Rural touring audiences grow

Sandra Giorgetti

A survey of National Rural Touring Forum members shows that their audiences are growing.

This biennial survey, covering 2015–2016, reveals an increase in attendance at performances in rural venues of 7.5% against 2012–2013 and 26% over the preceding decade.

During 2015–2016, there were 2,856 live performances in rural venues such as village halls, seen by 332,140 people.

Box office takings amounted to £1,096,943 with top sellers being Kali Theatre’s My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding, Fol Espoir’s Instructions for an American Serviceman in Britain, Vamos Theatre’s The Best Thing and Apphia Campbell’s Black is the Color of my Voice.

The survey reported that 112,568 volunteer hours were contributed towards rural touring events during the period; this further confirms the involvement of volunteers is of significant importance, having an estimated value of £1,125,680.

Speaking about the results, Ralph Lister, development director for the NRTF, said, “the growth in touring professional work into rural areas is a testament to the dedication of many small, rurally based, arts organisations working across the UK.

"The National Rural Touring Forum is proud to profile this work which is culturally diverse, of a high quality and which demonstrates the appetite in rural areas to see exciting and dynamic shows in their local and often quirky venues.

"This national network also provides many small-scale companies and artists with a critically important touring opportunity, enabling them to thrive and prosper.”

The NRTF is the membership body for rural touring schemes in England, Scotland and Wales. It represents 26 touring schemes whose shows are staged by promoter groups, usually run by volunteers, with the support of the local schemes.

It promotes better understanding of the value of rural and community touring and provides the rural touring network with training, information and networking services.