty well put on the conference alone – an enormous feat! And more recently Barbara has joined the NRTF board.

Barbara is held in the highest esteem by all of those who come into contact with her professionally. Scheme managers across the country admire her – especially those in the North, whereas you may know we have a particularly strong network; and that’s due in no small part to Barbara’s efforts over the years. But this appreciation extends also to all of our volunteer promoters, who love her and think the world of her. The same is true of funding partners and of course artists and companies. Just recently I saw an email to Barbara from a company, saying something along the line so simply:- “You’re just so brilliant. Thank you!”

Scheme managers have a lot of tangled tricky stuff to sort out in all sorts of areas. Faced with a problematic, thorny situation, whereas many of us may lose our rag and turn the air blue, Barbara keeps her calm, sorts things out and everyone is left happy and content. She has a wonderful quality of impartiality and compassion and treats absolutely everyone in the same fair way.

I reckon, that in whatever capacity we know Barbara, through our lives in the Rural Touring scene, we are all privileged to be counted AMONGST her loves and passions. I say AMONGST because we must acknowledge and not underestimate the other loves and passions in her life – these being:-

  • Her unbounded love and devotion to her family and friends
  • Her great love of the outdoors
  • And of course – her insatiable love of cake!

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Barbara Slack, THE most deserving recipient of this very special award.