International Women’s Day: Women in Rural Touring

Today marks International Women’s Day, a day to raise awareness against bias, take action for equality and celebrate women’s achievements. Here at Live & Local, we wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do without the talent, creativity and hard work of women in our network. From the Live & Local team (which is 80% female), to the majority-female promoters who volunteer their time to bring shows to their communities, as well as the artists and performers who use the stage to tell their stories and those of other inspirational women, the rural touring landscape wouldn’t be what it is today without them. We are proud to help provide a platform for these stories to be heard.  

Read on to hear about some of the wonderful female artists and community groups we’ve recently been working with… 

ANONYMOUS IS A WOMAN THEATRE COMPANY

Worcestershire-based feminist theatre company Anonymous Is A Woman Theatre Company are rural-touring regulars who appreciate the value of professional theatre reaching rural communities, just one of the many reasons we’ve loved working with them over the years. Before times of Covid-19, the theatre company brought their wartime theatre show Think of England to rural venues across our network, in association with our Developing Artists for Rural Touring programme and Community Touring Network. The show was a thought-provoking and immersive play of two young ladies travelling the country hosting tea dances for RAF fighter pilots during WW2 and audiences even got to take part in the celebrations with their very own tea dance. 

“Excavates women’s stories with spirit and invention” The Guardian 

BADAPPLE THEATRE COMPANY

Badapple Theatre Company have brought many successful and original shows to rural venues, including The Thankful Village and Elephant Rock both written by co-founder and talented playwright Kate Bramley (who is also a professional touring musician and songwriter). The Thankful Village is an enchanting and heart-warming story that follows women left behind during the First World War and the reunions when soldiers returned in the winter of 1918.

Badapple Theatre Company is one of the finest exponents of theatre for rural touring venues with their commitment to bringing a full theatre experience to the smallest of venues across the UK. Bramley’s comedy drama show, Elephant Rock, will be touring this year and tells the tales of generations of carnival women who kept dance hall doors open through hell and high water. Hopefully you can join us for a laugh and sing song in a venue near you soon. The company has also recently been involved in a Live & Local LivingRoom project in which they were paired with the ReBalance group based at the Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton On Trent to collaborate on an audio play inspired by reminiscences of the group. You can watch the video here.

SONIA SABRI COMPANY

Sonia Sabri, dancer and Live & Local Board Member, tours contemporary South Asian dance and music shows around the UK with her company and will be bringing not one, but two shows to Live & Local audiences this year. The company has an international reputation for presenting classic and contemporary Kathak dance and during lockdown has been offering live online classes. Sonia Sabri Company recently wrapped up their week-long free online arts festival Lok Virsa: Good Vibrations which featured dance, music and craft workshops and brought people together for a week of colour, energy, lightness and joy. If dance, music and stunning visuals are your thing, keep your eyes peeled for shows ‘Salaam’ and ‘Same Same…But Different’ touring soon.  

SPILTMILK DANCE

Audience favourites, Spiltmilk Dance, work in the heart of communities and engage with people of all ages on not just dance but also storytelling, singing and comedy projects. We’ve been lucky enough to welcome several Spiltmilk Dance productions including rom-com sketch show The Little Love Cabaret, musical extravaganza Blast from the Past and later this year, Desert Island Flicks which is described as ‘a blockbuster, adventure and rom com rolled into one’. The all-female troupe never fail to make us laugh, sing, dance and cheer. 

NEXT DOOR DANCE

Another fabulous all-female dance company we work with is Nottingham-based Next Door DanceTheir award-winning show The Beautiful Game featured in our 2020 performance menu and was produced in association with our Developing Artists for Rural Touring programme, an initiative that supports artist and companies with mentoring, bursaries and connections to audiences and promoters. The Beautiful Game is a witty and inventive words-music-dance-physical theatre show that looks at Britain’s undying obsession with football, performed by four highly athletic female dancers. 

NAOMI PAUL

We work closely with the very talented Naomi Paul, performer, comedian, singer, storyteller and one of our Live & Local LivingRoom artists. Naomi brought her story-cabaret show Truth and Truffles to rural venues, alongside storyteller Cat Weatherill, in 2018 and is bringing her solo comedy theatre show Despite Everything, Price Still Includes Biscuits, which previously had a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to Live & Local audiences later this year. We’ve recently worked with Naomi on a project which pairs professional artists with a local community group to work on a bespoke piece of art. Naomi worked with the community of Meon Vale to create a film of spoken word, music, photography, poetry and art. You can find the wonderful result, called ‘Snapshot Stories’ , which also recently featured in an online arts festival, on our YouTube channel

Live & Local: LivingRoom was launched last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic when the UK first went into lockdown and has proved so successful that we are now including it as part of our programme going forward. The project connects communities by establishing creative collaborations with professional artists and was originally developed to enable people who were isolated, lonely, or shielding and includes those who do not have access to the internet.  

One of the first unique LivingRoom projects involved the pairing of Newbold Pacey and Ashorne Women’s Institute with storyteller Nikky Smedley to create an online museum of interesting objects in residents’ living rooms with an audio story giving each of the objects a voice. Nikky is also returning to the rural touring scene with her show Nikipedia – Confessions of a Former Teletubby when live events resume soon. Fancy a trip to the museum? Check out the virtual collection here

Many of our other LivingRoom projects have matched local community groups across Warwickshire with talented female artists, such as poet and award-winning theatre maker Maria Ferguson (who is bringing her show ‘Essex Girl’ to Live & Local this year), musician Louise Jordan, musical duo Tiwkilin, and Naomi Paul. You can find the full LivingRoom playlist here and watch this space for more LivingRoom projects coming soon. 

Although sadly many of the venues that usually host live events and shows have been closed over the last year, many of the promoters we work have been continuing to volunteer their time and effort to help local communities. Village halls which previously welcomed artists to perform for keen audiences have become food banks and hubs for community support. It has been heart-warming and uplifting to hear how promoters have continued to support their neighbours in this difficult year (you can read more stories in our recent blog about the wonderful work of village halls here). We can’t wait to support them with bringing live shows to venues later this year. 

Thank you to all the fabulous female-identifying artists, companies, promoters, audiences and our female-strong team for everything they do to bring great live performances, creative community projects, virtual events and film screenings to rural communities across the Midlands.  

Enjoy film? You can check out our other IWD 2021 blog featuring Women In Cinema and recommendations of feminist films in our recent blog post. 

Have you seen any of the shows featured in this blog? Let us know in the comments! 

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