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Rachel’s New Directions blogs…

Rachel Mason is a 25 year old Arts Administrator and blogger based in Derbyshire. After graduating with a first in Fine Art Rachel has developed a love for everything behind the scenes in the art world. A true country girl, lover of the arts, writing and cake Rachel reviews theatre shows and exhibitions while also blogging about food and life. If you want to read more pop over to

Rachel works for Spring Bank Arts, one of rural touring scheme Live & Local’s venues, based in Derbyshire. Rachel attended New Directions 2016 and has written a series of blogs about the showcase. You can read one of her first blog posts below, featruing Milk Presents’ JOAN.

Any Direction By Rachel Mason

New Directions 2016, the National Rural Touring Forum Conference, if you say NRTF it rolls off the tongue a lot easier, was my first grand scale arts conference. It did not disappoint. From the opening speeches to the last piece of cake it was filled with interesting, clever and creative acts. Picking my top favourites and most memorable has been rather tough. Every act was different in a unique and witty way. I personally have never been a huge enthusiast of contemporary dance however I fell in love over the three-day conference! This New Directions pushed the boundaries of what rural touring can deliver and showcase.

I am currently flicking through my Artist Information pack completely struggling to narrow down my top few. How can you pick between a one-man drama act and a BMX dancer? As I type I am still not sure how I will write about the many different acts I got to see, it could go in any direction.

I am starting with one of the most transfixing called ‘JOAN’ which was the first act I saw at the conference. All the way from Domremy, which is in France thank you information pack I am shocked at my history and geography skills there, Milk Presents in association with Derby Theatre a funny and very moving drag king act. Via Soho and a few 600 years later this smart, unique show is a gripping story about Joan of Arc. I will add if you are not a massive history fan do not fear this story seizes any audience’s attention from start to finish. Even if you have no clue about the story of Joan of Arc, however you really should it’s kind of a big deal, this act will still send you on a mini emotional roller coaster that you will love from start to finish.

The simplistic staging first drew me in, which is always key for a rural touring act. The audience had the option of sitting on the stage around a central box or normal theatre style seating. There was very few props, a few mirrors, a box, a chair, done. This cabaret style act starred the very talented LoUis CYfer, who happens to be U.K’s number one Drag King and Winner of drag idol 2014.

“Emotional ballast and cross-dressing that looks like sorcery” – The Guardian.

Lucy Jane Parkinson aka LoUis CYfer (pictured below), tells the story of JOAN beautiful and effortlessly. We had the privilege of seeing a 20-minute snippet of the performance and I was captivated within the opening minute. I have never seen an act like it, I was laughing one minute sad and worried the next. Lucy took you through the pain and heartache of a historic struggle while making you feel comfortable for laughing at uncertain moments. The charm of the act was the welcoming, sharp and amazing talent of Lucy Jane Parkinson. I was left needing more then just 20 minutes!

Milk Presents – I strongly advice popping over to Milk Presents website for a detailed look with a teasing video clip of this dazzling act. I will be keeping an eye out for a performance I can go and see, I need to know how the story pans out, I want to see JOAN do her thing!

Now I do not want to give anything away when blogging about the acts I got to see, I do not want to spoil surprises or tell people how they should feel at certain parts so I will try and keep each post short. The magic behind these rural touring acts is you never know what to expect, each one twists you into new uncharted territory. So this is my first pick from New Directions 2016 the utterly gripping JOAN!

I would like to add a massive thank you to NRTF, China Plate, Carn to Cove, Falmouth University, Arts Council England, Live & Local and Spring Bank Arts for putting together this eventful conference and allowing me the chance to pop down south to sample such a wide range of brilliant artists!

NRTF would like to thank Rachel for her excellent blogs about New Directions and if you would like to read more then please visit her website. Milk Presents’ JOAN is playing at Edinburgh Fringe and you can find ticket information here.