Rural Touring Dance Initiative

The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) has joined forces with The Place, Take Art and China Plate to launch a 3 year initiative for touring to and making dance for rural areas, funded by Arts Council England through their Strategic Touring programme.

The NRTF will lead a 3 year national dance rural touring project, the Rural Touring Dance Initiative as part of a 5 year strategic partnership with The Place, Take Art, China Plate and rural touring schemes, primarily in England but also in Wales and Scotland. Each partner has a specific and complementary skill set and the combined ambition is to address current underrepresentation of dance in rural touring. Arts Council England’s ‘Rural evidence and data review’ (March 2015) found that only 2% of NPO funded dance companies toured to rural areas in 2012/13.

The partners will address the challenges of dance and rural touring by building a sustainable programme that provides solutions to the producing (supply) and presenting (demand) sides of the equation in order to better serve rural audiences. This audience development project also seeks to meet the needs of audiences through close, regular and structured consultation with rural communities and promoters. The culturally diverse range of work (implementing the Creative Case) touring will be of a high quality and will encompass work suitable for children, young people, older adults and families.

This ambition meets the aims of Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme by making dance accessible to rural audiences, many of whom rely on rural touring to access arts provision, and in the process will target some areas of low arts engagement. This project has a national reach and will take place in all Arts Council regions.

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative will have a total budget of £500,000 (£379,560 of which represents a successful bid to Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund).  Planning for the three year programme started in May 2015 with the project finishing in July 2018.

Activity will include dance performance touring to rural areas, with a total of 115 shows being promoted in partnership with NRTF member rural touring schemes UK-wide through two menus of work running September to May 16/17 and September to May 17/18. The first menu of work will be offered to schemes in January 2016, and will include work from Phoenix Dance, Sonia Sabri, SpiltMilk, and Norwegian Dance Company Panta Rei.

The project will also include a week-long Darkroom residency for four dance companies to develop ideas for rural touring. This will take place in November 2015 and will include time spent working in a village hall environment. Two companies will then be offered seed commissions of £3,600 each to further develop shows.

Artists taking part in the scheme will have the opportunity to attend a 2.5 day Introduction to Rural Touring, 'labs' aimed at dance companies wanting to engage with rural touring, Children & Young People Residencies, and an enhanced dance showcase at  NRTF’s Annual Conference in July 2016 and July 2017.

We are seeking artists to take part in this project...

There are opportunities to tour existing shows to rural locations, and we are offering one production award of up to £45,000 to make a new show for rural touring. Companies and artists who are interested in applying can visit to download an application form and FAQs. The closing date for applications is at 10am on Friday 11 September 2015.

Why tour rurally?

“…it is like performing to family”

“…the village halls are somebody’s baby…they absolutely love their village hall and they’d do anything to make sure that it’s packed out with people…you feel sort of privileged that you’re invited into their setting to share what you’ve made with them.”

“The variety of audiences and venues continues to surprise and excite me. You can find a rural venue and audience for shows as long as it will fit through the doors and is good.”

In the UK there is a wide network of rural touring schemes which work with voluntary promoting groups (village hall committees, pubs, local schools, church halls, community groups) to bring professional performing companies and artists to perform in their village or community venue. Rural venues are those outside towns and cities – from Surrey to the Highlands of Scotland. In 2012/13 there were 3,200 live performances with an audience of 280,000 in rural areas.

The audiences and venues in rural areas are as diverse as in urban areas. Many artists have discovered how rewarding and enriching rural touring can be. It is a chance to share your work with different audiences, who have fewer opportunities to experience dance, in unique and distinctive venues, in often beautiful locations.

“It’s also always an incredibly intimate experience that involves you briefly in the life of a community you might never otherwise enter into.”



NRTF: The NRTF has identified a paucity of dance on the rural touring circuit and the development of a dance project is evident in its business plan. As a result of a fruitful relationship that has developed with The Place and a successful dance showcase at the New Directions Conference 2014, curated in partnership with China Plate, there is momentum to develop dance and rural touring - 89% of conference attenders scored the dance showcase highly or very highly. Through its members the NRTF can access a huge rural touring circuit with over 2,000 promoters. Individual rural touring schemes will play an integral role in the successful roll out of the project.

The Place, national centre for contemporary dance: has been a driving force for contemporary dance in the UK for 45 years. The Place is unique and is comprised of; a training organisation, a producing and receiving theatre, a home for a national touring company and a hub for hundreds of independent artists. Our artist development department provides professional development, training, residencies, commissioning and producing support for dance artists at each stage of their career. Having developed a relationship with the NRTF and after attending the New Directions Conference there is an understanding, excitement and new commitment to supporting dance artists and the dance sector to engage with and take advantage of rural touring opportunities.

China Plate’s portfolio of activity encompasses developing, making and programming new work. They have worked closely with the NRTF for a number of years and curated the New Directions Showcase Festivals in 2012 and 2014 and programmed the Edinburgh Village Halls Project 2011 – 2013. They are interested in the interrogation of ideas and form and believe that rural communities should have direct access to the highest quality contemporary work. The cross over between dance and theatre is of particular interest and over the last few years China Plate has developed close links with Dance East, programming dance with them into the Pulse theatre festival and worked with Warwick Arts Centre to programme, commission and develop work with a number of choreographers including Charlotte Vincent, Tom Dale and Aakash Odedra.

Take Art: Over the last 9 years Take Art has hosted the Somerset county dance agency, supporting the infrastructure for the development and promotion of professional dance in Somerset. We have run a rural touring scheme since 1987 and the services have worked and gained experience together. Take Art was the lead county dance agency in Up Close, the first south west rural touring dance project in partnership with Dance South West in 2007. Our Dance Director, Katey Leader, toured rural schemes extensively as a dancer with Pretty Good Girl Dance Theatre in 2009 and 2010. Our hands on experience of and commitment to dance and rural touring at a local level provides the partnership with a grounded perspective.


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Related News

Call Out for Artists: Rural Touring Dance Initiative

22 Jul 2015

Take Art are delighted to announce a brand new partnership with NRTF, The Place and China Plate to increase the reach and impact of dance in rural settings. We are now seeking artists to take part in the Rural Touring Dance Intiative.

Image for news story: Call Out for Artists: Rural Touring Dance Initiative
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