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

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.

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

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

Rural Touring Dance Initiative announces call out for artists

  • The consortium seeking to bring more dance to rural venues is on the lookout for artists to take part in its next phase
  • The project is supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring programme and an award from Arts Council Wales
  • The RTDI is keen to maintain a diverse programme and is interested in hearing from BAMER, disabled artists and those creating work suitable for children and families in particular

Application deadline: 12 noon, Thursday 5 th September 2019

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI), a partnership between The Place, Take Art the National Rural Touring Forum and China Plate has launched a call out for dance artists to tour their work to rural
spaces across the UK. The project is made possible by a second major award from Arts Council England Strategic Touring program and an award from Arts Council Wales.

The project, which has previously supported artists including Lost Dog, Protein, Joan Cleville, Uchenna Dance and bgroup, is an opportunity to tour existing work to rural locations. In addition to guaranteed show fees there is a limited number of bursaries averaging £1200 for artists with existing shows to adapt shows for rural touring. Companies who have toured with the RTDI have averaged 7 supported shows with fees varying from £850 to £1400 depending on scale and cost. There is also a paid for residential workshop exploring touring dance to
rural locations to prepare artists for the experience.

The RTDI is keen to maintain a diverse programme and welcomes applications from disabled and BAMER artists. And in addition to its usual program for adult audiences is invested in touring work suitable for children and families.

The deadline for applications is midday on Thursday 5 Sep 2019. Artists will be notified that they have been selected for the 2020/21 menu the week commencing 7 Oct 2019, followed by a Practical Introduction to Rural Touring for Contemporary Dance Lab 13 – 15 November 2019 in Dorset.

For the RTDI, Project manager Claire Smith said “The RTDI is going from strength to strength –dance is being repeat programmed by promoters who would not have thought about promoting dance a few years ago
and audiences are loving it  – so apply and get involved ! “  

Find out how to apply here: https://www.theplace.org.uk/rural-dance-touring-initiative-call-out-artists

@Ruraltouring | #ruraldance | https://www.ruraltouring.org/

South West Rural Touring Schemes Meet Up

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

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

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

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


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

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

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

Have a rural touring story you’d like to tell? Get in touch with Stephie: admin@nrtf.org.uk.

How The NRTF Works with Village Halls – and how you can join in!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Water Yeat Village Hall, a Highlights Rural Touring Venue

This week is National Village Halls Week and across the country thousands of village halls are hosting special events, on top of their already packed schedules, to celebrate.

Village Halls are integral to the work of rural touring.  Of course, rural touring events happen in spaces of all shapes, sizes and varieties. From community centres to libraries, but Village Halls play a huge role in providing their communities with arts and culture activities, through rural touring and otherwise.

But how does the NRTF work with these village halls?

Through Schemes

Our main link to village halls is through the Rural Touring Schemes. Schemes cover specific geographical areas and most will put together a programme of events, like any theatre or venue would do, across a season. However, instead of programming several rooms or spaces within one building they are programming work across whole areas, using Village Halls and other community venues.

The NRTF works closely with Schemes to advocate for arts and culture within rural areas and to support them in being able to continue our joint mission of making every village a cultural hub.

You can find your nearest Rural Touring Scheme here.

Through Specific Projects

As well as supporting schemes in their core work, the NRTF is also a partner in a number of projects which directly help Village Halls and Schemes to deliver high-quality performances in their spaces and areas.

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is one such project. Contemporary dance suitable for rural spaces is hard to come by – the RTDI aims to change that! We work with dance companies to think about how they can make work suitable for rural spaces, and we work with schemes and promoters to help them build audiences.

Another project we are currently helping to deliver is a Social Impact Study ‘CONCERTA’ which has been a national research project into how rural touring impacts rural areas, from delivering culture on your doorstep to making long term social and economic impacts on a community.

You can find out more about Our Work here.

Via our Membership

If you’re a Village Hall promoter already associated with a scheme then you can join the NRTF as a member. This gives you access to our discussion boards where you can pose questions and discuss rural touring with colleagues nationally. You’ll receive weekly bulletins which highlight funding opportunities along with other things, and you’ll get access to some small grants and early access to conferences and other events.

If you’re a village hall and you’re not yet associated with a local Rural Touring Scheme then we can help put you in touch! And if there isn’t a scheme in your area (very unlikely) then we can help connect you to rural touring artists and other projects.

Find out more about becoming an NRTF member here.