VILLAGE halls and other rural venues across County Durham will again host some of the UK’s best touring companies under the auspices of Highlights.

Between February and June, there will be 13 shows, ranging from theatre to music and dance, poetry, storytelling and children’s shows.

Several shows will be receiving their first outing and others have travelled the world, including Ebinburgh Festival.

Music features all genres and styles. Two shows for children feature puppetry and animation.

As usual, the season will end with a contemporary craft tour, this year showcasing work by three artists who bring to life real and imagined stories of courage, dignity, perseverance and patience through the medium of textiles.

In all, 19 performances will be given in 14 village and community halls in Teesdale and Weardale in partnership with Highlights Rural Touring Scheme.

The first is on Saturday, February 8, at Cotherstone Village Hall (7.30pm), with Denise Kennedy in Bella: Queen Of The Blackfriars Ring, a tale about the the world's first female boxing promoter, bursting with music hall acts, song, dance – and a bit of boxing. Tickets: £8/ £4 child/ £20 family; call (01833) 650827.

On Thursday, February 13 (8pm), Boldron Village Hall atages Orichalcum – World Of Brass: The Good, The Bad And The Brassy, a musical journey through a brief history of heroes and villains, with well-known tunes performed in a range of styles by virtuoso multi-brass instrumentalist, James Stretton, and his keyboard sidekick Iain Jackson. The show features 17 instruments, from tiny piccolo trumpet to bass tuba; tickets £9, £20 family, call (01833) 638210.

The following night, Friday, February 14 (7.30pm), the same show is presented at St Thomas Church Hall, Stanhope; tickets £8.50, £5.50 child, £22 family, call (01388) 528673.

Debs Newbold, principal storyteller for Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Opera House, will catapult the audience at Bowes and Gilmonby Parish Hall into the torrid streets of Verona in a modern retelling of Romeo And Juliet on Saturday, February 15 (7.30pm); tickets £7.50, £5 child, £6.50 concessions; call (01833) 628357.

Bin Men, by AJTC Theatre, is a play about recycling for children aged five and over, on Saturday, February 22 (7.30pm) at Frosterley Village Hall, with live music, storytelling, puppetry and a touch of Don Quixote. Tickets cost £7.50, £5.50 child, £22 family; book on (01388) 526391.

The first show in March sees storyteller Dave Mynne in a Dickens classic, Great Expectations, an anarchic oneman show at St John’s Chapel Town Hall on March 2 (2pm); tickets £8, £7 concessions, £5 child; call (01434) 345024.

Tickets can also be booked at