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PANDA Rural Touring Report


The PANDA Rural Touring Event was held on the 12th and 13th March and was hosted by Kirkgate Arts Centre in Cockermouth. This year we saw the attendance of even more rural touring promoters and programmers than any other year. As well as close PANDA partners Cheshire Rural Touring Arts Managers Claire Smith and Jenny Henry, Spot On Lancashire’s Sue Robinson and Arts Out West director Bob Pritchard, we also had in attendance other programmers from Arts Out West as well as ArtERY and Highlights!


The artists and programmers met at Cockermouth Youth Hostel the evening before the pitching day which gave everyone the opportunity to get to know another and discuss what kind of work they do. Adding to the cosy atmosphere of the hostel, Ian Douglas presented a number of his amusing and enthralling stories about Jack, a character ever present in the imaginary of both children and adults alike. The charming performance accompanied by live fiddle music set the tone for the rest of the pitches where each artist had a captive audience of rural touring programmers for their presentations and the opportunity for an informal chat about the work afterwards.


The pitching day saw events from:


Geli Berg from the Lingua Franca Music Agency


Geli presented a menu of various world music and dance events from a range of UK based artists. The menu included music and story telling from Arabic and Jewish singers, an evening of African music and food, as well as a Flamenco band and a live presentation of Uzbek dance by San’at from Uzbekistan.


Emma Dunn from Dansformation


Emma discussed the potential of rurally touring her current contemporary dance performance ‘Northumbriana’ which incorporates film and projected imagery on to the dancers bodies, as well as offering a group ceilidh for the audience to join in at the end of the performance. The show offered the opportunity make contemporary dance accessible to rural audiences.


Ali Dunican from Quarantine


Ali presented two performance pieces for the programmers. The two installation-style performances included a one-to-one karaoke with a recorded video of a solider from the armed forces called ‘Soldier’s Song,’ and another participatory project where the audience offer to camera their expert knowledge on a subject of their choice, a show entitled, ‘Between Us We Know Everything’. As conceptually robust pieces of work, it was interesting to consider how alternative performance pieces might work in rural venues.


Janine Waters from The Edge


Presenting ‘Spinach!’ an entirely sung play to the panel, Janine described how their work attempts to engage with diverse audiences and to take performances in to communities that do not always have access to cultural events. ‘Spinach!’ follows the story of a male and female who wake up one day tied up with no idea what has happened to them.


Lucy Frost from Molly Orange Street


Lucy prepared a quirky presentation for the panel bringing in to the pitch some of the giant sized every day objects that they use in their work-in this case a sewing needle-nearly bigger than Lucy herself. The show she proposed was also depicted in miniature inside a shoe box, which gave a humorous and engaging approach to understanding her proposed indoor mini fête performance ‘Little Wonder Travelling Fête’.


Ben Power from Moving Shadows


This show presenting in Ben’s pitch was a little more gritty in content and certainly required a more delicate treatment of the ideas in the work. ‘Reportage’ is set to be an exploration of the role of the political news photographer who captures images of war scenes or crisis. The work encapsulates ethical questions in relation to this role and was presented to the panel through projected imagery, recorded ‘reportings’ of narrative and Ben moving through the space with a camera.



Bill Palmer and James Macpherson from Avanti and Artizani


And finally the panel welcomed the return of Avanti and Artizani, a collaboration between Street Artists Bill Palmer and James Macpherson. The pair are developing a new performance piece that makes the move from outdoor performances to an indoor piece of work suitable specifically for rural venues. In fact the pair pitched to the rural programmers through the PANDA rural touring scheme last year and were so loved by the panel that they have since received direct guidance and support from some of the programmers as part of the scheme. Avanti and Artizani recently received a successful Grant for the Arts award and are set to make the indoor show in consultation with rural programmers to make a performance which will perfectly suit rural venues.


The pitches demonstrated a broad range of practices and innovative ideas that were indeed exciting to witness. It is even more exciting to consider the relationships that will be emerging from the conversations between artists and programmers. Each artist has since received personal feedback on their pitch and show as well as future contacts to aid in the development of the piece for rural touring. As a successful event for both artists and programmers, the PANDA rural touring scheme is going from strength to strength, attracting more programmers and developing more opportunities for members.


Here’s hoping to see the artists’ work soon, in a rural venue near you!