New Directions: showcasing future work for rural touring

On 15 – 17 July three members of staff, two volunteer promoters, and two companies attended the biennial National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) Showcase on behalf of Live & Local. This year’s event was hosted at York Theatre Royal and The Fauconberg Arms; a “country inn with theatrical flair” in the North York Moors. They met with representatives of 110 different organisations, saw up to 31 performances/pitches and engaged in two discussion sessions. The three-day event, subtitled ‘New Directions’, was curated by China Plate and designed as an opportunity for community touring networks to see exciting new work, and to encourage conversations and collaborations between promoters, programmers and artists.

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

“It was great to see so many West Midlands-based artists at this years’ NRTF New Directions in York, both in the showcases and as delegates supported by Live & Local. It’s such a great opportunity for scheme everyone in the sector to meet, share news and see intriguing, entertaining and thought provoking shows – this year with the added bonus of the Little Festival of Everything in a rural pub!”

Group photo
Group photo – left to right: Jane (Promoter), Phil (Promoter), Sarah (Marketing Officer), Frances (Fieldworker), John (Executive Director)

The performances showcased the huge variety of work currently being made for small-scale and community touring. They included excerpts of music, drama, storytelling and dance, performed in a huge range of different spaces; from the studio theatre and Regency ballroom to a pub bar, minibus, tent and even a church tower. The performances oozed with creativity and talent, and brought a few surprises (wet fish in a Pringles tin), lots of laughs and a couple of genuine tear-jerker moments. As ever, the tea breaks and discussion sessions offered networking opportunities for scheme managers, artists and promoters alike, with many people keen to consider how promoters and audiences could become more involved in the production process.

This is what our volunteer promoters said after the event…

Jane Littlefield (Derbyshire): “I was really excited by the dance showcase and discussion about bringing dance to rural venues. My favourite performance was by Panta Rei Danseteater which I found beautiful and emotional. Everything about it was well-considered. As well as looking fantastic, it sounded stunning and full of emotion, played out in an energetic performance…Attending the showcase has made me think differently about what I could promote in our area.”

Phil Hodges (Staffordshire): “This was a unique experience with the opportunity to meet other promoters and speak to potential future acts. The Little Festival of Everything at The Fauconberg Arms was incredible and I will not forget it. I felt very lucky and grateful to be able to attend.”

Theatre-maker Philip Holyman (Little Earthquake) attended the showcase as a delegate supported by Live & Local. He has kindly written a separate blog post to share his experience of the event.

The full showcase programme is available to download from the NRTF website.

A selection of images from the NRTF Showcase taken by Jane Littlefield
A selection of photos taken at the NRTF Showcase by Jane Littlefield (Promoter, Derbyshire)

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