2015 seems to have flown past, with some really positive developments for The Touring Network.  We are feeling very excited about our future, and how we can offer the best support and opportunities to all members of The Touring Network.

Our recent team away day gave us some insight into what we thought were important areas for us to develop. Communication between promoters and staff was identified by everyone as one of the fundamental success factors in how we move forward, and as part of this focus we decided to write a monthly blog for the website highlighting wider issues or concerns, any regional or national developments or initiatives and to give you a more personal insight into our team.  I’m kicking off by introducing myself, and making some notes on what I have observed since I joined the team in August this year.

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Jo McLean, CEO

Although I have been in post for almost 4 months, I haven’t been able to make contact with as many promoters as I would like as yet.  I have been busy understanding the Network and its challenges; the team and our priorities; and how best to support our members; as well as adjusting to a very different way of working – widespread geography and cloud-based online tools all being part of that!  I’m hoping that the Spring Gathering will allow me to meet many more of you, and it is important to me to get to know as many of you individually as I can.

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I live in Cove, Argyll and Bute,with my 2 children, dog Porridge and cat Loulou, and although I spend a certain amount of my time at the office in Inverness, I also work from home.  This geographical flexibility helps me to stay in contact with lots of people and opportunities nationally (and travel to them more easily), attend meetings with funders and potential partners who may be interested in working with the Highlands and Islands, and advocate for the Network in a broader sense.

I’ve worked in the arts for over 20 years – a former classical musician and then a producer, my experiences have been predominantly working at scale; the majority of my work as a musician was in opera and symphony orchestras; and as a producer, festivals and large scale outdoor work.  So it is fascinating for me to be involved with a Network that tours small scale work to rurally isolated places, and all the complexities (and delights) which that brings.  Some of you may have read the blog I wrote which was published in the Guardian online – if not you can access that here – Theatre that’s a breath of fresh air: the force of rural touring.

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My involvement in the rural touring sector so far has highlighted the sense of pride associated with membership of The Touring Network, and the respect within the wider sector for the organisation and its members. It’s really important for me that promoters are recognised and admired for the amount of knowledge and skills they bring to the role, and that the profile of the Network is raised as an example of good practice.  This will help to ensure our future position as a leader in the sector, to secure ongoing funding and allow us to build capacity throughout the region –  but also to demonstrate our flexibility and resourcefulness. Tourbook and its continued development is an essential part of this flexibility and resourcefulness, but I am a firm believer in face to face support and the very human element of the Network, which cannot be replaced by digital technology.

Promoters are the essential part of The Touring Network, and John Saich and Lindsay Brown have been spending time on the ground in recent months, delivering face to face support in a variety of ways. As well as our Team Blog, we will also be publishing a monthly series of Promoter Voices: first up is an article that John wrote whilst spending some time with George McConnachie at An Cridhe.

The Touring Network (Highlands & Islands)

Supporting live performance across the Highlands & Islands as part of a central, celebrated and indispensable part of the cultural life of Scotland.

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