I’m nearing the end of my internship here in the Rural Arts ON Tour office, after a hectic, productive and exciting 5 months. I thought I’d write a bit of a reflective blog about my time here, so that future interns (and anyone else that might be interested) could know what to expect from the work that goes on in this mysterious world of rural touring, and to explain some of the valuable experiences I’ve gained from working at Rural Arts.
|A view from the intern’s desk (on a surprisingly tidy day)…|
The months I’ve spent here have seen the launch of Create Tour, a unique project for young performers in North Yorkshire and East Cleveland; the first project of its kind, Create Tour enables 11-16 year olds to rehearse and tour with professional performers for free, creating an exceptional opportunity in communities that are lacking in arts provision. We ran this project with Phoenix Dance Theatre earlier this year in East Cleveland (see Chloe’s blog below), recruiting young people from rural and ex-mining towns in the North East. Before this project began, I was half expecting Billy Elliot-esque resistance from these communities, where the decline of industry is a much more pressing matter than the number of people engaged with the arts. Instead, I found a group of young people who were passionate about performance, performing in rural communities that were incredibly (and surprisingly, to me) welcoming to contemporary dance. As a youth-work project this achieved its aims and more, whilst as an audience development exercise it could hardly have been more rewarding. Create Tour is a testament to Arts Council money well-spent, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.
|Create Tour dancers in Loftus Town Hall.|
This new project has been running alongside our work on ON Tour, Rural Arts’s well-established rural touring scheme covering North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley. Seeing this through from the end of our Spring 2013 season into preparations for Autumn has shown me the full scope of this work, from programming companies and planning the season to supporting our promoters in marketing, publicising and delivering these events in rural communities. Together with Create Tour, this work has proven to me that village halls are for more than just pantomime; young companies, small companies and larger companies willing to scale-down (like Phoenix Dance have done with REfined) should definitely take note, because there’s a huge network of rural venues out there, with open minded and generous audiences.
|A rural tour audience, looking both open minded and generous!|
In a time where arts opportunities for graduates seem thin on the ground, graduates needn’t assume that cities are always the best places to find valuable work at the start of their career. I have found myself in an office that programmes and publicises two seasons of professional performance a year, part of a network of rural touring schemes that cover the entire country. They treat their interns fairly too; unlike many large theatres or companies in cities that prefer not to pay their interns, Rural Arts have been mindful of the Arts Council’s Internships in the Arts guidelines and provided me with an incredibly valuable internship that hasn’t left me out of pocket.
So for all of that, thank you to Angela and Janice for giving me the opportunity to join the team at Rural Arts, and a huge thanks to Chloe and Ellen in the ON Tour office for all of their hard work and support. I’m sure that the interns who follow me will find their time in Thirsk as rewarding as I have. But for now…