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'Somewhere to gather, create and celebrate' - the important work of Highland promoters

In 2018, The Touring Network received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Sharing Heritage grant of £10,000, to document and celebrate the impact of volunteer promoters and their effect on communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland over the period of the last 40 years.

Epic Stage Story, celebrates the lives of those who have transformed, connected with or programmed in Highland & Island communities over the past 20 years and more.

As part of The Touring Network’s 20th anniversary year, they have gathered stories from promoters, visiting performers and audience members to share the history of live events in the Highlands and Islands – from the 1970s right up until the present day.

They sent a researcher and filmmaker on a tour of the region to collect stories and footage to document the history.

Their findings have now been beautifully crafted into a mini-film If We Didn’t Have All That, as well as interactive, roaming pop-up exhibitions, and an expansive digital archive of stories and memorabilia.

We spoke to Chief Executive Jo McLean to find out more.

Tell us about the funding you received: what was it for and why?

We received funding from the National Lottery Heritage fund to support a project which highlighted the important work of Highland promoters who began bringing live performances to rural scotland in the 1970s.

What would you like viewers to take away from the film?

We’d like viewers to understand the special kind of relationships which are born out of connection to place,  and how these intimate performances create meaningful experiences for both performers and communities. We’d also like viewers to know that that they can find remarkable things happening in places they might least expect it!

What does the film touch on with regards to local communities in the Highlands and Islands?

The film highlights the importance of live performance events as a form of social cohesion - they are part and parcel of rural village life. Somewhere to gather, create and celebrate.

The Touring Network is celebrating its 20th year. What are some highlights from the last two decades?

That’s really hard to answer and all our members would probably have a different answer, but I think the film plays out a few highlights; performances which hold special places in the hearts of promoters and communities, as well as some entertaining stories!  From the perspective of the organisation, becoming a regularly funded organisation has definitely been one of the big development milestones!

What’s coming up in the future?

We have so many plans - mainly around creating a more vibrant and visible network. For us this means more opportunities for sharing experiences, creating opportunities nationally and internationally to showcase and present work, supporting more learning activities and generally connecting audiences to what is on offer in the Highlands and Islands.

This article was published on 18 Mar 2019