What is rural touring?

What is the National Rural Touring Forum?

National Rural Touring Forum supports rural touring schemes, promoters, artists and communities to bring high quality and professional creative experiences to rural venues and audiences. It does this through advocating on behalf of the sector, creating national projects, networking, showcasing and hosting an annual conference.

What is rural touring and why is it different to urban touring?

Rural touring is where professional performances take place in rural venues. These rural venues usually take the form of a Village Hall or Community Centre, but can also be pubs, libraries and outdoors. They are rarely fully equipped arts venues. Performances are programmed by a rural touring scheme, who will curate a varied season of events. Instead of all the events taking place in a couple of rooms in one building, they take place in lots of venues across a specific geographical area, sometimes whole counties, sometimes even further. Rural touring work is very different from touring to city centres or venues in urban areas. Artists express high regard for rural touring venues and the level of professionalism from the promoters. They often talk about their appreciation of a certain “magic” and warmth of the audiences that happens at rural events which aren’t the same at larger halls or festivals.

“The heart of the reason why it’s different from a town centre art centre is that the audience knows each other. That contributes to the other thing that is distinctive, which is that rural touring events become part of shared memory, part of what builds community. So, for both of those reasons, I think that it is a very distinctive kind of artistic experience.”

François Matarasso, March 2019

(c)keith morris keith@artx.co.uk

Green Touring

Touring is inherently greener than venue-based work. Large venues consume vast amounts of energy and expel lots of carbon. People invariably drive to them – or drive to a station to get a train to get to a city where the venue is. Small-scale touring – where one van is on the road for a small cast – has a low carbon footprint in comparison. Rural touring is generally set in villages where many audiences walk to the venue. And if they don’t walk, they live usually within a 10-mile radius, so journeys are short. Previous NRTF annual surveys report that 90% of audiences travel for less than 10 minutes to get to their village hall.

Rural Touring Promoters

Rural touring couldn’t happen without promoters who host the events. They work with the schemes to identify which performance or artist is the most relevant for their audience and do everything from box-office to get-ins, promotion, hosting artists. Many know their audiences on a first name basis.
Volunteering sits at the heart of rural touring; most promoters are volunteers. Venues employing professional staff utilise the help of a network of dedicated helpers. Promoters maintain an engaged audience for shows, know what they like and are aware of the level of risk they are comfortable in taking in their programme.


NRTF is the leading voice for the rural touring sector across the UK. Every village can become a cultural centre.
NRTF is recognised as a key strategic organisation by major funders and policy makers. This includes the Arts Council England (ACE), Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and other government and sectoral organisations where our interests and ambitions coincide.

NRTF underpins a sustainable, resilient rural touring infrastructure that enhances the quality of life for those people living in rural areas. NRTF CONTEXT

The UK approach to rural touring shows what the independent arts sector, local authorities and communities can achieve by working together: it is a model of good practice, demonstrates value for money and builds volunteering capacity in rural communities

Guiding Principles

NRTF aspires to be bold in the following areas:

  • High quality professional arts experiences suited to local needs and interests
  • Fair partnerships between communities, organisations, artists and public bodies
  • Creative diversity in artistic programming and among our audiences
  • Creative innovation in arts practice, management and policy
  • Maintaining and developing our unique relationship with thousands of community volunteers
  • Developing an appropriate mind set for NRTF’s role as a strategic and national leader.

Our Mission

National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) will work strategically with partners to develop a programme that delivers high quality artistic work and cultural experiences, broadens and deepens audience engagement, and strengthens rural and other communities.

Join NRTF for full access

Looking for Artists, Performers,
Promoters and Venues to give the rural
arts movement a stronger voice.

Join NowMembers login

Find out more about the NRTF

Read More

Upcoming Events

Read More