AS the nights draw in, village halls across Teesdale and Weardale will be keeping the lights on as they welcome audiences to a rich mix of work from Highlights rural touring scheme this autumn. Until December, a wide range of shows will be brought to the heart of rural communities.

Audiences in Teesdale can travel back in time for a comic investigation into a 1980s childhood haunting in I Ain’t Afraid of no Ghost (Mickleton); enter a steamy authentic bath house as actor Nick Cassenbaum searches for his Jewish identity in Bubble Schmeisis (Bowes & Gilmonby); and learn the fate of the young Baskerville heir in a Northern Stage production of Sherlock Holmes’ most infamous case, The Hound of the Baskervilles (Hamsterley).

This latest show from Northern Stage is touring to villages with Highlights following its opening run at their home in Newcastle.

Highlights’ "pick of the sticks" this autumn is a colourful show for children and families from award-winning Sonia Sabria Company. Same Same…But Different mixes Kathak with western dance styles and live music to celebrate individuality (Staindrop). Also in Staindrop, audiences can gather round to hear James Rowland tell his own life-affirming story and "hymn to friendship" in Revelations.

Music touring to Teesdale includes five-piece Son Yambu who will be raising the temperature in Whorlton Village Hall with their red hot rhythms straight from the streets of Eastern Cuba. Barningham Village Hall are keeping things hot with a Flamenco fusion from formidable guitarist, Eduardo Niebla accompanied by fleet-fingered Matthew Robinson (also touring to Frosterley). And, rounding off in Teesdale is a festive performance in Boldron from virtuoso musicians Marie Ni Chathasaigh (harp) and Chris Newman (guitar) in their show Celtic Christmas Strings.

Meanwhile, over in Weardale, promoters are preparing to host a similarly mixed programme of shows. Frosterley welcomes rural touring favourites Little Bulb/Farnham Maltings with their show Mountain Music which has been created especially for rural touring. Mountain Music takes audiences on a journey of musical migration from the British Isles to the Appalachian Mountains to explore the roots of country music.

Upper Weardale Village Hall are looking forward to a visit from award-winning playwright, Alison Neil when she takes audiences back to the 1800s in a show about the extraordinary life of Mrs Beeton in Mrs Beeton, My Sister. And some festive fare is on offer at St Thomas’ Church Hall in Stanhope as the awful truth about A Christmas Carol is revealed in The Scrooge Diaries.

The season’s highlight in Weardale is a performance from juggling stars Chris Patfield and José Triguero. Their humorous and surreal show, Gibbon, fuses dance, physical theatre and world-class juggling for the 21st Century.

Highlights’ new co director, Kate Lynch who joined the scheme in January, said: "We’re looking forward to lighting up villages halls across Teesdale and Weardale this winter, with 14 performances of wonderful shows. There’s lots to look forward to and we hope audiences will support live events in their village.”

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