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Celebrating 25 Years of Artsreach

We’d like to wish Artsreach a very happy 25th birthday from all of here at the NRTF!

Throughout 2015 Dorset’s rural touring scheme marks its 25th birthday.

When Artsreach first launched in March 1990, just nine rural villages were signed up to host a live, professional performance in their community venue. Over the last 25 years, the scheme has grown gradually and now counts some sixty rural communities on its circuit, right across Dorset, with each venue run by a team of voluntary promoters. To date, Artsreach has brought a total of at least 3,300 professional live performances to the County, including international, national and local artists and spanning the genres of music, theatre, dance, children’s shows, comedy, cabaret and more.

Ian Scott, who is soon to retire as Director, reflected on the qualities of small scale and wide horizons that he hopes have always kept the scheme’s programming fresh and ‘hand made’ in feel.

You can see from the recent summer programme how unexpected elements of the programme can be. It was not that long ago that we received a call to say that the Landmark Trust had a special idea to celebrate its 50th anniversary – the installation of an Antony Gormley sculpture near the Clavell tower at Kimmeridge in Purbeck this May. The Trust had obtained funding to commission a celebratory choral piece to mark the occasion and we were lucky enough to be able to approach a local choir leader and her musicians and singers to work on this, alongside other musical contributions on the day from our friends associated with the South Dorset Ridgeway choir. We are, I suppose, mostly known for our winter indoor shows, usually in village halls, but have also recently enjoyed bringing outdoor theatre to the County, which provides an incredible range of atmospheric settings for live performance.”

Artsreach plans to celebrate with a special birthday event at The Exchange, Sturminster Newton on 24th September. Compered by poet Matt Harvey, audiences can expect appearances from members of klezmer band She’Koyokh, acclaimed Turkish vocalist Cigdem Aslan, singers from London based Bulgarian Voices and the agile string quartet Bowjangles. The event will unite friends and supporters of the scheme, both old and new, and will officially launch the new Artsreach Autumn Programme.

The collective achievement of volunteer promoters and top quality artists over the last twenty-five years has been extraordinary. As leading cultural analyst, Francois Matarasso recently said of rural touring:

audience and artists share a joyous experience, life enhancing and even, sometimes, life changing: regular marvels, indeed” Francois Matarasso, A Wider Horizon’