Villages In Action: Job Opportunities

ViA is a charity that has been promoting the arts in southern Devon for over 25 years and offers a ‘menu’ of high-quality arts performances to a network of volunteer promoters who pick from the choice of events for their communities.

You will join the team at a key moment as we transition from an ACE-funded project led by Creative Kernow to a more autonomous organisation. We are interested in the distinctiveness of Devon and the opportunities for community-inspired activity to take ViA forward to the next stage of its development.

We are currently recruiting for the following vacancies (click on the job title to find out more about the position):

Development and Fundraising Consultant. 6 month freelance role

Digital and Touring Producer. 6 month freelance role

Creative Connector.6 month placement as part of the Government’s Kickstart scheme for 16-24 year olds.

Live & Local: Marketing & Publicity Assistant

£18,065 (Full-time @ 35 hrs per week/flexi time)

It is an exciting time to join Live & Local as the company continues working our range of partners, communities and stakeholders in the post COVID world. We support a network of over 300 voluntary organisations, across seven counties in the East and West Midlands, who choose and promote professional live performances and film screenings for their local community run venues.

The role is a key element within our team of 11 delivering sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with communities and audiences through consultation, participation and collaboration. You will help deliver the audience engagement and marketing plans for all Live & Local programmes using a mix of traditional, digital and engagement marketing techniques including supporting our network of local promoters. You will work across all aspects of communications and engagement including social media, digital channels, media relations, publications and events and support the delivery of our communications plan.

The successful candidate will have some marketing and communications experience (in both traditional and digital media), creative flair with an attention to detail, an interest in arts engagement, a good teamworking ethos plus a knowledge of and passion for the performing arts and film.  Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are required, good literacy, numeracy and computer skills and an understanding of the power of arts and culture at both professional and grassroots, community and voluntary level.

Live & Local works to a flexi-time system that allows employees to vary their working hours day to day within specified limits.

Live & Local is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England.

Deadline: Midday on Monday 31st May 2021.

Interviews: Tuesday 8th June. (Zoom)

Application: Via online application form only. Application pack available for download on our jobs page: www.liveandlocal.org.uk

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 Arts announce Keepsake Commission ‘Ask For Sophie’

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

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

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

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

Take Art Director of Rural Touring Job Advert

Job Role:  Director of Rural Touring

Salary: Up to £29,000 pro-rata according to experience

Hours: Flexible working hours comprising min 22.2 hours a week (P/T min 3 days a week), with the possibility of some additional hours

Since Take Art started in 1987 we have run one of the UK’s most celebrated Rural Touring programmes and it still remains a cornerstone priority for the organisation. Working in partnership with a network of volunteer promoters across Somerset, the programme offers extraordinary and memorable arts experiences to thousands of people each year.  Rural Touring keeps villages alive and vibrant and provides an important link in the touring chain for many professional companies and artists.

We are seeking an experienced person to deliver the Rural Touring programme to Somerset communities; to advocate it as one of Take Art’s Specialisms, to develop partnerships with local volunteer promoters and make relationships with performers and companies to bring an ambitious and diverse range of work into the county.  This cross artform range of work might include theatre, music, dance, puppetry, film, spoken word etc and will involve local, national and international companies. Attending showcases and festivals in UK and further afield and pro-actively seeking innovative, diverse work, as well as supporting the volunteers by attending the local shows, is a key part of the role.

In addition, the postholder will be part of a senior management team within Take Art and will contribute to the development of the business plan and other aspects of the professional working environment of the organisation. As such, drive, vision, proven fundraising and project delivery experience are all essential criteria in determining the right person for this post. 

Due to Take Art’s rural location it is essential that you have access to your own means of transport.

Take Art is committed to equality and strives to create a diverse and inclusive working environment that reflects the diversity of the UK population. Our recruitment process is open to all, but we particularly wish to encourage applicants from backgrounds that are currently under-represented within the sector as well as our organisation. We value the positive impact that increased diversity will bring to Take Art.

For further information and to download an application pack please see the Take Art website at www.takeart.org

Application Deadline: 12 noon on Monday 7th June 2021 Interviews:  Friday 16th July at the COVID secure Take Art offices at The Mill, Flaxdrayton Farm, South Petherton, Somerset, TA13 5LR.

INN CROWD After Hours

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

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

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

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

The season 

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

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

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

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

More information on the selected artists, or to book head to the INN CROWD website www.inncrowd.org.uk 

Notes to editors 

Byron Vincent’s – Instagramming the Apocalypse 

Date: 24/04/202, 20:00  

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

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

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

James McDermott’s  – Manatomy 

Date: 22/05/2020, 20:00 (tbc) 

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

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

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

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

John Osborne’s – Supermarket Love Stories 

Date: 26/06/2020, 20:00 (tbc)  

Run Time: TBC 

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

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

Notes to Editors 

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

Further information from Inn Crowd Project Manager Samantha Steer inncrowd@applause.org.uk 

 www.inncrowd.org.uk  

Applause & South Downs National Park ‘Full Harvest’

Applause Rural Touring and South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) announce Full Harvest – a series of audio stories and poems inspired by the South Downs landscape available as podcasts this summer.

Seven writers have been commissioned to pen ten audio stories/poems.  The writers are an exciting mix of established and early-career authors who will each provide their unique perspectives on the much-loved South Downs. Each writer is focusing on one of the magical rivers that weave across the landscape. 

The writers will be spending time engaging with the communities that live and work in the landscape to explore the untold stories of everyday people.

Listeners will be able to access these stories through listening apps like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Overcast and Pockets Casts.  Audiences can plug in and listen while they walk and explore the landscape, or enjoy at their leisure.

Full Harvest is a development of the highly successful Writer in Residence project that was delivered in partnership with SDNPA in 2019. The outcome was a one-person play called Cherry Soup that toured to nine venues and became a digital audio story aired on BBC Radio Sussex.  While developing Cherry Soup, writer and director Sara Clifford gathered many stories from people in the community.  Full Harvest looks to tell more of these community stories, encompassing a diverse range of voices to discover what the landscape means to people from many walks of life.  Sara Clifford returns to this project focussing on The River Ouse, which runs to Newhaven and the Adur in West Sussex.  She is interested to explore how people for whatever reason may have felt the South Downs is inaccessible for them and how she can connect them to the landscape, history and culture.

‘The Full Harvest has developed from the project I undertook in 2019, as Writer in Residence for the South Downs National Park and Applause, Cherry Soup.  This new project widens the reach to a diverse group of seven writers, and each one of us is focusing on one of the magical number of seven rivers that run across the Park from East to West – its history, geography and stories, and particularly the people that live and work there – to tell new and untold stories of those people and our own responses as artists, to be recorded as podcasts that can be listened to on site.’

Sara Clifford

The ability to access open space has been highlighted through lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions.  Full Harvest champions the positive impact outdoor space can have on well-being and resilience. It aims to link more people to their local landscape, its history, its wildlife and habitat.

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

‘The rivers of the South Downs are its lifeblood, reflecting both its chalk geology and the complex ecosystems of habitat, animal and plant life that make this place so special. The Full Harvest is a chance to celebrate those rivers through the eyes of contemporary writers, who will draw on history, geography and place to weave new stories. It’s always exciting to experience the landscape in different ways.’

The podcasts will be launched to the public during the summer of 2021 and will be available to download and listen on the SDNP and Applause websites and popular listening platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts:

https://www.southdowns.gov.uk    /   www.applause.org.uk

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

Writers

Sara Clifford – focussing on the River Ouse and Adur

Sara studied English at Manchester University and has an MA in Screenwriting. Her first play, Some Sunny Day, was selected by both Paines Plough and the Soho theatre, as part of their Writers’ Development programmes, and she has gone on to write over forty plays including commissions for the Soho Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Nottingham Playhouse, and her work has been produced in France, Italy, Guadeloupe and Hong Kong. 

As Writer/ Artistic Director of her company, Inroads, she works with local communities to create place-based work rooted in their stories. Sara will be writing two audio stories for Full Harvest and will explore the River Ouse and the River Adur, she is interested in exploring how the river has shaped the local community and its stories from industry and jobs, to the environment and leisure and how local people view it today.

For more information on lead writer Sara Clifford here http://www.inroads.org.uk/

Lucy Flannery – focussing on the River Meon and Itchen

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

Sarah Hehir – focussing on the River Ouse

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


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

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

Rosanna Lowe – focusssing on the River Arun

Rosanna is an experienced writer, theatre director and performer. Theatre work has included devised work for The Young Vic and La Mama NY and writing two community plays for Wellingborough Castle.  She has worked in travel writing, winning awards with the Royal Geographical Society Award and The Times Young Travel Writer. She wrote Volcanoland, a travel narrative about Guatemala, collecting extraordinary stories and testimonies about the civil war and its aftermath. In 2019, she was the commissioned writer on the Goonhilly Village Green Project, a multidisciplinary festival celebrating the nature, heritage and community of Goonhilly Downs.  

She has worked on engagement projects with arts organisation MSL in Hastings and created a set of audio story poems called Ordinary Extraordinary based on Hastings residents.  Rosanna has run a creative writing programme for women in Holloway Prison and writing for wellbeing sessions online for Arts on Prescription, which caters for people with health inequalities including M.E., depression, anxiety, PTSD and brain injury. 

Theo Toksvig-Stewart – focusing on the River Rother

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

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

Merrie Williams – focussing on the Hidden river in Brighton

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

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

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

Notes to Editors

  • Full Harvest is commissioned by Applause Rural Touring in partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority
  • Applause Rural Touring is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation based in Kent, a rural touring scheme that supports communities throughout the South East to access professional theatre, music and other performing arts. Applause is committed to commissioning and supporting artists and companies to make, produce and tour exciting new work across our region.
  • The South Downs National Park is the third largest National Park in England and has the largest National Park population, with 117,000 residents. The National Park has a rich cultural heritage, with four market towns, 5,860 listed buildings and 616 scheduled monuments. From rolling hills to bustling market towns, the South Downs National Park’s landscapes cover 1,600km2 of breath-taking views and hidden gems, including 18 distinctive landscapes and 13 European wildlife sites. The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) is responsible for keeping the South Downs a special place and is also the planning authority for the National Park. The Authority is a public body, funded by government, and run by a Board of 27 Members.
  • Further information and images please contact: Georgette Purdey  marketing@applause.org.uk 07894 145328

www.applause.org.uk       www.southdowns.gov.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.

Pubs, poems, positivity: National poem of thanks to resilient publicans and ‘Winter Warmers’ pub poetry collection unveiled

A ‘National Poem of Thanks to Our Nation’s Publicans’ has been released today by arts project INN CROWD and Pub is The Hub to thank publicans for their resilience and continuing support of their local communities during this Covid-19 pandemic, despite the huge challenges they continue to face themselves.

The poem’s release marks the launch of a ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign, a collaboration between INN CROWD and Pub is The Hub, the not-for-profit independent organisation that offers specialist advice on the diversification of services at rural pubs and ways publicans can support their local communities.

 The ‘Winter Warmers’ initiative is based on a collection of seven heart-warming poems about pubs, specially commissioned by INN CROWD, who work with pubs to provide them access to professional live literature, which is specially commissioned for pub audiences.

The poems have been written by poets in six regions across England, with the initiative aiming to bring cheer and hope to publicans, their staff and their communities and to help keep people connected during this challenging start to 2021 with this current lockdown.

Watch the ‘Winter Warmers’ poem here: https://inncrowd.org.uk/winter-warmers/

Praise for resilient publicans

The thank you poem for publicans is called the ‘The Public House’. It has been written and performed by poet and actress Alexandra Ewing, the daughter of a former publican who grew up in pubs in Suffolk. Ewing also, until last year, worked for a decade as front of house staff in the hospitality industry, including pubs. 

Alexandra Ewing said: “I hope the poem will make publicans really smile and that they will feel incredibly proud of how much talent they have and how much their presence is felt, even when it doesn’t feel like it is.”

Victoria MacDonald, publican of the Cellar House in Eaton, near Norwich, said: “After such a tough 2020 for the pub industry and such a challenging start to 2021 it is wonderful that Pub is The Hub and INN CROWD have thanked publicans in this way. It is a really beautiful and touching poem.”

Watch the thank you poem here: www.inncrowd.org.uk/2021/01/13/alexandra-ewing-the-public-house-rumbles/

‘Pubs still key hubs of support’

During this lockdown many pubs have again been offering essential services to people in their local communities, including phone support to those at risk of loneliness, grocery shops, takeaway and delivery food and meals for the elderly and those financially stretched.

John Longden, chief executive of Pub is The Hub, said: “Despite the immense challenges and pressures publicans have endured, and continue to face during this pandemic and current lockdown, many pubs are still a key hub of practical and wellbeing support for many people in their local communities.” 

He adds: “Publicans and their teams have worked tirelessly and selflessly to help support others and keep them safe and we wanted to do something to say a special thank you and recognise their efforts. We hope they enjoy these lovely poems.”

Postcards of positivity

Many publicans are sharing the ‘Winter Warmers’ poems with their locals on social media or putting them up as posters in pub windows.

Selected pubs around the country are also receiving ‘postcards of positivity’, featuring the ‘Winter Warmers’ poem written by the poet from their region. The idea is for publicans to use the postcards to help spread cheer and keep them connected with people in their local community. Publicans are planning to use the postcards in food boxes, in takeaway and delivery food bags and to reach out to customers who may be at risk of experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Positive collaboration of arts and pubs

The ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign sees two industries, pubs and the arts, which are among the sectors most detrimentally impacted by the pandemic join forces in a positive collaboration.

INN CROWD’s Dawn Badland said:These two sectors make an invaluable contribution to our society, and it is brilliant to be able to come together with Pub is The Hub to do something positive for the publicans and artists working in these hard-hit industries.”

INN CROWD will continue to support local pubs this year through its bespoke events which help keep publicans connected with their communities and also with digital poetry performances which will enable them to reach a wider audience, whether people can make it to the pub or not.  

Creative residencies

Its work last year included residencies with pubs to help support artists, publicans and their communities. Remotely delivered residencies included a lockdown zoom sharing of audio stories with locals of The Dog Inn, Belthorn, Lancashire and a new song written for the community of The White Lion in Selling, Kent, celebrating the rich tradition of carol singing in pubs. Before Christmas INN CROWD also released a short collection of poems by poet Arji Manuelpillai, who worked with the community of Allhallows in Kent, conducting remote phone meetings to devise the collection.

Pic captions: Poetry in motion: Poet Alexandra Ewing reads her poem written in thanks to our nation’s publicans to licensee Victoria MacDonald of the Cellar House, near Norwich.

In praise of pubs: This group of talented artists have written poems in praise of pubs for the Pub is The Hub and INN CROWD ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign

*For further press information contact Georgette Purdey, marketing@applause.org.uk, 07894145328

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.