Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Touring Network's Spring Gathering 2017

Driving up to Boat of Garten for Rural Touring Network's Spring Gathering 2017: I feel the anticipation and the nervousness of 'pitching' my work. Having never done this before but being excited by the prospect of meeting face to face the programmers: some of whom I've been communicating over the last six months. Rocking up at the village hall and waiting in my car I see other cars beginning to pull up. Camper vans, a few friendly dogs and a man in checked dungarees that must be a performer...I enter the building and am greeted by Rhiannon, the event organiser. She gives me the info I need to get myself organised and the day kicks off with the first presentation. A great way to start the day with a touring circus act. Engaging and warm, I think about all the potential kids and young adults in rural communities who would have a lot of fun if this circus came to town. It made me remember a visiting circus not so long ago, one which I attended in Bettyhill village hall, Sutherland. After a long summer holiday of not much going on (just the way my parents liked it) my sister and I were extremely excited to spend an afternoon learning how to juggle. A skill which has stayed with me ever since! Phew, this makes me a little more nervous about my pitch, hoping that I manage not to alienate the masses with the two words, 'contemporary dance'. Luckily I mistake when I'm supposed to go on and it's earlier than I thought so I don't have much time to get nervous. What a privilege! To talk about my work in front of a room full of people. At fifteen minutes they can't get too bored right? I won't have time to wander down an existentialist and confounding path, one that is confusing even to myself. I start off a little bit spacey...but after a few moments I stick myself to the script. Pin myself into the task in hand which is to represent and 'sell' my work. At least I have images and video to back up this verbal presentation. I congratulate myself for remembering to talk about the educational aspect of the work and how keen I am to spend time wherever I visit to meet the local community there. That is something that I have discovered and know from working rurally: It's as much about the give as the take. It's about talking with people; it's about spending the time before and after a show. It's about the integration of life and art. Of performance and party. Of reflecting and doing in equal measure. It's a different approach to time. Moving on to the afternoon: a merry band of artists present their work and how great it is to see the diversity! From plays to children's dance shows, from Gaelic song to Aberdonian Folk: I feel like I've been to an eclectic variety show and with each act the performance is tangible and more 'bookable' than if solely on paper, video or CD. Sitting in for the day I'm put in the promotor's shoes, not a bad place from where to observe what works and clearly grabs the interest of the group. During lunch and into the afternoon I have a few lovely conversations with programmers who are interested in the work. It's a great way to get a real feel for the place you may visit and the amount of information passed in a ten minute conversation far surpasses even the amount gained in ten e-mails. At dinner the conversations become more varied and not solely focussed on selling and booking. Meeting old friends and colleagues is a delight. Catching up while passing the time in a newly built village hall, just like the ones many programmers are representing, is a great way to get a feel for a rural venue. After a thoroughly lovely but exhausting day, full of promise and inspiration I hear some great live music, organised through the youth strand of the Touring Network. To wind up, a visit to the local bar, talking to the wee small hours. Only to wake up a few hours later with the forest on my doorstep and a journey ahead back to the central belt and into the studio. Inspired by this glimpse of where I could be headed I jump in the car and get going. Thanks Touring Network and thanks The Workroom for connecting people and transforming places...

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