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Three year Rural Touring Dance Initiative launches

The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) today launches a major three year project which will substantially increase dance touring in rural England, Wales and Scotland. The launch takes place on the second day of the NRTF’s three day Annual Conference, this year held in Wymondham, Norfolk with speakers including Arts Council England’s Michelle Dickson. Aimed at addressing the current underrepresentation of dance in rural touring, (Arts Council England’s ‘Rural evidence and data review’ (March 2015) found that only 2% of NPO funded dance companies toured to rural areas in 2012/13), The Rural Touring Dance Initiative will have a total budget of £500,000 (£379,560 of which represents a successful bid to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund).  Planning for the three year programme started in May 2015 with the project finishing in July 2018.

Phoenix Dance (c) Richard Moran

The project will be delivered in partnership with one of the UK’s premier centres for contemporary dance, The Place, independent theatre studio and development specialists, China Plate and Somerset’s rural touring scheme and county dance agency, Take Art. Activity will include dance performance touring to rural areas, with a total of 115 shows being promoted in partnership with NRTF member rural touring schemes UK-wide through two menus of work running September to May 16/17 and September to May 17/18. The first menu of work will be offered to schemes in January 2016, and will include work from Phoenix Dance, Sonia Sabri, SpiltMilk, and Norwegian Dance Company Panta Rei.

Ralph Lister, Development Director for NRTF comments:

“This is a really exciting opportunity to raise the quality and range of dance work available to audiences living in rural areas. The Initiative is also an invitation to dance companies to discover the delights that rural touring can offer. Each of the project partners bring a complementary set of knowledge skills to the initiative and in addition we acknowledge the crucial role our rural touring scheme members will play, developing and supporting volunteer village promoters to expand their appetite for dance.”

Sonia Sabri Company

The project will also include a week-long ‘Darkroom’ residency for four dance companies to develop ideas for rural touring. This will take place in November 2015 and will include time spent working in a village hall environment. Two companies will then be offered seed commissions of £3,600 each to further develop shows.

A full production award of £45,000 will be given to a company for a show to tour as part of the second menu.

Eddie Nixon, Director of Theatre and Artist Development, The Place comments:

“We’re delighted to be working with NRTF, China Plate and Take Art on this project. We’re looking forward to introducing rural audiences around the country to the rich diversity of performance that dance artists are making at the moment, and to supporting those dance artists to embrace the huge opportunities that rural touring has to offer.

As part of our artist development programme at The Place, we work with dance makers to develop new audiences and build sustainable livelihoods, as well as to hone their craft, and this project supports all these areas in an exciting new direction.”

SpliltMilk Dance (c) James Dodd

Michelle Dickson, Director Touring and Director North, Arts Council England comments:

‘I am delighted that we are supporting the Rural Touring Dance Initiative through our National Lottery funded Strategic touring programme. This project has been driven by the rural demand for exceptional performance. The partnership between Take Art, The Place and China Plate will not only create and tour high quality dance to audiences in village halls across the country, but it will also develop skills in rural touring in dance companies and local promoters which should help to ensure a long term legacy.’

Panta Rei Danseteater

The project will also include two 2.5 day ‘Introduction to Rural Touring’ ‘labs’ aimed at dance companies wanting to engage with rural touring, Children & Young People Residencies, and an enhanced dance showcase at  NRTF’s Annual Conference in July 2016 and July 2017.

Marketing support will be provided by a co-ordinator who will be appointed to the project, alongside ‘Go & See’ grants which will enable less confident touring schemes wishing to promote dance to either visit schemes who have a track record in putting on dance shows or to invite a successful touring scheme promoting dance to visit them.


Companies and artists who are interested in applying can visit to download an application form and FAQs. The closing date for applications is at 10am on Friday 11 September 2015.