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Online conference on futureproofing the rural arts sector

Annual National Rural Touring Forum event organised by Stanford Dingley director

Trish Lee

trish lee


01635 886663

Online conference on futureproofing the rural arts sector

Last year's conference at Bangor

THE National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) is launching a new free online conference on Tuesday (October 6), focussed on how to futureproof the rural arts sector. Called Horizons, the four-day conference will be online and digital, taking place every Tuesday in October, with follow-up sessions every Friday morning.

The conference – which is now an annual fixture in the cultural calendar – is an opportunity to bring the rural touring community together for a series of discussions, masterclasses and performances, offering inspiring talks, industry-led panel discussions, and opportunities to network.

“There is a definite need for all involved in the rural touring sector to come together this year to share, learn and watch,” said NRTF director Holly Lombardo, from Stanford Dingley. “Now more than ever we need to collaborate and support each other. The conference is a brilliant chance to do that.”

This year’s all-digital conference is set under four themes: Equality and Diversity, Library Touring, Futureproofing and Mental Health and Leadership. Speakers and performers include Amanda Palmer of Inc Arts, Dave Young – The Shouting Mute, Ellie Liddell-Crewe from Unlimited, Terry Adams – Diversity, Arts Council England , Pam Horton from The Eden Project leadership programmes, Liz Pugh of Walk the Plank Theatre, poet Luke Wright and artist and sustainability campaigner Paule Constable, to name just a few.

“We aim to make the conference as accessible as possible. Not only is it free, it’s digital and there will be BSL interpreting where possible and captioning on recorded content,” said NRTF project manager Jess Huffman.

The gathering continues six months of support for the rural arts sector from NRTF, firefighting the unknown and supporting those artists whose livelihoods have been devastated by the pandemic. Since the first performance cancellation in March, NRTF has worked in collaboration with the 30 rural touring schemes across the UK to react and directly support the creative sector. NRTF repurposed its budget, created weekly Zoom conversations for the sector, and launched “Rural Touring Unlocked”, which has led to six collaborative projects being developed in the sector. NRTF also announced free membership for artists for 12 months.

“Many of our rural audiences have not been able to access digital shows. It is with huge thanks an NRTF Rural
Touring Unlocked grant, we were able to commission three rural touring artists to create broadcast ready pieces in partnership with BBC Radio Cumbria.” Kate Lynch, Director Highlights Rural Touring

NRTF has also been advocating loudly on behalf of the sector, joining round tables from DCMS, Arts Council England, Creative Industries Federation as well as many other conversations.

“It is important the rural arts voices are heard. The conversations and needs of the creative sector are
different to those in cities and towns and the nuances of this needs to be communicated.” Holly Lombardo, Director NRTF

The conference is open to anyone who is interested in the rural arts as a performer, as an organiser or as a leader in the arts sector. Thanks go to Arts Council England for supporting the NRTF in delivering this event.

Conference tickets can be booked at

NRTF – 30 member schemes, 1,650 artists, 110,000 voluntary hours, 332,000 audience, over £1,000,000 box office sales.

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