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Supporting and Promoting Arts in Rural Settlements of Europe (SPARSE) will foster rural touring in the partner countries taking performances by professional performing arts companies and artists into rural areas to rural audiences in local community venues . The critical basis of rural touring is that local people (the promoters) living in rural areas and who are part of their rural communities choose and promote shows in a local venue in collaboration with their local professional touring organisation. This will help to address the issue that many rural communities do not enjoy the same opportunities to enjoy high quality arts as their urban counterparts. Kickstarted by a capacity building programme, SPARSE will create a network within each partner country that puts audience development and access to the arts by rural communities at its heart.

This project will promote the EU to people and communities that know little of the actual work of the EU, or whose knowledge is limited for funding for agriculture and rural regeneration. Currently a rural touring structure does not exist within the partner countries.

The first phase of the project will allow for the partners and their nominated local rural promoters to experience the UK rural touring model first hand and to be mentored by the lead partner and their Cornish associate partner colleagues. The second phase will enable the partners to implement and pilot a rural touring network in their areas through 3 annual rural tours by professional touring companies. The idea of touring a show (with most of its own lighting and sound equipment) into a community space without dedicated professional staff, technical facilities, limited stage area and playing to an audience unfamiliar with the arts is very different to a conventional touring model which is predicated on performing in purpose built theatres and arts centres. Through the second ‘implementation’ phase the partners and local promoters will continue to be supported and mentored by the lead partner as they promote 60 shows across the 4 partners over 3 touring periods.

At the completion of the project all the partners (including the associates) will establish a European Rural Touring Network (ERTN), with its own website to support the dissemination project learning and including the 3 toolkits for dissemination covering the following topics: ‘how to set up a rural touring network’, ‘how to promote in rural areas’ and a “how to tour in rural areas” guide for artists interested in engaging in rural touring. These will be translated into the languages of each partner. It will also provide a platform to take SPARSE into a new, developmental iteration.