Arts Council England Chair supports vision for the sustainability of rural arts during visit to brand new National Rural Touring Forum Head Quarters

Nick Serota National Rural Touring Forum - Credit Kevin Waldie
Nick Serota, Amy Vaugham, Holly Lombardo - National Rural Touring Forum - Credit Kevin Waldie 2

Nick Serota, Amy Vaugham, Holly Lombardo – National Rural Touring Forum – Credit Kevin Waldie 2

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chairman of Arts Council England met with rural arts organisations at the headquarters of National Rural Touring Forum in the village of Stanford Dingley, West Berkshire. Sir Nick was joined by local ACE National Portfolio Organisations Water Mill Theatre, Corn Exchange Newbury, and personnel from cultural organisations such as LIVR, Metis Theatre, New Adventures, McCurdy & Co., Farnham Maltings and Julie’s Bicycle to discuss the sustainability of rural touring. The group spent time discussing green touring initiatives, the sustainability of rural arts, the relevance of professional rural touring and what it might look like in 10 years’ time. The outcome is an aim for a greater understanding of the potential for rural and green touring in England.

The visit was inspired by the appointment of NRTF Director, Holly Lombardo, the migration of its headquarters to the South East and the alignment of the sectors ambitions with Arts Council England’s 10 Year Strategy consultation.

Rural communities make up nearly 20% of the UK population. Rural touring not only contributes to local economic growth it increases wellbeing, confidence and a sense of belonging in communities. Nick Serota’s visit marks an important shift in the value being given to rural arts and we are delighted to be leading the discussion”. Holly Lombardo, Director – National Rural Touring Forum

 During the meeting Sir Nick stated how important networks like the NRTF are for supporting the sector, sharing resources and the distribution of data.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Touring is an essential means for many people across the country to experience great arts and culture, particularly those who live in rural areas. But at the same time, we must take into consideration the environmental impact of touring. These calculations are complex, but It was incredibly positive to hear that these questions are front of mind for organisations like the National Rural Touring Forum and its stakeholders. I hope that we will continue to raise the profile and importance of touring, balancing any environmental impact against the need for people who live in rural areas to have the opportunity to experience art and culture

National Rural Touring Forum is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation supporting and promoting the importance of professional rural arts and touring through a network of programming schemes. Each year, across the UK schemes work with 1,650 promoting groups, undertaking 110,000 voluntary hours, putting on productions to over 332,000 audience members who spend more than £1,000,000 on ticketed events. Rural touring is an innovative and thriving cultural sector equalling out opportunities for countryside audiences to access the arts.

 To hear more about rural touring please visit our website – and watch our film

Arts Council England funds Royal & Derngate’s national consortium initiative to inspire, support and create original musical productions

Royal and Derngate
Royal and Derngate

Royal and Derngate

Arts Council England has just announced that it is investing more than £684,000 in Royal & Derngate’s project to inspire and create original musical productions. Over the next three years and working with a national consortium of partners, including China PlateImprobableMercury Musicals DevelopmentMusical Theatre NetworkPerfect Pitch and Scottish Opera, Royal & Derngate will produce four original musicals, support at least 150 artists and create a step-change in the way new musical theatre and opera is created for mid-scale venues.

Arts Council England is supporting the consortium as part of the Ambition for Excellence scheme, a fund to develop artistic and cultural talent and leadership and give an international dimension to excellent work.

Together the consortium will support a diverse range of writers, composers and theatre makers to create original new work conceived for mid-scale touring. This will include four original musical theatre shows, a series of original commissions, a festival showcasing a range of new touring musicals, a symposium focussing upon musical theatre and opera and a variety of artist development programmes. Royal & Derngate will also create and distribute one new musical digitally, for free via sharing platforms including YouTube.

Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive, Royal & Derngate, responded: “We’re delighted with this news and would like to thank Arts Council England for its confidence in our vision of an infrastructure that supports the development of truly original, contemporary musical theatre and opera.”

James Dacre, Artistic Director, Royal & Derngate, explained: “We at Royal & Derngate look forward to leading this national consortium of musical theatre and opera partners in addressing the barriers that have prevented the production of new music theatre specifically designed for mid-scale regional touring. As the distinctions between musical theatre, opera and plays with music are increasingly blurring, we shall support at least 150 artists to create a diverse range of truly original new work. These are exciting times. The will, the talent and the audience is out there but only through sharing the risk, the resources and expertise can this step change happen.”

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said: “The project offers an opportunity to revitalise the creation of new musicals for mid-scale theatres. So, we’re delighted to be supporting Royal & Derngate and their partners to create a variety of completely original musical theatre, opera and artist development opportunities.

“The financial and funding context in Northamptonshire is challenging for arts companies like the Royal & Derngate, so it’s great to see such ambition and enthusiasm which will bring interesting and diverse theatre to new audiences. We have seen amazing results from projects funded by the National Lottery through Ambition for Excellence, and look forward to seeing the impact of this project.”

Gecko expands Outreach Programme to artists and participants of refugee background

The Wedding
The Wedding

The Wedding

Gecko expands its outreach programme through an ambitious offer to local artists and participants of refugee background

  • Award winning physical theatre company Gecko announces a large-scale outreach programme aimed at local artists as well as participants of migrant or refugee background around England; the programme is supported by Strategic Touring Funding from Arts Council England.
  • This ambitious programme accompanies a spring 2018 tour of Gecko’s latest show, The Wedding, exploring the issues of migration and social cohesion.
  • Actively involving 750 participants around England, Gecko strengthens not only its educational status but also that of a resident rather than touring company.
  • The Wedding is currently on tour and visits Manchester, Exeter, Poole and Truro in September and October.

Gecko, an award-winning and internationally acclaimed physical theatre company based in Ipswich, announces a large scale educational and audience development programme accompanying its spring 2018 tour of The Wedding – one of Gecko’s longest consecutive tour to date. This ambitious programme is supported by Strategic Touring Funding from Arts Council England.

The Wedding is set in a dystopian world that imagines we are all brides, wedded to society and bound by a contract. Inspired by the complexities of human nature, the show brings these contracts and issues of social cohesion within communities into question. What are the terms of this relationship? And can we consider a divorce? The support of the Strategic Touring Funding allows Gecko to develop an audience engagement programme that encourages social cohesion between local and migrant/refugee communities through participation as well as increasing audience attendance among these groups at each venue on the tour.

Main components of this programme are:

• A 3 day training course with Gecko (Wednesday 27 to Friday 29 September) for an associate artist in each of the venues. This training course will give the associate artist from each of the touring venues an opportunity to work alongside Gecko’s devising performers from The Wedding and the company’s Artistic and Associate Directors. The training will provide an introduction to Gecko’s style of physical theatre and devising through practical workshops, and will also train artists in Gecko’s style of facilitation to enable them to co-deliver the associated outreach work within their local communities as part of the project. Each of the artists will be recruited by the venues themselves.

• A 2.5-3 day residency in autumn 2017, which the associate artist will co-deliver with two of Gecko’s ensemble members. The residency will be for sixteen young people from the local community with a mixture of local and migrant/refugee communities. The residency will focus on the themes of social cohesion raised in The Wedding.

• During the performance week at each venue in spring 2018 the associate artist will be involved in delivering a free half day workshop alongside Gecko ensemble member(s) for audience members who wish to engage further with the themes raised in the show. The aim is to create a manifesto that is unique to the local area which can act as a call to arms in the community to raise awareness and encourage action, adding to the project’s legacy. Audiences will also be invited to a post-show panel discussions in each venue.

Through workshops, residencies, free ticket offer and more, Gecko will actively engage 750 participants around England, some of whom might not be able or inclined to engage in such activity otherwise. This will not only strengthen Gecko’s reputation as an inclusive company with a strong educational status but also foster the development of more diverse audiences around England.

Gecko’s desire is to be seen as a resident rather than touring company in each place it visits: to develop and nurture a long-lasting relationship not only with the in-house team but, more importantly, with the audiences. The programme reinforces this ambition as it provides a broader than usual engagement platform which has an enduring legacy.

Through this programme Gecko aims to:

  • support the development of young theatre audiences who are the future theatre professionals and decision makers; this is also to better reflect the diversity of local communities,
  • build confidence within the venues to programme challenging, experimental work across their main house programmes,
  • give an example and assurance across the sector in the ability of venues and companies to collaborate in new and creative ways to engage with and grow new audiences,
  • continue and grow the relationship between each theatre and its local communities through the engagement of a local artist, trained by and with Gecko,
  • call for social responsibility and action, namely through the free audience workshops in each venue.

The venues hosting The Wedding in spring 2018 will be announced in due course. The show is currently on tour and visits HOME in Manchester (12-16 September), Exeter Northcott (21–23 September), Lighthouse in Poole (3 October) and Hall for Cornwall in Truro (6-7 October).

In 2016, Gecko was granted funding from Wellcome to develop a series of ancillary events around its UK tour of Institute.For this the company collaborated with Suffolk Mind to deliver workshops, panel discussions and resources that further explored the themes of male mental health raised within the show. Gecko builds on the success of this project and using it as a model to create and run the outreach activity associated with The Wedding in spring 2018.


National Theatre announces ACE grant to deliver three-year partnership project

National Theatre greenlights three-year partnership project following confirmation of a grant from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring fund

As part of our continuing ambition to support theatre and reach new audiences across the country, we are delighted to announce that the National Theatre has been awarded a grant of £1,166,408 from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring fund.

This grant will help fund a three-year programme to broaden and increase theatre audiences and productions, working with local partners in six areas of low arts engagement. Activity includes four main strands – large and mid-scale touring, sustained community projects and an extensive education programme including touring into schools, alongside an audience development research project.

The programme will take place with local partners in six key areas:

  • Doncaster, in partnership with Cast
  • The Greater Manchester metropolitan area in partnership with The Lowry, Salford
  • Outer East London with the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.
  • Sunderland, in partnership with the Empire Theatre and Fire Station
  • Wakefield, in partnership with the Theatre Royal
  • Wolverhampton with the Grand Theatre

As well as these venue partners, we will work closely with a wide range of partners including Bridge organisations and Cultural Education Partnerships.

This grant represents 40% of the projected cost of this three-year programme. We are enormously grateful for the generous support we have also received from The Sackler Trust and Bloomberg Philanthropies. We continue to fundraise to complete funding for this project.

Lisa Burger, Executive Director of the National Theatre, said:
“We’re delighted to be able to greenlight this ambitious new project, thanks to a grant from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring fund.

Reaching new audiences and supporting theatre making across the country is one of the most important things we do. This three-year project will allow us to work with a range of partners for a sustained period, including smaller or new venues. We hope to build a lasting local audience in partnership with these venues and organisations, through our combined expertise and resources, and their deep community links.

We are so excited to be working with our partners, and look forward to developing our plans together in the coming months.”

Joyce Wilson, London Area Director, Arts Council England said:
“This significant touring programme will have real impact on the cultural landscape of our country. The different strands of work will not only inspire communities, but leave behind infrastructure upon which a local culture for both making and enjoying theatre can grow. In that way, the whole country benefits.”

Deborah Rees, Director, CAST, said:
“Cast is very excited about the opportunity of partnering the National Theatre, developing and building the relationship through a number of approaches and strands of work. A flagship partnership with an organisation of national significance such as the NT will contribute to our aims in a number of ways through providing high quality work and engagement programmes and contributing to improvements in how the town perceives itself and its level of aspiration.”

Julia Fawcett OBE, Chief Executive Officer, THE LOWRY, said:

“The Lowry is delighted to be working in partnership with the National Theatre to develop a sustained three-year collaboration across productions, work with schools and young people and audience development, including working in partnership to engage audiences in key areas of Greater Manchester.”

Douglas Rintoul, Artistic Director, QUEEN’S THEATRE HORNCHURCH, said:

“We’re delighted to see the Arts Council fund a programme that supports touring to Outer East London, where there is a palpable sense not being connected to the inner London institutions. Through this partnership our community will be afforded access to a major arts organisation that they may currently feel isn’t for or doesn’t reflect them. It supports our ambitions for excellence and it will be a game changer for all involved.”

Helen Green, Director, THE FIRE STATIONsaid:
“I am absolutely thrilled that the National Theatre will be coming to work with Sunderland Culture. It is outside the means of a large percentage of our residents to travel to London, so to have the National come to us to work in our schools and our communities is very exciting. Our new, mid-scale theatre, The Fire Station, will open during the period of this partnership and we are excited to explore the many ways we can work together to enthuse and inspire audiences and emerging artists.”

Katie Town, Executive Director, THEATRE ROYAL WAKEFIELD, said:
“Theatre Royal Wakefield is delighted to be working with the National Theatre as a partner for their three year strategic touring programme. Together we will increase access to theatre and offer unique opportunities for those least engaged with the arts. Wakefield has a significant number of excellent cultural organisations working hard to increase accessibility for everyone in the district and this programme will enable local young people to have a spectacular first experience of theatre.”

Tim Colegate, Producer & Programme Manager, WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE, said:
“The opportunity for Wolverhampton Grand Theatre to form an affiliation with the National Theatre will enable us to make a further commitment to our audiences and strongly reinforce our continued efforts to offer consistent high-quality drama over the duration of the scheme. This in turn will grant us the ability to consider the future in terms of audience growth and sustainability in a way which we are usually unable to with the conventional ‘show-by-show’ method of programming.”

In 2017-18, the NT will tour to 49 venues in 37 towns and cities across the UK:

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time from January 2017
  • My Country; a work in progress from March 2017
  • Jane Eyre from June 2017
  • War Horse from September 2017
  • Hedda Gabler from October 2017
  • Over 3,000 schools have signed up to the free streaming service, On Demand In Schools, since its launch in September 2015.

Emma Rice’s new company, Wise Children, backed by Arts Council

Wise Children
Wise Children

Wise Children

A new company created and led by Emma Rice, Wise Children, has been awarded funding by the Arts Council South West, becoming one of their National Portfolio Organisations from April 2018.

Based in the South West of England, the company marks a new chapter for Emma Rice. Wise Children will conceive, create and present world-class, innovative ensemble theatre; a culmination of the process and ethos she has developed over her theatrical career. Emma has worked for twenty years as an actor, director and Artistic Director at Kneehigh and steps down from her current position as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe in April 2018. Her bold, imaginative productions and gift for storytelling have made her one of the most important and acclaimed directors working today.

Wise Children will work in partnership with venues to create ensemble work to tour nationally and internationally. Through a series of residencies, the company will develop and diversify audiences. Key partnerships are secured and will be announced in due course.

The company will create a training and apprenticeship scheme, ‘Emma Rice’s School for Wise Children’. The scheme aims to develop skills across the sector, training independent artists and diversifying the creative workforce. The training will be structured around intensive modules, with Emma drawing from the many excellent and established artists she has worked with over the years to support the next generation of practitioners.

Emma Rice said: “I am delighted that the Arts Council South West have chosen to support Wise Children. Anyone starting up a new theatre company in the current climate struggles against the odds to get started, and the Arts Council have given us a much-needed chance to begin our journey. I look forward to growing Wise Children to become the inclusive, passionate and imaginative company I know it will be. We will nurture and support diverse new voices and talent, bringing them together with the most brilliant and creative established artists and practitioners in the industry. This is a movement with a commitment to the generous exchange of skills, humanity and ideas at its heart. We are looking forward to welcoming everyone to share in our journey and to celebrate the power of theatre and all the curiosity, bravery and freedom it brings.”

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Wise Children into the National Portfolio. Emma Rice has an exceptional reputation for artistic and directorial leadership, it’s fantastic that she will be basing her new theatre company in the South West. We’re excited by the creative opportunities that will come through this investment, giving more people in more places across the country the opportunity to benefit from the wide benefits that arts and culture bring.”