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On the road again - Touring Guide

On the road again

Creative New Zealand publishes guide to touring the performing arts

Everything you need to know about putting a show on the road in New Zealand - from hiring trucks to managing cash flows and looking after your sponsors - can be found in The Touring Manual: a guide to touring the performing arts in New Zealand, published this week by Creative New Zealand.

Written by Fenn Gordon, an independent producer of theatre and dance since 1989, The Touring Manual is a practical, how-to guide aimed at small to medium-sized arts organisations. It contains a wealth of information for first-time touring companies as well as handy reminders for seasoned tourers.

It's hardly a book that Ms Gordon herself needs after 14 years on the road organising tours for artists such as Miranda Harcourt, Douglas Wright, Michael Parmenter, Madeleine Sami, Flight of the Conchords and Tim Balme.

She was prompted to write it, however, because she says people were frequently ringing her and asking her for advice. It was also something she could give her to her mother "to prove that being a producer was a real job".

And sometimes an exhausting one at that. So why tour? In the conclusion to The Touring Manual, Fenn Gordon writes: "For most of us who produce tours, touring is addictive. We come off the end of producing a tour vowing never again. But then you see a show that excites you and you're off again."

Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Elizabeth Kerr says The Touring Manual is a valuable resource for the arts sector and will answer most questions about touring a show in New Zealand.

"The manual reflects Fenn's extensive experience and is full of sound advice, checklists and lively anecdotes," Miss Kerr says. "Creative New Zealand supported this project because it's provided the arts sector with a practical tool to help them build audiences and develop the market for New Zealand arts."

Creative New Zealand has identified audience and market development as a focus for the future, Miss Kerr says. As well as increasing its staffing in this area, the organisation recently published another practical guide for the sector, called Smart arts: a guide to marketing arts events in New Zealand.

As the producer of more than 100 touring shows, Ms Gordon is all too familiar with the wide variety of challenges involved in touring and working with artistic directors to realise their vision within a given budget.

She recalls the time when she was working with choreographer Douglas Wright in 1994 to remount a tour of his work, How on Earth. Wright wanted a bungy-jumping cow carcass on stage but after consulting her veterinarian father and learning that touring with a real carcass wasn't a practical option, Ms Gordon approached Richard Taylor at Weta Workshops. The result was a carcass that looked so real the flight attendant at the check-in counter was reluctant to let it on board.

Planning, Ms Gordon says, is the key to a successful tour. As a producer, you need to put everything in writing, have a passion for lists and an eye for detail.

A couple of other pieces of advice she offers: "Be prepared to negotiate with everyone from the cast and crew to the accommodation providers." And learn the lingo. "As a female producer, being about to talk to truckies about luytons and five-tonne trucks gets you instant respect. It will also save you money."

Chapters in the 220-page Touring Manual cover a range of topics, including legal structures; managing your finances; rights and royalties; venues; and selling your work. There's also a chapter about touring Mäori theatre, written by well-known playwright Hone Kouka.

The Touring Manual is available free from Creative New Zealand by contacting

You can also download it from the Resources section of Creative New Zealand's website

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