Bus Regulation: The Musical comes to the Bluecoat
11 months ago
Artist’s new performance sheds light on today’s expensive and fragmented transport system
Bus Regulation: The Musical by Ellie Harrison is inspired by the 1980s hit musical ‘Starlight Express’, and features performers on roller skates to re-enact the history of public transport provision on Merseyside from the post-war period to the present day.
The performance is staged in collaboration with local public transport campaigners in order to provoke discussion and create awareness for Liverpool City Region’s proposals to re-regulate the region’s buses, ahead of the important public consultation this winter.
Artist and activist Ellie Harrison says:
“I care passionately about improving public transport. It is vital for addressing the climate emergency and tackling chronic poverty and inequality. I wanted to create a fun, family-friendly event to inspire others with this passion and that’s when the childhood memory of watching Starlight Express popped into my head. Just as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical uses performers on roller skates to portray trains, I’m working with local skaters to re-enact the lost history of Merseyside’s buses. This is an important history, as it clearly shows that proper governance and regulation is vital for making public transport work in the interests of the region’s people”.
Beginning with the municipal ownership of buses in the 1960s, through the 1968 Transport Act which created the Merseyside PTE and the coordination of public transport across the whole region in the 1970s, Bus Regulation: The Musical takes you into the chaos caused by bus de-regulation in 1986, the numerous mergers & takeovers of the 1990s that followed, right up to the fragmented and expensive system we’re left with as a result. The Musical concludes with a celebration of Liverpool City Region’s proposals to re-regulate the region’s buses in order to create a world-class, fully-integrated and affordable public transport network fit for the 21st century.
Betty Beehive, volunteer campaigner with ACORN Liverpool, says:
“Bus Regulation: The Musical could not have come at a better time for our bus campaign. This winter, there will be a crucial public consultation on whether to move forward with the Combined Authority’s plans to re-regulate our region’s bus network, and we need a massive response in support. We hope the Musical will be a fun way of informing people about the integrated public transport system Merseyside used to have in the 1970s and early 1980s, how this was robbed from us through the misguided policies of de-regulation and privatisation, as well as inspiring them to respond to the consultation and help us get it back!”
Bus Regulation: The Musical is funded by Arts Council England through the National Lottery Project Grants programme and produced in collaboration with the Bluecoat, We Own It, ACORN Liverpool, Better Buses for Merseyside and local roller skaters from Liverpool Roller Birds and Wirral Roller Derby.
This new Merseyside production builds on the success of the Greater Manchester Musical staged at Manchester Art Gallery in 2019 in collaboration with the Better Buses for Greater Manchestercampaign. This paved the way for their Mayor’s historic decision in March 2021 to proceed with re-regulating the region’s bus network – the first UK city region to do so since 1986. Earlier this year Harrison also staged the Strathclyde Musical in collaboration with the local Get Glasgow Moving campaign to put pressure on their regional transport authority to follow suit.
The Merseyside Musical will be the final part of Harrison’s ambitious Trilogy exploring the relationship between public transport policy and population health in these three post-industrial city regions. It forms part of a growing body of Harrison’s work attempting to visualise complex social, political and economic histories in playful and engaging ways.