CRTA Scheme Manager and Rural Arts Officer Jen Henry talks to Z-arts about Cheshire Rural Touring Arts, the challenges of rural touring and the benefits of being a member of the Big Imaginations network


Cheshire Rural Touring Arts is one of three rural touring schemes in Big Imaginations. CRTA venues vary quite a lot from the other network members in that we don’t have one fixed space where our performances take place, we have 30 different venues available to us.


CRTA work across Cheshire in small venues that include village halls, community centres, libraries, schools and churches. Each of our venues is run by a volunteer promoter who lives in the local community. The volunteer promoters and their volunteer teams are the backbone of rural touring. The promoters select a show,  liaise with the professional company, sell tickets, promote the show locally and to a wider audience via social media and online ticket sales. On the day of the performance the promoters not only run the event and look after audiences they also feed the visiting company (often with a lovely home cooked meal which artists find very welcome!). Companies will often stay overnight with the promoter or in other houses in the community. The rural touring experience is often quite unique for performers to experience, being so close to the audiences and really being part of the community for the duration of their visit.


The challenges for rural touring of work for children and families can be tricky. Without a high concentration of young people with easy travel access to their community space, it can be hard finding and building audiences to attend performances.  Touring a piece that can be easily transported and erected in small spaces with often little or no tech support available can also be a challenge to a company.


Big Imaginations has really helped support smaller venues to be able to programme high quality children’s work. With this support both financially and in being part of a bigger network, CRTA have been able to access a range of work that we would otherwise not have been able to programme. Our rural young audiences and their families will make the effort to turn out for Big Imaginations events and our promoters will take and promote Big Imaginations shows with confidence as they know it to be high quality work.