On 16th May the National Dance Network organised a day called 'What future for small-scale dance touring' at the Jerwood Dance House in Ipswich. I attended and can say it was an interesting if somewhat confounding day.
For many of us working in the rural touring sector, there is a tremendous overlap between 'small scale' and 'rural' touring. And yet rural touring struggled to get onto the debate, as we were told time and again that there was no small scale network for rural touring. Rural touring works with over 1,500 village venues and is worth £1.5 million in terms of artistic expenditure. It was good, nevertheless, to hear Amanda Rigali, Director of Combined Arts and Touring at the Arts Council of England (ACE), talking about a desire to see the arts taking places in unusual places - shopping centres, parks, beaches.....and village halls. Lets hope we can bring both these worlds together.
While it was interesting to hear about how the sector can support emerging artists there was little talk about the funding plight of arts centres up and down the country. It is my understanding that no arts centre in the South East of England will receive core funding from ACE from April 2012 (I think that is the case). This means that if arts centres have less funding and if they are reliant on local authority funding it is likely that this will impact on their decisions on what kind of dance they will book. It would be as well for the dance sector to be responsive to this emerging picture - dance which appeals to and is relevant to a broader audience will probably be more popular. The challenge is not to dumb down the sector but to rise to the occasion and a two way conversation between producers and presenters is key.