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Crowdfunding appeal to keep Highlands and Islands shows on the road

By Margaret Chrystall

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A new crowdfunding programme – Keep Rural Arts Live with a target of £20,000 – has been launched by the Touring Network. Margaret Chrystall spoke to Alan Bissett, a veteran of touring performances across the north since 2010 ...

A NEW crowdfunding programme has been launched this week to help keep performances touring to the small rural places in the Highlands and Islands.

Keep Rural Arts Live has been set up with a £20,000 target by the Touring Network – with public money raised to be matched by Creative Scotland.

The Touring Network’s new campaign. Picture: Oceansallover
The Touring Network’s new campaign. Picture: Oceansallover

For over 40 years, the network has kept a year-round selection of world-class live music, theatre, dance, comedy and arts right on the doorstep of Highlands and Islands communities.

And it is dedicated to getting live performances back up and running as soon as they can safely return.

As the organisation’s Rhiannon McIntyre says: “There have been many challenges over its history – challenges that all rural communities will recognise, of dwindling populations, poor infrastructure, and scarcity of funding – but now with the added safety risk and financial uncertainty of reopening the network’s venues as we recover from the pandemic, the campaign aims to take away pressure our members might be feeling right now.

A packed gig at Kyleakin Hall to see Duncan Chisholm and other performers.
A packed gig at Kyleakin Hall to see Duncan Chisholm and other performers.

“All funds raised will be made available to our members, to give them the confidence to start booking performers in for future events, and to commit to paying them fair fees.

“We’ve already been overwhelmed by the support – over £2000 was raised in the first six hours.”

Someone who knows all about the power of the Touring Network – both for performers and audiences – is writer and performer Alan Bissett, whose productions including The Moira Monologues have been to ‘every nook and cranny’ of the Highlands and Islands since 2010.

Alan Bissett has toured almost every ‘nook and cranny’ of the Highlands.
Alan Bissett has toured almost every ‘nook and cranny’ of the Highlands.

For Alan, an added challenge is that he doesn’t drive, so he uses public transport to get to his venues.

“Buses, trains ferries – on the way there you can look out the window at what is usually amazing scenery, or you can get chatting to people about the place you are going.

“It becomes part of the experience.”

He said: “What I would say to anybody who lives in the Highlands and Islands who wants still to be able to go to see a show of any kind, whether it’s comedy or music or theatre – and wants to see a show that is in their local vicinity, meaning they don’t have to travel to a city; they can just go down their road and see it and get back in time to have some cheese on toast before they go to bed – even if it’s just a fiver, say ‘I’m just going to stick that fiver into the pot just to help keep them afloat’.”

Alan will compere the virtual Spotlight Sessions to eight rural communities across Scotland on Thursday, August 20 and 27 at 8pm.

It will offer audiences a preview of online extracts from new shows that could be touring to their community post-Covid in 2021.

To donate from £2-plus, with packages for local businesses: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/keepruralartslive

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