We’ve recently celebrated our 6 year Rural Touring-iversary (yes, that’s definitely a word!). That, coupled with the current public health crisis which is keeping us away from the audiences we love, has led us to take a delightful trip down memory lane. We’re looking back to where this adventure all began and sharing some of the stories we’ve collected along the way.
In 2013 we took a show called Spiltmilk say Dance to Edinburgh Fringe, it was a tongue in cheek celebration of social dance crazes that have swept the nation over the years from The Twist, to The Charleston and The Hand Jive to The Macarena!
Happily, whilst we were up there some touring schemes saw the show and the feedback was great, they loved the accessible subject matter and that it mixed complicated choreography with proper belly laughs.
So in discussion with the lovely folk at Live and Local we began to build on a little dream of ours – to tour the show alongside a social dance with live music, fancy dress and everyone getting stuck in! They gave us the encouraging nudge necessary for this participatory, great night out to be born – and we’ve never looked back. Spiltmilk say Dance went on to tour to 35 village halls across the country and from the first few shows we knew, in this setting, our work had found its spiritual home.
It’s that heady combination of doing shows for such a diverse range of audiences, mixed with the total joy of being fed, watered and welcomed in by a local promoter plus the glorious opportunity to become part of a community for the night – well, we were hooked!
We’ve gone on to tour three more shows on rural circuits, visiting hundreds of fabulous halls from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall and from Norfolk to Wales. We now make all our shows with rural and community audiences and venues in mind. Embracing the ‘think on your feet’ challenges of fitting into halls of all shapes and sizes is all part of the fun and we get a huge thrill from the complete absence of a ‘fourth wall’ at rural shows; we can’t imagine doing a show now without the chance to chat to everyone as we pack up our gear at the end of the night!
And where else in theatre land would you be able to gather such a brilliant selection of touring anecdotes? We could entertain you for hours with tales of ‘tricky’ changing rooms (a cupboard with no lights or a curtained off section of the kitchen, anyone?). Warm your heart with moments of pure joy such as the audience turning up to a show in Wales all in 60s and 70s gear and the promoter leaving us homemade brownies in the morning. Or arriving at a venue in Scotland to discover our digs were in a castle with four poster beds! And we’ll give you a chuckle relaying the occasional challenges unique to rural touring such as the tiny Kent church where we just about squeezed in 3 stage blocks and our techy had to operate the show from the pulpit. Or even the time we got snowed into a Derbyshire village and had to appeal to some friendly locals for a bed for the night. These are all experiences we will never forget and which we can’t wait to collect a few more of in future.
Whilst the world is taking a necessary pause from such live events at the moment, we’ll be leaping back into touring as soon as we are able to, and look forward with excitement to what the next 6 years on the rural road may have in store for us – we’ll see you there!
Sarah Boulter – Co-Artistic Director, Spiltmilk Dance
Find out more about Spiltmilk Dance online here:
Do you have a Rural Touring story you’d like to share with us? Then email Stephie firstname.lastname@example.org!