Boost for rural dance as second phase of Rural Touring Dance Initiative receives funding

17 Nov 2017

Ben Wright and Stuart Warwick’s ‘Point of Echoes’. Image by China Plate

An innovative partnership founded to increase touring by dance companies to rural areas has been awarded £416,855 to continue its work over a further three years.

The new funding, announced on 16 November 2017, will allow the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI) to build on its success by working with more local rural touring schemes and venues, delivering 195 performances over the next three years across England, Wales and Scotland. This is an increase on the 115 performances staged in the first three years of the RTDI, which included touring shows by Uchenna Dance, Lost Dog, Luca Silvestrini’s Protein and Joan Clevillé Dance.

The new funding follows overwhelmingly positive responses to the project from participating rural touring schemes and promoters, with 93% of promoters reporting an increased interest in promoting dance and 100% of touring schemes reporting that the RTDI increased their interest in programming dance.

The second phase of funding will cover curating and supporting three annual ‘menus’ of dance which local promoters can select from, working with dance companies to adapt existing pieces so they are suitable for rural touring and commissioning dance companies to make original work for the rural touring circuit. The RTDI’s first commission, Point of Echoes, a collaboration between international choreographer Ben Wright and musician Stuart Warwick will tour in Spring 2018; further works commissioned especially for rural touring will be developed during the second phase.

Additionally, the next three years will have an enhanced focus to involve more children and young people, as well as support workshops for promoters interested in staging dance performances in village halls and rural venues around the UK, many of whom are volunteers working to stage high quality performance in the heart of their communities. RTDI 2 will also develop partnerships with Pavilion Dance South West and DanceEast, capitalising on this burgeoning new dance audience.

The Rural Touring Dance Initiative was launched in 2015 with the aim of substantially increasing dance touring in rural England over an initial three-year period, due to end in July 2018. It is a partnership between NRTF, the Yorkshire-headquartered membership body for rural touring schemes in the UK; leading dance institution The Place; Birmingham-based independent producing studio China Plate; and Somerset’s county dance agency Take Art. It was formed in response to Arts Council England’s rural evidence and data review (March 2015), which found that only 2% of NPO-funded dance companies toured to rural areas.

Speaking about the award, Pete Massey, Director North, Arts Council England said: “Yorkshire has a particular strength in dance and I’m delighted that we are supporting the National Rural Touring Forum to develop its dance initiative through our National Lottery funded Strategic Touring programme. Working with partners across the country, they will tour to a variety of places that would not usually host this sort of event, enabling rural audiences who may not have experienced dance before to see performances where they live – and to encourage children and young people to get involved.”

Eddie Nixon, Director of Theatre, The Place said:

“The success of this initiative in the first 2 years has shown there’s a huge appetite for dance performance amongst audiences in rural venues and a real desire amongst dance companies to tour there. This support from Arts Council England means we can allow this interest to flourish well into the future”.

Alison Lord, Dance Director, Take Art said: “Establishing a network of Rural Touring Scheme Dance Ambassadors is a key development for the next phase as is greater involvement of children and young people. We are excited to be part of this ground breaking  audience development initiative and are determined to make it a great success”.

Visit the Rural Touring website to find out more, and watch director Rachel Bunce’s film about the RTDI.