The number of event cancellations at small rural venues is placing “an immense personal toll” on those who programme professional artists and companies in community settings.
Cyrus Crossan on Unsplash
The UK’s rural programming schemes are in crisis, managing the vast number of cancellations and postponements to events which were scheduled for their spring seasons.
Research conducted by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) among its members has found that over 1,000 performances have been and taken off sale in rural communities across the UK due to the coronavirus lockdown.
30 rural touring schemes across the country are facing the financial and logistical impact of the cancellations. These schemes programme menus of professional artistic events that tour in their regions. They have come together to agree, that “regardless of contracted obligations and where possible”, they will pay a percentage of booking fees to artists as a result of the cancellations, though the percentages and payments depend on the agreements and the financial position of the fee-paying organisation. Combined cancellation fees of £170,000 have already been paid out.
The schemes are inviting their audiences to consider leaving their ticket refund unclaimed as a donation to support the artists and companies whose shows have been cancelled and are losing all their income.
The CEO of one scheme said: “I've had to make the decision to furlough almost all staff, and within the week [I] will probably be running our 12-person organisation single-handedly. We have safeguarded artists and staff costs, but it will take an immense personal toll.”
Rural touring shows take place across the UK in non-arts venues such as village halls, community centres, outdoor spaces, pubs and libraries, serving audiences and volunteers who are often drawn from vulnerable and at-risk categories. The crisis is also having severe and potentially long-term consequences for these community venues, volunteer promoters, staff, and the artists who specialise in rural touring, many of whom are also looking for support to sustain their livelihoods.
NRTF has been advocating on behalf of all creatives and cultural organisations in rural areas to have access to emergency funds. It is hosting weekly conversations with schemes, rural touring artists and promoters, aiming to put forward a combined response.