‘Out Of Office’ Full Conference Timetable

Below you will find a full timetable of events for our ‘Out of Office’ conference. For more information about the individual sessions, Buxton and our venues please see www.nrtfconference.co.uk

Monday 13th June

From 12pmConference Check-inHotel Reception (will move to ball room after 1.30pm)
1.45pm – 2pmWelcome NoteHotel Ballroom
2pm – 5pmWelcome Provocation with Little EarthquakeHotel Ballroom
5pm – 6pmDelegate Free Time
6pm – 7pmTAIL Project Breakout Session – A chance to offer support, share ideas and overcome the challenges of Touring Arts in Libraries.Peverell Suite
6pm – 9pm‘I Am Bird’ Marie Klimis – interactive story installation. Please bring your own headphones which are compatible with your mobile phone. A TAIL Project and Farnham Maltings co-comissionHotel Library & Lobby
7.30pm 8.30pmBBQ Dinner and Bar opens (bar is cash only)Hotel Patio and Gardens (Ballroom if raining!)
9pm – 10pm‘Tickbox’ by Lubna KerrHotel Ballroom

Tuesday 14th June

7.30am – 9.30amHotel BreakfastHotel Dining Room
8am – 10amIf you are not staying at the Hotel Tuesday evening, please ensure you leave your hotel key with reception before heading to the OctagonHotel Reception
9am – 9.45amWalking buses to Octagon – walking bus / taxis availableMeet in Hotel reception or make your own way there
10am – 1pmEquality, Diversity & Inclusion Workshop with Nick Goss ConsultancyThe Octagon
1pm – 4pmGreek LunchPavilion Patio
2pm – 5pm Performances
2pm – 5pm drop in session (takes around 45 minutes to complete the story)Marie Klimis – find out more about ‘I Am Bird’Pavilion Conservatory
2.15pm – 3pm‘Where Do We Go’ Maddie MorrisBandstand
3.15pm – 3.45pm‘The Big Green Time Machine’Pavilion Patio (Octagon if raining)
4 – 4.45pm‘Boring someone in Some Dark Cafe’ Jess Morgan, part of Inn CrowdBandstand
2-5pmDrop In Conversation Sessions
Drop in 2-5pmAudience AgencyOctagon / Lounge
Drop in 2-5pmTail Project MentorsOn the mini train and at the station
Drop in 2-5pmTake a ride on a pedalo – we have secured the use of the pedalos for the afternoon! Take a colleague for a catch up, or just to test your team work.Boating lake
Drop in 2-5pmArts Council Funding with Jill BrownOctagon / Lounge
Drop in 2-5pmThe Rural Touring Dance Initiative – Christina ElliotOctagon / Lounge
5pmPerformances finish, delegate free time until 7pm
6.45pm – 7pmWalking buses to the OctagonMeet at Hotel reception or make your own way there
7pm – 7.15pmNRTF Birthday Party Welcome Drinks and Toasts
Please note the bar will be cash only!
7.30pm – 9pmIndian FoodOctagon Patio
8pm – 10pmMa Bessies Prohibition PartyOctagon
10pmBirthday ShowstopperOctagon
10.15pm – 10.30pmLast ordersOctagon
9pm onwardsWe can organise return walking groups and taxis to the hotel as requested

Wednesday 14th June

7.30am – 9.30amBreakfast servedHotel dining room
8am – 10amPlease leave your hotel key at reception before heading to the OctagonHotel Reception
9 – 9.30amEscort guests to Octagon – walking bus / taxis availableMeet in Hotel Reception or make your own way there
10.30am – 1.30pmWorkshop: Staff & Employment Wellbeing with the Culture Health and Wellbeing AllianceOctagon
1.30pm – 2pmParting Thoughts with Little EarthquakeOctagom
2pmTakeaway Picnic LunchOctagon
2pm – 3pmReturn to the hotel to pick up any left luggage etc.

A glimpse at the programme for ‘Out of Office’

It’s fantastic to see so many of you planning on attending our ‘Out of Office’ conference next month.

We’ve been busy working away behind the scenes confirming artists and sessions, and planning our 25th Birthday Party! For those of you who haven’t bought a ticket yet, maybe we can convince you with a glimpse at our confirmed programme?

We kick off on Monday afternoon with a welcome reception followed by a session from Little Earthquake focussing on reconnecting. Many of you will be familiar with the work Little Earthquake do and their focus on collaboration and inclusivity – we couldn’t think of anyone better to bring us all back together for the first time in 3 years!

For those of you working with, in or simply just interested in Libraries, there will be a break out session from the TAIL project, Spot On Lancashire and Creative Arts East. There’ll also be a chance to explore ‘I Am No Bird’ by Marie Kilmis, an immersive new experience for library spaces commissioned by the TAIL Project.

Fingers crossed for a beautiful Buxton evening as we come together for a barbeque. We end day one with a chance to see ‘Tickbox,’ by Lubna Kerr, a semi-autobiographical, one-woman play in Scots-English and Urdu, which combines theatre, storytelling, and comedy to interweave the journeys of two Scottish Pakistani women.

Nick Goss Consultancy will be joining us Wednesday morning for an in-depth workshop on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. This will be your chance to equip yourself with the knowledge, tools and resources needed to make meaningful change and progress within your organisation, venue and community. 

We don’t want to give too much away about Tuesday afternoon, but we will be adventuring out from The Palace Hotel to explore the beautiful Pavillion Gardens. You’ll have a chance to see the wonderful ‘Old Green Time machine’ from Coalesce Dance Theatre and meet new Inn Crowd artists.

Then that evening, we’re going back in time with a silver party and nineties disco to celebrate our 25th birthday party! After all, we think we all deserve to come together and celebrate everything our sector has to offer, don’t you?

We end the conference on Wednesday morning with a Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance session to support you and your teams’ health and wellbeing in and out of the workplace. So ensuring you are not only leaving the conference full of inspiration but also energised and confident that you can take on the next 25 years of Rural, Library and Community touring.

Remember if you have any questions about the conference you can email Stephie admin@nrtf.org.uk

An introduction to Rural Touring Schemes for venues

What is rural touring?

Across the country thousands of rural venues, village halls, community spaces, libraries, schools and pubs host professional artists, performances and events for their community. Musicians, theatre companies and other artists tour to these spaces, alongside urban arts venues, reaching as many audiences as possible.

Rural Touring happens in many different shapes and forms. Some artists and companies organise their own tours independently directly with venues but one of the main ways the NRTF supports rural touring, is by working with Rural Touring Schemes.

What is a rural touring scheme?

Spot On Lancashire performance

A rural touring scheme is a bit like a traditional arts venue… except, instead of organising a programme of events in different rooms of one building, they work with lots of rural venues across a geographical location (usually a county or several).

Rural Touring Schemes, put together a menu of professional art events, for their volunteer promoters and venues to choose from. This means that the people that live in those rural communities, that know their venue and their audiences the best, can choose the show that best fits for them, while also having the confidence, that the Rural Touring Scheme has put together a quality offer. Often Rural Touring Schemes will have seen the shows they are offering in advance or will have worked with the artist before.

The promoters and venues then choose one or two events from this menu, and let the Schemes know which shows they’d be interested in and wat dates work for them. The scheme will then look at all the expressions of interest from all their venues and start to piece together the jigsaw… making sure that the venues have chosen shows that physically fit in their spaces, ensuring that the artist dates are spread out across the county so that you don’t have two venues next to each other trying to host the same thing etc.

Then the artists, promoters and venues, and the Rural Touring Scheme all work together to market the events. The promoter and venue are responsible for selling tickets, setting up their own box office in a way that works for them. The artist will provide the venues with all the leaflets and marketing materials they need, and the Rural touring Scheme will put together a season brochure (like the one you might get from your local arts venue) which has all the shows happening in their area in, and they’ll also look after their website and social media.

This is the basic Rural Touring Scheme model. There are around 30 Rural Touring Schemes across the UK. Each one works slightly differently depending on their size and how they are funded, but the majority are funded by Arts Council England (or Arts Council Wales/Creative Scotland). This means they can support venues in covering the fees for the artists, but how each Scheme does this is slightly different.

How do I get involved with a scheme?

You can find your nearest Rural Touring Scheme by browsing our Scheme Directory here. The map pin points are based on where the Schemes main office is but they often cover the whole county. If you have trouble finding your scheme, email us admin@nrtf.org.uk and we can help.

Once you have found your local scheme you can contact them directly about becoming a promoter. You’ll find on most scheme websites they have more information about how they specifically work with volunteers and venues and a direct number or email address for you to contact them on

What if there isn’t a scheme that covers my area?

There are a handful of places in the UK not currently covered by a scheme (and we are all working to change that). If you think your venue is in one of these areas, contact us to make sure. As we mentioned before, there are ways of hosting professional rural touring events without being part of a scheme, and we can point you in the right direction for finding out about companies, or independently seeking out funding for your area.

It is also always worth making yourself known to your nearest scheme, even if they don’t currently cover your area. If they know that there is a venue near them actively wanting to promoter arts events, they can often help in other ways. Whether that is pointing artists who have spare dates in your direction, or linking you up with other organisations in your area.

Libraries Week

Tell us what you’re up to!

Libraries Week is an annual showcase and celebration of the best that libraries have to offer. Taking  place between the 4th and 10th October, Libraries week 2021 will be celebrating the nation’s much-loved libraries and the central role that libraries play in their community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion. 

The Touring Arts In Libraries (TAIL) project is all about boosting the ambition of libraries to deliver a programme of touring work. We know taking arts into these open, friendly, public spaces is both positive and inspiring not just for those communities but also for library staff, and artists. 

We want to promote Rural Touring arts activities in libraries by sharing your events with our project partners, forum members and followers.

So don’t hesitate to email Jess Huffman TAIL project manager on project@nrtf.org.uk with links and details of what you’re up to. Let us help you to shout about it!

What else is the TAIL project doing for Libraries week? 

Our monthly mail out will highlight the latest project news and opportunities for libraries, schemes and artists. Including touring shows, new library specific commissions, Go See Grants, and artists workshops.

On Monday 11th October as part of our Mechanics: Online Rural Touring Workshops for Artists, we’ll be running an interactive session that will include feedback from artists with library touring experience and a chance to pitch your own creative ideas. 

To join us or find out more about the Mechanics Workshops programme go to: https://www.ruraltouring.org/rural-touring-mechanics-october-2021/ 

For more information on Libraries week go to: http://librariesweek.org.uk/ 

Keep up to date by following @librariesweek and share your plans at #LibrariesWeek.

For more information on the NRTF’s Touring Arts in Libraries (TAIL) project go to: https://www.ruraltouring.org/project/touring-arts-in-libraries-tail-project/ 

An Introduction for Artists to the Rural Touring Scheme Model…

Rural Touring in the UK happens in lots of different ways. There are, of course, rural-based theatres and arts venues that will have a full tech set up and their own programming teams, who operate much the same as their urban counterparts. Alongside this, rural community venues such as village halls, pubs and libraries also host professional arts events, to provide their communities with a rich cultural offering.

One way of rural touring is to work directly with these community venues. You may book the hall for your show, or in some cases, the hall may book you directly or you may agree on a box office split. The other way and the way that the NRTF is predominantly involved is through Rural Touring Schemes.

Rural Touring Schemes act like the programming department for a theatre or arts venue, except instead of programming different spaces within one building, they work with a network of volunteer promoters and rural venues to programme shows across a geographical area (usually they cover a county or two).

Each Rural Touring Scheme works slightly differently (depending on their size/funding etc.) but the basic model is this…

Artists apply to be programmed with the scheme (like you would with a theatre venue). Schemes then liaise with artists to pencil in dates, usually two or three dates, discuss fees etc. and make sure their work is appropriate for their rural touring spaces.

They then put together a menu of shows, which they send out to their rural venues and their volunteer promoters. This menu will offer a variety of music, theatre, children’s work, dance etc. Each scheme has different sized seasons and menus depending on their funding.

From this the venues and volunteer promoters tell the schemes which show, or shows, they would like for their halls, based on their space, knowledge of their audience, and importantly what dates are available in the venue diary.

The schemes then take in all of these expressions of interest, and piece together the season – like a giant jigsaw. They will then confirm with the artists which halls or venues they’ll be heading to on which date.

The artists then provide the halls and promoters with the marketing material. The volunteer promoter is responsible for promoting the event and selling the tickets, helping the artists get in on the day, and hosting the event on the night. The schemes are there to support the artists and the venues with marketing, or any teething problems that come up along the way. Schemes will usually produce a season brochure which is sent out across their location and to their mailing lists, they will run social media campaigns and support online ticket sales via their websites (but again this differs from scheme to scheme).

Schemes tend to guarantee the artist a set fee per show, rather than working on box office splits etc. but as I said each one operates ever so slightly differently. Some schemes also cover overnight stays or will facilitate homestays.

Take a read of this blog post to find out more about getting programmed by a scheme:https://www.ruraltouring.org/how-to-get-your-show-rural-touring-the-importance-of-doing-your-homework/


Truth Sleuth in Thrills, Chills and Chemical Spills

A choose your own adventure by Modest Genius

Hello! We’re delighted to let you know about Modest Genius’ brand new ‘choose your own adventure’ digital game, that will be available for communities, festivals, libraries, organisations, schools & venues to engage with across the UK and the world from June 2021

Truth Sleuth in Thrills, Chills and Chemical Spills is an interactive storybook with a series of binary choices that take the player on branching narratives. The game explores bias and trusted sources, linking the player’s choices to integrity level. In order to win the game you must maintain a high integrity level so that the town of Amberville believe in your accusations.

Modest Genius have developed a choose-your-own-adventure style computer game. Through an original and engaging interactive story set in the library, discover tools for revealing bias, recognising hidden agenda and separating fact from opinion.

Average gameplay time: 60 minutes

Age guidance: 7+

Truth Sleuth needs you…

From June 2021 we are inviting communities, festivals, libraries, organisations, schools & venues to engage with our digital offer, by offering your audiences the opportunity to play Truth Sleuth as part of your digital programme. The game will be available to download for FREE – with generous support and funding we are in a position to make this game as accessible as reach as far and wide as possible as we learn to live, think, come together and adapt to these topsy turvy times.

If you would be interested in finding out more, in hosting and sharing this digital piece with your audience and communities please email Pound Arts at martin.campbell@poundarts.org.uk

Facebook – @modestgeniustheatrecompany/@thepoundartscentre

Instagram – @truthsleuth_mgtc/@poundarts

Twitter – @poundarts

Website – www.modestgenius.co.uk/www.poundarts.org.uk

TAIL Project Unlocked: Spot On Stories

The NRTF TAIL Project, is a 2 year ACE funded initiative that looks to bring the rural touring and library sector together to promote, strengthen and boost opportunity for programming and delivering touring arts in libraries.

The TAIL Project’s ‘Unlocked’ series works by promoting digital and COVID safe content to libraries from across the rural touring sector to encourage collaboration and support libraries to discover and deliver a high quality creative programme to their service users despite ongoing restrictions.

This month we’re putting the spotlight on….

Spot On Lancashire, who bring professional performances to rural communities and library spaces all over the county, launched a digital project entitled Spot On Stories when lockdown began in March 2020.

In partnership with Lancashire Libraries, the intention was to bring artists and their pre-recorded stories directly to Lancashire audiences in their homes. This offered audiences access to great art when they wanted, where they wanted. As the lockdown continued, the focus of the project shifted slightly with a marketing angle of ‘taking ten minutes out’, encouraging people to set aside the stresses of the day and use these video stories as a means to indulge in culture, reflect and rest.

The first mini-show to be broadcast was for children and families. Theatre Fideri Fidera’s ‘Meet Ugg ‘n’ Ogg’ was an adaptation of their live show which was due to be hosted in Lancashire over Easter 2020. Spot On worked alongside the theatre company to create an exclusive performance for Lancashire audiences which aired in April 2020 via the Spot On Facebook page, website and YouTube channel. The programme of events continued to grow each week culminating in a successful commission from The Space for further digital mentoring and support and two more seasons of activity. (Further library funding has just been secured for a ‘Flash Fiction’ season soon to be launched) 

Spot On Stories content is available for free via social media channels and over the year has welcomed over 30 co-hosts who can share the videos with their own audiences. Spot On is keen to hear from other library services and organisations who are interested in becoming co-hosts. With nearly 50,000 views of seasons 2 and 3 it’s clear there is an audience for digital performance and increasing the geographic spread of the sharing results in additional brand awareness and helps increase public awareness of the artists and their work.

The project has commissioned over 40 short videos to date; a mixture of content specifically made for children and families, grown-ups, a two part panto themed production, traditional tales made modern, contemporary dance, music and even bingo… there’s a lot to choose from!

Programme Manager, Lyndsey Wilson explains: “Creating these micro shows hasn’t just offered the Library Service a means of increasing contact with their users, it has been a lifeline for artists and for the Spot On team who needed to continue producing something positive during this uncertain time.”

Cultural Development Manager for Lancashire County Council, Heather Fox notes: “Spot On responded so quickly and positively to serve library users with some amazing stories. It has meant that we’ve been able to sustain engagement with our users throughout these difficult times.”

What began as a temporary project to fill a programming gap, providing some much needed funding to artists and providing audiences with great content, has blossomed into an additional strand of work for this organisation, with intentions for this programme to continue as part of the Spot On cultural offer. If you are interested in learning more about the project and getting involved either as an artist or a co-host please contact Spot On for further details.

For more information including the programme of events and links to each show visit www.spotonlancashire.co.uk

Spot On Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9MHihzoChldjiE54VLVi1A

Spot On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spotonlancashire/videos


Notes for editors:

High res images available on request

Spot On Lancashire is a countywide service which enables people living in remote and rural communities to enjoy high quality live arts events on their doorstep. Spot On do this by working in partnership with over 200 volunteers and appear in over 50 different small places each year.

Spot On enables volunteers to choose and host professional performances and our support makes shows which could only otherwise be seen in urban arts centres, available to smaller communities.

Spot On is delivered by Blackburn-based Culturapedia, as part of the Cheshire Lancashire Touring Partnership with Lancashire County Council and Cheshire Rural Touring Arts.

Spot On is part of the national portfolio of the Arts Council England and is also invested in by Lancashire County Council and the districts of Fylde, Ribble Valley, Wyre and the Unitary Authority of Blackburn with Darwen.

Spot On can be contacted at:

c/o Culturapedia

The Barn, 61A Manor Road, Blackburn BB2 6LX

01254 660360


The Early Days of the NRTF

For Village Halls Week we asked John Laidlaw to tell us about his early memories of rural touring networking and what would become the NRTF…

Back in the years before the NRTF existed, I attended a south-west networking meeting. I can’t remember the year exactly, possibly 1992 or 1993 and I can’t remember the exact venue, but it was in Exeter. I had only just started as a freelancer, managing the then pithily titled Warwickshire Village and Community Touring scheme, now Live & Local. The meeting was primarily for groups from the South West and I was the most northerly delegate. I was still very much learning about RT having only started in 1991 having previously been a production manager and touring technician and the Warwickshire scheme was looking at management models for the future.

This meeting stuck out for me as there wasn’t an assumption that it would necessarily be repeated or that the rural touring groups, in particular, would form any association. I’d been to several similar events, not about RT, where the opposite was true regardless of need or demand!

There was however a dynamic that with hindsight encapsulated the principles and growth of the RT sector. Contact lists were shared, and like-minded organisations and people stayed in touch. It grew organically … it wasn’t forced, and the growth was focussed entirely on the rural touring sector and reflecting the fundamental principles of the sector.

If you have a Rural Touring memory you’d like to share with us, whether that is from 20 + years ago, or 20 minutes ago, we are always looking for contributors to our blog. Get in touch with Stephie admin@nrtf.org.uk

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

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.


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.