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Our Highlights From 2014

We’ve had another fantastic year in 2014 – here are some of our highlights from the past 12 months:

Our partnership with Contact Theatre started 2014 with a 42-date tour of The Novice Detective by Sophie Willan, involving 14 rural touring schemes and their young promoter groups, 81 creative workshops for young people and over 1,600 audience members. Sophie was the winner of the 2012 Flying Solo Rural Touring commission and the NRTF/Contact partnership is now working with Jackie Hagan, the 2013 winner, on her show Some People Have Too Many Legs. Jackie showcased work in progress at our New Directions event in July and is now working with Take Art and Beaford Arts and audiences of young people on developing the show for a 2015 tour.

Our partnership with PANDA (Performing Arts Network and Development Agency) on their pitching and mentoring scheme saw eight companies invited in March to pitch to a panel made up of touring scheme representatives and voluntary promoters. A full overview of the 2014 pitching and mentoring scheme can be found in this article.  Chanje Kunda, one of the artists selected to pitch, was invited to our New Directions showcase in July, presenting an excerpt from Amsterdam. Chanje’s work was very well received at New Directions  and it’s hoped that she’ll soon be appearing in village halls around the country.

We were also delighted to work with Rasa theatre company to bring a tour of States of Verbal Undress to 13 rural and small-scale venues in the Spring this year, supported by workshops and post-show Q&A’s. One of the key aims for the project was to look at ways of developing new audiences for culturally diverse work in rural areas and an evaluation of the tour can be found here.

Our bi-annual New Directions showcase in July saw over 100 delegates and 38 performers and companies take over York Theatre Royal for three days of fantastic showcases, discussions and networking. A new addition to the showcase was the Little Festival of Everything at the Fauconberg Arms pub in Coxwold, an evening of showcase performances in non-traditional spaces. 2014 also saw a focus on dance for rural touring for the first time, with four dance companies showcasing their work. Philip Holyman, of Little Earthquake, has written about a theatre maker’s experience of New Directions and Cate Latchford told us about her experience of the event as a voluntary promoter. A summary of the feedback from the event can be found here.

Panta Rei Danseteater at New Directions 2014

Our successful partnership with Jazz Services continued, with the Jazz Services Rural Touring Support Scheme supporting high quality jazz artists to tour rural venues across the UK. The winners of the awards for 2014 – Fumi Okiji’s Old Time Jazz Band, Sue Richardson and Heads South – all took part in the Jazz Services showcase at New Directions and have been on the road throughout the Autumn, continuing their tours into 2015.

We were very pleased to be able to announce that the NRTF was successful in its application to remain an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) for 2015-18. This continued support from Arts Council England means that the NRTF will be able to continue our work in strengthening and supporting the rural touring sector and promoting a better understanding of the value of rural and community touring.

Finally, we’ve been continuing with the development of our website as a tool to support our members in networking; sharing news, information and resources; and collaborating on booking tours. As our membership base grows, with associate membership now open to artists, companies, small venues, producers, promoters and festivals, we’re currently looking into how we can develop the site further in the future to make it an invaluable resource for the rural touring network. Feedback from members shows that the site continues to be a useful resource: 73% of NRTF members visit the website 1-4 times a month, 81% of members find the weekly discussion updates useful and 61% of touring schemes have booked performers and companies after they’ve posted information on a forthcoming tour on the site’s discussion boards.

With exciting plans in the pipeline for 2015 we’re looking forward to another fantastic year for rural touring!