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The joy of bringing top entertainers to small village halls – Features

SPECIAL CONNECTION: Mickleton Village Hall Highlights promoters Simon and Libby Thompson

Continuing our look behind the scenes of the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme, we meet the very important volunteer promoters

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IN villages throughout Teesdale, a military of volunteers are pounding the autumnal streets with flyers in hand, multi-tasking as field workplace managers, roadies and lighting technicians, in addition to caterers and hosts to a stream of skilled performers and musicians.
Highlights Rural Touring promoters are devoted people and their laborious work is mirrored in additional than 50 communities throughout the North East and Cumbria.
Most have by no means been concerned within the arts earlier than however what unites all of them is a shared ardour to convey skilled dwell arts performances to their communities.
Peter Collyer, who together with spouse Joy, has been a Highlights promoter at Cotherstone Village Hall for 5 years, mentioned: “It’s such a wonderful thing to be part of. By simply ticking a box on a form, amazing, talented artists from all over the world arrive to perform in our tiny village.
“Cotherstone audiences really love their folk music and we have had some incredible musicians over the years.
“A privilege of being a promoter is that you get to welcome the performers into your home and share a meal with them after the show.”
He added: “We had a singer from Yukon, Canada, performing beautiful, emotional songs in her mother tongue in the village hall and five minutes later there she was sitting around our kitchen table eating Joy’s fishcakes.
“We love getting to know them as people, not just performers. Those moments of connection are something very special and a huge part of why we do what we do.”
That’s a sentiment shared by Libby Thompson, Highlights promoter at Mickleton Village Hall, who all the time finds time to bake biscuits for a visiting theatre firm and feed them a meal earlier than the efficiency.
She mentioned: “Pre-Covid, we often had performers to stay overnight at our house and that was so special.
“When the cast come to the pub after the show, the audience just love getting to spend that time with them, chatting and sharing stories. That’s what rural touring is all about – those special connections with people.”
Highlights gives the promoters with a menu from which they select the exhibits they need to convey to their neighborhood.
Then begins the logistical feat of delivering each village corridor with the efficiency they need, when they need it, in addition to subsidising the exhibits to make it reasonably priced for a smaller viewers.
Ms Thompson mentioned: “I used to be so anxious about choosing the performances.
“It felt a bit like hosting a party – I had no idea whether people would come, or whether they’d like it.
“But I know what my audience wants now and I get a buzz out of bringing something in that’s a little bit different. The fact that it costs people less than a tenner and they didn’t have to do a 100 mile round trip to Newcastle to see it is amazing.”
Mr Collyer concluded: “I take a lot of pride in being involved in something like this. I love it. It enriches all of our lives to have such an amazing experience right on our doorstep for the evening.”
l Highlights Rural Touring Autumn Season continues with Hefted, at Middleton-in- Teesdale on November 6 and Moveable Feast, at Mickleton Village Hall, on November 13. For full particulars and to e book tickets go to www.highlights north.co.uk.

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