Spiltmilk Dance at the NRTF Conference

As part of our Developing Artists in Rural Touring programme, Live & Local enabled representatives from Spiltmilk Dance to attend this year’s National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) Showcase in York. Sarah from Spiltmilk Dance shares her experience…

“This July saw the company heading up to York to join in the events of New Directions 2014 the NRTF conference and showcase event. We were delighted to be able to attend the whole conference through support from Live and Local and their DART scheme.

Jam packed does not quite cover the timetable of showcases, discussions, coach trips and networking that was laid on as part of the conference and we arrived determined to soak up as much as we possibly could over the three days.

As a company we have relatively recently entered into the world of rural touring but we are rapidly feeling that, in this setting, our work has found its spiritual home. Meeting the audiences that we can access through rural touring and getting to feel part of their community for a night has been a very rewarding process and we’re excited to continue with more touring in future.

It was a fascinating experience for us to be able to see the fantastically diverse offering of shows available for rural touring. From comedy circus acts to interactive children’s theatre and ensemble plays to one woman fairytales there is much to be excited by in the future of rural touring. As relative new comers to this form of touring it was very useful for us to see the wide variety of work that is travelling to halls across the UK. It was a great experience to meet some of our peers and to discuss the wonderful opportunities and potential pitfalls open to us in this type of work. We feel inspired by seeing how others have approached this touring and the creative risks they have taken in terms of staging and subject. We are soon to begin making a new performance work for touring in 2015 and we will have rural touring audiences and venues in mind throughout this creative process.

As well as the showcases there were a number of opportunities for meaty discussions about hopes and ambitions for rural touring in the future as well as the challenges both schemes and companies face. Dance was a key topic of conversation throughout the conference, indeed it had its own dedicated day on the Thursday. Dance is still largely under represented on scheme brochures for a number of reasons, not least because the genre has historically required technical luxuries such as a large playing space and sprung floors. However, we firmly believe that, alongside Spiltmilk Dance, there are many companies working in the dance sector at present creating work which is much more flexible in terms of staging and would go down very well in village halls across the country. It was extremely gratifying to see and hear the extent to which both scheme managers and promoters are keen to bring more dance to their audiences. We feel there is some match making to be done between these rural touring experts and dance companies that may have only heard the whisper that rural touring could be an option for them. Perhaps this may be something that we can facilitate in future.

We were delighted by the reception that our own showcase performance received and we have had some great discussions with new schemes we had not previously engaged with before the conference. Indeed this has already translated into new touring dates for Spiltmilk say Dance in Spring 2015.

For us, attending the conference was eye opening, hugely enjoyable and inspiring. Having the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in the world of rural touring for the three days has left us feeling much better prepared for our upcoming touring and has spurred us on to continue creating work that engages and entertains community audiences around the country. Thank you very much Live and Local for the opportunity!”

Spiltmilk Say DanceSarah is the Co-Artistic Director of Spiltmilk Dance.

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