Updated: Nov 12
We at Just Some Theatre have recently decided to make Rural Touring a big focus for our future work. It might sound obvious what rural touring is - touring a show to rural places, right? But some unique elements make rural touring a slightly different animal from touring a show to urban venues. We've kicked off this blog to explore rural touring, and to help both emerging and experienced theatre-makers get to grips with the in's and out's of this exciting and rewarding method of touring shows!
"Rural touring is where professional performances take place in rural venues." - from the National Rural Touring Forum website.
It's hard to improve on that definition, but we can expand on it! Broadly speaking, rural touring takes place in rural community spaces up and down the UK, mostly in village halls, but also in libraries, outdoor venues, pubs, and unconventional spaces from museums to barns. Visiting artists and companies provide a wide range of professional performances and activities, including theatre, music, comedy, dance and children's shows, and bring the local community together for a live arts experience.
This blog series is going to take a deeper look into rural touring, and discuss the following subjects at greater length, but for now here's a brief look at the rural touring scene. It's worth mentioning that as a theatre company, our experience of Rural Touring is naturally theatre-focussed, so this blog will be most useful to other theatre practitioners. But hopefully there's some useful information in here for other performing artists who are considering rural touring too!
Who's in charge?
The NRTF, or National Rural Touring Forum, supports the whole UK rural touring ecosystem. Its members include Rural Touring Schemes, Promoters, Venues, Artists and other rural organisations and partners.
The Rural Touring Schemes curate and arrange events for a collection of venues in their local area. So, the NRTF works with 30 member schemes, and those member schemes look after around 1000 venues up and down the country. Each venue is managed by Promoters (usually volunteers), who choose performances and activities from a menu given to them by their local scheme. The menu is a catalogue of performances and events that the venues and/or Promoters can usually buy for a fixed price, and then the venues can recoup the cost through ticket sales, or put the event on for their community for free. Once enough performance dates are booked through one or more schemes, you have a tour schedule and can start planning your tour!
When Rural Touring happens
Unlike with conventional touring, where you can plan your tour for whenever you like, rural touring is generally divided into a Spring season and an Autumn season. That doesn't mean all rural venues operate on that schedule, but most schemes try to plan bookings from April-June or from September-November.
Picking a show
Over the years, there have been hundreds of fantastic shows on the rural touring network, and some shows that have ended up at the West End began life with a rural tour. Rural touring also provides an opportunity to produce shows that simply couldn't work in bigger theatre spaces because they lack the intimacy and unique warm atmosphere of rural touring.
Due to the wide variety and range of great work out there, different artists and companies will have different goals to us, but when we consider which shows would work for us on a rural tour, we consider the following:
Is the show going to provide a unique, fun, good night out for our audience?
Can we produce the show with a small enough cast and set to travel around with?
Are we going to be able to market the show to networks and venues?
If the answer to those three questions is 'yes', then we're halfway there!
Now that we've given a brief overview of rural touring and where we fit into it, we can move on to more specific topics! Over the coming months, we'll be releasing blog posts on the following subjects, with more in the pipeline, so keep an eye on our socials or sign up to our newsletter so you don't miss updates.
Who's Who in Rural Touring?
How to Plan a Rural Tour
Common Misconceptions about Rural Touring
Rural vs. Conventional Touring
Rural Touring and the Environment
Best Tech equipment for Rural Touring
Thanks for reading, and please help us spread the word by sending a link to this blog to any theatre-makers you know who might be interested in rural touring!