When we first conceived the Collaborative Touring Network (CTN) over three years ago, it was primarily a reaction to the imbalance of opportunities and funding support for culture in towns and cities in England outside of the capital. Eight inspirational producing teams came together to change the cultural infrastructure in their area, countering the traditional parachuting-in of touring performance to form regular, biannual arts festivals which embed cultural opportunities through debate, discussion, participation and access to world-class performance for everyone, no matter their social or economic background.
Now in its fourth year, CTN has presented work in over 170 community spaces including schools, nightclubs and unused shop fronts; the landscape is changing and appetites for culture are growing nationwide. However, the challenges facing the network now are those of sustainability and resilience in the face of diminishing public funding for the arts and increasing costs of living. The new challenge for the network, having sparked transformative cultural change in their areas, is ensuring that we continue to produce, present and promote diverse cultural events, realising our vision of a nation where everyone has inspiring art and culture on their doorstep.
Over the next three years of this grant, our aim is for our eight partners to develop as sustainable organisations that provide long-term, challenging and engaging cultural opportunities for people in their town or city. We want to encourage widespread support for work made outside of London; work that can better reflect the diverse voices in our communities. We will continue to support diversity through improved access for artists and audiences locally, and increased opportunities for BAME and disabled artists making work and touring nationally. As a national network, the project aims to see a reduction of social exclusion and increased community cohesion through the grassroots opportunities for engagement and participation that the CTN producers facilitate year-round.
The work of CTN advocates for the importance of productive, creative hotspots outside of London, and we hope that there will be an increased awareness of the work of the festivals and producing teams nationally, as a model for social and cultural change.