Half the SW lives in the countryside. Why doesn't the sector give rural work equal weight?

Mark Wallace, 17 July 2012

Present: Mark Wallace, Josie Sutcliffe, Rebecca Garland, John Frankland

1. Unfounded perceptions which need challenging

• Urban is “cool” - industrial decaying cities are interesting; small land-oriented rural communities are archaic

• When making work, the choice of audience is binary: large anonymous audiences in main houses, or small but possibly engaged audiences in non-traditional spaces

• Rural audiences will only respond to work about local issues

2. Challenging questions

Artists! Ask yourselves:

• what is my point?

• to whom do I need to say this?

• where are they?

• are my assumptions about them well-founded?

… SO am I responding open-mindedly to my initial inspiration when deciding the audience for the finished work?

IF your response is “rural audiences won't like it” - how do you know? (It's more often the case that the artists haven't tried it) AND is it really an either/or choice? Projects can span multiple locations; with suitable flexibility of production, they can play to audiences large and small in different ways

3. Changing perceptions of the rural

Over the next fifty years, ways of life will change.

Local economies - local ecosystems - will have to become more self-sustaining and resilient. AND the economics of touring will change significantly.

Rural communities already have strong models addressing sustainability (e.g. Transition Towns movement; UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in England, Wales, and Scotland).

They, and others, are beginning to address the question “what happens when you can't do things in the same way anymore?”

That's a pretty big question; the sector is already engaging with it. But where better to start than from a rural perspective?

(of course, this overlooks the fine work which artists like Kilter Theatre, Symon McIntyre, Ben Mellor, Encounters Arts, et al are already doing. But they weren't here; and only one of the artists in the room joined this conversation …)


resilience, rural touring, rural, rural theatre, Touring, climate change, touring