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The PANDA Rural Touring event was held on the 24th and 25th March and was hosted by the Witham in Barnard Castle. This year saw the attendance of even more rural touring promoters and programmers than previously. As well as close PANDA partners Cheshire Rural Touring Arts manager Claire Smith and  Spot On Lancashire’s Sue Robinson we also had in attendance Caroline Aston from Arts Out West, programmers from the Witham as well as ArtERY and Highlights.

The scheme aims to raise awareness amongst the community of PANDA companies of the existence of rural touring and the creative opportunities that exist for artists to make work for rural touring and create relationships between promoters and this local cohort of companies.

The scheme received 32 applications and 8 were selected to pitch to the panel. This year a dance company from London was selected as well as companies from across the North West. The companies were all extremely excited to have the opportunity to pitch and have been very complimentary about the experience of pitching and valued the feedback from the panel as well as the future contacts to aid in the development of their piece for rural touring.

The companies chosen to pitch were:


Brian Hook and the Flanagan Collective - Sherlock

Sue McCormick, Ladybrain Productions - A Richer Dust

Pete Kalu, Common word - Storytelling

Susan Swanton, Articulate Elbow - Hypochondriac

Michelle Yim, Red Dragonfly Productions - The Autumn of Han

Emma Decent - Beyond Dreams of Aberystwyth

Chanje Kunda, Afrique Performs - Amsterdam

Etta Ermini, Etta Ermini Dance Company - Bar Story and Picnic


Feedback from the artists:

"I enjoyed so much meeting all the other artists. Their pitches were truly inspiring to me, and each of you in your own way taught me a lot about the business, so thanks for sharing"

"Thank you to PANDA for giving us such an amazing opportunity and experience! It was very inspiring and refreshing to see other ideas and approaches, and it was so helpful to talk to scheme managers and promoters and get their feedback"

“Thanks so much for the opportunity to be part of such an encouraging, supportive and useful event”

"The feedback is gold dust for shaping a great show - watch this space!"

Feedback from the promoters/programmers:

"As a promoter, I found the invitation to participate in the PANDA pitching day extremely valuable. It gave promoters to chance to communicate some of the practical challenges we face 'on-the-ground' to both artists and rural touring scheme staff, as well as providing us with insight into how shows are chosen and developed for schemes. It also provided a forum to discuss collectively ways in which new and different kinds of performances for rural audiences could be developed."

“As a villlage hall promoter it was fantastic to have an opportunity to join the Panda Pitching day at the Witham, Barnard Castle, hosted by Highlights.
Although we were observers during the pitching, we were made very welcome by all the panel and I felt our views were valued during the feedback on the pitches at the end of the afternoon.
As volunteers it gives us insight into how things work behind the scenes from the point of view of the northern schemes staff and a real buzz watching performers during their process of getting a show ready to tour and the differences between performing in a large venue as opposed to an intimate setting such as a village hall. It's interesting to meet other scheme directors and see their programmes of events and a little of how they operate too.

It's always really exciting to be part of it all.Thanks for having us.”

“From a promoter’s viewpoint, it was intriguing to see an aspect of rural touring development that I was unfamiliar with. I am grateful for having had the opportunity, and thank you for the invitation"