Lights, Van... Action!

Feature in Issue 20-2 | Summer 2008

The NRTF (National Rural Touring Forum) is the umbrella organisation for the 40-odd rural touring schemes that operate across England and Wales. It publishes an excellent practical guide that takes you through the whole process in a manner that is both frank and enthusiastic about the possibilities. The website has details of individual touring schemes.


Each of the 40 rural touring schemes collates a menu of live performances, and if they pick your company, they’ll also pencil in your available dates. They then offer their menu to promoters. Promoters are rural volunteers, such as village hall committees or PTAs, or local individuals who have volunteered. (There are about 1800 of them.) Promoters book the show(s) they want each season for their community through the touring schemes.

Each scheme has a different brand identity, and each promoter and venue has their own idea of what they are after. But, because they are all part of the NRTF, they all talk to each other and so a theatre company’s reputation, for good or ill, will spread quickly between schemes and amongst promoters.


Venues ranging from 1920s wooden huts with one power point, to churches with outside toilets, to brand new state-of-the-art venues. Most will be unequipped, without even a CD player. Cross-generational audiences, the majority of whom will live within five miles of the venue. ‘Often people don’t necessarily consider themselves arts attenders. They go out of curiosity, to support the local community,’ says Dawn Badland of Applause.


Your show has a vast set or performance area (as it might not fit into village halls or might mean that a promoter has to dramatically reduce the number of seats they can sell). Your show constitutes ‘dance that is too obscure, [or] theatre that pushes a political theme hard’ as this may not be suitable, the NRTF advises. (But it can still be radical, challenging and intelligent theatre.) You get homesick, nature scares you, and you know you’ll be made to eat insects. This was proved to you on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. But it’s an eccles cake! I made it myself. No! No! I won’t have anything except Chicken Cottage.


Go along to one of ITC’s Rural Touring sessions.

By the end of the course, it is claimed, participants will be able to:

— Understand the history, definitions and benefits of rural touring
— Identify the people involved and understand their roles and relationships
— Feel confident in creating a working rural touring budget
— Comprehend the practicalities, pleasures and pitfalls of production management in village hall and non–theatre spaces
— Review their external marketing and internal communication needs within this sector
— Explore and express the artistic value of their work within rural touring

Wow! Can’t wait! When’s the next one? 17 February 2009, apparently – bit of a wait, but no doubt worth waiting for, as it is led by the lovely Alex Murdoch of Cartoon de Salvo, as mentioned in her article in this magazine.

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This article in the magazine

Issue 20-2
p. 15