Babushka have recently returned from enchanting and scandalising audiences on their 'I Can Keep A Secret' tour to Toowoomba, Cloncurry, Hughenden, Townsville, Atherton, Cairns and Buderim.

The tour was self-managed by the Babushka team with some logistics and tour coordination support from arTour. It was developed in record time, just four months, from some initial slick conversations at the Touring Showcase 2014 in May to hitting the road in October.

We had a chat to the Babushka ladies about the joys and challenges of a self-managed tour.

How did this tour come about?

It was all pretty unexpected and came about pretty quickly for us.  Following some really great conversations with presenters at Showcase 2014 in May, a few expressed interest on the day and their availability aligned perfectly for us to piggyback on to the beginning of an already confirmed Fresh Ground season at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane. The main impetus for the North/Northwest Queensland leg of the tour was Luke Harriman's recommendation of our show for an event in Hughenden. From this confirmation, we used our newly formed relationships from Showcase and approached arTour to help us broker a couple more presenters to create a viable tour.

We contacted all the presenters and negotiated dates, deals and contracts. We checked in with arTour regularly to get their advice on our itinerary, budgets and grant application.  

What were some of the challenges you faced and lessons learned?

We underestimated the toll travelling takes on the company's energy levels. Our itinerary was jam-packed and we toured with just one technician/stage manager so there were a lot of extra jobs we had to pick up as well as preparing for our evening gigs. Ideally we'd build in more space between shows next time however this can be a challenge with meeting venue availability and scheduling. Several of the artists also have young families, so short, action-packed tours are really the only possibility at this stage.

Many of the venues had fewer resources than we expected. We had to tour a lot of our own gear to meet our staging requirements, this made for longer and more strenuous bump in/out than planned.

One of our shows clashed with Melbourne Cup! Which was a missed opportunity for us to work with the presenter on how we could jump on board the already planned activity. Rather than competing with such a large event it would have been great to somehow incorporate our show into such an event.

Keep in regular contact with the presenters. Ideally phone them a week out, 2 days out and on the morning of the performance to discuss requirements of the production, start times and other key details to ensure a smooth arrival and show. Check to see this info has been shared with the staff who will be there on the night.

Share with us some of the tour highlights.

Performing to a huge crowd in Hughenden as part of their Girls Night In fundraiser. There were many layers to this community event, including the decorated bras for a cause competition -- which we were invited to judge. It was a real treat to see the community embrace this event!

Collecting audience secrets and sharing them with the next town on the tour was a real delight. You could see the audience revelling in their neighboring town's secrets and this encouraged them to share a little more when it was their turn.

We also checked in with some of the presenters and were pleased to hear the tour received glowing feedback from them and their audiences.

Artsworx in Toowoomba was thrilled to see a completely new audience in their venue. Audiences at Full Throttle in Townsville stuck around for an hour or two after the show to chat to the performers and continue the party - a great indication they thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment and didn't want the evening to end. Hughenden presented the show as part of their annual Girls Night In event. They reported a 30% increase in numbers to the event, a strong (and new) male audience base, and a noticeable post event buzz in town - all which they attributed to the show.

Congratulations to the Babushka team for such a successful tour and extending their charm to more Queensland audiences.