The second iteration of Harrison’s Bus Regulation: The Musical – inspired by the 1980s hit musical ‘Starlight Express’ – re-enacts the history of public transport provision in the Strathclyde region from the post-war period to the present day… on roller skates!

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 in the Strathclyde region from the post-war period to the present day.

Beginning with the municipal ownership of buses in the 1960s, through the 1968 Transport Act which created the Greater Glasgow PTE and the Trans-Clyde integrated system in 1979, 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 Get Glasgow Moving’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.

Bus Regulation: The Musical (Strathclyde) was premiered at the CCA Glasgow on 24 April 2022. It was produced by Emily Furneaux and stars Katy Thomson as ‘the Clippie’ alongside skaters from Glasgow Roller Derby: Nicole Meehan, Sarah McGettigan, Heather McDougall, Heather Roberts, Molly Uzzell and Lauren Crone; Mean City Roller Derby: Ruby East and Ruth Brandon, and Chrissie Ardill and Libby Odai from the Sugar & Spin Skate Crew, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was supported by Creative Scotland, Hope Scott Trust, Climate Fringe and Take Me Somewhere. Film by James Alcock.

The Strathclyde Musical builds on the success of Bus Regulation: The Musical (Greater Manchester) staged at Manchester Art Gallery in 2019 in collaboration with the Better Buses for Greater Manchester campaign. This paved the way for the 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.

On 13 November 2022, Harrison staged the Merseyside version of the Musical at the Bluecoat in Liverpool as the final part of her ambitious Trilogy exploring the relationship between public transport policy and population health in three of the UK’s biggest post-industrial city regions. On completion of her Musical Trilogy, Harrison was awarded the University of Dundee’s ‘Engaged Researcher of the Year’ award at the 2023 Stephen Fry Public Engagement Awards.

The Strathclyde Musical was then re-staged at Platform in Easterhouse on 28 January 2023 with support from Glasgow Centre for Population Health, the University of Glasgow and CIVIS through their Small Grants Scheme. The show was featured in The National, and reviewed in The Herald, The Scotsman and FringeReview, with Neil Cooper describing it as “Ellie Harrison’s glorious piece of agit-prop theatre”.


Photo: Erika Stevenson