Case Studies & Blog
Nicola Pollard – On Tour with Up The Road Theatre
One of our brilliant trustees, Nicola Pollard, is currently on tour with her theatre company. We asked her to tell us how it’s going…
It’s been four years since Up The Road Theatre were last on tour. Creating and developing a touring production is always a mammoth undertaking, especially if you’re project funded. Now, if I’m honest, it feels even tougher than before. The threat of Covid looms over everyone, audiences and performers alike; the cost of living crisis makes you wonder if people will want to turn out, if the halls will be able to pay their bills. And then, on the day of your dress rehearsal, it snows so heavily you’re nearly snowed into your digs and your rehearsal space has a power cut!
However, all the planning and preparation is starting to pay off. Beneath the Banner opened on Saturday March 11th, with Highlights Rural Touring in Middleton-in-Teesdale. A full house, and, despite the snow outside, a warm reception. Our production explores the vast array of experiences and perspectives from coal mining communities: the men underground, the workers on the surface and those in the community. I realised it’s been two and a half years since I received ACE funding to begin our R&D, which was followed by a second grant last summer for the rehearsals and tour. In between that time there have been a great many Zoom calls with potential project partners and creative team members; programming emails; submissions to Rural Touring scheme menus and (finally!) in-person meetings. Plus research for the show, encompassing interviews with former miners and their families; reading anything I could find and visits to the National Coal Mining Museum and other sites. Then the writing process: drafting, developing and re-drafting. At times it all seems unwieldy and impossible to navigate, but come the start of this year we had our tour, including twelve dates with Rural Touring schemes, a finished script and a cast.
My journey with Rural Touring began in 2015, with Up The Road’s first show. I didn’t even know Rural Touring existed until I was introduced to Spot On and Cheshire Rural Touring. Our 12 dates in 2023 haven’t happened overnight, they’re a result of eight years of collaborating and producing good shows that speak to audiences. This is our third touring production, which has given us plenty of opportunity for learning as we go.
As I write, on a train heading south, we’re three shows into this tour. We’ve played two of our three shows with Highlights, at the end of the week we’re with Arts Out West, followed by Rural Arts, Spot On Lancashire and Applause before our tour finishes in mid-April. We’ve already played to 180 people, and we’ve plenty more audience members to share our show with. Our van has miles to travel, and numerous digs to drop into. If you see a red VW Fox beetling up the M1 this month, give me a wave as I’ll be heading off to a schools workshop or joining the team for a show. If we could just hold off the snow for a few more weeks, that would be great…