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.
‘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)
For interviews or more information please contact:
Johanna Dorey or Mollie Davidson at Live & Local on 01926 402 173
or email firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
or Holly Lombardo, Director, National Rural Touring Forum. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org 07905896303 (private number for Journalists only)
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Live & Local should always be presented with an ampersand. The company is not known by any other variation of this spelling.
- 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
- 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
- Live & Local shows are supported by County, District and Borough Councils, Arts Council England and local volunteer promoters.
- 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
- 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