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Blackpool’s inclusive theatre company takes BBC stage

TV audiences watched members of Blackpool’s inclusive theatre company perform this weekend. Some 19 members of TramShed headed to Manchester’s AO Arena where filming took place for The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals, hosted by Jason Manford.

TramShed in rehearsals with Jason Manford

The biggest West End and touring shows were represented in the show, which aired on BBC One this weekend and is now available to watch on iPlayer. The event was filmed last week and saw the Blackpool theatre group perform to a live audience of 12,000.

The event was a celebration of the £517m the National Lottery has awarded to arts projects around the county. As a lottery-funded project TramShed, which is an also a charity, was invited to take to the stage with its version of The Greatest Show. It’s the second time in recent weeks that a Blackpool organisation has been invited to perform by the National Lottery, with TramShed following House of Wingz’ appearance on the New Year’s Big Bash.

A spectacular set and glittering backdrop saw TramShed’s circus aerial artists wow the audience while others showcased their Creative Sign Language, which brings together British Sign Language, Makaton and dance.

TramShed specialises in performing arts that include everyone, no matter who they are, where they are from, what their background or their experience. It gives a safe, encouraging and stimulating environment, that not only provides opportunities for all involved – including improvement of performing arts skills and confidence building – but it also gives each individual a voice.

A TramShed theatre member gets ready for her TV performance

“TramShed was absolutely delighted to be asked to perform with Jason Manford in the National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals at the AO Arena,” said artistic director Zac Hackett. “This was a once in a lifetime experience for our members and wonderful to be part of. The work that takes place at TramShed is so unique to the local area and vitally important to all those who take part, so to showcase inclusive theatre on such a scale was incredible.”

The performance itself was like a dream. It was insane and such an amazing thing to experience.

Arts practitioner Eve Ellison said the whole process was surreal.
“I am so proud of each and every person involved, everyone stayed so calm and professional and embraced everything that was thrown at them,” she said. “The performance itself was like a dream. It was insane and such an amazing thing to experience. Truly liberating! I really wish I could have bottled up that feeling to keep. Everyone was amazing and should be so, so proud of themselves. It is definitely a highlight for me within my inclusive theatre career and something I will never ever forget.”

Costume fitting for the big show. 

Helen Whittaker’s daughter Katie took part in the performance.
“Katie went from being very unsure about the whole experience to being absolutely buzzing by the time she came home. We’ve always tried to expand her horizons as much as we can and this has been a simply amazing adventure for her.”

“We are so grateful to everyone involved for the opportunity and know our members shone brightly, like the true stars they are,” said Hackett. “I am so proud of our organisation and know our wonderful members have made memories to last a lifetime.”

Watch the National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals here and find out more about Tramshed in the video below. Photos: Marge Bradshaw.

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