If you’re a venue brand new to rural touring, and not sure how it all works or just looking for some advice on hosting your first event, we’ve gathered together all our most useful links and resources! And if you can’t find the answers in the posts below, remember you can always email us: email@example.com
On average it take 58 volunteer hours to host every single rural touring event, which might sound like a daunting task. We asked existing volunteering promoters from across the UK, why they host rural touring events in their venue, and what advice they would give to new venues looking to offer their communities something new…
Why do you host rural touring events in your venue?
‘An opportunity to host quality professional shows that can take us on a magical journey without us leaving our village.’ Des George Neuadd Dyfi
‘Because it’s a total treat to watch fabulous performances in intimate settings such as small village halls. Members of the community who may very well not see anything at all otherwise are given the opportunity for a lovely night out, usually close to home.’ Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“Live performance must be kept alive. It is a different experience to TV or Cinema and needs nurturing and supporting. It enriches your venue.” Steve and Fran, Hinton Martell, Tiny venue in Dorset
“Not for the money, that’s for sure. But the quality and standard of the actors and musicians and dancers etc is wonderful and to see and the number of people who come and say how did we get to be so lucky to have this experience locally. I believe village halls etc are there for many things and if one young person sees a live performance for the first time, or listens to artists telling them about their road to success, and is inspired , then you have done a good job.” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“It is a real pleasure to bring a show into our community and to see the pleasure it brings to our audiences. These schemes are so important for the more remote communities as they get people out socialising and give a feeling of belonging to an extended community. Our walls have closed in on us enough over the past couple of years and we need to break down the feeling of isolation which many have found.” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Partly because it opens doors for artists to reach communities, but it also allows us to present work that people might not see elsewhere. That diversity of programming is really important. Its also a great way to bring together parts of your community who may be distant from others, but are actually the same – they just might not know it.” John, The Civic Stourport
“To explore all ways of entertaining our community” DVHall Drayton Langport – On-the-Levels
“We are in a rural village with a large elderly population. They feel more comfortable in smaller venues, especially post Covid” Anonymous
What advice would you give to a village hall or venue approaching Rural Touring for the first time?
“Do it!” Des GeorgeNeuadd Dyfi
“Firstly, you’ll know that whatever show you are offered will be top quality, regardless of it’s type. It’s a great way to bring amazing acts to rural communities for not a huge amount of money. Great for community engagement.” Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“Remember that you are choosing artists for your community not yourselves. Talk to others about what they would come to.” Steve and Fran, Hinton Martell, Tiny venue in Dorset
“Think about the size of your venue and any particularly useful stand out features (say a high ceiling for acrobats or a recreation ground for outdoor events. Know your audience and old fashioned leaflets thru doors and paper tickets purchased at your local store still works alongside media channels” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“Don’t be put off, or feel daunted by the unknown. Yes, there can be a lot of work required to host shows, but there are many other nearby promoters with lots of experience who you can reach out to and be guided / mentored through the process. More importantly, the rural touring schemes and the NRTF are a great, friendly bunch who want nothing more than to see you succeed!” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Don’t be scared to try something unusual or different – it’s one of the best parts of Rural Touring – finding something different that your audience possibly wouldn’t see at a larger venue.” John, The Civic Stourport
“Make sure you have your ‘target’ audience in-focus. No good relying on your venue ‘faithful’ to turn-out for something they are not sure about.” DVHall Drayton Langport – On-the-Levels
“Use as many local village facebook groups as possible to advertise” Anonymous
Tell us about your favourite rural touring experience?
“There have been many. Two come to mind “The Chef Show” by Ragged Edge Productions. Life in a busy Indian restaurant, a brilliantly produced show which ended up with a superb curry produced by our local curry restaurant. Also Circo Rum bab production of L’Hotel!” Des George Neuadd Dyfi
“Too many to pinpoint one. If the ‘Farnham Maltings’ offer you a show – take it!” Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“We don’t have a favourite really, but John Etheridge and Vimala Rowe performing sublimely in the church and the Grahams raising the roof of the village hall are particularly powerful memories. Very different, but both so well worthwhile.” Steve and Fran, Hinton Martell, Tiny venue in Dorset
“The dance – Pheonix Dance from Leeds was a high spot, Opera North come each year and hearing them warming up in the hall to sing outside is a heart wrenching moment, Kate Fox explaining thru laughter about her diagnosis of adult autism, King lear being performed as snow stormed down outside , we did not get home till the following evening!” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“We promoted a show called “”Our June’s Wedding”” a few years ago, and the show started with a “”wedding”” in our local chuch, then moved on to a party in the Village Hall. The wedding was officiated over by our local vicar (in full gowns etc) and 90% of the audience turned up dressed for a wedding with all the big hats, posh frocks and suits etc. The atmosphere was brilliant, and the whole “”congregation”” walked to 500m to the Hall en masse only to be told that as they walked they were travelling forward in time by one year!! It was amazing!” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Mountain Music was an excellent show which combined storytelling with Americana music and was done in the round. ” Anonymous
Anything else you’d like to tell us about or share with new venues and promoters?
“Don’t expect to make a fortune, be prepared to take risks. Always look for quality. The touring schemes are there to help make it happen” Des George Neuadd Dyfi
“Just do it. Advertise locally via email. Build up your own emailing list or see if you can piggy-back an existing one. Social media is invaluable. Posters locally are good, but in my opinion don’t generate much of an interest. Distribute the brochures printed by your local touring scheme in relevant places such as exhibitions/museums/arty places. If you are able to make your own posters they are sometimes better than the official ones you will get sent which tend to over-complicate things with too much text and not enough space for venue details/dates in large lettering. You can use these electronically and the paper ones you get sent for notice boards.” Tricia Meynell – Cumbria
“Make the artists welcome, us trustees use the time spent feeding them to join in and have a get together ourselves” Jan, Allendale Village Hall, promoter for Highlights and others
“As per my first comment, never be afraid to ask your local scheme for support and advice.” Graeme, Winterborne Stickland, Artsreach (Dorset)
“Beg, Borrow, and Salvage whetever you can to make your event work – and use whatever you can (if you can) to make it an experience i.e. Serve food or popcorn for a movie; dress up in a costume themed to the event (and encorage audienec to do the same); dress the venue to suit if you can (we had a WW2 era band and we built a sandbagged checkpoint for FOH to check tickets at). Make it different to seeing a film in the cinema or a show in a larger venue – you are different so be different.” John, The Civic Stourport
“[We] Recently installed a large screen new projector and sound system. We have the Umbrella film license plus music license and are now holding our own monthly film nights which are proving popular. With the kit we now have we can widen the spectrum of entertainment no end.” DVHall Drayton Langport – On-the-Levels
“Don’t panic if early sales are disappointing. Especially with Covid, people in villages seem to leave it late to get tickets” Anonymous
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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 volunteertime 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
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
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
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.
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
“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
“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
“It makes you more positive about where you
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.
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.
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 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.
This Week is National Village Halls Week, and the NRTF have teamed up with ACRE to celebrate along with our rural touring schemes, promoters and artists. All week we will be releasing new content here on the blog and over on our Social Media to celebrate just how much Village Halls do for their community.
Today we have a guest blog post from Blaize who deliver Rural Touring events through Live Lincs and Artery. To find out more about Blaize and their programming visit their website.
Remember if you have a Rural Touring Story you’d like to share, email us email@example.com!
Here at Blaize, we join the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) to celebrate #VillageHallsWeek! Village venues play a vital role in the lives of many rural communities. Today we hear from one of our valued promoters, Richard Beeforth, who is responsible for our Live Lincs’ events at Worlaby Village Hall in North Lincolnshire. Richard explains;
Worlaby is a small village in North Lincolnshire but despite its size, it has great community spirit and is a nice place to live. The village pub closed some years ago so our village hall is the hub for most community activity and is very well used. We have a fairly new village hall and our Village Hall Committee works hard to maintain and improve it.
The Live Lincs rural touring scheme has been superb for Worlaby and the surrounding area. Not only providing quality entertainment for our residents but providing much-needed income for the upkeep of the hall. Because the quality of acts has been consistently high, it makes it easy for me, as a promoter, to sell tickets. I usually only have to put out a promotion email to our locals and the demand for tickets comes flooding in!
We usually fill the hall which creates a great atmosphere for the entertainers as well as providing a memorable night for the residents. As a promoter of the scheme for Worlaby, the most rewarding time is getting good feedback from our audience after a performance. I then feel satisfied that I have chosen well! It’s particularly rewarding when the entertainers also provide good feedback that we have looked after them well.
Thanks to my wife Pam and our volunteer helpers, performers always get well fed at Worlaby!
I hope the funding for this scheme continues and Blaize continues to provide such a high standard and diverse mix of entertainers. Long may it continue!
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?
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.
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.
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.
This Week is National Village Halls Week, and the NRTF have teamed up with ACRE to celebrate along with our rural touring schemes, promoters and artists. All week we will be releasing new content here on the blog and over on our Social Media to celebrate just how much Village Halls do for their community.
Today we have a guest blog post from Blaize who deliver Rural Touring events through Live Lincs (North Lincolnshire) and Artery (East Yorkshire).
Remember if you have a Rural Touring Story you’d like to share, email us firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, (22-28 Jan) The National Rural Touring Forum highlights the vital role that village halls can play in rural communities.
Here at Blaize, we decided to join the celebrations! We decided it would a good idea to hear from one of the acts we commissioned about their experiences of touring small venues. Last season audiences in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire couldn’t get enough of jazz musicians, Dave Newton and Alan Barnes and having heard them play, we can understand why. The two have been playing duets together for over 40 years. These multi award-winning performers cover a vast repertoire from Louis Armstrong to Chick Corea. Their fantastic music, coupled with their interaction with smaller, more intimate audiences is what made each of their tour dates with us such a fabulous success. We spoke to Dave about what it was like for him, playing to audiences in village venues. Here is what he shared with us.
Q. Ok, Dave, so you’ve obviously performed to audiences large and small – what’s the largest audience you’ve ever played before and what’s the smallest? (roughly) Which do you prefer (if any) and why?
A. The largest physical audience I can remember was when I played as part of the support group for a Frank Sinatra concert at Ibrox football stadium and that was about 10,000 people but playing live solo piano for radio broadcasts on Radio 2 where the audiences would have been in hundreds of thousands was probably more nerve-wracking. As to the smallest, I sometimes play for people in their house and that can be to as little as ten folk lounging on easy chairs in a nice room with a lovely grand piano that might not get used very often. I really don’t have a preference. I enjoy playing in most settings.
Q. What do you like about rural touring? You build a very good rapport with your audience – does it feel more intimate in a rural setting? What is the secret of connecting with an audience – is it easier or harder in a smaller venue?
A. Rural touring for the most part, means playing to people that are unfamiliar with jazz or improvised music but having it brought closer to them means it’s easier to pluck up the courage and go and see for themselves that it’s not as esoteric, discordant or unfathomable as some would have them believe. In fact, if delivered with some humour, it can actually be quite entertaining. The village hall is a wonderful setting to hear acoustic music as you are up close and there’s no distraction which give the listener the chance to absorb themselves in the music completely.
Q. Do you have any anecdotes about rural touring you could share with us?
A.I can’t think of any anecdotes other than the apologies forthcoming from a lady who was running one particular village hall who was five minutes late in arriving because she’d been up in the hills ‘doing the lambing’ all afternoon and had forgotten the time! They really are fantastic people who deserve fantastic music.
Q. Is it difficult being on the road, driving long distances away from home or is it just something you get used to?
A. I love getting into the car and going somewhere new so it’s always been 50% of the job for me and as a result, nowhere feels obscure, just different.
Q. Why do you think rural touring is important? Should we make an effort to do more of it?
A. The feedback from our rural audiences has been marvellous and very vocal from people who once lived in cities but now live a country life and are thrilled the city has come to them for a change.
Q. Is it difficult working in smaller halls with equipment etc and sound?
A. We have never had any technical difficulties as there’s only the two of us and there’s never a shortage of plug points or anything of that nature. In fact, it’s usually much easier to get in and out of village halls as you can get the car right up to the door!
Q. What would you say to other large acts considering the rural touring circuit?
As long as a group has keyboard equipment of their own, I would encourage anybody to get involved in rural touring if I thought their music was the right mixture of ingredients. I can only reiterate my observation of earlier, that the audiences and especially the volunteers, really are fantastic people who deserve fantastic music.
If you’re an artist looking to get more involved with Rural Touring then be sure to check out NRTF Membership here.
This short form is designed to help you asses whether or not your show is Rural Touring ready. We take you through the very basic needs of rural touring and give you a list of things to consider. We also point you to other helpful resources and pages along the way. Please note this form is NOT a way of submitting your show to be considered for touring but should be used as a tool to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to approach schemes.