Pentabus is a contemporary theatre company based in Shropshire. They produce original plays examining the place of the rural world in contemporary society for local and international audiences. Sustainability is embedded in Pentabus’ core values, and they want to be frontrunners in the growing green theatre movement. The producing theatre operates out of two barns and a former farm estate schoolhouse, touring productions all over the country.
Working within a Victorian building comes with its own complications, as the theatre is quite draughty and poorly insulated. Not to be discouraged, Pentabus has found ways to overcome this, ensuring that sustainability underlies their operations, the work they produce and how they engage with their audiences.
They are committed to embedding sustainability into the heart of their practice, and have created an environmental policy and implemented an action plan. This policy ensures that sustainability begins from an artistic standpoint, and that their approach to reusing, recycling and repairing is central to both the artistic process and how they work with creative teams as well as how they operate within their building.
Since the company has embedded this policy they have found that it has inspired new ways of thinking when producing new work. Sustainability is not seen as an afterthought, but as an opportunity that opens doors to producing great work.
“We’ve found that embedding sustainability has bred ingenuity during the creative process. It is more of a challenge to create something within boundaries – something that can amaze an audience, but also save the environment and save money. This challenge is the motivation - to walk down that road and be resourceful rather than to create something with unlimited materials and money. It pushes you to be better and think about things with a different logic, one that we are finding to be ultimately more rewarding.”– Crayg Ward, Pentabus Green Champion
Key commitments outlined within their policy are:
- To accurately map their carbon footprint and aim to achieve a reduction of 10% in their carbon footprint by March 2015. (This has been achieved)
- Green their productions and tours and procurement of supplies and services where possible
- Make recycling the norm, and waste the exception
- Reduce business travel (i.e. increased use of Skype)
- Opt for lower carbon transport modes when touring, where possible
- Ensure compliance with minimum environmental legislation and seek to exceed this
- Communicate with and engage their staff and board on environmental issues
- Lead a paradigm shift in their approach to theatre making, putting sustainability at the heart of their producing and touring agenda
- Be a flagship organisation in the region for environmental sustainability
- Conduct a full review of their energy use, set themselves regular internal targets and publish our progress on their website
For Pentabus, it’s important that this policy and their environmental thinking is shared not only internally, but also with the audiences and visitors. The policy is displayed on their website for anyone to see, as well as an infographic outlining their achievements so far including:
- Upgraded all office lighting, resulting in a saving of 26,112W per year
- 34 reams of recycled paper since May 2013, which has saved two trees
- 25 rolls of composted turf used for their productions
- 1,500 composted tea bags
They also set challenges for their audiences, encouraging them to car share or use public transport.
Artistic Direction, Production and Touring:
The company tours productions all over the country. Travel costs are high, but they have excellent stores and there has long been a culture of repair/reuse/recycle at the heart of their theatre-making practice.
Pentabus’ artistic approach to environmental sustainability began with their production of ‘For Once’ in 2013 when the Artistic Director encouraged the team to make use of their existing stores, and to form partnerships with local organisations, such as theShropshire Furniture scheme, to borrow props for the show, which were then returned to the scheme after the production ended. Feedback from audiences suggested the design of the show (an in-the-round living room) was engaging, exciting and central to their emotional experience of the overall production.
This has set the tone for their productions to date and their continued legacy of borrowing, sharing and reusing. If they do need to source materials instead of using what they already have in store, then they procure green/recycled services and suppliers and ensure that this is communicated to the creative team. A welcome by-product of this approach was a saving to their overall budget for creating the show, which also made it fantastic value for money.
Pentabus tour productions all over the country, which results in high travel costs. Often when touring in rural villages, there is a large catchment area of audience members. With this in mind, they have been collecting data from audiences to understand their travel habits when engaging with theatre (how far they travel, vehicles’ used etc.)
In 2014, they undertook their biggest village hall tour to date by performing in 27 venues across the UK. Whilst Pentabus’s raison d’etre is to take exceptional art to isolated rural communities, by taking the work to the audience this does, by default, help to cut down on commuting emissions.
“One van on the road is better than 25 cars travelling to see the performance. We are trying to take our theatre to as many locations as possible.”– Crayg Ward, Pentabus Green Champion
They aspire towards carbon neutral performances and have plans to source new, low energy LED lighting and start hiring hybrid vans whilst on tour.
Pentabus have made basic changes within their office culture, such as switching to recycled printing paper, using tap water rather than bottled during rehearsals, low energy light-bulbs and recycling paper and plastics. Making recycling the norm and waste the exception is key – not just with productions, but in the daily working office. They have also begun to use Freecycle as a recycling platform for their stocks and stores, which cannot be reused by the company or re-sold.
Pentabus engage their employees/partners/suppliers when it comes to championing a green, sustainable work ethic. They divvy up responsibility of green thinking but also have a team leader and board level leader to keep things on track.
“The arts sector has a voice that speaks directly to communities. Regardless of what message the art is communicating/exploring, I believe that there is a responsibility for the sector to show environmental accomplishments across the board.”– Crayg Ward, Pentabus Green Champion
What would Pentabus say to their peers on embedding sustainability?
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“Look at those that are championing environmental issues and learn from their actions. Consume all the advice you can from the wonderful Julie's Bicycle and Arts Council case studies and use them to inform a policy that best suits your organisation, then begin to put it in to practice.”– Crayg Ward, Pentabus Green Champion