A MASSIVE £500,000 grant from the Arts Council has secured the future of a Ludlow based theatre group.

Pentabus, based just outside Ludlow in Bromfield, has bucked the national trend in which public funding of the arts has been reduced.

But the allocation of £561,995 means that Pentabus can continue bringing theatre to rural areas until at least 2018.

It comes as a perfect birthday present for the group that has promised that it will increase the range of tours and extend its operation to other parts of the UK.

Pentabus was set up in 1974 and initially used a bus to take its art to places across the West Midlands.

This has since been extended to take its work to all kinds of different venues including pubs, village halls and local theatres. It also has an outreach programme throughout the country.

Pentabus has most recently staged eight new plays by eight new writers at its Young Writers Festival that has formed part of the Ludlow Fringe programme.

It also brought its Stories From the Streets project to the Fringe. Those taking part were armed with headphones and a map of the town so they could visit landmarks and hear a short piece written especially for the location.

It will perform at the Edinburgh Festival in August and in the autumn will take a play about humanity and the legacy of war on a tour taking in 30 venues nationwide.

Alison Vermee, the chair of the Board of Trustees, has said: “Over the next three years the company will tour more widely, ensuring rural communities nationwide have access to the highest quality theatre and will see the company expand its successful young writer’s scheme across the UK.”

The artistic director Alison Freestone welcomed the security that comes with the grant but was thinking of other arts groups that have not had good news.

“As the nation’s rural theatre company, we are grateful that the Arts Council has recognised the unique contribution that Pentabus makes in creating new plays specifically for and about the rural experience,” she said.

“With secure funding we can ensure we continue to commission the best playwrights and tour our work more widely across the UK, turning up in village halls, theatres and digital backyards, connecting audiences nationwide.

“Not all companies have been as fortunate as us and we are aware some of our partners will be having a rough day. Times continue to be rough for many arts organisations and we will continue to support each other as best we can.”

Over the past four decades Pentabus has produced more than 150 shows and played in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

The company has won many awards including a South Bank Show Award for ‘White Open Spaces’, a play about racism.

‘Arts Alive’, a group that is involved in theatre in south Shropshire including venues in Ludlow, Cleobury Mortimer, Clee-St-Margaret and Bishops Castle, has also been allocated £176,000 over three years in the latest round of Arts Council grants.