‘Libraries and Rural Touring Arts’ – maximising the potential of our nation’s libraries.
National Rural Touring Forum to support touring into Libraries in a new national project funded by Arts Council England.
New figures reveal almost 800 libraries have closed since 2010. National spending has dropped, as has visitor footfall and the number of paid librarians. Libraries also face numerous external challenges, such as the growth of e-books and people increasingly purchasing low-priced books online. Despite this, the 3,618 public libraries in the UK are still visited 233.1 million times annually and 77% of people believe that libraries are either essential or very important to their community (The Reading Agency 2018). Research by Arts Council England found that library attendance is positively associated with well-being and has even related to NHS savings of up to £27.5 annually. One way to address user numbers is to increase the opportunity to participate in touring and overcoming embedded sector obstacles of lack of budget, capacity, skills, knowledge and networks.
The National Rural Touring Forum is embarking on an exciting new project funded by Arts Council England. They plan to explore what happens with Libraries and Rural Touring Arts and understanding the challenges library services face in generating new audiences. Can programming quality live art a good way to diversify users and engage the wider community? NRTF will investigate the unique complexities and amazing opportunities in touring live arts into libraries. The project is also proudly linking across the border working with Welsh Arts Council’s Night Out Rural Touring Scheme to develop performances in rural and community libraries in Wales.
James Urquhart, Senior Manager, Arts Council England said: “We are really pleased to be supporting the NRTF to deliver this important initiative which is open to libraries across the country. The programme will enable libraries to explore the programming potential of their spaces by offering a range of resources, networking and go and see opportunities. NRTF plays a key part in supporting the rural touring sector and, by sharing their expertise more widely, communities will be able to connect with arts and culture in their local library.”
Public libraries have an appetite to increase toured-in product but often need extra support, skills, capacity, networks and confidence to achieve this. NRTF will audit the library programming sector by working with Rural Touring Schemes, library services, library networks and venues, learning and expanding on initiatives and activity that is already in place.
“This is an important strategic project for NRTF. We look forward to identifying and responding to the needs of librarians who have the potential to programme work. It is also a great opportunity for artists and performing companies who will potentially have a new set of venues and touring spaces to show their work” Holly Lombardo, NRTF Director
NRTF will create resources and developmental activities, including bursaries and an artistic investment pot to encourage librarians into programming performance in library spaces. NRTF and ACE want to instil confidence, though training, and identify what is needed to utilise and build on librarians’ strengths and priorities to make the most out of cultural events. This is a fantastic opportunity for libraries and artists.
- The project aims to create resources and developmental activities, including bursaries and an investment pot to encourage librarians into programming live arts and performance in library spaces. NRTF and ACE want to instil confidence, though training, and identify what is needed to utilise and build on librarians’ strengths and priorities to make the most out of cultural events. This is a fantastic opportunity for libraries and artists.
The Project Offers
- Curated dance Menus available to NRTF members – Menu 5 was launched on 9th January 2020 and can be accessed from the button on the right or downloads below. It features some of the most dynamic and charismatic contemporary dance companies in the Uk. They are Lanre Malaolu, Ediface Dance Theatre, New Art Club, Joshua ‘Vendetta’ Nash, Slanjayvah Danza, Sonia Sabri Company. Along with two new specially commissioned rural dance shows from Jo Fong & George Orange, Joan Cleville and Scottish Dance Theatre.
- To support rural promoters and schemes to build audiences for dance in rural spaces
- Induction into Rural Touring for companies new to the sector and ongoing support
- Commissioning opportunities
- ‘Go and See’ opportunities for promoters, schemes, and artists
- Participation opportunities particularly for Young People
- Tool Kit information sheets
The project has been made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery-funded Strategic Touring Programme.
Whoever you are – if you want to keep in touch with what’s going on you can visit this page, click on the links to the right for more information and latest news stories.
Michael Ellis MP – Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, October 2018
“We are working with local and central government to promote this sort of approach, to encourage them to think ‘libraries first’ in delivering services to communities, and ensure that there is recognition of the valuable contributions that library services make to their strategies and priorities.”
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