Over the coming months, and in celebration of The Touring Network’s 20th Birthday, we are putting a spotlight on our members, the people who passionately graft behind the scenes to make our region a better place to live and work through putting on shows in their local communities. Each interview culminates with an #EPICSTAGESTORY.  To share yours read here


Meet Jane Metcalfe, Manager at An Cridhe and Coll Bunkhouse on the Isle of Coll.  Read on to hear about her, her community and of course her #EPICSTAGESTORY

Hello, pleased to meet you, where do you live and what venue(s) are you involved with?

I live on Coll a small Hebridean island a 2 hours 40 minutes ferry ride from Oban. I am involved with An Cridhe (this is Gaelic for the heart) a purpose built community centre. We have facilities for sport, parties, weddings, music, theatre, meetings, residential workshops etc.

How long have you been involved with promoting there?
I have worked here for nearly 6 years and have been involved in organising, and therefore promoting events, here during that time.

And how long have you been a member of The Touring Network?
At least 5 years I think

Do you work as a promoter group or fly solo
We fly solo at the moment. It would be good to work with other Touring Network promoters in our area though difficult given we are on an island.

And what is / was your main job? 
I am the Manager of An Cridhe and Coll Bunkhouse. Both buildings are owned and run by Development Coll a small charitable non-profit making trust. I am employed by them, am the line manager for two other members of staff and responsible for all the maintenance and the day to day operations of both buildings. This includes the organising and running of a programme of events each year. I can be speaking to a performer one minute, clearing up the floor another, doing staff rotas, booking people into the bunkhouse, trying to sort out some broken equipment or facility, helping people organise their wedding. It is a very varied job.

How long have you lived there?
Nearly seven years

What attracted you/your family to that area?
My partner and I wanted to do something a bit different. We really like Scotland. Found this beautiful and very friendly island and decided to take a chance and move here. We lived in a tent for 3 months.

How do you decide whether or not to book a performer?
It is a balance between liking what a performer is doing, will people in the community enjoy this/come out for it and how much it costs. We try to provide a variety of culture for the community and are prepared to take a risk on some performances in order to do this.

What types of performances tend to go down the best?
Performances that can be attended by a wide range of age groups and interests work best because we are such a small community. The biggest audiences we have are when they are more family orientated ones. It works well for example when a theatre event has involved the school, the performers going into the school to work with the children.

What challenges do you have as a rural promoter – go-on, any bugbears you want to get off your chest 🙂 ?
Being in an isolated and small community is a challenge in itself and currently a decreasing population. If we get 25 people to a performance that is quite a high percentage of our population. This number however is not going to cover costs. The challenge is trying to decide how much of a risk we want to take. We are prepared to take small losses to give performers a chance to come here and to give the community a chance to see music and theatre that they wouldn’t otherwise experience.

What do you hope for a performer to take away after having performed at your venue? 
The unique experience of being in a small isolated but friendly community. Audiences are small but always enthusiastic and the experience is a very informal one.

Give us a local must see/do/dining tip for any visiting performer or audience?
Must always visit at least one of our beautiful beaches at any time of year. For other attractions it depends on the time of year. Our wildlife is special. In the summer months you might see a basking shark, minke whale or dolphins and the machair is a carpet of flowers. We have one hotel and one café, both provide wonderful meals and spending some time in the hotel bar chatting to locals is always good. If the sky is clear then due to our lack of light pollution the night sky is amazing.

Give us a little known pop fact about your venue / area / living rurally 🙂
You can see more islands from Coll than any other island in the UK

Tell us, how do you advertise performances to your audiences?
We use word of mouth, posters, Facebook, Twitter, our websites and email bulletin.

What’s your favourite venue to see a performance in and why (outside of your own).
I don’t get to many different venues these days because of the cost of getting there and time involved. I used to love going to the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal because of the intimate nature of the venue. I like Oran Mor in Glasgow for the same reason.

If you could programme anyone in the world, sky’s the limit. Who would it be and why?
Too many to choose from and feel I should go for someone really big and well known. The Proclaimers or Runrig. I have seen both live a while ago and they were wonderful evenings. It would be a dream come true to have someone that well known come to Coll and I can see everyone dancing and singing along.

Finally, tell us your #EPICSTAGESTORY
Hosting Barbara Dickson here July 2017. Barbara and Nick Holland did a fund raising concert for us. It was just an amazing experience to be liaising with someone who is so well known and to be involved in organising her visit to our wee island. We always do the best we can for any performer in terms of facilities to support their performance. For Barbara we put more thought than usual, including rigging up a special dressing room area with rope and a curtain. People travelled long distances to see her, even coming in by yacht. Local singers Merfolk supported Barbara, volunteers manned the bar, the door, stewarded, technical staff gave their time for free, people helped set up, provided Barbara with accommodation and it was a wonderful evening.


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