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 will culminate with an #EPICSTAGESTORY.  To share yours read here


Meet John Saich, Freelancer in the world of music as well as Arts Programme Manager for Craignish Village Hall in Ardfern for almost 2 years.  Read on to hear about him, his community and of course his  #EPICSTAGESTORY

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

I live at the south end of the very beautiful Loch Awe and I run the arts programme at Craignish Village Hall, in the village of Ardfern.

How long have you been involved with promoting there? 

About 18 months.

And how long have you been a member of The Touring Network? (approx) 

The venue has been a member for several years, I worked with The Touring Network in 2013 and I know Craignish was already an established member then.

Do you work as a promoter group or fly solo? 

We’re not part of a group but I work closely with our Hall Manager and a wonderful team of volunteers who do so much to make each event a success.

And what is / was your main job? 

I work freelance, the Arts Programme Manager post at Craignish is one of a few things I do. In that role I’m doing all the stuff from contracts to marketing, to stage set-up and buying the band’s tea. I love it, a show day is challenging but so far always rewarding. I have my own music company as well, so I keep busy.

How long have you lived there?

I’ve been living in mainland Argyll for 20 years almost. Prior to that I lived on the Isle of Mull for a time which was wonderful, just along the road from Mull Little Theatre, as it was then.

How do you decide whether or not to book a performer? 

Some things just stand out, I get an email or a Tourbook message from a company about a work in developmentfor example, and I think yes, that looks amazing, I want to book that and we start a process of communication. Or I might stumble upon something accidentally, but a lot of it comes down to dates and cost, and also getting a feel for what will appeal to a local audience based on reviews and promo material. There’s so much great work around but we only have so many spaces in the programme and we try and get a spread of different things. The last Touring Network Gathering was a major factor in our 2017-18 programme, we booked three of the showcase performers that we saw there. The Touring Network’s Supported Programme has been important too, we’ve received bursaries so that we could be part of two tours in the last year, ‘The Red Chair’ and ‘Growth’.

What types of performances tend to go down the best? 

Music and dance are the most popular genres I think but I’m very keen to develop projects and performances that have some kind of roots in the community, rather than simply being receivers of product. For example we have started a dance project with choreographer Rob Heaslip, who I met at the last Gathering, which involves people exploring local culture concepts through workshops which we hope will lead to a performance later in the year. A lot of really creative and interesting things go on in the hall and elsewhere in the village, not all to do with me or the arts programme, but my hope is that all of it added together makes the area somewhere people can feel really proud of and excited to be living in.

What challenges do you have as a rural promoter – go-on, any bugbears you want to get off your chest 🙂 ?

I struggle sometimes with the marketing message of some touring theatre shows, I understand the need for a poster image to stand out amongst others in a similar field but I need something that will catch the eye of people in the village and look appealing, in amongst all the community notices and local events. We’re not a theatre, or an arts centre come to that, and I’m not suggesting anyone should dilute their art at all but I think the context is different here than it is, say, at the Fringe. I wonder sometimes if some posters and flyers look a bit uninviting. I try and get production shots and so on for social media, which helps, but sometimes there’s very little variety of imagery to use.

What do you hope for a performer to take away after having performed at your venue? 

That they were valued as artists and human beings, and that we knew what we were doing!

Give us a local must see/do/dining tip for any visiting performer or audience? 

We are a short hop to the seat of the first Celtic Kings of Dalriada, at Dunadd. And if you’ve got the time, from Ardfern take a boat trip to the Corryvreckan whirlpool, as featured in the Powell and Pressburger film ‘I Know Where I’m Going’

Tell us, how do you advertise performances to your audiences? 

Posters, usually about 25 or so depending on the show, as far as Oban and Lochgilphead, a whole batch of community Facebook pages, sometimes the local paper, our own web site, online listings and our e- mailing list.

Whats your favourite venue to see a performance in and why (outside of your own). 

Druimfin on Mull, because it’s Mull but also I’ve seen a couple of great things there. I might have said Dervaig Village Hall but the one I knew is the shop now, and I don’t know the new one. For music it’s the ABC in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, for its history as a building and because it’s a great venue for a night out . I like loads of venues, those are just examples.

If you could programme anyone in the world, sky’s the limit. Who would it be and why? 

Kate Bush, solo with piano, midsummer night. Hello Earth, And Dream of Sheep, This Woman’s Work, Babooshka. Life complete.

Finally, tell us your #epicstagestory 

The first gigs I played with Capercaillie in 1987 on Mull will probably always be my stand- out memory; the old village hall at Bunessan, over to Iona and then the Aros Hall in Tobermory followed by a late session in the Mishnish in the company of the late Bobby Macleod. All the work of one local promoter I think. Being able to step outside the venue in the stillness of a fading summer evening, to instantly smell the sea and hear oyster-catchers and distant fishing boats, and then walk two minutes along the road into a brilliant tune session in the hotel bar… I was going back down the M6 after thinking, did I just imagine all that? This was all pre-internet of course, I didn’t even have a camera with me, there’s no record anywhere of that weekend but that’s the great thing – I’m relying om memory and it’s not left me in thirty years. I’m pretty sure that’s still happening to people in these these places today.


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