A Wider Horizon: First words

A Wider Horizon 17

The regular marvels of rural touring

Rural touring schemes are a quiet triumph of the British arts world. For 35 years, these small, independent organisations have brought theatre, music and other performing arts to villages across the country and found enthusiastic local audiences. They have offered life enhancing experiences to people who, because they live far from cities, have limited access to the arts. They have provided rewarding and often challenging work for thousands of artists, from seasoned performers to young people at the start of a career. And, in doing all this, rural touring schemes have allowed more of us to enjoy the arts we pay for as tax payers and national lottery players.

Night after night, gifted artists perform at the invitation of the local community in halls, schools and churches from Cornwall to Cumbria. There might be 40, 70 or a hundred people; few venues can accommodate more anyway. But numbers aren’t the point. This is an art of closeness—chamber music, not the Last Night of the Proms.

‘People like the intimacy of the performance, the fact that you are feet away. You’re not watching at a distance on a screen—you’re involved, you’re part of the action.’

The performers are close: you can see the whites of their eyes. The atmosphere is electric because there’s nowhere to hide if the show isn’t working—and that can be as uncomfortable for the audience as for the artists. But such occasions are rare, partly because touring schemes are skilled at finding good shows, and partly because local promoters decide which ones to put on in their community. It is a joint enterprise with shared risks. And when it works, which is very often, audience and artists share a joyous experience, life enhancing and even, sometimes, life changing: regular marvels, indeed.

A Wider Horizon will be presented at the National Rural Touring Forum conference on 14th July 2015 at Wymondham College in Norfolk. The book will then be available from Creative Arts East and as a download from this site. A Wider Horizon, which is a collaboration with Rosie Redzia, will be the fifth regular marvel, and marks the end of the series, for the present at least. More news about that, and the new work that will follow, will come in the summer.

A dialogue of stories

AWH Rosie Redzia 28

Designing the regular marvel books is always enjoyable. Visual judgements involve a different part of the mind to writing, and when something works you can see it at once (literally).   There’s a way to go, but as far as integration of words and images A Wider Horizon might be the happiest yet. Each book has explored the dialogue between ways of knowing differently. If none has been completely successful, to my mind, I feel they’re getting better.

That’s partly thanks to the work of Dave Everitt, old friend and multi-disciplinary artist, with whom I do the layout. His command of the software has saved me having to learn it but working with a sympathetic spirit is the key. The combination of being painstaking but not opinionated is precious and makes the working process a pleasure.

But if A Wider Horizon does work out, it will be because Rosie Redzia’s drawings of landscapes, people and performers tell their story so well. It’s not my story – that’s the point of her contribution – but we often saw the same things, together or separately, and have talked about them over the years of the project. The result is not just two versions of the experience of rural touring but three, with another emerging from the dialogue between the two. At least that’s the idea: you’ll be able to decide for yourself when the books are available on 16 July.

AWH Rosie Redzia 43