"My year as the Pentabus Writer in Residence was, by far, the happiest of my career. I got the time and space to develop my writing, and the freedom to experiment with, and better understand, what sort of writer I am. I was surrounded by amazingly supportive people, who inspired me daily, shifted any shred of writers’ block, restrained themselves to not lunge for me during one of my 4pm whistling-wanders around the office.
After seeing the Pentabus Young Writers Festival in 2014, I knew this company thrived on an unrelenting enthusiasm to make brilliant, important work for and about rural communities, but I never quite understood how much Britain needs Pentabus until I was there. This company is truly remarkable. Their commitment to taking stories to places otherwise starved of new voices, big ideas, or the platform on which to hear them, is so refreshing, honest and infectious, that you can’t help but want to get into the van and go along with them.
The small teams’ work-ethic and focus is so strong and unrelenting that had they chosen other - more villainous - career paths, I’m sure they would have all conquered a part of the world by now. They’re like the Avengers of rural touring theatre (except all of them are green). Crayg is the happiest, most enthusiastic person I have ever met. He works tirelessly, and has unhuman reserves of energy and positivity - even after 10-hours of stand-still traffic on the drive to Latitude Festival for the young writers’ show in 2015. I don’t think I’ll ever get better notes than those from Elizabeth Freestone – the most incredible and fiercely intelligent dramaturg I’ve ever been lucky enough to have read my work – articulating, in seconds, that which I have been fumbling around in the dark with for weeks. The way she thinks about theatre, and what this country needs, is totally eye-opening, and I wish all artistic directors had an iota of her passion, loyalty and drive. Jenny puts all octopuses to shame, doing more work with two hands than they ever could with eight – the girl is non-stop, sorting tour-bookings, casts and creatives, marketing materials, and a whole host of other things too complicated for me to understand. She also stopped me going mad on a number of occasions, offering tea, or food, or a lift, or a kip on the most remarkable air-bed I’ve ever experienced (and it is an experience). Lynda, the bookkeeper - who is always lovely - basically runs the gaff, and knows Pentabus inside-out - and she’s a Brummy too, so that's ace. Fran (now on maternity leave with baby Audrey) was a light at the end of the tunnel of offices – brimming with enthusiasm for all things, but particularly food, rural arts, and how to get Pentabus out to more and more people. And she has the best dog in the world, whose face I sometimes see in clouds and things – I miss her that much. Kitty, who is covering Fran’s maternity leave and is equally enthusiastic, joyful and brilliant, has only one thing that Fran doesn't: Dizzee Rascal’s discarded hand-towels, which she brought in for our toilets. I’m not sure, however, that I’ll ever want to see the faces of her pugs in a cloud. Mike is a kind, committed and brilliant volunteer, who has done extensive work collating archives about Pentabus’s history. But that still doesn’t excuse the terrible secret Santa I got from him - I mean, who needs a pocket-sized rain-maker around Birmingham? Quick shout out to cleaner Lynn, who could never remember my name (it's Joe, by the way), and, lastly, who could forget the award-winning stage-manager Sam Eccles?
Basically, the team is incredible, they make Pentabus what it is, and I just wanted to thank them so much for having me. It was an honour to be there for a year. I miss it terribly. Do all you can to work with them.
Now go breathe on 'em Salop!"
- Joe White, 2015 Writer in Residence