Artsreach celebrates 30 years of rural arts

ARTSREACH, Dorset’s rural touring arts charity, is 30 in 2020 and will be celebrating the anniversary with a varied programme, including the first visit to Dorset by Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company, bringing three of the most popular comedies.

The special birthday events begin with a barn dance at Ashton Barn near Martinstown on Friday 20th March, with music, food and drink.

In late May there will be an Alice in Wonderland family garden party at Springhead, Fontmell Magna, and in June, one of the highlights of the year will be Ratsreach, a “Black Death party”, with best-selling, Dorset-based novelist Minette Walters. The Globe visit will bring The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It to a stunning garden at Littlebredy.

A new report, commissioned by Artsreach, shows that volunteers, including hall promoters, help to contribute the equivalent of more than £60,000 annually into the Dorset arts scene. The research calculates that every £1 of annual public funding for Artsreach’s work generates a further 93p in benefits for the rural Dorset economy.

This economic windfall is generated by profits from shows being retained by rural communities, helping to support essential facilities such as village halls. Additional income for villages comes from visiting audience spending money in local pubs and shops.

The Artsreach programme of professional theatre, music, dance and family shows, and visual arts projects, is managed by a small team based at Little Keep in Dorchester, working with a network of more than 300 volunteers, to put on around 150 professional events every year, usually in village halls, across rural Dorset. The report shows that the equivalent of an additional two and a half paid staff would be needed to bring the Artsreach programme to life without volunteer help.

Volunteers told the researcher how important Artsreach is to their villages, providing social contact for local people, raising money for the hall and the community and bringing professional shows to their villages.

It is well documented that arts and culture improves wellbeing and helps to creates a strong sense of community and belonging. The social benefits of having professional shows in small rural venues can be felt right across the Artsreach programme. One hall promoter said: “We get an internationally award-winning group for £10 a ticket with no transport costs for the audience.”

The full report is available to read on the Artsreach website, where you can also see the Artsreach spring programme –

Pictured: Rohan McCullough, who appeared with Artsreach 30 years ago, will be back during the 30th anniversary year; also returning in 2020 will be Sadhana Dance, pictured here at Springhead gardens in 2012, photograph by Syd Symons.