Arts On Tour New Zealand Video

From Steve Thomas

At last weeks conference we were so please to welcome Steve Thomas from Arts On Tour New Zealand, who shared a brilliant video with us. We understand that it was a bit difficult to hear on the day, so here is the video again incase you missed it.

Visit their website for more information about Arts On Tour NZ.

Here is the longer documentary if you want to find out more: Central to the Soul 2018

This premiered at the 2019 International DocEdge Festival and has appeared recently on Maori TV in NZ.

Environmental Action

National Rural Tour Forum Exploration into the environmental impacts, practices and carbon footprint of Rural Touring.

In Partnership With Julie’s Bicycle. May 2023

Project Aims & Objectives

An exploration to see what data is submitted, see what is missing, and see which methodologies we can use to get the data we need to tell our story successfully.

To see if there is a way we can calculate a carbon footprint approximation.

To have the knowledge evidence and tools to use to make a case for our sustainability.

Explore the proximities of a green charter and methods of increasing our sustainability and environmental responsibility response.

Headline Results

From the survey we can see that schemes, artists, and venues across the NRTF are enthusiastic and willing to do more to lessen their environmental impact, however, they are facing a number of challenges which is making this more difficult and highlighting the need for broader local partnerships and infrastructure.

A patchwork of small fields, enclosed by hedges and trees. Photograph of Somerset farmland taken from the air.


The majority of schemes (69%) are enthusiastic to engage with artists, venues and audiences more on sustainability issues. Others, (31%) would like some more guidance in how to do this effectively.

38% of schemes have their own sustainability policy, others are in the process of developing one and some need more support with this.


Mostly, artists travel to shows in petrol/diesel vans or cars (81%).

Almost all artists reuse and recycle, sets, props & costumes after a show run and many source materials sustainably (81%).

100% of artists surveyed try to avoid single-use plastic when on a rural tour.


Venues try to recycle as much as they can (74%).

47% provide clearly signposted bins to encourage recycling.

42% of venues have implemented a sustainable initiative from improving recycling rates to replacing lighting with LED bulbs and installing solar panels or air source heating systems.


The main challenges for schemes in improving the environmental sustainability of their work are limited time and capacity, financial considerations and the limitations of venues’ ability to engage.

The main challenges for artists are around travelling to rural touring performances – mainly there are issues around accessibility of rural locations by public transport, the cost of electric vehicles (EVs), difficulties finding EV charging points in rural areas and the time it takes to charge them.

The main challenges for venues are around waste and recycling, as small community venues with small teams, do not have the capacity to sort and separate waste.

There are also difficulties around audiences knowing where to recycle waste even with clearly signposted bins available. Additionally, the local authority recycling provision isn’t available to recycle all of the forms of waste that the venue has to handle. Knowing how to access funding for energy efficiency improvements was another significant challenge.

Barriers to Sustainability in Rural Touring

Respondents reiterated difficulties travelling to rural venues using public transport.

Venues have their own challenges such as issues around waste management which schemes have no control over.

Tours are spread out with artists performing one show and staying in an area for one night. This means that the impact of artist travel is relatively high due to the large amount of travel required.

Reported difficulties in effectively recycling waste in rural areas due to local authority provisions.


Schemes have reduced the energy use in their office buildings, monitor artists and audience travel and planted trees, knowledge sharing with other organisations and advocated for all to take sustainable action.

Artists are beginning to use electric vehicles and sustainable materials for productions, develop environmental responsibility statements and are exploring ways to engage audiences.

Venues are ensuring to use of plastic-free and recyclable materials only, one venue has installed an air source heat pump, one venue has installed solar panels, and many venues are working to efficiently recycle waste and install LED lighting and double glazing.

Respondents reported that in rural areas many audience members walk to venues and if driving, travel less than 4 miles. This indicates the impact of audience travel for rural touring is relatively low compared to if audience members were to travel to city performances instead.


Data was collected via an online environmental survey and responses were gathered between October 2022 and January 2023, from rural touring schemes, artists, and venues. The aim of the survey was to gain a greater understanding of environmental action already being considered in rural touring as well as any challenges being faced by the stakeholder groups and any additional support that can be offered to drive environmental improvement across the rural touring community.

The survey received a total of 43 responses from 13 Schemes, 11 Artists and 19 Venues.

Schemes Survey

Rural Touring Schemes are member organisations of the Rural Touring Forum. There is great variety among the different schemes, with the most widespread model being independent, not-for-profit companies, often with charitable status. All touring schemes work to support local people to promote the delivery of professional arts in community spaces.

The majority of schemes are Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations with some schemes funded by Arts Council of Wales and others funded by local authorities, National Lottery and other trusts and foundations funding.

A number of schemes have an internal environmental policy or action plan but many of them don’t share this with their artists or venues.

Respondents also commented that data is gathered, and guidance is provided in a more informal way rather than including contract clauses and specific requirements about the environmental impact for artists and venues.

Schemes engagement with artists and venues on the sustainability of their practice

The majority of schemes (69%) are enthusiastic to begin to engage more with artists and venues on sustainability issues. Others would like to support artists and venues more with this work but are unsure where to start and feel that they need some more guidance to do this effectively. Some concerns were raised about how much influence schemes can actually have on artists and venue operations, where shows are booked as a one-off and the village hall is only used by the scheme twice a year.

“The venues are generally village halls and so we don’t have much influence on sustainability matters”

Some schemes use their own environmental policy to help to engage artists and venues by seeing the initiatives that the scheme has in place. Some do not currently have a focus on sustainability across all their work, but they are aiming to include this more thoroughly in future.

Generally, schemes don’t have a specific policy or contract clause which requires artists to adhere to certain sustainable actions. Some schemes are gathering data regarding artists’ travel miles and mode of transport as well as audience travel. Some schemes are planting trees for every event that they deliver to provide an environmental benefit through their work.

The three top challenges that schemes reported they face in trying to improve environmental impact were:

● Time/capacity considerations

● Financial considerations

● Engagement from venues (due to the challenges they face)

“Where we sit in the chain and our ability to influence – relating to the practicalities of how things actually work in reality”

Scheme sustainability achievements and successes

Although they do face challenges when implementing more sustainable practices, the survey highlighted that there are schemes that are very engaged in this work and have launched initiatives and made improvements.

“Changes to our own building to improve energy efficiency”

“Monitoring artists travel and planting a tree for every event”

“Sharing resources with local arts organisations / buying second-hand equipment & office furniture / supporting local traders”

“Internal progress on energy/waste / transport – a commitment to advocating for best practice”

“Clearly communicating sustainability measures through blog posts / supporting environmental campaigns on social media like #GreatBigGreenWeek”

“The CLASH (Climate and Sustainability Hive) task force in organisation” “Programming work in the heart of the community”

Schemes perceptions of rural vs urban sustainability challenges

Overall, schemes that responded to the survey are of the opinion that there are more challenges associated with improving the environmental sustainability of rural touring than of the urban equivalent.

The main difficulty respondents stated they face is the lack of accessible public transport. This affects both artists and audiences as the majority must travel in petrol or diesel vans or cars. There is also limited infrastructure for charging electric vehicles and currently, these are unaffordable and inaccessible to many. However, this impact may be lessened somewhat due to the limited number of rural touring events and that these events happen in the heart of the community with audiences travelling short distances and often walking to attend. This prevents them from having to travel further to local towns and cities.

One of the schemes highlighted that their furthest venue is an hour’s drive, but this would be a 12-hour return journey using public transport, which isn’t a feasible option for artists.

Schemes have additional challenges in working with third-party partners such as libraries and village halls which have their own environmental challenges, for example, older buildings which the scheme has no ability to control or influence and venues themselves do not have the funds to make environmental improvements.

Accommodation for artists is much more expensive in rural areas, so they often have to travel to nearby towns and cities for cheaper accommodation after shows. This increases their travel distance and associated emissions.

Artists Survey

The majority of rural touring artists are small companies or individuals where between 1 and 7 people will be travelling with an overall average of 3 people. Most artists are travelling in petrol or diesel cars or vans to get to rural venues. Some companies are starting to try electric vans and one artist surveyed said that they use trains to get to their shows. Touring artists are travelling a variety of distances to attend shows, from 150 to 700 miles with an average of 400 miles.

“We always lease or hire Euro 6 low emissions van – which is a combination of Ad Blue and diesel – most with stop/start technology for zero idling in traffic. As soon as an electric van with long range is available to hire, we will convert!” “We try to book our tours so that they limit travel, we follow a route and don’t shoot about. We always limit travel to less than two hours from Marsden or our boat to avoid having to book extra digs and to limit the environmental impact of hotels and B&Bs”


The majority of artists (82%) would need accommodation after a show and would stay in a local hotel or B&B. Some artists would also stay in accommodation organised by the promoter depending on the distance needed to travel for the show.

Transportation of sets, props, costumes, technical equipment

The amount of equipment needed to be transported often long distances for rural touring performances will have an impact on the modes of transport which could be used by rural touring artists. For example, transporting a large amount of set materials, props, costumes and sound equipment on a train would add difficulties to an artist’s journey.

There were quite a variety of answers from this question with a fairly equal result between artist’s travelling with limited equipment and some travelling with quite a large amount of set, props & costumes.

Respondents were also asked to provide some more information on the specifics of the equipment that they need for a show:

“PA, instruments (guitars, keyboard), props, set”

“In the last touring season, we leased a larger van, which held both sets, puppets and costumes – this saved on storage unloads, wages and additional trips”

“Sometimes staging is required which involves use of a trailer”

Production Impacts

The majority of artists are trying to consider the environment and reduce their impact as much as they can, but some are having difficulty with how to effectively do this.

Additional comments:

“I recycle and buy second-hand where possible. I take the minimum amount of equipment as possible.”

“As a rule, we aim to use 60-70% recycled wood and materials for any new shows”

“Try to but time constraints don’t help”

“We also try to source locally and ethically”

A number of artists reported that they always use energy-efficient equipment, a few reported that they sometimes think about the energy efficiency of their equipment and some artists reported that they were unsure, or they hadn’t really thought about it.

• Always – 55%

• Sometimes – 27%

• No 9% (1 respondent)

• Unsure 9% (1 respondent)

Artist sustainability practices on tour

All the responses to the statements on sustainable behaviours and actions were rated quite highly with the majority of artists regularly achieving the action. The statement with the highest responses of consideration from artists was avoiding single-use plastics, which 100% of respondents said they always do. Reusing or recycling sets, props and costumes was second highest with all the respondents either always or sometimes considering this. Next was ensuring the use of low-energy equipment as although 81% reported that they did this, some artists weren’t sure if they did and some rarely considered this. Finally, 73% said that they always or sometimes eat a vegetarian or vegan diet whilst on tour but 27% rarely would.

As a vegetarian or vegan diet with fewer animal products is better for the environment, it is good to see that almost half (45%) of the respondents rarely or never struggle to find these food options on a rural tour. Often there are fewer vegetarian or vegan food options available in rural areas compared to larger towns or cities which can have a wider variety of shops and food offerings.

Artist sustainability achievements and successes

Artists highlighted some of the sustainability achievements they were proud of, showing that there is engagement and interest from artists to improve the environmental impact of their work.

“We were able tour to 12 villages and towns in 2022 with a big cast of 7-9 people. We managed to use solely electric vehicles and sustainable materials.”

“Created an environmental responsibility statement this year”

“Venue provide food not takeaways. All travel together”

“Our programme is a free single sheet of A4 paper which also doubles as a prop used by audience members”

“In Arbor at the end of the show, we give out to the audience, UK native tree seeds to take home and plant. In Buzz, we give out wildflower seeds suitable for bees to take home and plant.”

Artist challenges to improving the environmental sustainability of rural touring

Overwhelmingly the responses from artists around their challenges for improving the sustainability of their rural touring were due to difficulties with transport in rural areas.

Many artists wanted to use electric vehicles, but stated a range of barriers to adopting them, including cost of purchase and leasing, a lack of charging points and time to charge vehicles.

“The biggest challenge for us is getting to remote locations where there aren’t train stations within walking distance and having to use additional taxis or multiple trips. Where possible we try to all travel in a van, but due to cast locations and touring locations and the van only having 3 seats this can sometimes be tricky to navigate.”

“We’d like to purchase and use an electric vehicle but the costs and miles they can currently travel is not enough for Mikron. We’d like to look at using an alternative to diesel to power our boat. Recycling on tour is hard.”

“Transport. While we prioritise presenting our work locally, we need to tour nationally for the economic and creative viability of our work.”

Artists experiences of barriers to sustainable touring in rural settings vs urban equivalents

The responses for barriers to environmental sustainability in rural touring compared to touring in an urban area were quite mixed, with some stating how rural touring may be more sustainable than the urban equivalent. Again, the main issue which was raised was around travelling and the lack of public transport in rural areas.

“The nature of rural touring is travelling venue-to-venue and not staying for more than one evening usually, which in itself is harder to sustain than potentially having a run in an urban area – however, the smaller venues, village and community halls are more likely to be sustainable venues, using less energy, less resource and being more able to be mindful of waste, recycling etc than larger organisations might be.”

“As an artist, sometimes yes. However, I know audiences are more likely to be local and travel smaller distances.”

“No, a lot of rural venues we visit, are more sustainable than urban equivalent – a lot of rural venues are zero plastic, no single use, etc – the urban equivalents are usually surrounded by quick eateries, single-use, non-recyclable eateries. A lot of rural events are also local and independent vendors, which we prefer to trade with. The only issue sometimes as mentioned above is getting to the rural venues if by train.”

“Yes, again transport is the greatest barrier. Even the lightest touring production, designed with care and craftiness will need a vehicle to transport it – along with our cast and tech team! Public transport in rural areas is completely unsuitable for this (where it still exists!)”

Venues Survey

The majority of the venues who took part in the survey were smaller with a capacity of 50100 people, a few venues had a capacity of up to 200 people and one venue had a much larger capacity of 250 to 300 people. Most venues only had indoor space, but a few held performances indoors and outdoors. Most of the venues only host a few rural touring performances each year with an average of 3. Generally, audiences attending rural touring performances are from the local community and villages, many travelling on foot and within 4 miles. The maximum distance that audiences are travelling for rural touring performances is 20 miles.


The survey highlighted that within rural touring venues, there is a lot of good practice around catering waste. With many venues use washable and reusable glasses and cups and provide home-cooked food or homemade snacks from the promoter.

Drinks served from bar – all reusable glasses

“We use glasses or plastic glasses, all of which we wash and reuse”

“Homemade snacks from promoter/ licensed bar and hot drinks”

“Home-cooked food”

Waste Management

The majority of venues try to recycle as much waste as possible.

Waste management barriers and challenges faced by venues

An interesting finding from this question was that some venues have very little waste to recycle due to not serving any packaged food and others have too much waste and have great difficulty in recycling it. Logistical issues were highlighted around recycling single use, soft plastics and where and how to do so. As well as local authority provision for recycling and the availability of recycling services from the venue. Difficulties from promoters were also highlighted as they have little control over the recycling arrangements at the venue.

“Places to recycle soft plastic”

“There was nowhere to recycle single use plastic but now we take this to the Coop”

“We don’t run the venue, so hire it on a per-show basis. Therefore, we’re not in control of the recycling arrangements. We have to take away our recycling to be done at home.”

“Cost of commercial waste collection”

Lack of recycling collection services from the venue”

“The hall only has one part-time paid employee, therefore monitoring any recycling scheme is difficult”

Venues use of signage for separating waste

Whilst 47% of venues do provide clear signage to support correct segregation of waste and recycling, around 37% don’t provide signage or carry out a manual segregation process themselves.

Additional comments under ‘other’:

● “We do it ourselves”

● “We collect all and do it ourselves”

Existing Sustainable Practice and Initiatives by Venues- Energy Management

58% of venues reported that they have implemented some sort of sustainability initiative or project.

Additional comments provided here highlighted that some venues have replaced all lighting with energy saving LED bulbs. Three respondents commented that their venue has solar panels for energy generation. One venue reported that they have installed an air source heat pump. However, others mentioned challenges around where to find funds for energy efficiency surveys and installations.

“Available funds to look at an energy survey and look at how we can make improvements and become more sustainable are just not there.”

If village halls could get grants to install solar arrays, they could generate power when they are not being used.”

18 out of 19 venues surveyed said that they never need to use a generator to provide power for outdoor performances. The one venue that said they sometimes need to use a generator said when they did, they would use a diesel generator.

Venue sustainability achievements

Venues had put into place a number of initiatives to improve their sustainability, including: “We use no plastic or non-recyclable materials”

“We raised the money to purchase a set of glasses which we take with us to our venues, as a sustainable option rather than plastic.”

“The air-sourced heat pump heating/ventilation system”

“Taking home and sorting all waste for recycling and home composting”

“By holding events in the village, we have avoided the local people having to travel at least 10 miles to the nearest venue.”

“Electricity generated via solar panels”

“Recycling waste from shows”

“Apart from the lighting we have installed double glazing throughout the building.”


The survey results highlight a broad overview of sustainable practices across the rural touring network. With insights and opinions from those working within the schemes, as artists delivering rural touring performances and from venues. A clearer picture has been gathered of the issues, challenges and barriers being faced by those within the rural touring network, in relation to implementing improved sustainability in their practice and operations.

Limits to the availability of low-carbon transport options and infrastructure in rural areas is one of the biggest barriers to reducing the impact of artist travel. Electric vans remain unaffordable or do not have the longer ranges required to meet the distance needs of rural touring.

“We need a coordinated campaign to improve public transport in rural areas. Our train infrastructure in the urban north is also rubbish (Avanti). So cars are the default. OR, we need evidence to invest in more rural touring so as to keep our audiences local to venues but have an increased offer so they travel less. We also work in peri urban libraries where the urban bus system is equally poor after 6 pm. Moving artists around, not audiences is the best way to reduce a fuel footprint.” Scheme respondent

The unavailability of low-carbon and public transport options also highlights the vital role that rural arts organisations play in providing more opportunities for people to access culture. In environmental terms, the impacts of audience travel to city centres may be reduced by the provision of local arts and cultural performances in rural areas, and equally, rural touring also provides positive well-being and social impacts in sometimes isolated localities, and a forum to bring local communities together.

“Rural touring has provided the village community with a huge range of accessible and affordable entertainment and the modest surplus made is used to support the village infrastructure.” “….a survey about the benefits of rural touring to mental health and well-being of communities has national importance post Covid19 and (given) the current (levels of) fuel poverty.”

Additionally, insight has also been gained into the will and ambition of members of the network to be able to do more and we have seen that there is a great interest and engagement with sustainability issues. Many venues, schemes and artists have started to take positive steps in addressing their impacts. Opportunities exist to further understand and address the impacts of rural touring. A shared commitment to collecting touring data, further training, and support to build environmental capacity in the network and knowledge sharing of different approaches could build a strong basis and framework to drive collective action across the rural touring community.


Julie’s Bicycle Creative Climate Tools:

User Guide User

User Demonstration Video

Ecolibrium Travel Carbon Calculator

Environmental Policy and Action Plan Guidelines

Green Riders Insight

Green Rider Example

Music Declares Emergency Climate Pack

Moving Arts 1 bands, 2 orchestras and 3 theatres

Julie’s Bicycle Touring Guide

Green Touring Guide

Carbon Literacy Project

Artists Announcements and Access Information

With just over one month to go until our annual conference, we are getting very excited about welcoming you all to Shrewsbury, here’s a bit more information about what to expect from this years conference.

Artist Announcements

We have been busy putting together a brilliant line up of artists who will be performing, presenting, speaking or ballyhoo-ing at the conference. The artists announced so far are:

aKa Dance Theatre with A Real Fiction 

This 360-degree slapstick solo will serve you explosive dance, laugh out loud lip syncs and a crazy collection of characters. It’s a hyperactive mix of dance, theatre, meme and pop culture for people of all ages. You can expect the unexpected as you lose yourself in memories, laugh, sing, dance, wahoo and laugh some more.

N’famady Kouyaté

Song artwork for N’famady which is a portrait of him smiling at camera holding large drumsticks.

A young master musician from Guinea (Conakry), now based in Wales. N’famady’s primary instrument is the balafon – a traditional wooden xylophone, sacred to West African culture. N’famady plays both as a solo artist and with a full band line up – where his arrangements are a fusion of Mandingue African and western European jazz, pop, indie and funk influences provided by an ever-evolving collective of musicians.

Russell Lucas

Russell comes from a working-class background and has forged a long career in the arts without funding, an agent, or a degree.

As a champion for independent theatremakers, he will share the practical toolkit he uses to get theatre projects off the ground. Using some of the ideologies from his new book, 300 Thoughts for Theatremakers published by Nick Hern Books, he will show how he made the show and how he tours it around and how the RTN can further engage with artists, thus enriching the network.

Russell will also be performing extracts from his show ‘The Bobby Kennedy Experience’, you can see him on Wednesday at the Conference.


We want to ensure that everyone is able to attend and make the most of the event. That’s why we’re offering a range of services and support to meet your access needs.

We plan to have an open and relaxed atmosphere throughout the event, if you need to stand up, move around, or leave the room, that is welcome and okay!

We are also working to make chill out spaces available throughout the conference, and we have built in breaks and self led time where you can go at your own pace.

Once you have bought your conference ticket, you will be able to access our app where you can create a profile and meet other attendees before you even arrive. 

If you are attending the conference on your own and aren’t sure where to stay and who will be there, our Board Members will be staying at the Shrewsbury Hotel and will be happy to buddy up with you.

We understand that everyone has different requirements and we want to make sure that our conference can be enjoyed by all. If you have any concerns or any specific requirements that you would like to discuss with us, please contact Jess on or message us on social media if you prefer.

5 people are sitting at a round table, 1 person is making a silly face to the camera, and the others are smiling or laughing.
Photo from the 2022 NRTF Conference

Tickets and More Information

For our Eventee App and to see the Programme, follow this link.

Tickets are available on our Eventbrite page here.

Integrate – NRTF Conference 2023

This year’s conference is all about the opportunity to unite, to celebrate partnerships and collaboration, and in working together as a whole, we can ensure equal creative opportunities to the rural communities we work with.

Riverbank Kitchen, Shrewsbury.
Illustration by Emily O’Shea

Join us in the beautiful market town of Shrewsbury for this year’s 3-day Rural Touring Sector Conference Tuesday 27th to Thursday 29th June. Everyone is welcome.

More to be revealed in good time. Be sure to book your ticket and find yourself somewhere to stay.

On this page you will find more information and links for the following:

  • Where to buy tickets
  • Accommodation list
  • Programme Overview and Conference app
  • Artist Bursaries
  • Scheme Bursaries

Tickets and Accommodation

Tickets are available on our Eventbrite page here.

This year your accommodation is not included in your ticket.

Shrewsbury is a beautiful old market town, and there are lots of options available depending on your group size and budget, we thought it would be easier for everyone for you to choose what you prefer.

We have compiled a list of some great places for you to book, which you can download and look at here:

Accommodation – PDF

Accommodation – Large font PDF

Accommodation – Plain text version

Programme Overview and Conference App

Sabrina Boat Tours, Shrewsbury.
Illustration by Emily O’Shea

This year we have an exciting new event app by Eventee where you can connect with everyone else attending the conference, as well as check the programme and event locations throughout your stay.

When you buy your tickets we will send you a confirmation email and a separate invitation to join the app, so look out for an email from Eventee. We encourage you to sign up, create a profile and start to enjoy the conference before it even begins.

To see the Programme, follow this link.

To visit our Eventee page, follow this link.

To read our Conference Guiding Principles, please follow this link.

Accessing the Conference

We want to ensure that everyone is able to attend and make the most of the event. That’s why we’re offering a range of services and support to meet your access needs.

  • We will have an open and relaxed atmosphere, and chill out spaces will be available. 
  • We will have BSL interpreters at the majority of the sessions.
  • Digital showcases will have captioning where possible
  • We will send out social stories, or easy read guides, in advance of your arrival to get familiar with the spaces. These will also be available on the app.
  • All of our venues are wheelchair accessible

If you have any concerns or any specific requirements that you would like to discuss with us, please contact Jess on or message us on social media if you prefer.


The Butter Market, Shrewsbury.
Illustration by Emily O’Shea

For information about getting to Shrewsbury and our Conference venues, take a look at this travel guide, links below.

Travel Guide, Size 16 font, PDF

Travel Guide, Plain Text version

Scheme Conference Bursaries

We are delighted to announce this year’s conference bursaries for schemes. Schemes are invited to apply to qualify for a 50% discount on the cost of one conference ticket and £50 towards travel and accommodation costs.

We encourage schemes to think about using the bursary to invite new members of their teams, or perhaps a venue promoter, a representative from a partner organisation or an associate artist or performer. Preference will be given to those bringing more than one person.

Scheme Conference Bursary Information Here

Scheme Conference Bursary Application Form Here

What Next? Rural – 28 March 2pm

Join us on 28th March at 2pm on Zoom for What Next? Rural, focusing on:

Equity & Equality in the Rural Touring Sector

An opportunity to discuss how access and diversity help us to create a more equal rural touring sector. 

What do we understand ‘equity’ & ‘equality’ to mean? How does it relate to the work we do in the rural touring sector.

Hannah Prior theatre maker, arts leader and co-founder of participatory theatre organisation Ignition CIC is an advocate and champion for equity of access, enabling better creative opportunities for disabled people.  Hannah will be introducing us to the Open Access Training she runs, focusing on the key areas of the Social Model of Disability and facilitating a discussion that will include practical tools and tangible examples.

Following this is an introduction to the team at Black Country Touring who will share what they set out to do in diversifying their team, what they achieved, what they learnt and what it has inspired them to do going forward.

This session is open to members and non members of NRTF, so if you would like to join us but you aren’t a member and you aren’t signed up to our mailing list, please register your interest by completing this google form.

A Zoom link will be sent out on 27th March, to everyone on our mailing list, and those who have completed the sign up form.

If you would like to become a Member of NRTF, you can do this at anytime here.

Quarterly Emails for Non-Members

From April this year (2023) we will be sending out quarterly email newsletters to anyone who wants to sign up for them! This will be very much like our usual Member newsletter, with NRTF updates, Rural News and National Opportunities, but even if you aren’t an NRTF member yet, you can still sign up for it by filling in your details on this google form.

This will run alongside our quarterly What’s Next? Rural online meetings, which are also open to non-members, more details about those can be found here.

If you would like to become a Member of NRTF, you can do this at anytime here.

Photo Credit: Betina Skovbro

North Devon dance film selected for Los Angeles film festival

BURNOUT’, a dance film rehearsed by eighteen young North Devon dancers over Zoom during 2021’s lockdown, has been selected for the 2021 Los Angeles Dance Shorts film festival. Taking place in person in Los Angeles on 13th November and online 13th-19th November, the festival attracts entries from across the world. Last year’s festival featured films from countries including Korea, Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, and the USA. 

We’re thrilled to be one of only 18 dance films from across the world selected for the 2021 LA Dance Shorts film festival,” said Claire Ayres, Creative Producer at Beaford. “It’s incredibly exciting to think that our four minute film, which delivers important messaging and is the product of seven months of hard work, will actually be screened in LA! We’re taking this dance style back to its roots, and with it a piece of North Devon.’ 

BURNOUT was conceived by leading London hip hop theatre artist Joshua ‘Vendetta’ Nash, an expert in the Krump style of street dance which originated in South Central LA. The danceform enabled the young North Devon dancers to express the frustrations they felt during lockdown; the post-lockdown filming on Woolacombe Beach was their first opportunity to perform Joshua’s work together. 

It was incredible working with the young people over Zoom to choreograph a film which has been born directly out of the pandemic,” said Joshua Nash. “The film is a real celebration of people coming back together, difference and how we can all start to look ahead after a difficult year.” 

BURNOUT was commissioned by Beaford, England’s longest-established rural arts initiative, and the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) – a ground-breaking national partnership bringing the best in contemporary UK dance to rural audiences.

This was a great collaboration. Extremely talented dance artists working alongside community participants  to create something of high quality”, said Claire Smith, Director of the RTDI. “This opportunity came at the right time for the young people and the artists – it gave a crucial outlet for expression to rurally isolated  young people and a much needed chance for Josh and his dance artists to be creative whilst they were all  negotiating the pandemic.” 

The film was directed by Gemma Pons Alsina, who lives in Croyde, North Devon. Gemma’s other dance films, filmed outdoors in the globally significant natural environment of North Devon’s UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, have attracted over 100,000 views. 

When people watch and value the effort you’ve put in to your creative work, it’s very fulfilling. BURNOUT is the result of good teamwork and being selected for the LA Dance Shorts film festival is a great success!”, said Gemma. 

Rural dance returns: An eclectic mix of shows to visit village venues this Autumn

Rural dance returns: An eclectic mix of shows to visit village venues this Autumn

Rural Touring Dance Initiative brings dance back to rural venues with a programme of seven works from leading dance companies comprising new shows and returning favourites.

  • Mr & Mrs Clark – Louder is Not Always Clearer 23 Sep – 25 Nov
  • Sonia Sabri Company – Same Same…But Different 1 Oct – 14 Nov
  • Joshua ‘Vendetta’ Nash – Blacklist/Fig Leaf 6 Oct – 14 Nov
  • Scottish Dance Theatre – Antigone, Interrupted 7 – 15 Oct
  • Jo Fong and George Orange – The Rest of Our Lives 21 Oct – TBC
  • Edifice – Salomé 27 – 30 Oct
  • Chris Patfield & José Triguero – Gibbon 12 – 13 Nov

A fresh selection of shows covering ageing, masculinity, Greek myths and table tennis, created by dance companies after an open call-out which attracted more than 70 applications, is set to take to village halls and rural venues across the UK this Autumn. The shows have been put through a rigorous selection process by the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, and have been selected by local promoters from ‘menus’ which enable them to choose the work that best suits their venue. They represent an incredibly diverse canon of work that offers a very current and exciting view of what contemporary dance can be, and in small rural spaces where you wouldn’t expect to find it. As well as selected pieces, the menu will include specially commissioned works Antigone Interrupted from choreographer Joan Clevillé for Scottish Dance Theatre, and The Rest of Our Lives from Jo Fong and George Orange. The initiative, which aims to find new audiences for dance and making the art form accessible to everyone by presenting in local spaces, is a partnership between the National Rural Touring Forum, The Place, China Plate and Take Art.

Ralph Lister from Take Art said on behalf of RTDI: “After all the disruption and uncertainty of the last 18 months, we are delighted to once again be offering a full live programme. We know rural audiences and artists enjoy the intimacy and shared experience of rural touring and look forward to many more memorable shows. Many shows were postponed in 2020 and earlier in 2021; during this tough time we supported RTDI artists through a programme shared digitally and provided them with ongoing support to bring us to this exciting moment.”

A young girl ready to die to defend what she thinks is right. A king determined to impose his will as the rule of law. Commissioned by the RTDI and presented by Scottish Dance Theatre, Antigone, Interrupted re-imagines the 2,500 year-old Greek myth for the modern world through the body and the voice of a single performer. From the team that brought you Plan B for Utopia and The North, this new work by choreographer Joan Clevillé packs all the drama, passion and big ideas of a Greek tragedy into a one-woman tour de force by acclaimed performer Solène Weinachter. 

Also specially commissioned by RTDI, The Rest of Our Lives by Jo Fong and George Orange is a cabaret of life – and near death. Jo is an old dancer, George an old clown. They’ve both reached the mid-way point of their lives, and now they’re wondering, what next? Armed with a soundtrack of floor-fillers, a book of raffle tickets and a sprinkling of eco-friendly glitter, they joyfully negotiate middle-life together with humour, tenderness and outlandish optimism. There will be table tennis!

Joshua ‘Vendetta’ Nash is known as one of the UK’s leading Krump dancers, a highly athletic form of street dance characterised by free, expressive, exaggerated, and highly energetic movement. He presents a double bill of shows for the Rural Touring Dance Initiative. Blacklist is an explosive piece asking how we cope with inner conflict, which delves into brotherhood, isolation and friendship explored through hip hop, Krump and theatre. Fig Leaf questions what it means to be a man, and when masculinity becomes toxic. Joshua and RTDI recently released short film Burnout which explores the struggles of today’s youth, especially in light of the pandemic’s enforced isolation. Set in London and the stunning rural North Devon coast, with three professional adult dancers and eighteen youth dancers, Burnout highlights the importance of connecting with the natural environment and can be viewed here: 

EDIFICE Dance Theatre’s thrilling new take on Oscar Wilde’s classic Salomé takes audiences on an extraordinary journey into a world of rejection and religion, lust and death. Through their unique hybrid language, which combines live classical music, ballroom, Latin and contemporary dance, choreographer-dancer duo Carmine De Amicis and Harriet Waghorn tell the tragic story of the Biblical princess in a completely unique way

Same Same…But Different from Sonia Sabri Company is a fun family show about our curiosities and fears, the times we feel different and when we belong. Blending Kathak, hip hop and beatboxing styles, three performers create a playful, colourful world celebrating our individuality, diversity and the bonds which connect us all.

Returning to the rural touring circuit in autumn, Louder Is Not Always Clearer from Mr & Mrs Clark is a funny and honest portrayal of difference and empathy. Meet Jonny. He loves to dance, but he can’t hear the music unless the bass is turned right up. Jonny was born deaf and grew up in a hearing family, surrounded by hearing friends who did not use the word deaf. In a hearing world Jonny is different and Louder Is Not Always Clearer highlights those differences in a warm and humorous way.

Also returning is Gibbon, from breakout juggling stars Chris Patfield & José Triguero, a humorous and surreal show combining mesmerising juggling with dance and physical theatre. Together they explore the absurd and comedic in what it is that drives us to try and try again. Lifting the veil on the rehearsal room Gibbon shows how two charming performers work at working as one.

Speaking about the forthcoming season Christina Elliot, Senior Producer and RTDI partner from The Place, said “We have been delighted with the enthusiasm with which venues and audiences have embraced dance through this project. This enthusiasm is matched by the artists taking part. In many cases it has been a revelation of what touring can be – warm welcomes, open minds and hearts, and an intimate connection and conversation between an audience and the work on stage. In those moments when the magic of live performance is palpable, it’s clear that, despite the different priorities and challenges we might juggle, we – artists, promoters, programmers, producers – are all working towards this same uniquely special moment.”     

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 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. The Rest of Our Lives is supported by Arts Council of Wales

Please note dates may be subject to change, please contact local schemes for confirmed details

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