North benefits from over £8.5 million in Strategic touring funds

The Arts Council £45 million Strategic touring programme targets areas with a low level of art engagement and supports the goal of achieving great art and culture for everyone. It is designed to encourage collaboration between organisations, so that more people across England experience and are inspired by the arts, particularly in places which rely on touring for much of their arts and cultural encounters.

We have just released some analysis from the second year of the programme which will help us to further develop our thinking in regard to the kinds of applications we would like to see submitted to the programme in the future. The full report can be found here.

The Strategic touring programme was launched in 2011 and so far £8,655,349 has been awarded to organisations based in the North. In Year 2 £3,344,831was allocated to the North.

Some of the projects we have funded in the North include:

Spellbound, a classic Indian folktale retold with fire and shadow, is being toured by National portfolio organisation Walk the Plank. A thrilling tale of love, jealousy and betrayal is told in a modern take on shadow play, using real life performers in place of puppetry, and incorporating ‎Bharata Natyam dance, an original soundtrack, live theatrical narration and special effects.

Taking place over two years and funded with £163,364, Spellbound has already attracted a combined audience of 6,500 people (2,500 in Belfast and 4,000 in Leicester) and will visit Hull and Bradford in October 2014. As well as engaging new audiences, Walk the Plank is working with a local dance company in each tour location, teaching performers how to blend traditional Indian dance skills with shadow play and leaving a lasting creative legacy. Inspired by the shadow theatre techniques learned from their participation in the show, Leicester based dancers Urvashi Patel and Sejal Sharma have developed a new piece of work which has recently received Grants for the arts support from the Arts Council.

ARC, based in Stockton, has received £862,430 towards REACH – Touring in the North East, which is designed to increase the amount and quality of new theatre being presented in the region. Over the next three years, six existing contemporary theatre shows and three new shows, commissioned by REACH, will tour to nine venues across the North East, including Alnwick Playhouse, Arts Centre Washington, Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Customs House, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre, Queen’s Hall in Hexham, Saltburn Arts Theatre and Seaton Delaval Arts Centre. Unlimited’s Money the Gameshow, will launch the REACH programme in late September 2014. Underpinning the project is a major programme of professional development, including programming, marketing and audience development and production support, to help better equip venues to present new work beyond the funded project.

The death of 20 year old Sophie Lancaster, who was beaten unconscious in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup in August 2007 and later died from her injuries in hospital, inspired Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster. Written as an elegy to Sophie by poet Simon Armitage – alongside the words of Sophie’s mother Sylvia Lancaster – the play was brought to the stage for the first time in September 2012 and played to packed houses at Manchester’s Royal Exchange throughout its run. It also won two Manchester Theatre Awards (Best Studio Production and Best Performance in a Studio Production).

Strategic touring funds of £25,180 enabled the production to return featuring the original cast which includes Rachel Austin as Sophie and Julie Hesmondhalgh (best known as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street) as Sylvia. It toured during

March 2014 to Ewanrigg & Netherton Community Centre, Maryport; Lakes College West Cumbria; St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Workington; Ashton-On-Mersey School, Sale; Broadoak School, Manchester; Burnley Youth Theatre, Burnley and  the Southbank Centre in London.

South Tyneside based Customs House received £218,832 towards Follow the Herring, a collaborative, challenging theatre and visual arts project based on the heritage of fishing communities. A life size knitted boat toured to 13 towns the length and breadth of the east coast of Scotland and England celebrating our coastal heritage through a combination of theatre, singing, arts and crafts. The tour stared at the Brunton Theatre in Musselbrugh and ended in Hastings, taking in venues in Cocksburnspath, Berwick, South Shields, Hartlepool, Hull, Grimsby, Kings Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Margate and Folkestone along the way

Local people were encouraged to join in as part of the performance choirs or by knitting a herring or through the Ch-arted website which offered educational tools, projects and class room activities. It is hoped that the work will be a catalyst to developing a future sustainable touring network across these mid-scale venues.

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