An unburstable balloon? – data and rural touring

Day II at #NRTF15 set itself the challenge of exploring the opportunities and challenges that rural touring faces. In actual fact it turned out to be a lot about data, and a very large balloon!

Here’s some of that data
• 17.6% of the UK population live in rural locations, 23.4% in a local authority area defined as predominantly rural. Conversely 4.5% of National Portfolio Organisations (2.5% of the investment) are based in rural locations (although this does include companies like Aldeburgh Music whilst excluding organisations like Eastern Angles based in a non rural location but whose work is almost exclusively rural). 18% of NPOsare based in a rural local authority setting.

• People living in rural locations (according to the Taking Part survey) have higher engagement in the arts than their counterparts in urban areas. Though they are more likely to participate in arts, they are less likely to participate in digital arts. Where this engagement is is not defined (so much of it could be out of their own communities).

• 12% of all reported touring activity by NPOs in 2012/3 took place in rural areas

• In the Creative Arts East New Places – Extraordinary Spaces project average distance travelled to events was surprisingly high at 7.9 miles (4.8 miles median), later Paul Bristow asserted that exposure to arts at childhood, socio economic status, age and gender are far more important factors than distance.
• That project involved 75 new communities, 187 performances (venues including libraries, pubs and residential homes) reaching over 5000 people .
• New Places – extraordinary spaces was funded through Strategic Touring:-

• In the first 14 rounds of the Strategic Touring fund 8% of bids were received from applicants in rural areas and 6% received awards, valuing £.8m (3% of the total funding)
• 185 of the 1041 (18%) unique postcodes reached by Strategic Touring were in rural settlements
• Rural hubs (small towns and centres in the heart of rural areas) are controversial, or at least the inclusion of Stratford (and therefore RSC data) is.


You can read the sources of this data here:-

Arts Council Rural Evidence Review Report

A Wider Horizon – Francois Matarasso with Rosie Redzia

(Two very,very different approaches to the same subject!)

Not surprisingly the Rural Touring Forum is using the data to campaign for a better / fairer ‘share’ of Arts Council funding (you can read their full response here). The strong presence of Arts Council officers at the NTRF, wider political pressure and the rebalancing our cultural capital findings suggest this issue of rural cultural provision is firmly on ACE agendas (six years ago its arguable that it wasnt).

ACE’s Paul Bristow concluded his presentation by arguing they would use the Data review to

– be a catalyst to more work understanding the impact of urban activity within rural areas
– work with stakeholders to improve rural provision, and expolore how to sustain cultural provision in the long term
– keep talking about the strength of culture in rural areas, keep on ‘rural proofing’.
– work with local government to minimise the impact of local authority cuts.

Interesting times.

(My day 1 blog from NRTF, The Art of Closeness is here)


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