New podcasts are launched to celebrate the magical rivers weaving through South Downs landscape

A series of thought-provoking podcasts are being launched inspired by the beautiful and mysterious rivers of Sussex and Hampshire. 

Seven acclaimed writers and poets have teamed up for Full Harvest – a series of audio stories and poems inspired by the South Downs National Park’s landscape and available as free podcasts from 12 July 2021 via all major listening platforms. 

It comes after the wordsmiths have spent the past few months exploring the scenic river valleys and engaging with the community on local stories, anecdotes and reflections about the landscape. 

The result is an eclectic mix of writing styles featuring short stories, poetry and monologues. 

The inspiring initiative has been led by arts charity Applause in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority. 

“Full Harvest is much more than just observations on the landscape, it encompasses thought-provoking reflections on how nature and humanity  interact. We’ve also worked with a really diverse group of writers and actors to enable some incredibly personal stories and experiences to be heard. ” Sally Lampitt, Deputy Director, Applause 

The Full Harvest episodes are as follows:  

“Wild Garlic”, River Ouse, Sarah Hehir 

Through charming rhyme and rhythm, Wild Garlic charts the close bond of a father and daughter- from the childish glee of springtime swims to the grown woman mourning his death, the river and its flora and fauna provide a comforting constant. 

“Cement Bags”, River Adur, Sara Clifford 

Ever passed a disused building and wondered about what stories it had to tell?  Cement Bags brings to life the hustle and bustle of the Cement Factory at Beeding.  Meet the women who worked there on the telephone exchange and listen to their lives in parallel to the building, from its glory days as an industrial hub to its poignant decline.

“Nature’s Storehouse”, River Meon, Lucy Flannery 

Exploring the history and mythology of the South Downs as a man uses his love of running to work towards recovery both physically and mentally. 

“Celestial Navigation”, River Ouse, Sara Clifford 

A poignant tale of family relationships, the intergenerational bond between a young woman and her grandfather is explored against the backdrop of a busy Ferry town. A  reminder that we don’t know what we have until it’s gone.  

“Meanderings”, River Cuckmere, Rosanna Lowe 

An elderly woman reflects on her meandering life as it mirrors the bends and breaks of the River Cuckmere. Life is never quite what it seems on the surface and her  winding journey finds diversity in the landscape and its inhabitants, proving that where there is life there is hope. 

“The Baptism”, River Rother, Theo Toksvig-Stewart 

A dark and unexpected tale about a young girl who meets a mysterious figure by the  River. A modern-day myth about being careful what you wish for.  

“My Mother”, River Lover, River Arun, Rosanna Lowe,  

A man reflects on the ebbs and flows of his complex relationship with his mother. He recalls his mother’s close bond with the water, her struggles with mental health and  alcohol dependency, and her joyous moments of freedom in nature. A tale of love and loss on the River Arun.  

“A Good Place to Cry”, River Cuckmere, A.G.G 

We follow a young man at a crisis point in his life. One traumatic moment forces him  to escape the city and find solace and hope in the landscape of the South Downs 

“Dear Wellsbourne/ Brighton Rocks”, River Wellesbourne, Merrie Williams Dear Wellsbourne is a series of seven sevenling poems addressed directly to the stream; interspersed with a short story about local residents, called ‘Brighton Rocks. Mirroring the intermittent pattern of the stream itself, Brighton Rocks explores how two friends deal with the challenges to face their past and live the lives they desire.  

“Perspective”, River Itchen, Lucy Flannery 

A reminder that many people have walked before us! A clever poem interweaving lives past and present who have interacted with the landscape. From modern-day  runners, to the past battalions of Cromwell’s men, to the father and daughter who find connection and peace by the River.  

Sara Clifford, lead writer and Sussex resident: 

“The Sussex Downs is both a beautiful National Park and a living landscape that supports people and work, and I am interested in discovering how the river has shaped the local community and its stories, from industry and jobs to the environment and leisure, and how local people view it today. I am  particularly interested in people who might feel that the National Park is 

inaccessible for them, for whatever reasons, and finding ways of connecting  groups with their local landscape, history and culture of the National Park.” 

Theo Toksvig-Stewart, writer and Hampshire resident: 

“My story was inspired by the duality of the landscape of the National Park, its beauty and its danger. The characters were really personified from that  landscape, and toying with what could lie beneath the beauty is something we  had a lot of fun exploring in my work with the students at Alton college.” 

“Each story approaches the theme of ‘rivers’ very differently, from the darkness of horror to conversational monologues. The common thread throughout is that natural landscapes can provide hope and new perspectives,  and the connection between nature and the journey to recovery. Our mental  health and wellbeing is so centred on our sense of place and belonging, I hope  people enjoy these stories for their entertainment (whether listening from  home on a wet afternoon or walking the downland), and find they open up  different ways of experiencing the unpredictable, tranquil, wild and powerful  nature of water.” 

Anooshka Rawden, Cultural Heritage Lead for the South Downs National Park, 

Audiences can plug in and listen while they walk and explore the landscape, or enjoy at their leisure. 

Podlink to all listening platforms – Full Harvest ( 

They will be available to download and listen on the SDNPA and Applause websites and popular listening platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcast,  Overcast and Pocket Casts: / 

Find out more below about each of the seven writers involved in Full Harvest.  Writers 

Sara Clifford – focussing on the River Ouse and River Adur 

Lead writer/Dramaturg for Full Harvest 

Sara works as a writer, director and community artist, and has written over forty  plays including commissions for the Soho Theatre, York Theatre Royal & Nottingham  Playhouse. She has been Writer in Residence at the University of Brighton and at  Chichester Festival Theatre, and her work has been produced in France, Italy,  Guadeloupe and Hong Kong. Her play A Thousand Days, was a Finalist for the  Susan Smith Blackburn award.

As Artistic Director of her company, Inroads ( she works with  local communities to write place-based work rooted in their stories, and has  developed six site-specific participatory pieces, with a new show coming for  2022, Two Pairs of Eyes, seed funded by Farnham Maltings. 

In 2019, she was Writer in Residence for the South Downs Park/ Applause, and the  resulting show, Cherry Soup, toured rural venues across the Park. She is the lead  writer on Full Harvest, the project which developed from this. 

Lucy Flannery – focussing on the River Meon and River Itchen Lucy’s writing career has included: working with Alison Stead and Roy Hudd on Like  A Daughter, a drama for BBC Radio 4, being commissioned to write an original  play, Tomorrow Will Be Too Late, as part of the D-Day 70th Anniversary  Commemoration and writing Nan a one-minute monologue created during lockdown  for Ink Festival. She has worked on the Chichester Festival Theatre’s playwriting  course and most recently as Writer-In-Residence at the University of Plymouth. She  is both an artistic practitioner and an FE College Governor, she is experienced in  working with young people.  

Sarah Hehir – focussing on the River Ouse 

Sarah has been a writer, dramatist and a drama teacher for over 20 years. She  performed at Kosovo’s International Literary Festival in 2019, and in 2013 she won  the BBC Writer’s Prize for a radio drama Bang Up where the North Downs became  part of the narrative and was broadcast as the afternoon drama on Radio 4. An  accomplished writer for Theatre, Film, Radio and TV she was recently chosen as the  commissioned poet on the Turner Prize ‘Connect together’ a project using words  and ideas collected through community workshops to create an epic poem about the  journey from London to Margate. 

A. G. G. – focussing on the River Cuckmere 

A. G. G. is a writer and essayist from London. Through literature, he explores a  variety of themes including masculinity, belonging, trauma, love, crime and  rehabilitation. Photography and filmmaking, are additional mediums he employs as  forms of expression. After completing his education he went on to work in a variety of  creative roles, most recently as a workshop facilitator addressing gang culture and  youth violence across the Capital. He recently signed his first book deal, which is  due to be published later this year. 

Rosanna Lowe – focusssing on the River Arun and River Cuckmere Rosanna is an experienced writer, director and performer. Pieces she has  written/directed have been performed in theatres in the UK, France, Malaysia and  the US and include the devised show Hummingbirds at the Young Vic, nominated for  a Total Theatre Award in Edinburgh, Chester Tuffnut at Polka Theatre, The Bacchae  in the Cultural Olympiad and co-writing/co-directing portmanteau feature film London  Unplugged. She has written two climate change radio plays, winning Radio 4 and  IRDP awards. Her work often focuses on history, people and place and ranges from  sketch-writing for TV series Horrible Histories to co-writing Brighton The Graphic  Novel. She has worked in travel writing, winning awards with the Royal Geographical  Society Award and The Times. She lived in Guatemala during its civil war and wrote 

Volcanoland, a travel narrative, collecting extraordinary stories and testimonies  about the war and its aftermath. She was the commissioned writer for Goonhilly  Village Green, a multidisciplinary festival celebrating the nature, heritage and  community of Goonhilly Downs. She is currently the Lead Storyteller for interactive  children’s show Printer’s Playtime. She has worked on various heritage and  engagement projects with arts organisation MSL, creating a series of audio story  poems called Ordinary Extraordinary inspired by Hastings residents. Rosanna has  run numerous creative writing projects, often with children, but also with mothers  from Holloway Prison and with Creative Future. She currently runs writing for  wellbeing sessions for Arts on Prescription, which caters for people, like herself, with  mental or physical health inequalities. 

Theo Toksvig-Stewart – focusing on the River Rother 

Theo is a dyslexic writer and actor. His play Endless Second was shortlisted for the  Holden Street Theatre Award and the Sit Up Award at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe.  The play transferred to the Park Theatre and Pleasance Islington as part of each  venue’s ‘Best of the Fringe’ season and was commissioned as an audio drama for  BBC Radio 4.  

In 2020 Theo was commissioned by Warts and All Theatre to write an adaptation of  Robyn Hood developed with children in care in Wellingborough. He was part of the  BBC Writersroom Drama Room Scheme 2019/2020 and the 2021 Minack Emerging  Playwrights Programme.  

Merrie Williams – focussing on the Hidden river in Brighton 

Merrie Joy Williams is a poet, novelist and editor. She was shortlisted for the 2020  Bridport Poetry Prize, longlisted for the 2020 National Poetry Competition, and is a winner of The Poetry Archive’s ‘Wordview 2020’ competition, permanently featured  on their website. She is the recipient of a London Writers Award, and Arts Council  England awards for poetry and fiction. 

Merrie is passionate about collaborations, as well as residencies and commissions,  which help keep her writing practice fresh and evolving. She was a poet-in-residence  with MMU Special Collections and Manchester Poetry Library, who are currently  releasing an illustrated broadside of one of her poems. Her most recent residency  was with Historic England, in partnership with Spread the Word, commissioned to  research and write one of their High Street Tales (Woolwich). 

Merrie has read or discussed her work in various places, including The Southbank  Festival, The Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival, and BBC Radio. Poems been published  in Poetry Wales, The Interpreter’s House, The Good Journal, and elsewhere. Her  debut collection is Open Windows (Waterloo Press, 2019). 

Rural Arts Keepsake Commission ‘Pen Pals’

Pen Pals by Tom Wentworth 

Commissioned by Rural Arts as part of Keepsake, cultural experiences you can treasure

“We were better on paper…”

When Alison arrives at Irene’s cottage she doesn’t expect her friend’s daughter, Lucy, to be firmly in residence.

Lucy is suspicious – why did her mother never mention she had a pen pal for over forty years? Forced to share the house, both women discover they have very different memories of Irene. Did they really know her at all?

Pen Pals is a celebration of friendship and the art of letter writing across the generations.

Pen Pals is 30 minutes long and is streaming exclusively from Monday 17th– Sunday 30thMay 2021.

It can be listened to by calling local rate number 01845 980 360 or at

You can request a copy of the script by emailing

Quotes from Tom & Max

“At a time when we’ve been truly isolated as a society, I wanted to write about connection, friendship and it’s far-reaching power to heal” says writer Tom Wentworth “Pen Pals is a love letter to friendship.” Tom Wentworth is a writer for theatre and television, whose recent credits including BBC Four and BBC America, with upcoming projects with National Theatre Wales and BBC One.

“We’re so excited to share Tom’s work with audiences across North Yorkshire and beyond. He has a unique perspective, a beautiful style and knows how to punch you in the gut with story”, says Max May, Director and CEO of Rural Arts. “I hope listeners love the piece – and are perhaps inspired to write letters of their own. They’re an underrated way of sending something simple but special.”

Local young people feature in professional dance film shot on Woolacombe Beach

  • With choreography by Joshua Nash, Burnout uses raw and energetic krumping in a film about frustration and young people’s wellbeing
  • The film will be shot between London (14 May) and Devon (6 June) by North Devon film maker Gemma Pons Alsina
  • The dance film has been commissioned by the Rural Touring Dance Initiative and Beaford

@rural_dance | #BurnoutDanceFilm | |

For a raw and powerful dance film about the importance of space and time off for mental health, about looking after yourself in isolation, and releasing frustration, Burnout will see students from Unlimited Dance Company in Barnstaple perform together on Woolacombe Beach on Sunday 6th June. The Devon dancers have rehearsed with the London dance company during lockdown, learning Joshua Nash’s choreography over Zoom, and will perform it together with Joshua for the first time when it is filmed. Reflecting the journey of young people during the pandemic, the film will be a chance to let it all out through the physicality of krumping, and to reconnect with friends and loved ones. They will be joined by professional dancers recording their parts in London, juxtaposing the urban city and the rural North Devon coast. The film has been commissioned by Beaford and Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI); earlier this month, RTDI and The Place co-commission In A Nutshell by Lost Dog was nominated for Best Short Dance Film at the National Dance Awards.

The final film will be released to the public on 7th July on social media.

Joshua Nash is a freelance hip hop theatre artist whose movement language is focusing on Hip Hop, Krump and House. He is reputable as a core member of Botis Seva’s company Far From The Norm, with performance credits including Channel 4 Random Acts, BBC Performance Live with Studio Wayne McGregor and Sadler’s Wells 20th anniversary triple bill Reckonings. He was due to perform a rural tour with RTDI in 2020, 

North Devon professional freelance film maker Gemma Pons Alsina, a keen dancer herself, has already filmed and edited five adult community dance routines during the Covid-19 lockdown year on location within the North Devon Biosphere – including Braunton Burrows, Ilfracombe Harbour and Barnstaple. The first ballet piece, performed by dancers of mixed abilities, received over 100,000 views globally. Gemma is Spanish-born and based in Croyde, North Devon

Joshua Nash said, “This has been such an exciting project to work on over the past few months. It’s been incredible working with the young people at Unlimited dance over Zoom to choreograph a film which has been born directly out of the pandemic. Krump is an artform which is still quite new within the hip-hop dance world, so having the opportunity to share it with young people who live in Devon and might not have done anything like this before has been special. The film will be a real celebration of people coming back together, difference and how we can all start to look ahead after a difficult year.”

Beaford is England’s longest-established rural arts initiative, supporting rural creative development and providing access to high quality arts experiences across rural north Devon for more than 55 years. We are innovators in rural community engagement, cultural education, and artistic leadership, always looking to seek out entertaining and extraordinary ways to explore our land, lives and future

The RTDI is a partnership between the National Rural Touring Forum, The Place, China Plate and Take Art.

In 2015 The National Rural Touring Forum joined forces with The Place, China Plate and Take Art to launch a brand-new initiative designed to assist in the making and touring of contemporary accessible dance to rural areas. The project was set up to address the paucity of dance performance happening in rural areas in smaller community venues.  The project has been made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery funded Strategic Touring Programme. Due to RTDI successes in November 2017 the project was given a further £417k to develop the project until July 2021. Over 160 performances have taken place to date along with numerous workshops and training opportunities for artists. 

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is a partnership project led by The National Rural Touring Forum with The Place, China Plate and Take Art. The project is funded by Arts Council England through its Strategic Touring Fund.

Lost Dog Dance stream ‘Paradise Lost (lies unopen beside me)’ with RTDI partners The Place

Lost Dog Dance (RTDI Alumni) are streaming the Rural Touring Award Winning show ‘Paradise Lost (lies unopen beside me)’ with RTDI project partners The Place.

Saturday 5h & Sunday 6th June
Tickets £10 online here

A show for anyone who has created anything (child, garden, paper aeroplane) and then watched it spiral out of control.

Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) is a one-man adaptation of Milton’s epic poem and is conceived, directed and performed by Ben Duke for Lost Dog.

“The comedy is divine, but the images of love and loss are achingly human” ★★★★★ 

The Independent

Inn Crowd: Acclaimed Writer Premiers Digital Poetry Film About Growing Up Gay in England

James McDermott, Norfolk born playwright, poet and associate artist at both Norwich Theatre Royal and Norwich Arts Centre, has collaborated with national project Inn Crowd to create a new performance poetry film that follows the experiences of a gay teenager coming of age during the nineties and noughties.

Manatomy will premiere for free online on Saturday 22nd May, and is a witty exploration of identity, politics, pop culture and place, and questions how lad culture shapes boys as they grow into men. Poems featured in Manatomy are taken from James McDermott’s poetry collection of the same name published by Burning Eye Books. The premiere will include a live Q&A with James, but the film will still be available to view free for two weeks after the premiere.

Speaking about the project, James said:

“I hope that the poems in the ‘Manatomy’ film entertain audiences and help them to better understand and reassess how they perceive queer experiences for young adults in rural East Anglian communities. I look forward to performing these poems in person when I tour ‘Manatomy’ to pubs across the county with Inn Crowd later this year”.

James has been one of Norfolk’s hugely successful home-grown writers over the last few years. As well as being a widely acclaimed poet and playwright, he also has ideas in development with various television production companies, and regularly teaches writing workshops at University of East Anglia and Norwich Theatre Royal.

This film is part of Inn Crowd’s ‘After Hours’ project, a new series of electrifying digital spoken-word pieces bringing new writing into people’s homes for free. Prior to the pandemic, Inn Crowd usually operates by bringing professional, high-quality live-literature inspired pieces to rural pubs. Arts organisations Creative Arts East and National Centre for Writing work with national partners Applause Rural Touring deliver the project countrywide. 

As well as James McDermott’s Manatomy, Radio 4 regular John Osborne will premiere his new show Supermarket Love Stories in June, and Byron Vincent’s Instagramming The Apocalypse aired online last month with great success.To catch the premiere of Manatomy on 22nd May at 8pm, or watch it at any time for two weeks after that date, visit

Rural Arts announce Keepsake Commission ‘Ask For Sophie’

Rural Arts is proud to announce the streaming of a brand-new audio play exploring isolation within LGBTQ+ communities.  

‘Ask for Sophie’ by Kerrie Marsh is a new commission from Rural Arts’ project Keepsake, which connects communities and reduces isolation caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.  

This unique play is accessed via telephone line at any time, night or day. A character – the chatty and eponymous Sophie – answers the call. You, the audience member, play the role of a silent caller to an LGBT+ support line for people in rural areas. You’re in good hands with Sophie who guides you, shares her experiences and lets you know that you’re not alone. Sophie’s always there – all you have to do is call.  

Ask for Sophie is available from Monday 3rd – Sunday 16th May, 24 hours per day, by calling 01845 980 758.

INN CROWD After Hours

If it’s a bit chilly to join in outside, bring the cosy and vibrant atmosphere of the pub to life with the After Hours season of digital live-literature films. 

INN CROWD has developed innovative ways to support artists in the past year including its recent collaboration with Pub is The Hub, Winter Warmers – a series of poems to celebrate our nations much loved pubs. COVID-19 restrictions have limited the scope to get live events into Pubs so these digital films will bring events direct into people’s homes. INN CROWD have worked with three artists to produce a season of live-literature films showcasing three electrifying pieces of new work. 

All the work is free to access for two weeks from the launch date or audiences can join the online live premiere and watch the piece followed by a unique interactive experience with the artist.  This will offer the chance to ask questions, hear talks on the themes of the film or after our first premiere attend a DJ set with Byron Vincent. 

“At a time when people are missing the intimacy of late nights with friends, After Hours is a series of stories intended to evoke a late-night sharing or exchange. “ Dawn Badland, Director, Applause Rural Touring 

The season 

Bryon Vincent’s Instagramming the Apocalypse is a new film developed from his stage show. Performer Byron Vincent brings the force of his wit and wisdom to shine a spotlight on the post-satire age.  Byron explores what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder during a global pandemic. It’s a glib, and postmodern take on the world in which cynicism is cool, modern life is rubbish and sincerity is for suckers.  Byron’s will also host a live event including a pre-show introduction, followed by a screening of the film, post show interview and will close with a DJ set. 

Manatomywritten and read by James McDermott, is a wry witty performance poetry film following the experiences of a camp gay boy through adolescence into manhood, as he comes of age in Norfolk in the nineties and noughties. The film explores how identity is shaped by parents, place, politics and pop culture and questions how lad culture shapes boys as they grow into men. Poems featured in Manatomy are taken from James McDermott’s poetry collection of the same name published by Burning Eye Books.  

John Osborne’s Supermarket Love Stories is about supermarkets and the people who use them. It introduces us to the people on the tills, staff with untucked shirts sitting on their kick stools stacking shelves and the unrequited love of the cleaning staff.  It is a poetry storytelling feast where everyone has a story to tell. 

“We have had the great pleasure of working with Byron on the early development stages of this piece, including a residency at a rural pub near Diss.  This digital version of the show really elevates the messages, but also highlights Byron’s wit, creativity and authentic connection with the themes – it is a really unique and brilliant show and we feel incredibly proud to be able to share it.” Karen Jeremiah, Deputy Director Creative Arts East 

More information on the selected artists, or to book head to the INN CROWD website 

Notes to editors 

Byron Vincent’s – Instagramming the Apocalypse 

Date: 24/04/202, 20:00  

Run Time: Event runtime 3 hours (film is 1 hour 10 minutes)  

Age Suitability: 18+ (adult content and strong language) 

Byron Vincent is a writer, performer, broadcaster and activist. He also has a diagnosis of PTSD and bipolar disorder. As a spoken word artist at music and literary festivals, he was picked as one of BBC poetry season’s new talent choices. In more recent years he has turned to theatre, working as writer, director and performer for the RSC, BAC and other notable acronyms. Now he’s turning to film as a chance to reach even more people than before. Byron is a passionate social activist with lived experience of issues around poverty and mental health. Byron has written and presented for BBC Radio 4 on the social problems arising out of poverty, ghetto-isation and mental ill-health. 

James McDermott’s  – Manatomy 

Date: 22/05/2020, 20:00 (tbc) 

Run Time: 1 hour (Film running time 20 minutes, Post-show talk/ Q&A 40 minutes)  

Age Suitability: 18+ (adult content and strong language) 

James McDermott is a writer based in East Anglia represented by Independent Talent. He is an Associate Artist at Norwich Theatre Royal and Norwich Arts Centre.  James writing credits include ‘Time and Tide’  at Park Theatre and was nominated for two Off West End Theatre Awards (Offies) including one for Best New Play.  James is writing new plays for HighTide, Eastern Angles, Norwich Playhouse, Norwich Theatre Royal, New Wolsey Ipswich, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, Revoluton Arts, UEA, Mercury Theatre, Sheringham Little Theatre and Relish Theatre Company. James is currently developing TV projects with Big Talk, Ranga Bee and Shiny Button and is one of the writers on the EastEnders Writer Shadow Scheme 2021.  

As a poet, James is published widely in poetry journals and magazines and his debut poetry collection ‘Manatomy’ is published by Burning Eye Books. James was shortlisted for Outspoken’s Prize for Poetry 2020 in the Performance Category and long listed for The Winchester Poetry Prize 2020 judged by Andrew McMillan.  James teaches creative writing online and in theatres, schools and universities across the country. He is also a private scriptwriting and poetry writing tutor.  

John Osborne’s – Supermarket Love Stories 

Date: 26/06/2020, 20:00 (tbc)  

Run Time: TBC 

Age Suitability: 14+ (contains some grown-up themes) 

John Osborne is a Radio 4 regular and creator of cult show John Peel’s Shed.  John Osbourne writes poetry, books, scripts and stories for Radio 4. He co-created the Sky One sitcom After Hours.   

Notes to Editors 

  • INN CROWD offers pub landlords spoken word, poetry and storytelling performances that have been created specifically for pub audiences and to the unique atmosphere and setting of a pub. Performances are highly subsidised requiring no special sets or space.  The work is suitable for pubs, cafes, restaurants and breweries across the UK. 
  • INN CROWD Pubs+ is a national arts project by Arts Council England. The first phase of the project ran from 2016-2019 as INN CROWD. 
  • The arts organisations delivering INN CROWD are Applause Rural Touring and Creative Arts East (specialists in arts in rural areas), National Centre for Writing (literature specialists) and Pub is the Hub (Industry Advisors). Inn Crowd Pubs+ has 6 touring partners to deliver the project nationally Carn to Cove, Take Art, Arts Alive, Artsreach, Spot On Lancashire, Live and Local 

Further information from Inn Crowd Project Manager Samantha Steer  

Pentabus – Spring Calling

Pentabus is marking one year since the country went into the first lockdown with two audio pieces inspired by the provocation – Spring’s Calling.

An image of the words ‘Spring’s Calling’ written under torn paper

I, Nyx: (A daughters daughter) 

by Sophie Stone 

Folklore and Fitness with Carole Vegan

by Tim Foley

Released on Saturday 20 March 2021, 10am

Listen via:

These two pieces are part of an event coinciding with the Spring Equinox on Saturday 20 March 2021, coordinated by the West Midlands Culture Response Unit to mark one year since the country went into the first lockdown.  

The event will be made up of 3-5 minute audio artworks, including spoken word, podcasts, music and singing – from artists and organisations across the region. The pieces focus on nature, spring, outdoors, reflection, restarting and growth; as the cultural sector looks ahead to returning to live events, re-opening venues and welcoming back audiences.To enjoy the event, audiences should search for the hashtag #SpringsCalling across social media.

Pentabus Artistic Director, Elle While said: ‘I am delighted we have commissioned these extraordinary artists to contribute their spellbinding work to Spring’s Calling. I urge you to put your headphones on or watch the waves of their voices to transport you; your heart will swell, your smile will spread as we look forward to brighter days.’ 

The audio releases will be available on Pentabus’ website as well as social media from 10am on Saturday 20 March 2021. | Youtube: PentabusTheatre

All Press Enquiries: Catrin John | Email:

Rural Touring In Lockdown – One Year On

Rural Touring has not stopped despite the Pandemic

Rural touring sector continues to be creative during 12 months of lockdown

The Bluebirds Popera House event presented by Take Art at Hatch Beauchamp Village Hall in August 2020 Photo by Darren Honeywell

As the anniversary of the first lockdown passes, and rural audiences remain to be forced to stay at home, artists, rural touring schemes and volunteer promoters have found ways to continue to entertain communities, outside of shows in their usual venues in village halls, pubs, libraries, and community centres. In the face of COVID-19 Pandemic, the rural touring sector used their close community connections and in-depth knowledge of the needs of their audiences and artists to pivot quickly and innovatively. They commissioned and delivered professional work, not just for the digital space, but they have found ways to reach those not able to get online.

This includes commissioned radio concerts, theatre on the back of lorries, commissioned video shorts, reimagined theatre online, artists partnered with community groups, hyper-local outdoor performance for micro audiences, building a symphony of the countryside, digital diaries, plays by phone, dramas by postcard, shared and posted equipment, the creation and distribution of wellbeing packs, drive-in events and so much more. Rural touring across the country has never been more innovative or creative.

Rural Touring Schemes and promoters have been quietly producing programmes with an aim to not shout about it as attracting large audiences to shows was not the desired intention. It has all been personally delivered for individual villages so they could maintain COVID Safe social distancing. Some shows were put on for 30 minutes on one village green then moved to do the same in the neighbouring community. The work has been for small and specific audiences to ensure the residences maintain access to high-quality cultural provision and all the community health and wellbeing benefits that go along with that.

Symphony of the Countryside, a short film collaboration, led by Rural touring Scheme Carn to Cove in Cornwall. It involved rural promoters and audiences across England, professional musicians, poets, plus amateur and professionally shot images of the British Countryside capturing the summer of lockdown. Arts Alive in Shropshire and Herefordshire launched Arts Alive on Wheels, touring small scale shows outdoors on the back of a lorry. Highlights across the north of England commissioned a series of special concerts, Highlights at Home, which aimed to cut through the digital divide, premiered on BBC local radio. Cheshire Rural Touring Arts supported Stute Theatre to develop a new piece of telephone theatre called ‘You Don’t Know Me But…’ which was a 1-1 live 20 min piece of theatre down the phone incorporating a soundscape and music as well as a live performer. Take Art in Somerset has developed a new network called Totally Local, incorporating 14 outdoor performances in 6 villages.

Artsreach (RT scheme in Dorset) has felt like a ‘big hug’ during the pandemic,” says a Promoter on the south coast. 

Spot On in Lancashire commissioned a season of video shorts. Black Country Touring hosted Zoom Café, an interactive show about the history of coffee and tea.  Lockbusters, a series of film packs with a selection of themed DVDs, books and journals created by Live and Local across the Midlands was shared within rural and hard to reach communities. Online performances from the Rural Touring Dance Initiative have taken place, sharing contemporary dance commissioned specifically for rural audiences.

Dommy B, who produced a film with Spot On in Lancashire, says “Being occupied with something creative and kind, has been awesome and very helpful on a personal level to my mental health”.

As well as generating top-quality entertainment for audiences, rural touring schemes have also fought hard to continue to find ways to pay artists and freelancers.  National Rural Touring Forum, the umbrella organisation for the UK’s rural touring sector, diverted some of its Arts Council of England funding to help artists, schemes and promoters with extra support, advocacy and communications. It produced one of the biggest and most ambitious digital conferences in the performing arts sector throughout October 2020. Holly Lombardo, NRTF Director, says

I cannot express how proud I am to be part of an organisation that supports such a resilient, caring, and innovative sector. I am blown away by the response our members have had in continuing to bring work to communities.

Sonia Sabri Company supported by Birmingham Hippodrome presents ‘LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS’


See full event listings here.

The Internationally acclaimed SONIA SABRI COMPANY, a dynamic dance and music company, announce details of the first ever online version of its highly popular LOK VIRSA Festival for 2021.

LOK VIRSA, fast becoming one of the leading Festivals of its kind in the UK, was firstpremiered at the Royal Festival Hall in London attended by 8000 participants.

The festival, now in its 7th year, celebrates some of the rarely experienced traditional and folkloric art of music, crafts and dance rooted in the lands of the Indian subcontinent.

LOK VIRSA which means ‘heritage of the people’, has toured the country annually and would normally take place live in a venue across one day.  However, adapting the festival online during lockdown has meant SONIA SABRI COMPANY can transform the festival to a virtual world-class stage of workshops and performances over 7 days.

Sonia Sabri Artistic Director, dancer-choreographer, said: “This year, LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS truly is an International Festival.  As well as artists from the UK, we are delighted to welcome artists from Iran, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh.  Each will come together across the week to bring colour, energy and high-class performances and events into our homes at what continues to be a challenging time for everyone.”

The FREE events will provide adults and children from diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to experience an array of arts and crafts workshops and participatory activities including Rangoli (using coloured rice, lentils, and flower petals to create eye-catching designs on the floor) Henna Painting, Block Printing and Weaving from award-winning artist Nilupa Yasmin.  Indian folk dance with Kinga Malec.

The Festival’s dance offer features Festival Founder Sonia Sabri performs her own form of Kathak dance, Shadhona Dance Company (Bengali folk-dance performance); Folk Dance of Bangladesh workshop by Arthy Ahmed; Indian folk dance with Kinga Malec, Silk scarf dance workshop of Afghanistan led by a member of the Sonia Sabri Company and Afghani folk dance performance by Kathakaars.  

Chris Sudworth, Birmingham Hippodrome Director of Artistic Programme added: Birmingham is the biggest dance city outside of London, and at Birmingham Hippodrome we support several Associate companies, led by some of the best choreographers in the region, to reach new audiences with new work – Sonia Sabri is definitely one of those.

We have worked with Sonia since 2018, supporting her to create and tour her new family production ‘Same Same…But Different’ nationally, and to host a fantastic Lok Virsa Festival at the Hippodrome in 2019. We’re delighted to support Sonia to adapt the Festival for online audiences, offering workshops and performances, and to look ahead to further collaborations for the future.”

Further highlights of the LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS include music from Bahram Jamali (Iran), Kamal Sabri (India) and Shafi Mondal (Bangladesh) plus Rafique Khan (Rajasthani folk music performance) and Shyam Nepali (Folk Nepali music performance).

LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS is supported by Birmingham Hippodrome and  runs from Monday 15th – Sunday 21st February. The Festival will open with a dance workshop on the Birmingham Hippodrome Facebook page.   

Further artists will be announced over the coming weeks.

Events will be broadcast across Sonia Sabri Company’s social media platforms.  All workshops and performance details will be available via Facebook.  Events may be subject to change.

Twitter:            @SoniaSabriCo
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