Highlights Rural Touring Scheme Spring Season May – July 2021

After many months of closure, Highlights Rural Touring Scheme is hoping to breathe life back into rural village halls and community venues across Cumbria, County Durham and Northumberland with some high quality arts performances this summer. 

From theatre, dance, live music and cabaret performances to family shows and creative workshops, Highlights are eager to bring some of the UK’s best touring companies and artists back into rural community spaces with their 2021 Spring programme.

“Last year we had to cancel far too many performances, so it was with an air of optimism over adversity that we programmed this season into early Summer,” says Kate Lynch, Director at Highlights.

“We are delighted by the government announcement that from 17 May we can bring great arts performances back to our rural venues. Things will look different. Audiences will be smaller; venues might feel less intimate. But there will be a warm welcome and our artists will perform with the same heart and passion as always.”

Highlights work with an army of volunteer promoters in over 65 community venues and village halls across the North of England to bring high quality performances to small rural communities.

This season sees 54 events in 32 community venues across the three counties. Among the theatre highlights are two performances featuring forgotten women in history. Singer songwriter Louise Jordan explores the myth of the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ in her show Florence. SOLD tells the remarkable story of Mary Prince, who escaped 40 years of slavery to become a beacon of the British Abolitionist movement. This award-wining show combines traditional African Griot storytelling fused with drumming, dance and song in an exceptional piece of theatre.

British social history continues with an energetic one-man adaptation of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist. This fantastic Magic Lantern show features audience participation, storytelling, songs and funny one-liners to amuse and inform the whole family.

PMac Productions’ Old Herbaceous explores rural society but that of a bygone era told through the eyes of a retired head gardener of a country house. Fans of Downton Abbey and Gardeners World will enjoy this charming tale of love and loss with gardening tips.

Identity and food combine in a multicultural feast for the senses. In Love and Spice, the Balbir Singh Dance Company fuse Kathak and contemporary dance, music and a homemade curry cooked by a chef during the performance. 

Dance continues with The Hotel Experience from Lila Dance where nothing is quite as it seems behind the ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs.

There’s a plethora of live music on offer from an evocative toe-tapping tribute to French music courtesy of Fifi la Mer and beautiful original music from BBC 2 Folk Awards winner Rowan Rheingans in her new show Dispatches on the Red Dress

Seasoned folk musician and musical narrator of the West End’s War Horse, Saul Rose joins the tour for a rare solo show whilst Flats & Sharps head to Cumbria with their fusion of foot-stomping Appalachian tunes with a unique Cornish folk twist.

This year, for the first time, Highlights are bringing some of the region’s most talented artists and designer makers to community venues for some truly participatory workshops. 

With artforms as diverse as origami, leather tooling and lino printing on offer, it is hoped the workshops will not only be a chance to learn or develop skills but also an opportunity to get together with friends, meet new people and enjoy a relaxed and creative day. 

Should performances or workshops need to be cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, ticket holders will be refunded in full. For booking information and details about the full Highlights Rural Touring Scheme Spring programme visit www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

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.

Report on Pilot Rural Touring Show

Reepham & Cherry Willingham Village Hall, 25th September 2020.

[Live & Local – COVID-Secure Pilot Performance Report © Nov 2020]

Introduction


Live & Local supported a professional rural touring show on Friday 25th September 2020 in
partnership with Townsend Theatre Productions and Reepham & Cherry Willingham Village Hall
Committee, Lincolnshire.
This performance of ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ was the first professional performance
in a UK village hall since the beginning of the pandemic and was informed by the then current
guidance and legislation relating to the performing arts, community venues and catering. Socially
distanced seating allowed for 37 audience members at a venue that usually seats 90.
Aims & Objectives
The aim was to inform Live & Local in order to help us advise, provide assurance, and instil
confidence for promoters and their volunteers, audiences, companies. The objectives were to:

  1. Test the viability that under the then COVID-Secure measures that rural touring can safely
    recommence while adhering to relevant legislation and guidance.
  2. Test conclusions from our audience restART survey carried out in May.
  3. Observe and learn from the experience of the audience, promoter and company at the
    event and pre- and post- event.
  4. Use the results of these measures to inform the arts sector, rural touring organisations
    and local authority funders.

Context
This performance was carried out on September 25th, 2020 in Lincolnshire.
The regulations were changing regularly in the four-week run into this event and regulations may
well be different at the time of reading this report and/or due to geographical location. At the
outset and throughout we reminded all partners that whilst this was called a ‘pilot’ the risks were
very real.
The local voluntary promoter group were an experienced group having had five Live & Local events
in the past two years. Their previous events were music, so this theatre show was a change for their
audience.
The event was informed by Live & Local’s audience and promoter restART surveys carried out
during the preceding summer lockdown.


The pilot was supported by funds from Arts Council England, Lincolnshire County Council, West
Lindsey District Council, and the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF).


Approach


Risk Mitigations
Planning for the event considered relevant guidance and legislation which changed multiple times
during the planning process. The following measures were used:
• Comprehensive risk assessments by Company and promoter/Venue
• Advance customer communications
• Digital marketing
• Advance sales only online ticketing
• Advance sales only online drinks pre-ordering
• Enhanced cleaning
• Entrance and wall signage
• Additional staffing
• Test and Trace
• Socially distanced queuing
• Socially distant seating
• Seat labelling
• Hand sanitiser
• One-way system
• Face coverings
• Increased ventilation
• Table service

Risk Assessments
A risk assessment for their show was required from the company by Live & Local in advance of
even being booked for this event. The venue was required by regulation to have completed a risk
assessment to be able to open the venue for any event.
An additional risk assessment was produced in cooperation with Live & Local, the company and
promoter for this specific event incorporating the show and venue assessments and enhanced in
line with the needs of a professional ticketed performance.

Seating Format
The venue, being a village hall with no fixed seating, benefited from flexible seating opportunities.
However, managing the seating plan in line with socially distanced seating was time-consuming.
Capacity depended on the size of groups booking which could not be easily predicted and had to
be managed in an ongoing way by adapting the initial seating plan. This stood out in contrast to
the usually informal unreserved seating arrangements at Live & Local rural touring events.

Audience Communication – before and during pilot
COVID-Secure information was kept concise in the marketing to reassure but not overwhelm,
focussing on areas highlighted by our previous audience research. At the point of booking and in a
reminder email the day before the show, the audience were informed of a range of measures in
place and what was needed from them in order to deliver a safe event.
Staff and volunteers verbally repeated key messages around social distancing, the one-way
systems, face coverings and timings at the entrance. This clear ‘one to one’ guidance was
welcomed by the audience.
Due to the relatively small number involved, this was manageable and worked well. Staggered
entry times were not required due to the audience size and that it was only advance sales.


Cleaning
Enhanced cleaning procedures were introduced at the venue, with staff/volunteers provided
additional equipment and materials before and after the event.
Enhanced Staffing and Support
As this was a pilot event, two staff, from Live & local were involved on the day in addition to the
usual three volunteers who run events at this venue. A significant amount of extra time was
committed in advance and on the day by the promoter, company, and Live & Local staff.
It was possible for this promoter to engage enough volunteer support to safely deliver a show,
however, duties needed to be very clearly assigned along with appropriate instruction.
For this pilot, there was a substantial additional time investment from the Live & Local professional
team and from the promoter. Although this was a pilot event run by Live & Local in conjunction
with an experienced local promoter and company at a time when the regulations were still new
and changing, this still indicated to us that we would have to augment our support for all other
promoters who elect to take shows in the foreseeable future.


Ventilation
Ventilation was increased by opening internal and some external doors, however in late
September this proved inhospitable. We could not have as much additional ventilation as planned
due to very high winds on the day. We had considered using an outdoor space covered by brought
in gazebos for the audience pre-show and interval, but this was not possible due to the weather.
Increasing ventilation in this manner has to be balanced by the comfort of the audience as well as
creating additional risks.


Face Coverings
The regulations at the time required everyone in the venue to wear face coverings
unless eating
or drinks (or exempt). The audience wore face coverings throughout the performance and when
moving around the building, only taking them off to eat or drink. These regulations had changed
from being only guidelines very recently before the pilot date. As a result, this was not the norm
and had to be regularly emphasised to most of the participants in the pilot, both audience and
volunteers.

Artist/Company Mitigations
The company were a professional organisation with experience of touring to non-theatre spaces
and had also been required to provide a show specific COVID-Secure risk assessment prior to being
booked.
Extra performance space was required to distance the performer from the audience. Artists wore
face coverings while in the hall except for during the performance. The get-in time was increased,
and the artists were allowed sole access to the main hall in advance of the show. No practical
support (carrying gear) was given to the artists for the get in or get out. However, this was difficult
to manage on the day with other practical matters needing to be mutually agreed.
Promoters will need to allow extra time to ensure the setting up of the front of house and bar to
allow artists sole access to the space. All participants on the day found it a substantial change to
maintain social distancing given the usually highly mutually supportive interactions between
artists and local volunteers. The experience indicated to us that we would have to add to our
assurances to artists that all the local volunteers were fully appraised of the relevant risks and
mitigations, not just the main contacts with whom they may have had frequent contact in the run
up to the day.


Catering
The audience pre-ordered and pre-paid for drinks online. These were priced separately to tickets
and then prepared in advance and delivered by table service. There was no opportunity to buy any
further drinks during the evening, resolving issues around people queueing at the bar or needing
to pay in cash (as many community venues cannot currently facilitate contactless payment). This
event used online ticketing to facilitate this process (Ticket Source) and there was no cost to the
promoter.
To test the viability of a catering offer as this is so much part of many rural touring events,
complimentary food was provided by local professional catering company, Salted Orange. This was
prepared nearby in a van and delivered to the audience by table service. They were the regular
professional suppliers for the hall, so it made sense to continue the relationship. Catering can be
safely provided by experienced volunteers in a village hall should they chose to do so themselves,
if have brought themselves thoroughly up to speed with COVID-Secure catering regulations.


Seating and Ticketing
Seating was planned using Ticket Source and people were seated theatre-style in-household
groups/support bubbles only. Establishing the amount of usable space in a community venue is
not as straightforward as in a professional venue. Community venues usually benefit from flexible
seating and offer a good solution for socially distanced seating. However, seating arrangements in
these venues have often been relatively informal in the past and the required higher level of
attention to detail needed to seating for everyone involved (audience, staff, volunteers, company)
is a significant change to what many involved in rural touring are used to.
They will often need enhanced support from Live & Local to maximise seating whilst retaining a
COVID-Secure event. This will be variously challenging in the future dependent on whether the
promoter is IT resistant or not (to using online ticketing) and or whether they can create and
manage a more manual seating planning system. Managing a seating plan dependent on the sizes
of household groups and the order they book in, while trying to maximise the space available, is
time-intensive. This pilot used Ticket Source, however their socially distanced seating planning
function did not at that time avoid orphan seats however manged the situation well in all other
respects.

Marketing and Communications
Marketing was carried out digitally and by word of mouth. The show was advertised on social
media, circulated via mailing list and by invitations from the promoter and committee to contacts
in the community. Print is usually an important part of marketing a Live & Local rural touring show,
however none was used for the pilot in order to mitigate risks to promoters and volunteers
distributing leaflets and posters in the community. Given the smaller number of tickets available, it
seems quite possible that print is either unnecessary or only needed in small quantities.


Financial
Tickets were sold rather than complimentary so as to test the sales and box office processes. They
were set at a reduced price of £5 to reflect the one-off nature of this pilot event. Audience
comments suggest that there is no reason to reduce tickets for future standard events.
Socially distanced seating and increased performance space meant the capacity of the hall was
reduced from 90 to 37. Even if tickets had been priced at our usual £10-£12, this would mean a
38% decrease in our average total ticket yield. Capacity and therefore total ticket yield is strongly
influenced by the size of household groups booking, so shows attracting several larger groups
would fare better financially, however based on our previous booking data we can surmise that
the balance of group sizes at this pilot is very much within the normal pattern.
Rural touring events are usually subsidised to some extent. Assuming Live & Local’s usual financial
model, reducing the total ticket yield by 38% would require a 31% increase in the subsidy to cover
just the direct costs (i.e. this does not include additional staff time) Furthermore any income
retained by the local promoter would be substantially reduced, potentially putting another barrier
in place for some (but not all) promoters to book shows.


Audience Analysis
Live & Local used a bespoke survey for feedback sent the day after the show. We received
completed survey forms from 10 of 13 bookers. All responders reported feeling safe and
comfortable throughout the show. The vast majority of responders were aware of safety measures
before attending the show and found the online pre-ordering systems for tickets and drinks easy
to use. The results reflect an overwhelmingly positive experience and audience buy-in to COVID Secure measures in order to make it possible for shows to recommence.

Conclusions
The pilot demonstrated that rural touring performances can safely resume with increased advance
guidance given to promoters and companies by Live & Local along with additional resources at the
event, in terms of time, people and skills. The measures used were effective and the benefits to
the audience far outweighed the inconvenience of socially distanced seating, wearing face
coverings and the other COVID-Secure mitigations.
Live & Local has a responsibility to all participants in its rural touring events; artists, attenders, and
volunteers, and to its own reputation to ensure COVID-Secure events. As there may be a natural
inclination from local Promoters to interpret regulations in a way so as to minimise change for
their regular attenders, Live & Local and the company’s professional role must be to encourage
and support the delivery of legal and COVID-Secure events.
The pilot has shown that with this higher level of professional support, rural touring shows
incorporating socially distanced seating and other COVID-Secure mitigations can be safely
delivered and be very well-received by the audience. However, many promoters are likely to need
additional support in order to maximise their seating capacity and provide catering and other safe
event management protocols.


To ensure a safe event, promoters will also need more volunteer support than usual who are well
briefed and there will need to be an increased level of advanced communication and collaboration
with regards to risk assessments and discussion about Health & Safety Practices.
The partnership between professional and voluntary organisations and the combination of earned
and public funds, is a highly cost-effective market intervention that ensures a high-quality cultural
offer in rural communities and one that delivers more community benefits than only audiences.
These additional benefits are clearly even more vital now in order to support the recovery from
COVID in these rural communities. Whilst in the longer-term the financial model imposed by
socially distanced seating is unsustainable, in the meantime additional funds within the model or
agreed reduced outputs in terms or numbers of events will be necessary.
For all the participants it was more complex and time-consuming than our ‘standard’ rural touring
events and had a substantial learning curve within a constantly shifting set of regulations. This will be
the case going forward, albeit with a diminishing burden.
However, it was also a hugely encouraging and inspiring experience to see that live performance can
happen and there is a demand for it during the crisis and also for it to help the recovery.

The Library Presents Open Call – for Autumn 2020

Open Call for Artists & Performers

About The Library Presents

The Library Presents programme has a two-phase selection process:

  1. An open call, where we welcome Expression of Interest (EOIs) from artists, suggesting material for The Library Presents menu.
  2. The selected EOI’s are compiled onto a Menu that is shared with the public. The public then help choose what arts activities they would like to see in their respective libraries.

This is an open call for artists to suggest material for The Library Presents menu for Autumn 2020.

The Library Presents is currently planning for our Autumn Season (Oct-Dec 2020) which will include a mixture of performances, digital work and participatory workshops.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been awarded National Portfolio Organisation funding from Arts Council England to run The Library Presents in partnership with Babylon ARTS until 2022. The Library Presents programme will bring quality arts activities into Libraries in market towns and villages across Cambridgeshire.

The programme aims to inspire and deliver a vibrant inclusive programme of high-quality arts activities in accessible and welcoming venues.

We need to create a menu that contains a balance of art forms and which is not overwhelming for those choosing from it. There will be a selection process and artists will be notified by 13th March 2020 about whether they have been shortlisted and included on the menu. The Menu will then be shared with Library volunteers and local community groups who will help select the arts activities. In May artists will be notified whether they have been selected for the Autumn 2020 programme.

For more information visit: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/arts

Creating a vibrant, exciting, diverse and inclusive programme of high-quality arts activities with Libraries across Cambridgeshire.

Deadline for Expressions of Interest: 7th February 2020.

If you are interested in The Library Presents programme, wish to submit an Expression of Interest to our Autumn 2020 season or have any questions surrounding the programme, please sign up to one of the available ‘advice surgeries’ with Florence Rose, Babylon ARTS. Babylon ARTS is the arts partner on The Library Presents project, managed by Cambridgeshire County Council. 

The doodle poll of available advice surgeries can be found here: https://doodle.com/poll/rkqpdwe3yyssz3m8  Please sign up to a surgery with your name, then please email florence.rose@babylonarts.org.uk, with the phone number you wish to be called on, and a brief overview on what you would like to discuss during your surgery. Please provide a website/link to show if relevant.

What we are looking for:

  • High-quality arts activity.
  • Activity drawn from a broad range of art forms (music, dance, theatre, visual arts, digital arts, spoken word, puppetry, circus, magic, comedy etc.). This is not a definitive list, if in doubt please contact us for guidance.
  • Performances / events less than 45 minutes should consider a double bill (of different shows) or an additional workshop / talk with the performance suitable for the whole audience.
  • 2 hour workshops (Proposals for a series of 3 or 4 sessions are welcome).
  • An inclusive and diverse programme of activities that includes work representing different backgrounds, cultures and abilities.
  • Artists and companies who are able to adapt or develop their activity so that it can be accommodated in library spaces.
  • Non-offensive content, we will not programme an arts activity that contains swearing.It is our wish that the menu offers an inspiring range of choices with content for different ages and tastes. We are developing new audiences and would be interested to see arts activity / events that would appeal to younger adult audiences (20-45yrs approx) and young people (12-25yrs approx).
  • It is our wish that the menu offers a wide breadth of choice for the workshops, therefore we would be interested to see a wide range of applications from visual arts/creative workshops.
  • If you are an agent representing multiple performers, please only apply with the one arts activity that you deem most suitable.
  • There are a number of significant anniversaires or themes coming up in Autumn ’20 including: Black History Month (Oct), National Poetry Day (3 Oct), World Mental Health Day (10 Oct), Inktober (Oct), World Kindness Day (13 Nov), Diwali (Nov). If your work covers any of these themes please tell us in your application.

Pricing Model:

We anticipate the cost per event to be approximately the following amounts:

Performances / Exhibitions / Happenings / Event based activity / Digital £500-£900 (excl. VAT). Your fee should include costs for all travel, accomodation etc.

Workshops / Participatory activity for at least 15 people costing up to £250 (excl. VAT) per 2-hour session. Your fee should include costs for all materials, travel, and delivery.

Please give us your usual rate and/or a range of pricing options, for example, a mix of performance and workshop or multiple performances.

About our Venues:

Our venues are Library spaces with capacities of between 40 and 80 people for performances and between 15 and 30 people for workshops (depending on the artist & type of activity).

Our activity programme fits around normal library opening times. Therefore your get-in time must be no more than 3 hours and the less time required the more options there will be for dates and start times. We can provide and operate basic PA, static lighting and backdrops but please note that our venues have no in-house technicians to support the setting up and running of additional equipment artists bring with them.

The space available at venues varies. Our smaller venues (approx 6 libraries) can offer a maximum performance area of 4m x 2m and 2m height. Our largest venues can accomodate most performance sizes (approx 6 libraries with a 2.8m height restiction). If your performance requires a much larger space please specify this as we have occasionally programmed in non-library venues. Flooring is variable with the majority of spaces being carpeted. There is currently limited raised staging available and seats are not raked. Please let us know of any issues this might cause with visibility of your arts activity, and ideas on how this might be addressed.

In this, our third year, we will be working with approximately 23 libraries, located in market towns and villages. This map shows the Cambridgeshire libraries.

How To Apply

‘Please  click here to view the open call for artists & performers and submit an online application suggesting material for The Library Presents menu for  Autumn 2020 (Oct-Dec 2020).’

A new year of rural dance: An eclectic mix of shows to visit village venues this Spring

A new year of rural dance: An eclectic mix of shows to visit village venues this Spring

Rural Touring Dance Initiative kicks off its 2020 with a programme of seven works from leading dance companies comprising new shows and returning favourites

  • Luca Silvestrini’s Protein – The Little Prince 25 Jan – 7 Feb
  • Mr and Mrs Clark – Louder Is Not Always Clearer 29 Feb – 19 Mar
  • Patfield and Triguero – Gibbon 5 – 14 Mar
  • Altered Skin – Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer 14 Mar – 1 May
  • Sadhana – Under my Skin 20 – 27 MarLost Dog – Juliet & Romeo 22 Apr – 12 Jun
  • Dan Watson – VENUS 24 Apr – TBC

Kicking off the start of a new decade and celebrating five years, the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) will tour a fresh selection of shows created by dance companies whose work has been enjoyed on both national and international stages and can now be seen in village halls and rural venues across the UK. The shows on offer have been selected by local promoters from ‘menus’ which enable them to choose the work that best suits their venue. 

The Spring touring shows are an eclectic mix of dance adaptations of classic novels and real-life stories and will visit an ever-growing audience in rural communities, taking them from East London to India, from holiday camps to operating theatres. The initiative is a partnership between the National Rural Touring Forum, The Place, China Plate and Take Art.

Based on the internationally adored story by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince is brought to life using Luca Silvestrini’s Protein’s award-winning mix of dance, humour and text, inviting us to look at the world through one’s heart and to reconnect with our inner child. Upon landing on planet Earth, the Little Prince is welcomed by a mysterious snake and a truly wise and friendly fox before encountering the lone pilot. Together they discover the power and beauty of friendship and the complexity of love.

As a child Dan Watson lost a British holiday-camp dance competition, largely because he totally misunderstood what competitive dance was, and they didn’t play his song of choice: Venus by Bananarama. Combining contemporary dance, confessional and comedy, VENUS is the dance he would have performed had he known better, had he been braver.

Breakout juggling stars Chris Patfield & José Triguero present Gibbon, 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.

Developed in association with a leading surgeon Under My Skin is a show about surgery and operating theatres drawing on classical Indian dance technique Bharata Natyam and real-life surgical procedures. Three razor-sharp dancers invite the audience to share an insider’s perspective on surgical procedures, where intricate detail, timing and precisely controlled exchanges are not just an artistic goal, but a matter of life or death.

Louder Is Not Always Clearer follows Jonny, a teacher, an artist, a campaigner and an avid football fan. He’s just become a father, and he is deaf. He loves to dance, but he can’t hear the music unless the bass is turned right up. Louder Is Not Always Clearer focuses on the importance of connection with others and the struggle to do so affectively and a warm, humorous and honest portrayal of a man perceived to be full of confidence, who is inwardly vulnerable and at times isolated.

After winning the 2017 Rural Touring Award for the most innovative and inspirational show for their previous show, Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) Ben Duke’s Lost Dog return with Juliet & Romeo which imagines Shakespeare’s infamous lovers as middle-aged and in therapy. Through its playful blend of dance, theatre and comedy, Lost Dog picks apart out cultural obsession with youth and our inability to accept uncomfortable truths.

And returning to the rural touring circuit after Autumn touring dates, Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer sees Complicité Associate Shane Shambhu reflect on his personal journey of growing up in east London, learning and performing Indian dance in the UK, and plays with the ways in which race, language, identity and culture have defined him.

Speaking about the forthcoming season RTDI Project Manager Claire Smith said “Rural schemes and audiences are so looking forward to the RTDI spring season. Across the country we are seeing audiences confidence and enthusiasm for our RTDI brand of dance/theatre grow year on year. People who have never thought of going to see dance are returning, showing a loyalty to companies who are returning with their second or third show as well as embracing companies that are new to the scheme. The quality and diversity continues to impress.”     

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.

Listings information 

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

Luca Silvestrini’s Protein – The Little Prince

Mr and Mrs Clark – Louder is Not Always Clearer

Patfield and Triguero – Gibbon

Sadhana – Under My Skin

Lost Dog – Juliet & Romeo

Dan Watson  – VENUS

Altered Skin – Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer

Flicks in the Sticks employ five young people to engage new audiences

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thanks to funding from the BFI (British Film Institute), rural cinema Flicks in the Sticks has been able to employ five young people as Cultural Coordinators in a bid to reach and engage new audiences through film events specifically for young adults.

Based in and around market towns in Shropshire and Herefordshire; Whitchurch, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Leominster and also Welshpool, the Coordinators aim to work closely with groups of local young people to organise film screenings for those aged 16-30.

The funding has given jobs to young people who are passionate about film and are keen to organise events with, and support attendance by, other young people with similar interests. It is important to Flicks in the Sticks that we expand our audiences to include more people under 35.

We hope to learn from the new audiences how we can make Flicks more accessible to under-represented groups and offer a much more social event, moving away from the trend of watching films on a phone or tablet. With the introduction of streaming sites like Netflix, iPlayer and YouTube and the costs of travelling and going to mainstream cinema, rural young adults are increasingly engaging with film at home.

Director of Arts Alive, Ian Kerry says;

“We are really excited to have received this support from the BFI, and we are now in a position to employ some young people to deliver this great project. If you are between 16 and 30 and want to screen films in a venue of your choice now is your chance to get in touch!”

Tune in to BBC Radio Shropshire to hear Cultural Coordinators Polly and Jo on The Seven O’Clock Show: Thursday 14th November, 7pm

Flicks in the Sticks, the flagship project of rural touring scheme Arts Alive, delivers over 1000 high quality film events to village hall and community venues across Shropshire, Herefordshire and beyond. In 2018 alone, 48,000 people attended a Flicks screening. This year Flicks in the Sticks celebrates 20 years of bringing a wide range of cultural film to local audiences.

If you are interested in putting on a film screening for people between the ages of 18-30, please contact info@artsalive.co.uk

Rural Touring Dance Initiative Autumn 2019 Dates

This Autumn seven dance companies will tour rurally with the support of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative.

To find out more information and individual ticket prices and box office numbers please visit the Scheme websites directly. Wherever possible links direct to event pages are listed.


Nikki and JD – Knot

24 Sep The Guildhall, St Ives TR26 2DS | Carn to Cove (Cornwall) https://www.carntocove.co.uk/
27 Sep West Buckland School Theatre EX32 0SX | https://beaford.org/
29 Sep, 7:30pm. Gillingham School Hall, SP8 4QR.  https://artsreach.co.uk/
2 Oct Steiner Academy, Much Dewhurst, HR2 8DL | Arts Alive, Shrop. Herefordshire www.artsalive.co.uk
4 Oct University of Worcester WR2 6AJ | Live and Local www.liveandlocal.org.uk
5 Oct Dance Blast Abergavenny NP7 5UD | Night Out, Wales www.nightout.org.uk

7th Oct Allendale Village Hall, Leadgate, Allendale, N’land NE47 9PR  www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

11 Oct Goxhill Memorial Hall DN19 7JJ| Artery/Live Lincs, East Riding/Lincolnshire https://blaize.uk.net/category/livelincs/
12 Oct Appleby Hub CA16 6QR | Highlights, Cumbria and Northumberland www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

Mr and Mrs Clarke – Louder is not always clearer

14 Nov TBC | Air in G – Strike A Light https://www.strikealightfestival.org.uk/

Alleyne Dance – A Night’s Game

21 – 22 Oct Gloucester University | Air in G – Strike A Light https://www.strikealightfestival.org.uk/

Thu 7 Nov 7pm Assembly Rooms Barton Upon Humber DN18 5QP https://blaize.uk.net/category/livelincs/

9 Nov Newlyn Village Hall TR18 5AR | Carn to Cove, Cornwall https://www.carntocove.co.uk/
14 Nov Drimpton Village Hall DT8 3RT| Artsreach, Dorset https://artsreach.co.uk/

Patfield and Triguero – Gibbon   

21 Nov Portsoy  Church Hall AB45 2QB| NEAT http://neatshows.co.uk
22 Nov Lindow Hall  Bowness-on-Solway CA7 5AF | Arts Out West, West Cumbria www.kirkgatearts.org.uk/arts-out-west/ 
23 Nov St. Thomas Church Hall, Stanhope DL13 2UE | Highlights, Cumbria and Northumberland www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

James Wilton – Leviathan

26 Oct Lyceum Studio, Crewe CW1 2DA | Cheshire www.cheshireruraltouringarts.co.uk
23 Nov Bolton Abbey Village Hall BD23 6EX | Rural Arts North Yorkshire https://www.ruralarts.org/
26 Nov The Pound Arts Centre, Corsham SN13 9HX | Wiltshire http://www.poundarts.org.uk
28 Nov Wem Town Hall SY4 5DG| Arts Alive, Shrop. Herefordshire www.artsalive.co.uk
30 Nov West Buckland School Theatre EX32 0SX | https://beaford.org/

Lost Dog – Juliet and Romeo

17 & 18 Aug Jevington Barn BN26 5QB | Applause, Kent/Sussex https://www.applause.org.uk/
18 Oct Grand Pier, Weston Super Mare BS23 1AL | Theatre Orchard, Somerset http://theatreorchard.org.uk
19 Oct Brimpsfield Village Hall GL4 8LD | Air in G http://airing.co.uk/
24 Oct Thimble Mill Library, Smethick B67 5RJ | Black Country Touring http://bctouring.co.uk/
26 Oct Colston Bassett Events (Nottinghamshire) | Live and Local http://www.liveandlocal.org.uk/
27 Oct Dronfield Heritage Trust S18 1PX| Live and Local http://www.liveandlocal.org.uk/

Altered Skin – Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer

19 October Weaver Hall, Northwich CW9 8AB | Cheshire Rural Touring Arts www.cheshireruraltouringarts.co.uk
1 Nov Calstock Arts PL18 9QX | Carn to Cove https://www.carntocove.co.uk/
9 Nov Tarvin Community Centre CH3 8LY | Cheshire Rural Touring Arts www.cheshireruraltouringarts.co.uk
10 Nov Goostrey Village Hall CW4 8PE | Cheshire Rural Touring Arts www.cheshireruraltouringarts.co.uk
15 Nov Roadwater Village Hall, TA23 0RE | Take Art (Somerset) https://takeart.org/

MBE Recognition For Rural Touring Sector

Champion of rural touring, John Laidlaw of Live & Local and National Rural Touring Forum (Sector) receives MBE in Queen’s Birthday 2019 Honours

The Queen’s Birthday Honours List recognises the achievements of a wide range of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom. Each recipient exemplifies the very best of our nation.

John has played a significant role in developing the rural arts touring sector in this country, helping bring local communities together to enjoy high-quality professional live theatre, music and dance shows.

John Laidlaw said:

‘Initially flabbergasted and then honoured and then when I found out how it had happened, hugely grateful to all the people who had supported the process. It’s great to be recognised personally for something that you’ve put most of your working life into… but I also think it is a great accolade for the Rural Touring sector. Without the dedication of many other people over many years getting the sector to the scale and respect it now has, the MBE wouldn’t have been possible.’

Holly Lombardo, Director of National Rural Touring (NRTF) said:

‘We are thrilled that someone in Rural Touring has been awarded such esteemed recognition. John has had such a huge and positive influence on the sector and the National Rural Touring Forum directly. His ten years at the helm of NRTF were instrumental in broadening the national feel and influence of the rural touring sector. We at NRTF feel this is acknowledgement for the whole sector and all who work tirelessly for Rural Arts’

About John Laidlaw:

John Laidlaw studied Estate Management, Geomorphology and Archaeology at Reading University between 1974 to 1978, but his love of student theatre led him to work as a stage manager, first at Butlins (Filey, North Yorkshire), and then at the De la Warr Pavilion in East Sussex. He then went to Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry ending up as acting Chief Electrician.

From 1985-1991, he was the Production Manager for the Tic Toc Theatre Company in Coventry who ran temporary performance spaces at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival each year. The company also produced small-scale touring theatre shows each year to equipped and non-equipped venues, two local community tours and ran their own alternative comedy club. The company converted an old bingo hall in Coventry into the Tic Toc which would later become the Kasbah Nightclub.

In 1992, he was contracted to run the touring scheme in Warwickshire ultimately becoming Executive Director of Live & Local which has now become one of the largest Rural Touring networks within the UK, working across eight counties in the Midlands. In a volunteer capacity, John served as Chair of the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) for a decade until July 2017. Through his work on the board and as Director of Live & Local he has helped to bring professional art and artists to under-served rural communities in every corner of the UK. Within his work for the NRTF he has also helped other countries to develop their rural touring networks, including Australia and New Zealand.

About Live & Local:

The Live & Local Rural & Community Touring Scheme began in 1992. It supports a network of voluntary organisations bringing their communities together to enjoy entertaining, affordable and professional live theatre, storytelling, music, dance and film screenings in their local village hall, church or school. Developing out of a Warwickshire scheme that had originally started in 1987, Live & Local expanded to Staffordshire in 1995, Derbyshire in 2002, Worcestershire in 2011, and Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland in 2015. Today Live & Local is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation co-ordinating over 650 theatre, music, film and dance performances in 250 rural communities across eight counties attended by around 34,000 people every year.

Live & Local initiated DART (Developing Artists & Art for Rural Touring) in 2013 thanks to initial funding from Worcestershire County Council. DART has supported nearly 50 artists/ companies wishing to work within rural communities, with mentoring, bursaries, and connections to audiences/ promoters. The initiative has also supported the creation of new and exciting work for rural/ community touring audiences.

Big Picture Show is a community cinema service provided by Live & Local which enables communities to programme films in their local halls, with everything needed from the technical set-up to marketing materials.

About National Rural Touring Forum:

National Rural Touring Forum is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation supporting and promoting the importance of professional rural arts and touring through a network of programming schemes. Each year, across the UK schemes work with 1,650 promoting groups, undertaking 110,000 voluntary hours, putting on productions to over 332,000 audience members who spend more than £1,000,000 on ticketed events. Rural touring is an innovative and thriving cultural sector equalling out opportunities for countryside audiences to access the arts.

Supporting quotes:

‘The rural touring sector is essential in ensuring that rurally isolated communities secure and maintain access to high-quality arts provision and the part John has played as Chair of NRTF has been essential in ensuring that these communities’ benefit from a nationwide network of support and provision.’ Peter Knott, Area Director, Midlands, Arts Council England

‘John has expanded the provision of high-quality arts and entertainment throughout the midlands bringing thousands of professional shows to under-served rural communities.’ David Porter, Company Secretary to the NRTF board

‘Through John’s leadership of the NRTF a strong cross-pollination of ideas and experiences has informed and enlivened the work that we do in Western Australia and is creating opportunities for UK artists and promoters in the UK and beyond.’ Philippa Maughan, Investment Director, Country Arts WA (Western Australia)

‘We are thrilled that someone in Rural Touring has been awarded such esteemed recognition. John has had such a huge and positive influence on the sector and the National Rural Touring Forum directly. His ten years at the helm of NRTF were instrumental in broadening the national feel and influence of the rural touring sector. We at NRTF feel this is acknowledgement for the whole sector and all who work tirelessly for Rural Arts’ Holly Lombardo, Director of National Rural Touring (NRTF)

ENDS

For interviews or more information please contact:
Johanna Dorey or Mollie Davidson at Live & Local on 01926 402 173
or email johanna@liveandlocal.org.uk / mollie@liveandlocal.org.uk
or Holly Lombardo, Director, National Rural Touring Forum. For more information contact holly@nrtf.org.uk 07905896303 (private number for Journalists only)

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. Live & Local should always be presented with an ampersand. The company is not known by any other variation of this spelling.
  2. Live & Local co-ordinates a rural & community touring scheme helping a network of over 250 village halls and community venues – in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire (Shindig), Leicestershire & Rutland (Centre Stage), Lincolnshire (Lincolnshire Rural Community Touring) and Nottinghamshire (Village Ventures) – choose and promote professional entertainment: from music, theatre, storytelling and dance, to magic, puppet and children’s & family shows. For more information visit: liveandlocal.org.uk
  3. Live & Local is one of over 27 similar schemes across the UK who are represented by the National Rural Touring Forum, making it possible for local people to enjoy professional performances in a venue close to home. Combined these schemes promote over 2,800 shows every year, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people in over 2,000 rural communities from the Scottish Islands to the Isle of Wight. For more information visit: ruraltouring.org
  4. Live & Local shows are supported by County, District and Borough Councils, Arts Council England and local volunteer promoters.
  5. Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) is given for an outstanding achievement or service to the community. It is intended that this award will have a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others. For more information visit: gov.uk/honours/types-of-honours-and-awards
  6. National Rural Touring Forum: NRTF is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation that networks, supports and advocates for the rural touring sector and as an organisation this enables them to operate in a lean and environmentally sustainable way. HQ in Stanford Dingley is a walk commute for the Director, who works in a small but perfectly formed recycled summer house, with no carbon footprint and shows smart use of limited public funds and resource. This has inspired the provocation.

Twitter: @live_local @ruraltouring
Facebook: @live.local @ruraltouring

Spot On Lancashire: Digital Commission Call Out

Spot On have secured funding from Arts Council England to develop a new digital arts strand. This will be the first commission in what they hope will be a long series of commissions over the next few years.

The plan is for the finished piece to ‘tour’ to libraries and village halls across Lancashire in October/November 2019 with a possible launch during National Libraries Week in 7-12 October 2019. At the beginning of December, the work will be shared nationally as part of our new digital gallery on the Spot On Website.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in? Take a look at the full brief and make an application.

Deadline: Monday 1st July, 12 noon.

Download the brief ‘Spot On digital commission 2019 call out brief’ from the box on the right.

North East Arts Touring awarded Young Start Community Fund grant

North  East  Arts  Touring(NEAT)are  delighted  to  announce  that  they  have  been  awarded twoyear  funding  from  the Young StartNational Lottery Community fund to continue and develop their Young Promoters Scheme. The initiative is aimed at young people aged 13 –25 years; enabling them to programme professional theatre productions and cinema screenings  in  their  communities. The  scheme  focuses  on  empowering  young  people  to  become  active  volunteer promoters in their community while learning transferable skills in event and arts management. 

The National Lottery Community Fund Scotland Chair, Maureen McGinn, said: “I am delighted that North East Arts Touring has been successful in securing Young Start funding. This award will make a big difference to the lives of local young people who will be at the heart of both project design and delivery. I wish the Young Promoters Scheme every success as it goes on to develop and expand its project to help young people reach their potential.”

The scheme was initiated by North East Arts Touring’sactive role in the creation of Youth Arts Collective North East, as part of Creative Scotland’s “Time to Shine” Initiate.The  Young Promoters Scheme  was  delivered in partnership with Aberdeen International Youth Festival in 2015.

Since its initiation ithas gone from strength to strength with over 312 young people in rural towns and villagesacrossAberdeenshire learningskills in programming and promoting professional theatre and dancein their community,with a further  2956  young  people  engagedin a  range  of  creative  learning and performance-basedopportunities.Adrianna Butka  a  young  promoter  from  Banff,  said “Through the process of the scheme it was amazing to work with arts professionals and know your part of something big. Promoting these shows gives me a big boost of confidence”

As an outcome of the project, NEAT is delightedto see a significant rise in young people attending professional theatre and danceperformances in rural communities.Lynn Shaw, NEAT’s Young Promoters Coordinator, said “Many of the young people we work with are isolated either geographically or through social deprivation. Up until now the scheme has been delivered in areas such as Banff, Whitehills, Alford and Peterhead. Receiving support from the Young Start fund will give us the opportunity to reach out to more young people in other rural communities across Aberdeenshire”

This is the only scheme of its kind in Aberdeenshire. Emyr Bell, Executive Director of the organisation, said, “Creativity plays  such  an  important  part  in  the  development  of  young  people,  having  the  opportunity  to  learn  life-long  and transferable skills is vital; we are so excited to embark on this new phase of the project through support from Young Start.”The scheme will restart at the beginning of June2019.