Pentabus – Spring Calling

Pentabus is marking one year since the country went into the first lockdown with two audio pieces inspired by the provocation – Spring’s Calling.

An image of the words ‘Spring’s Calling’ written under torn paper

I, Nyx: (A daughters daughter) 

by Sophie Stone 

Folklore and Fitness with Carole Vegan

by Tim Foley

Released on Saturday 20 March 2021, 10am

Listen via: https://pentabus.co.uk/springs-calling

These two pieces are part of an event coinciding with the Spring Equinox on Saturday 20 March 2021, coordinated by the West Midlands Culture Response Unit to mark one year since the country went into the first lockdown.  

The event will be made up of 3-5 minute audio artworks, including spoken word, podcasts, music and singing – from artists and organisations across the region. The pieces focus on nature, spring, outdoors, reflection, restarting and growth; as the cultural sector looks ahead to returning to live events, re-opening venues and welcoming back audiences.To enjoy the event, audiences should search for the hashtag #SpringsCalling across social media.

Pentabus Artistic Director, Elle While said: ‘I am delighted we have commissioned these extraordinary artists to contribute their spellbinding work to Spring’s Calling. I urge you to put your headphones on or watch the waves of their voices to transport you; your heart will swell, your smile will spread as we look forward to brighter days.’ 

The audio releases will be available on Pentabus’ website as well as social media from 10am on Saturday 20 March 2021.

Pentabus.co.uk | Youtube: PentabusTheatre

All Press Enquiries: Catrin John | Email: catrin@pentabus.co.uk

Rural Touring In Lockdown – One Year On

Rural Touring has not stopped despite the Pandemic

Rural touring sector continues to be creative during 12 months of lockdown

The Bluebirds Popera House event presented by Take Art at Hatch Beauchamp Village Hall in August 2020 Photo by Darren Honeywell

As the anniversary of the first lockdown passes, and rural audiences remain to be forced to stay at home, artists, rural touring schemes and volunteer promoters have found ways to continue to entertain communities, outside of shows in their usual venues in village halls, pubs, libraries, and community centres. In the face of COVID-19 Pandemic, the rural touring sector used their close community connections and in-depth knowledge of the needs of their audiences and artists to pivot quickly and innovatively. They commissioned and delivered professional work, not just for the digital space, but they have found ways to reach those not able to get online.

This includes commissioned radio concerts, theatre on the back of lorries, commissioned video shorts, reimagined theatre online, artists partnered with community groups, hyper-local outdoor performance for micro audiences, building a symphony of the countryside, digital diaries, plays by phone, dramas by postcard, shared and posted equipment, the creation and distribution of wellbeing packs, drive-in events and so much more. Rural touring across the country has never been more innovative or creative.

Rural Touring Schemes and promoters have been quietly producing programmes with an aim to not shout about it as attracting large audiences to shows was not the desired intention. It has all been personally delivered for individual villages so they could maintain COVID Safe social distancing. Some shows were put on for 30 minutes on one village green then moved to do the same in the neighbouring community. The work has been for small and specific audiences to ensure the residences maintain access to high-quality cultural provision and all the community health and wellbeing benefits that go along with that.

Symphony of the Countryside, a short film collaboration, led by Rural touring Scheme Carn to Cove in Cornwall. It involved rural promoters and audiences across England, professional musicians, poets, plus amateur and professionally shot images of the British Countryside capturing the summer of lockdown. Arts Alive in Shropshire and Herefordshire launched Arts Alive on Wheels, touring small scale shows outdoors on the back of a lorry. Highlights across the north of England commissioned a series of special concerts, Highlights at Home, which aimed to cut through the digital divide, premiered on BBC local radio. Cheshire Rural Touring Arts supported Stute Theatre to develop a new piece of telephone theatre called ‘You Don’t Know Me But…’ which was a 1-1 live 20 min piece of theatre down the phone incorporating a soundscape and music as well as a live performer. Take Art in Somerset has developed a new network called Totally Local, incorporating 14 outdoor performances in 6 villages.

Artsreach (RT scheme in Dorset) has felt like a ‘big hug’ during the pandemic,” says a Promoter on the south coast. 

Spot On in Lancashire commissioned a season of video shorts. Black Country Touring hosted Zoom Café, an interactive show about the history of coffee and tea.  Lockbusters, a series of film packs with a selection of themed DVDs, books and journals created by Live and Local across the Midlands was shared within rural and hard to reach communities. Online performances from the Rural Touring Dance Initiative have taken place, sharing contemporary dance commissioned specifically for rural audiences.

Dommy B, who produced a film with Spot On in Lancashire, says “Being occupied with something creative and kind, has been awesome and very helpful on a personal level to my mental health”.

As well as generating top-quality entertainment for audiences, rural touring schemes have also fought hard to continue to find ways to pay artists and freelancers.  National Rural Touring Forum, the umbrella organisation for the UK’s rural touring sector, diverted some of its Arts Council of England funding to help artists, schemes and promoters with extra support, advocacy and communications. It produced one of the biggest and most ambitious digital conferences in the performing arts sector throughout October 2020. Holly Lombardo, NRTF Director, says

I cannot express how proud I am to be part of an organisation that supports such a resilient, caring, and innovative sector. I am blown away by the response our members have had in continuing to bring work to communities.

Sonia Sabri Company supported by Birmingham Hippodrome presents ‘LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS’

A WEEK-LONG FREE ONLINE ARTS FESTIVAL 
FEATURING
UK AND INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS AND PERFORMERS

See full event listings here.

The Internationally acclaimed SONIA SABRI COMPANY, a dynamic dance and music company, announce details of the first ever online version of its highly popular LOK VIRSA Festival for 2021.

LOK VIRSA, fast becoming one of the leading Festivals of its kind in the UK, was firstpremiered at the Royal Festival Hall in London attended by 8000 participants.

The festival, now in its 7th year, celebrates some of the rarely experienced traditional and folkloric art of music, crafts and dance rooted in the lands of the Indian subcontinent.

LOK VIRSA which means ‘heritage of the people’, has toured the country annually and would normally take place live in a venue across one day.  However, adapting the festival online during lockdown has meant SONIA SABRI COMPANY can transform the festival to a virtual world-class stage of workshops and performances over 7 days.

Sonia Sabri Artistic Director, dancer-choreographer, said: “This year, LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS truly is an International Festival.  As well as artists from the UK, we are delighted to welcome artists from Iran, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh.  Each will come together across the week to bring colour, energy and high-class performances and events into our homes at what continues to be a challenging time for everyone.”

The FREE events will provide adults and children from diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to experience an array of arts and crafts workshops and participatory activities including Rangoli (using coloured rice, lentils, and flower petals to create eye-catching designs on the floor) Henna Painting, Block Printing and Weaving from award-winning artist Nilupa Yasmin.  Indian folk dance with Kinga Malec.

The Festival’s dance offer features Festival Founder Sonia Sabri performs her own form of Kathak dance, Shadhona Dance Company (Bengali folk-dance performance); Folk Dance of Bangladesh workshop by Arthy Ahmed; Indian folk dance with Kinga Malec, Silk scarf dance workshop of Afghanistan led by a member of the Sonia Sabri Company and Afghani folk dance performance by Kathakaars.  

Chris Sudworth, Birmingham Hippodrome Director of Artistic Programme added: Birmingham is the biggest dance city outside of London, and at Birmingham Hippodrome we support several Associate companies, led by some of the best choreographers in the region, to reach new audiences with new work – Sonia Sabri is definitely one of those.

We have worked with Sonia since 2018, supporting her to create and tour her new family production ‘Same Same…But Different’ nationally, and to host a fantastic Lok Virsa Festival at the Hippodrome in 2019. We’re delighted to support Sonia to adapt the Festival for online audiences, offering workshops and performances, and to look ahead to further collaborations for the future.”

Further highlights of the LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS include music from Bahram Jamali (Iran), Kamal Sabri (India) and Shafi Mondal (Bangladesh) plus Rafique Khan (Rajasthani folk music performance) and Shyam Nepali (Folk Nepali music performance).

LOK VIRSA: GOOD VIBRATIONS is supported by Birmingham Hippodrome and  runs from Monday 15th – Sunday 21st February. The Festival will open with a dance workshop on the Birmingham Hippodrome Facebook page.   

Further artists will be announced over the coming weeks.

Events will be broadcast across Sonia Sabri Company’s social media platforms.  All workshops and performance details will be available via Facebook.  Events may be subject to change.

Twitter:            @SoniaSabriCo
Facebook:       Sonia Sabri Company
Instagram:       SoniaSabriCo

Job Vacancy: Administration & HR Manager (Maternity Cover), Live & Local

£30,507-£32,029 commensurate with experience (0.6FTE / 21 hours per week)


Live & Local is seeking an Administration & HR Manager (Maternity Cover) to work alongside the Executive Director and Engagement Manager to facilitate, manage and support the growth of our organisation. They manage the Business and Operations Department and have specific responsibility to manage and supervise the smooth running of our office, core administration, financial administration of the company, HR, and physical resources.


The role is a key element in delivering a cost effective and efficient support for all our activities focussing on the financial, internal business processes and the innovation, learning and skills perspectives in our Business Plan.


The successful candidate will have demonstrable experience in HR, Business Development, and Finance.


This role offers variety, challenge and interest but with the added benefit of part time hours and could be a great project for a year for the right person.


Live & Local is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England.


Deadline: Midday on Monday 22nd February 2021
Interviews: Friday 26th February (Zoom)
Application: Via online application form only

Application Pack: Available for download


If you require an application form in another format, please contact admin @ liveandlocal.org.uk

Poetry Commission from Artsreach and Dorset Food & Drink

Together Artsreach and Dorset Food & Drink are seeking to commission a poet to help us celebrate Dorset’s outstanding local food and drink producers, and to acknowledge those who choose to shop local.

Dorset is well known for being home to some of the UK’s most outstanding local food and drink producers, and many of these are embedded within communities across the county who partner with Artsreach, the counties rural touring arts charity. Grow Local, Grow Vocal is a new initiative that aims to creatively celebrate these producers, and the community residents who choose to shop local, particularly since the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Below is a copy of the commission brief, and here is a link to the information on the Artsreach website: https://artsreach.co.uk/news/grow-local-grow-voca

Pentabus re-release two live recordings to celebrate Village Halls Week

To Celebrate 100 years Together: Village Hall Week 2021, Pentabus are re-releasing two live recordings – Here I Belong by Matt Hartley & Crossings by Deirdre Kinahan, a co-production with New Perspectives.

Here I Belong directed by Elizabeth Freestone celebrates village life, companionship and community while highlighting the challenges faced by people in rural areas. Over six decades from 1953 to 2016 Elsie’s life, relationships and the right to grow old in her own home will be played out on stage.

‘Intimate, affecting and quietly radical village hall theatre’

The Stage

Elsie is played by Beatrice Curnew, and she is joined by Nathalie Barclay who will multi role four different characters.

Crossings directed by Sophie Motley is an evening of live music, waltzing and unexpected connections, as two actors dance you through a century exploring how we’ve returned, resettled and adapted. It was commissioned for the centenary of the end of World War I. 

The cast features: Victoria Brazier who plays Margaret and Mirjana and Will O’Connell who plays Grace and Sean.

Pentabus Artistic Director, Sophie Motley, said: Village Halls are the lifeblood of Pentabus, and we can’t be in them at the moment. But, they’ve been around since the last pandemic. To celebrate, we’re sharing two brilliant plays which are elegies, celebrating village halls from 1919 through to today. It’s the closest we can get to actually being in one. Filmed live at Lustleigh Village Hall in Devon, and Ombersley Village Hall in Worcestershire, we wish we could go back to those evenings. Instead, we’ll look forward to the day we can return.

The rural releases will be available from Mon 25 January till midnight on Sun 31 January 2021 via Pentabus.co.uk

To view the shows as they’re released:

Pentabus.co.uk | Youtube: PentabusTheatre

All Press Enquiries: Catrin John | Email: catrin@pentabus.co.uk

Recommended for ages 12 +

Job Vacancies at Live & Local

Company Manager (Maternity Cover)

£30,507-£32,029 commensurate with experience (0.6FTE / 21 hours per week)


Live & Local is seeking a Company Manager (Maternity Cover) to work alongside the Executive Director and Engagement Manager to facilitate, manage and support the growth of our organisation. They manage the Business and Operations Department and have specific responsibility to manage and supervise the smooth running of our office, core administration, financial administration of the company, HR, and physical resources.


The role is a key element in delivering a cost effective and efficient support for all our activities focussing on the financial, internal business processes and the innovation, learning and skills perspectives in our Business Plan.


The successful candidate will have demonstrable experience in HR, Business Development, and Finance.


Live & Local is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England.


Deadline: Midday on Wednesday 3rd February 2021
Interviews: Tuesday 9th February (Zoom)
Application: Via online application form only

Application Pack: Available for download


Artist Engagement Officer

£21,589 to 23,836 commensurate with experience (equivalent 0.5FTE / 17.5 hours per week / office based flexi time OR remote annualised hours)


You will be responsible for managing relationships with artists across all our work-streams including the Community Touring Scheme, DART (artist development scheme) alongside researching artists (established and emerging), companies and films to feed into the programming of our live shows and our cinema schemes. In addition, you will deliver time limited artform specific initiatives and oversee our ‘It’s a Gas’ (Go and See scheme) You will play a central role in shaping the evolving commissioning, curation and producing strategy for the organisation.


The successful candidate will have demonstrable experience in interacting with professional artists/companies, a wide knowledge of artforms and music genres, a knowledge and interest in films and/or film programming, and an interest in furthering the aims of the Creative Case for Diversity. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills with a range of stakeholders are required, as is an understanding of the power of arts and culture at professional and grassroots, community, and voluntary level.


Live & Local is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England.


Deadline: Midday on Wednesday 3rd February 2021
Interviews: Friday 12th February (Zoom)
Application: Via online application form only

Application PackAvailable for download

Pubs, poems, positivity: National poem of thanks to resilient publicans and ‘Winter Warmers’ pub poetry collection unveiled

A ‘National Poem of Thanks to Our Nation’s Publicans’ has been released today by arts project INN CROWD and Pub is The Hub to thank publicans for their resilience and continuing support of their local communities during this Covid-19 pandemic, despite the huge challenges they continue to face themselves.

The poem’s release marks the launch of a ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign, a collaboration between INN CROWD and Pub is The Hub, the not-for-profit independent organisation that offers specialist advice on the diversification of services at rural pubs and ways publicans can support their local communities.

 The ‘Winter Warmers’ initiative is based on a collection of seven heart-warming poems about pubs, specially commissioned by INN CROWD, who work with pubs to provide them access to professional live literature, which is specially commissioned for pub audiences.

The poems have been written by poets in six regions across England, with the initiative aiming to bring cheer and hope to publicans, their staff and their communities and to help keep people connected during this challenging start to 2021 with this current lockdown.

Watch the ‘Winter Warmers’ poem here: https://inncrowd.org.uk/winter-warmers/

Praise for resilient publicans

The thank you poem for publicans is called the ‘The Public House’. It has been written and performed by poet and actress Alexandra Ewing, the daughter of a former publican who grew up in pubs in Suffolk. Ewing also, until last year, worked for a decade as front of house staff in the hospitality industry, including pubs. 

Alexandra Ewing said: “I hope the poem will make publicans really smile and that they will feel incredibly proud of how much talent they have and how much their presence is felt, even when it doesn’t feel like it is.”

Victoria MacDonald, publican of the Cellar House in Eaton, near Norwich, said: “After such a tough 2020 for the pub industry and such a challenging start to 2021 it is wonderful that Pub is The Hub and INN CROWD have thanked publicans in this way. It is a really beautiful and touching poem.”

Watch the thank you poem here: www.inncrowd.org.uk/2021/01/13/alexandra-ewing-the-public-house-rumbles/

‘Pubs still key hubs of support’

During this lockdown many pubs have again been offering essential services to people in their local communities, including phone support to those at risk of loneliness, grocery shops, takeaway and delivery food and meals for the elderly and those financially stretched.

John Longden, chief executive of Pub is The Hub, said: “Despite the immense challenges and pressures publicans have endured, and continue to face during this pandemic and current lockdown, many pubs are still a key hub of practical and wellbeing support for many people in their local communities.” 

He adds: “Publicans and their teams have worked tirelessly and selflessly to help support others and keep them safe and we wanted to do something to say a special thank you and recognise their efforts. We hope they enjoy these lovely poems.”

Postcards of positivity

Many publicans are sharing the ‘Winter Warmers’ poems with their locals on social media or putting them up as posters in pub windows.

Selected pubs around the country are also receiving ‘postcards of positivity’, featuring the ‘Winter Warmers’ poem written by the poet from their region. The idea is for publicans to use the postcards to help spread cheer and keep them connected with people in their local community. Publicans are planning to use the postcards in food boxes, in takeaway and delivery food bags and to reach out to customers who may be at risk of experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Positive collaboration of arts and pubs

The ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign sees two industries, pubs and the arts, which are among the sectors most detrimentally impacted by the pandemic join forces in a positive collaboration.

INN CROWD’s Dawn Badland said:These two sectors make an invaluable contribution to our society, and it is brilliant to be able to come together with Pub is The Hub to do something positive for the publicans and artists working in these hard-hit industries.”

INN CROWD will continue to support local pubs this year through its bespoke events which help keep publicans connected with their communities and also with digital poetry performances which will enable them to reach a wider audience, whether people can make it to the pub or not.  

Creative residencies

Its work last year included residencies with pubs to help support artists, publicans and their communities. Remotely delivered residencies included a lockdown zoom sharing of audio stories with locals of The Dog Inn, Belthorn, Lancashire and a new song written for the community of The White Lion in Selling, Kent, celebrating the rich tradition of carol singing in pubs. Before Christmas INN CROWD also released a short collection of poems by poet Arji Manuelpillai, who worked with the community of Allhallows in Kent, conducting remote phone meetings to devise the collection.

Pic captions: Poetry in motion: Poet Alexandra Ewing reads her poem written in thanks to our nation’s publicans to licensee Victoria MacDonald of the Cellar House, near Norwich.

In praise of pubs: This group of talented artists have written poems in praise of pubs for the Pub is The Hub and INN CROWD ‘Winter Warmers’ campaign

*For further press information contact Georgette Purdey, marketing@applause.org.uk, 07894145328

Live & Local Commission Opportunities

Live & Local: LivingRoom

A series of micro-commissions for artists to create bespoke performances or artworks for a community with whom they are paired. The brief is fairly open as we hope to attract a range of project ideas from a diverse range of artists and companies.

Live & Local is inviting proposals which meet the brief below from professional artists and companies from a range of different artforms, but particularly those who have either worked on the Rural Touring circuit before or who have a desire to do so in the future. The programme will focus on artists and companies based in the East or West Midlands.

Fee: £700-£900 per commission, depending on the individual project ideas.

Deadline for proposals: 05 February 2021, 17:00.

Project start date: From February 2021 onwards.

The project brief and online application form can be found below. For more information or an informal discussion, please contact community@liveandlocal.org.uk to arrange a chat with a member of the Live & Local Community Engagement Team.

Federation of Scottish Theatre appoints Fiona Sturgeon Shea as the organisations new Chief Executive Officer.

Federation of Scottish Theatre (FST) is delighted to announce the appointment of Fiona Sturgeon Shea as the organisations new Chief Executive Officer. 

Fiona will join Federation of Scottish Theatre as Chief Executive Officer in March of 2021, leaving her role as Creative Director of Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland.

Fiona joined Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland in 2011. Playwrights’ Studio is the nation’s only arts organisation exclusively dedicated to the support, development and promotion of Scotland’s playwrights. She has worked in senior roles for several influential theatre companies in England and Scotland, including two separate stints at Scotland’s new writing theatre, the Traverse (as Marketing Manager in the 1990s and as Head of Communications). She also worked for the Citizens Theatre and the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, Surrey. Fiona has held posts in the public sector. For five years, she was Head of Audience & Organisational Development for the Scottish Arts Council, responsible for national strategy in those areas. Prior to this, she was employed by NHS Lothian to lead the communications for Healthy Respect, a Scottish Government health demonstration project.

Speaking of the appointment FST co-chairs, Rhona Matheson & Liam Sinclair said: 

“Fiona brings fantastic energy and a wealth of experience to FST from her rich and varied career in the performing arts, along with roles in the public sector. Her tenure at Playwrights Studio Scotland has seen her become a fixture of the Scottish cultural landscape, with a fantastic understanding of the joys, challenges, and complexities that brings.

We look forward to welcoming Fiona to FST and working closely with her as the organisation focuses on advocacy for the sector around the upcoming Scottish Elections and supporting the health and resilience of our membership in Scotland’s post-pandemic recovery.

We also wish to take this opportunity to thank Interim CEO Lucy Mason, whose work and insight in this transition phase has been greatly valued by the membership, board and FST team.” 

A black and white portrait image of Fiona Sturgeon Shea
Photography by Ingrid Mur

Fiona Sturgeon Shea said:  

 “I feel hugely privileged to have been entrusted with this important role at such a crucial and challenging time for the performing arts community in Scotland, and for an organisation that has achieved so much.  

My involvement with the Federation of Scottish Theatre began in 1997 when I was co-opted onto the audience development committee. Since then, I have remained a member and served on the board. I am fully aware that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I look forward to working with the staff team, the board, the membership and stakeholders at every level. 

The sector is resilient, ingenious, and adept at finding solutions. I know that everyone is keen and poised to play their part as we work together to recover and rebuild in a way that is inclusive, fair and representative.”