19 April 2022
Glasgow Times

A new musical will have its debut this weekend, and it’s all about Glasgow’s “expensive and fragmented” transport system.

Bus Regulation: The Musical, which has been written and directed by transport campaigner Ellie Harrison, is a retelling of the “chaotic” history of public transport policy in the Strathclyde area.

Based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express, the production will cover the 1960s to the present day and then look into the future to see what we can learn from the past about creating a world-class fully integrated public transport network in Glasgow.

Ellie said: “The music is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music from Starlight Express, there isn’t any singing, but there’s roller-skating and then there’s a narrator who tells the story in chronological order as things unfold.

“It’s very much looking at policies, like all the transport acts, and the effect that that has had on actual bus operations.

“There’s a very technical aspect to it but hundreds of thousands of people rely on public transport and it affects their lives every day and it’s really important to make the connection between the transport that we get in our cities and the decisions that are being made by people in power.

“It’s very fun but it’s quite absurd as well because so much happens.”

The city’s buses will be played by roller-skaters from Glasgow Roller Derby, Mean City Roller Derby and Sugar & Spin Skate Crew, while local performer Sharon Fraser will narrate the musical as Nelly the Clippie.

As well as writing and directing, Ellie has also created 46 costumes to represent all the bus companies that have operated in the city since the 60s.

Ellie first came up with the idea for the musical in 2018 when she was invited by Manchester Art Gallery to do a residency as part of a project about activism and protest.

The Manchester version of the musical took place in September 2019 and in March last year the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, announced the re-regulation of the city’s buses.

Ellie is hopeful the musical will make the history of Glasgow’s buses more accessible to the public and will gather support for their re-regulation.

She said: “Part of what I want to do is to tell that history so that people understand why we’ve arrived at the point we are now and then ultimately make the case for reregulating the buses.

“If we re-regulate buses we can actually plan the network so all communities, no matter where you live, are served with a decent bus service that goes all times of day and evening, and we can also coordinate the buses with the trains and the subway so we can coordinate routes, timetables and fares, you can have one simple ticket.

“That’s how it works in London where it’s all regulated and that’s how it works in most other European cities.

“There is no good reason why anyone living in Glasgow wouldn’t get behind it.”

Bus Regulation: The Musical will be at the Centre for Contemporary Arts on April 24 at 2pm and 3pm and is supported by Creative Scotland, Hope Scott Trust, Climate Fringe and Take Me Somewhere.

You can join the waitlist for free tickets here.

A local filmmaker will also be filming the production which will be available to view on social media from the end of April.

Nicole Mitchell