An Introduction to rural touring from Beaford Arts

Beaford Arts, an Arts Council NPO, is England’s longest running rural arts organisation.   We support, produce and promote regional, national, and international performing artists working in both traditional and non-traditional spaces across rural north Devon.  For over 45 years, we have delivered rural touring programmes to communities across north Devon.

Rural touring involves a network of schemes across England, Scotland, and Wales which is coordinated by the NRTF (www.nrtf.org.uk).   Each scheme works in partnership with local village volunteers who promote shows in their communities.  These volunteers are enthusiastic and highly committed supporters of the arts, they are in fact the lifeblood of rural touring.   For many of these communities, rural touring offers a vital and important cultural lifeline, without which children and adults of all ages wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy some of the UK’s best touring shows.

By performing in villages, artists are performing to audiences who know each other, a community of place.  Many of these audiences offer opportunities for touring shows to reach new audiences, often representing a broad and diverse demographic.  In addition, performers frequently experience a welcome difference in how these audiences respond to their shows, which often influences how they continue developing their shows and also informs the artistic content of new work.

As performances take place in a community space, it’s a space the audience knows and feels comfortable in, and most importantly it’s not a theatre with a traditional barrier between the audience and the performer.  In fact rural audiences welcome and value the opportunity to meet performers after the show.  It’s also a great chance for performers to engage with the audience and to deepen the experience and benefits from rural touring.

Beaford Arts has worked with many artists who have experienced rural touring for the first time, in every case they have loved the experience, and have continued to develop new shows which can as part of their touring repertoire, tour rurally.  As part of our Spring 2013 season we worked with four companies who were touring to rural communities for the first time:

This Autumn, Le Navet Bete will return to north Devon with the launch of their new show Once Upon A Time in A Western and we’re hoping that in 2014 Rhum and Clay will return with their new show The Man in the Moone.

In recent years we have actively developed a role in commissioning, co-producing and producing new work.  This approach has enabled us to inform the creation and production of work which is suitable for rural touring as well as touring to other venues, events and festivals.  In many cases, as part of their creative process, artists have been able to spend time in the landscapes and communities of north Devon.   To achieve this we have worked in partnership with a range of artists and organisations on both the reframing of existing shows and the creation of new touring productions, this includes:

  • Cartoon de Salvo who spent time in north Devon reshaping Pub Rock for rural touring.
  • In collaboration with Contact and Take Art, Beaford Arts worked with Maxwell Golden to develop Country Boys Struggle.  The first shows were performed to rural audiences in Somerset and north Devon, after which Contact and the NRTF secured Arts Council funding for Maxwell to take the show on a highly successful 60 date tour across the UK.
  • Rural touring offers artists, companies and producers many exciting and rewarding opportunities.  These range from increasing the number of dates on a tour, reaching new audiences, securing new funding to visiting some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes including north Devon !
  • And finally for our Autumn 2013 season, we’re looking forward to two dates of The Iranian Feast a new touring production from Farnham Maltings, one of the house partners.

If you’d like to find out more about rural touring please feel free to get in touch for a chat.

Fiona

Beaford Arts

Producer – Projects and Events Programme