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The Touring Network on Programming Great Live Work across the Highlands & Islands

The Touring Network

The Touring Network brings high quality, live performances to rural and island communities, transforming their community spaces into performance venues. In this Connecting feature, Development Director Sam Eccles tells us more what the Touring Network offers, who they work with and how you can get involved.

What is the Touring Network?

I will never forget the looks on my children’s faces when they saw the Cloud man emerging from the mist on Mull.- Sam Eccles, the Touring Network

The Touring Network starts where established venue map of Scotland ends. We perform beyond the urban main stages and flagship cultural facilities in community spaces that are transformed into performance venues.

We provide a unique model for touring support across rural and island communities, where local promoters operate and programme independently, with the network acting as a central point of contact for performers and as a marketplace for their touring shows.

The Touring Network strives to ensure that all those who make cultural events happen in their communities are valued as a central, indispensable and celebrated part of the cultural life of Scotland.

What are your most memorable performances?

This is an almost impossible question to answer. With over 700 performances taking place in 60+ venues across a vast region, it's easier to talk about what I wish I had not missed. It can feel like Edinburgh’s Fringe at times - for every performance I see, there are another 10 I wish I could have experienced!

It's also about the intimacy that can only happen in the small and unique venues in which our events happen.

Imagine going to a performance on an island, where no cars are allowed and all the tech, staging and props have arrived at the venue thanks to the communities use of wheelbarrows; or feeling the breath of a performer during a show then socialising with performers in the community afterwards. It's this that makes for a memorable performance. Its all about seeing the transformation and having the transformational experience that occurs, as a result of being amongst folk, who have come together to build something out of nothing.

Having said that, performances that I will never forget, are my partner's enthusiasm for David Leddy’s Tales of Corruption, fakes and heartbreak being told in the windswept landscapes of Lyth; or the looks on my children’s faces when they saw the Cloud man emerging from the mist on Mull. The list could go on, but suffice to say all are remarkable places providing extraordinary experiences. World class theatre, music, dance, comedy and kids shows from Shetland to Campbletown, Birnham to Skye.

Who do you work with?

We work with promoters, performers and, more recently, audiences. The synergy between them make for great live performances.

Promoters make events happen - from programming the acts, to setting up the venue, selling tickets and hosting performers - promoters carry out a whole host of practical tasks, many of which go unseen, but are key to delivering a successful events programme. They are the lighting crew, technicians, box office, marketing team, programmers, front of houses. It is utterly amazing what these people do and achieve.

Performers respond to the environment, playing on intimate stages at the heart of small communities and developing a profound connection with landscape, with place and with people. This - alongside Scotland’s makers' and producers' commitment to tour - means that we have amazing performers and performances happening in some of our most remote and beautiful towns and villages. This is something we work hard to continue. We believe that every performer should have the opportunity to access these experiences - to allow themselves and their creative work to be influenced and inspired. 

  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  
  • Photo: Peter McNally  

    Offering world class performances throughout the Highland and Islands outside of established venues sounds challenging. How do you do it?  

    The geography is challenging indeed. We operate across an area that stretches across half of Scotland. Its the same size as the Netherlands but without the infrastructure. However, this is the very reason the Network exists - to bring people together and to work around common aims and needs.

    Perhaps a greater challenge is the fact that our promoters, or small scale programmers, are mainly volunteers, as well as modern day crofters. This means that they are often holding down 2 or more jobs, are carers, heavily involved with their communities and more. Working 9-5 to curate the 700 performances they offer, just isn’t possible.

    For this reason we need to be able to offer support to promoters, and allow companies/performers to interact with them on a 24/7 basis. Living in a digital age has allowed us to do this, and as an organisation we have become very digitally savvy and orientated. This outlook has allowed us to respond to the needs of promoters and performers to produce Tourbook.  

    What is Tourbook

    Tourbook is a digital solution that aims to strengthen communication, connecting all those involved in making touring happen, from promoters to audiences. 

    Tourbook is the main place for performers/companies to showcase their work and plan their tours; and for promoters to book and programme their seasons of work. In addition there are loads of resources and information in there for the benefit of promoters.

    Performers and companies who wish to tour, and want to showcase their work, can reach out to us by registering and using Tourbook. This also allows them to highlight their bookings and ensure they are included within The Network’s listings.

    Other ways artists/performers can get involved...

    We encourage everyone who is interested in touring, or who wants to learn more about rural touring, to visit our website. Here we publish loads of information on touring to The Highlands & Islands and listings for audiences.

    Unlike any other rural touring scheme in the UK, our promoters programme independently of The Network, and as such it is vital that those wishing to tour engage with them. 

    Promoters are looking for the very best in music, theatre and dance  - and our audiences are knowledgable and very culturally aware.

    We also have The Supported Touring programme, that offers a curated menu of high quality events to help promoters and performers reduce the financial risks of putting challenging and diverse work on our stages. It exists to complement existing programming, and works to bring new and exciting professional Dance, Children’s theatre and Contemporary theatre into the region; it works with promoters to widen their programming choices and attract new audiences; and it works with communities new to promoting, to increase access to professional performing arts.

    Anyone on Tourbook will be considered for Supported Touring, and we currently put out a call to companies twice a year.

    More Info

    To find out more about the Touring Network and their work, visit their website, follow them on Twitter @touringnetwork and find them on facebook/thetouringnetwork.

    The Touring Network is one of 119 organisations receiving Regular Funding from Creative Scotland across 2015-18. 

    This article was published on 09 Dec 2014