Taking rural touring in ‘New Directions’

On 15 & 16 June 2012, three members of Live & Local staff and four promoters attended the first National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) Showcase at Warwick Arts Centre. They met with representatives of over 60 different arts organisations, saw 12 performances and five pitches and engaged in two discussion sessions. The two-day event, subtitled ‘New Directions’, was curated by China Plate and designed to introduce rural and community touring networks to exciting new work by unknown artists and introduce artists and companies to rural touring for the first time.

John Laidlaw, Executive Director of Live & Local and current Chair of the NRTF, added:

“At the heart of our work we believe in bringing surprising shows to surprising places. It is therefore vital that we continue to discover new artists and challenge our promoters to keep our audiences amazed. This showcase will expand the programming opportunities to schemes in the future.”

Group photo
Group photo – left to right: Sarah (Marketing Officer), Joanne (promoter), Alison (promoter), John (Executive Director), Steve (promoter), Richard (promoter)

The work showcased included excerpts of  music, drama, dance – and the whale – and ranged from a 21st century children’s show to a ketchup-stained western and from poetic storytelling to upbeat pop-dancing. The tea breaks and discussion sessions offered networking opportunities for scheme managers, artists and promoters alike, with many promoters realising that they’re part of a network much bigger than they’d thought.

This is what some of our promoters said after the event…

Joanne Lole (Warwickshire): “I was totally enthralled by all of the professional performances…and impressed with the diverse collection of theatre; the one man performance from Inua Ellam was beautifully poetic in word and motion whilst the vividly portrayed tale of The Bloody Ballad was both disturbing and riveting. I eagerly await the opportunity to see the [full] performances, particularly the talented cheeky Ponydancers…”

Alison Miller (Derbyshire): “I felt transported into another world which thrives on imagination, inspiration and ‘oozes’ confidence. From the moment the event began, it struck me how friendly everyone was. People were willing to share their experiences whether they be arts directors, promoters or on the production side. Overall I saw the two day event as a huge learning opportunity for all involved.”

Richard Benfield (Derbyshire): “This showcase event has definitely broadened my outlook for bringing professional shows to our village. I can now propose to our committee a more diverse type of performance plus the prospect of using alternative spaces around the parish. Doing this brings extra risk but I am hoping that the scheme providers can assist with this.”

We look forward to forging new relationships with artists, keeping in touch with our NRTF colleagues and continuing discussions with our promoters to facilitate more surprises shows in the future.

The full event programme and post-showcase notes will be available on the NRTF blog in due course. A selection of shows are featured in the slideshow below.

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