Gloria Lindh, 28 January 2013

In capturing the notes from the discussion I’ve changed some of the order from how it

chronologically occurred. I haven’t attributed examples, please feel free to comment

and attribute/ give specific examples of points raised. Many thanks to everyone who

contributed to this discussion, some really valuable thinking and communicating going


I opened the discussion by explaining I had proposed the session from a perception

that touring in small scale is not working, and that I keep thinking there are ways to

make it better except I’m not sure how that would work. I also thought of the quote:

“we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created


Why do we tour?

This was a question opened out to the group. Here are some responses:

‘We make work for real people. We want them to see it”

“We want our peers to see the work”

“We want reviews”

“I want to people in different places to see things we made”

“I want to talk to those audiences”

Issues of touring and possible solutions


Touring companies reported being offered the same or worse deals financially as they

would have expected 12 years ago. The conversations are about sharing risk between

venue and artist, however the perception is that the way touring works leads to the

artist shouldering a greater burden of the risk through being less resourced to market

the show, having less contact with local people who attend the performance.

The fees that are offered do not meet the cost of touring the show, and therefore also

will not meet the cost of developing the show.

Many venues are working in consortia to share risk, within Strategic Touring Fund

Partnerships. This increases opportunity and brings shows to new areas. There is a

risk that it increases gatekeepers to touring for companies: you are either ‘in’ or ‘out’ a

scheme. They can be a more efficient way to pool resources.

Another solution is to move towards co-commissions – but this also limits the range

and number of potential people who will see the work.

Subsidised touring?

There is no longer a touring department of the ACE, and National Portfolio

Organisations are not able to apply to GfA (Grants for the Arts) to subsidise touring.

This has a cascading effect and effectively means that some companies such as

Improbable are no longer able to consider small scale touring, as the financial deals

they are offered do not allow them to tour without subsidy.

The relentlessness of operating a venue

Certain kinds of touring work costs more, or asks something different from a

production team. It can be difficult for venues to accommodate something that works

differently when working with high volume and low resources, but without

accommodating this means local audiences lose access to high quality work.

Regional arts centres have a particular programming challenge in that they offer a

wide range within the programme, from films to musicals to spoken word to live music

to contemporary performance. Within this there is a challenge to accommodate events

that don’t operate in a standard format, and perception from visiting companies that

there can be a lack of developing audiences for events that are considered more

‘risky’ from a programming point of view. Some venues are better at this than others.

Invisible touring

A touring company reported being perceived by ACE as having no track record,

despite many years of rural and community touring. This was because the venues and

company received no public subsidy, which meant that the activity was not reported on

and registered by the funding body. The company found that they had higher

attendance at non subsidsed community venues then in the subsidised theatre tour

they arranged.

The touring model and money

If you compare the model of small scale theatre touring with that of bands touring

there are some differences and some similarities. One is that there is less of an

expectation that an artist will make a living from touring (implicit is that there is no

public subsidy for touring with a band). Some suggestions from that model that could

be considered in touring:

• A local support act with a national headline act

Pre-investment of local music scene in a tour through crowd funding (though

crowdfunding may be problematic for other reasons)

People trust curated open mic nights. Could they trust a curated theatre night?

One company will often busk during the day in order to build an audience and

supplement their income from their theatre performance.

Connecting with audiences….via venues

(Audience here should read as ‘people who come to see theatre who may have

differing motivations and are not the amorphous ‘audience’!)

I think it would be accurate to say that there was a perception that it can be difficult to

bring audiences to see new touring work in venues, particularly if it’s just at the venue

for one night.

The question was asked what is it that we’re not doing.

Perhaps we need to recognise the increased options available to us for entertainment.

What are we offering that is better than a kitten on youtube? Materials offered for

promotion are not good enough. You-tube trailers could be better.

The relationship with an audience is just that – a relationship - and touring companies

are often working with a venue to broker that relationship. If the venue does not have

that relationship, or is having trouble making effective introductions of shows and

audiences, this can present a challenge for touring companies to find ways of

introducing their own work.

Sometimes an approach to relationships needs to be longterm. Some companies use

a residency to build relationships with local audiences before performing their show –

but the suitability of this will depend on the company’s practice and the project. Some

venues like Arc, Stockton run a ‘meet the artist’ night to bring the local artistic

community into contact with touring work. Are touring companies missing something in

terms of what we can do to add value beyond a foyer display and a workshop – and

are venues missing a trick in creatively implementing solutions?

Many people in the group go to theatre, apart from professional reasons, because

we’ve got a habit. What as a sector can we do to introduce theatre as an option for

habitual behaviour? More specifically, as a touring company what is it that we do that

encourages people to build that habit. And venues?

In all of this we talk about venues, companies, buildings, the sector, the audience. All

of these are made up of people, and it’s people that we tend to build relationships with.

The success of nights such as Performance in the Pub in Leicester relies on the host

Hannah being on the door, programming the night and greeting the audience. The

connection is with the personalities rather than the building.


One of the things I asked the group about was a sense that the way we do touring

seems to result in a lot of duplication – a lot of cold calling, a lot of venues all talking to

the same artist without connecting up, each company searching for accommodation,

etc. And I wondered if there were any way to improve that?

It was pointed out that some duplication is necessary because of schedules and

specific requirements of shows on the road. There was also some discussion around

things that could improve, and proposed solutions.


Many people spend a lot of time on the email and phone to book a tour, and in the

early stages the legwork is increased as you build up relationships with programmers.

Often artists will tell you they can never get a response from programmers, and

programmers will often tell you they can find the right kind of quality of work that

they’re looking for.

Part of this can be solved by researching and targeting venues appropriately. Part of

this could be solved by venues putting contact details for programming enquiries

clearly on their website. There was some discussion over whether also requiring a

statement of programming priorities for the coming seasons should be written into

funding agreements!

The Empty Space run an event in the North East bringing together programmers and

artists, where programmers can indicate the kind of work they’re looking for and artists

can pitch their project. The aim is not to get the show booked but to get your emails

opened! There seemed to be general agreement that face to face or personal contact

were more effective than remote endorsing eg via linkedin. Bringing together artists

and programmers in one space makes pitching more time effective for those involved

– as opposed to going through lots of individual email conversations.

Other resources that were suggested could be shared are knowledge including

audience data and digs lists. Sharing people and admin across touring companies

didn’t produce an efficiency of scale in people’s experience but merely caused the

same amount of work,, multiplied.

Other solutions:

Should resources be distributed differently? If venues were given more resources

should they take on more of the admin heavy lifting, as in France. Would this be a

fairer and more efficient way to distribute limited resources, or would it increase

barriers to touring for both more and less established companies?

Collaboration is a word that’s used more and more often in the sector. Are we seeing

more like with like collaboration (between venues or companies ) and if so should

there be more collaboration between venues, companies, audiences?

Going Forward:

Having had this very useful conversation there could be a few ways of going forward.

Being able to share experiences of touring issues is one thing. Evidence – the

example of the invisible tour – is another. There are actions in this document that can

be taken on an individual scale (how can I add value, how can my venue/company

think about building audience relationships) and there are others that require

collaborative working at strategic level across organisations.

If you are aware of existing ideas, schemes, opportunities that address some of the

issues raised here please feel free to share by commenting or contacting directly.

Sometimes we can try to reinvent the wheel when all it needs is a puncture repair. On

the other hand, I have this suspicion that if we don’t address the issues we’re facing

we will find ourselves down the line with no touring activity, limited regional provision

for audiences and limited opportunities for artists. Let’s keep talking.


Theatre, theatre, Touring, touring