Back of the Bus in Pennine Lancashire





Hello everyone! How are you? We’ve been a little quiet over here on the blog, but exceptionally busy, all over Pennine Lancashire. And I mean all over. We’ve been gallivanting around on a dancing double decker bus! Did you catch ‘Back of the Bus’ last week?

We were in (deep breath) Burnley, Darwen, Colne, Accrington, Nelson and Blackburn. With 18, venues, 13 shows, 6 towns, 4 dancers, and several flourescant jackets, after months and weeks of planning, stressing and generally not sleeping well (Stephie that is, I’m sure Matt slept fine) I can safely say it was all well and truly worth it.


In theatre, dance, and the arts in general, we expect all too often our audiences to come to us. To sit in a theatre, wander around an art gallery, or partake in a workshop in a studio. These places can be alien and intimidating to audiences. Especially new audiences.

Not everyone in Pennine Lancashire has sat in a theatre seat, but most of them have sat on a bus. If we want people to start engaging with the arts and theatre, maybe it’s time we started taking the theatre to them.

Over 13 shows, Java Dance, entertained and amazed audiences, who boarded a bus that looked so ordinary, at first glance one audience member was disappointed to note ‘I just feel like I’m off to do my shopping’ safe to say, she didn’t feel the same way ten minutes later!


That’s why I love site specific theatre, because it can take something ordinary, or somewhere overlooked and turn it into something extraordinary. It’s not often you hear people describing themselves as feeling ‘exhilarated’ after getting off a bus, but many of our audience members did! One even went so far as to say they had seen their ‘home town in a different light’ which is personally one of my favourite responses! We hear ‘Nothing happens around here’ a lot working on this job, so to not only be able to change that, but also to change peoples perceptions of their towns is brilliant!


We also got to turn up in one or two places where audiences were already waiting. A particularly special moment for me, was when we had our dress rehearsal in Walton Lane Community Centre, which is an Age UK day centre for elderly people and people with dementia. The residents were ready and waiting for us, and the staff were amazing, taking lots of photos. It was definitely something I will remember for a long time. Those residents would never have made it onto a bus, and can’t easily get down to the shops never mind a theatre, so to be able to go to them, even for ten minutes was something I’d definitely like to see happen more often!

Before I get too sentimental about the whole thing I can’t leave without saying a massive thank you to everyone who was involved. Our venues as always, everywhere we visited in each town, Java Dance for being an absolute joy to work with, and perhaps most importantly Transdev who not only provided our lovely blue and yellow for the week, but also several fantastic drivers, without whom the whole show wouldn’t have been possible!

And as always here at Plugged In there is never too much time for looking back, we’re on to our final show of the season this Sunday at The ACE Centre 2pm. Gorilla Gardening is the perfect show to encourage under 7’s to explore the great outdoors this Sunday, plus we’ll be getting up to some gardening of our own in the bistro courtyard from 12.30! And then we’re on to an exciting summer of trips to Edinburgh Fringe Festival with some of our community promoters, a theatre open day at Darwen Library Theatre and lots of planning for our wonderful Autumn season!

Speak soon, Stephie x

Where have you been and what have you been doing?

CCow949WIAA7JRUHello everyone! Sorry we’ve been a bit quiet over here on the blog lately. As always we have a good excuse, because as always we’ve been busy little worker bees… obviously! So what have we been up to since you last heard from us? Well April has been a bit of a whilrwind month for us. We had a break in our season after Morgan & West and Circus Geeks last month (is that really all it was?) which gave us some time to get out and about in the community promoting the rest of the season and to start planning the next.

Here’s what we’ve been up to during our radio silence…

Pop up poetry…


Last season, you may remember we brought the wonderful Dommy B to The ACE Centre with his fabulous show ‘When Trolls Try To Eat Your Goldfish’ well he was so popular, we decided to bring him back! As well as performing ‘The Dragon who Hates Poetry’ as a tea time treat at the ACE Centre, we also spent a day taking him into local Nelson schools for a spot of pop up poetry! It was such a lovely day, and I think Dommy might have inspired one or two future wordsmiths in the process!

Ladies and gentlemen may I have your attention please…



This is me looking painfully awkward recording some Front of House announcements for our events at The ACE Centre. Many of our audiences to The ACE Centre, haven’t only been new to us, but new to theatre all together, and we forgot how daunting that could be, so we decided to put together a short informative recording that could be played out at the beginning of each show… Which was a great idea, until I realised I would now have to find somewhere to hide so I wouldn’t have to listen to myself back at the beginning of every event!



It’s a mystery…


Here’s a picture of Matt holding the most embarassing pose he could think of. I don’t know why he bothers, after nearly a year working together I am well and truly immune to it. What’s more important than Matts impression of an elderly lady doing her weekly shop, is the display behind him. If you were out and about in Colne over the last month, you might have noticed our murder mystery display outside of the market. This was all in aid of An Inspector Calls coming to the Muni. We had some giant suspect posters, taken from the plot of the play, some wonderful props loaned from Pendle Hippodrome, and we even held a speed murder mystery. Our quickest detective managed to solve the puzzle in just 90 seconds and won themselves a pair of free tickets!

an inspectorFirst time for everything…

And of course An Inspector Calls was our very first show at The Muni! We were absolutely chuffed to have a 175 audience members join us, and our experiment with the Muni seating has certainly given us a lot to think about for the future! Now we can’t wait for June and Every Brilliant Thing to head to Colne!



Ghosts at Old Georges’ house…

The picture at the top of this post is from one of the two afternoons we spent down at King Georges Hall with our year fives and the Children’s University! Head honcho of all things technical Howard gave us all a behind the scenes tour, and we challenged the children to come up with a question he didn’t know the answer too. Out of 180 children, there was only two questions Howard couldn’t answer ‘How many doors are there in the building?’ and ‘How much Marble was used to build the hall?’ I think we might find Howard fervently googling and counting doors in the hallway next time we see him!

The wheels on the bus…

You might remember in my last post, I hinted at a special project we’ve been working on that involves a bus. Work on this is now well and truly underway, and look out for a big announcement, fancy new website, and a bus with an unusual set of passengers coming your way soon!

HEY (1)

An engagement announcement…

Well, not the get down on one knee and produce a ring kind of engagement, the other kind. This month we’ve been doing one heck of a lot of community engagement, which is fantastic, and of course what is at the heart of the Plugged In project! We dropped off 700 colouring in competition forms to schools in Blackburn, in preparation for Rapunzel the other day, and at the beginning of this week we spent the morning in Darwen. Two groups have already chosen two fantastic shows to bring to Darwen Library Theatre in Autumn, but there is still time for you to get involved and have your say in our programming too!

As you can see it’s been a busy month, so I’m sure you can forgive the lack of blogging! But we will be sure to keep you updated on everything we have coming up in the future. Stephie x

ps. have you got your tickets for our upcoming shows yet?

detective hats, on the buses, and changing of the seasons…



Hello everyone, how are you? We’re in the middle of a bit of a mid season interval here at Plugged In HQ. After an absolutely amazing weekend of shows a fortnight ago, we now have a bit of rest before the season continues. Well I say rest…

That isn’t quite the case. While Matt may be on holiday at the moment, as always we still have plenty of work to be getting on with. We’re currently preparing for our first show ever at The Muni, over in Colne, which is very exciting. After speaking to local residents, looking at what was already popular in that area, and taking a gander at the current school curriculum we’ve programmed An Inspector Calls on Wednesday April 22nd.

This is a classic mystery tale from Arthur Miller, and no doubt some of you will remember studying it yourself. This production is done by TinShed Theatre Company, which I am particularly excited about. I first came across their work in Manchester, when I saw ‘Dr Frankensteins Travelling Freakshow,’ it was amazing, and I can’t wait to see their take on An Inspector Calls. Of course, in true Plugged In style, we haven’t just programmed the show in, crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. We’d get terribly bored if that was the case wouldn’t we?

First of all we’ve decided to set The Muni up with tables and chairs, so that the audience will feel like they too are part of the interrupted dinner, and we are encouraging people to dress up in evening wear. But before we get to the night itself, we’re going out and about promoting the show with a ‘Speed Murder Mystery.’ Look out for us in Colne, we’re taking over the glass box just outside the market, and we’ll also be in Nelson and Colne library with our detective hats on too.

Next month also see’s Dommy B return to The ACE Centre, for a tea time treat on Friday 17th April, with ‘The Dragon Who Hates Poetry.’ Audiences loved him last season, so when we heard he had another show touring, we just had to book him.  Not only that but Dommy will also be popping into one or two local primary school in Nelson for some pop up poetry, so if your little’un suddenly comes home full of rhyme and rhythm that will probably be why!

Other than that my time at the moment is filled up with planning for next season. Matt has got some great community groups lined up for us to work with in Autumn and I can’t wait to start showing them the menu of shows we have on offer (there is still time for you to join in if you like!). So far I have shows lined up including, dance, American Servicemen, Vampires, folk music, puppetry, and Unicorns, so once again it promises to be an exciting season!

And as if all that wasn’t enough, we might just be working on something a little bit exciting, that involves a bus, New Zealand, 6 towns in Pennine Lancashire and dancing shoes. But I couldn’t possibly say any more on that one… until next time! Stephie x

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Is it time for an intervention?


Hi everyone, it’s Stephie here, the other plug! I thought it was about time I stepped in and introduced myself – not to mention the fact that Matt does seem to have gotten a little addicted to blogging. He is thorough though, I’ll give him that, and has covered all our adventures. So I thought I would post something a little different today. We’ve just sent out our first press release, and it got me thinking about what it is exactly about the Plugged In project that is so important.

Just as a recap, in a nutshell, Plugged In gives local communities the chance to hand pick the shows they want to see in their local theatre. Whether that be, music, theatre, contemporary dance, children’s theatre or magic, if I can find it, they can programme it. So far my favourite part of this project has been the conversations with people and not just because I am a chatterbox. Initially when we approach a group, the conversation can be a bit hesitant, I think they may think that we are looking for them to give us the right answer. There is no right answer, or wrong answer, and once we get going it is so interesting to hear peoples opinions on their area, their venue, and what art and theatre means to them. I’m yet to meet a group who have no opinion whatsoever.

People may start off telling you that theatre isn’t for them, or that they aren’t into art, but ten minutes later you’ll find that they are passionate about murder mysteries or historical novels or have an unexpected talent for Origami. They might not be interested in theatre as a stand alone art form but they would love to see Agatha Christie on stage, or a historical retelling of the life of Anne Boleyn, or even to just come along to see how an entire set was crafted from paper.

Part of the reason this project exists is because Pennine Lancashire is seen as an area of low engagement.  That means, statistically people aren’t getting involved with the arts. But after three months of working on this project I can’t help but feel it might be that the arts aren’t getting involved with people. We meet with a lot of groups who are already in some way shape or form engaging with art, whether that be through cake decorating or painting. People in Pennine Lancashire are taking it upon themselves to make, create and appreciate art, they just aren’t necessarily doing these things in your traditional arty places, like our theatres.

My biggest hope for this project is that by having these conversations with people, and finding out not only what show they would like to see but also about individual artistic interests we can gradually get people to see our theatres and venues as places for them.

What do you think? What area of art are you interested in?


ps. If you are looking for something to get the little’uns interested in theatre, be sure to check out all our Autumn shows, I’ve just finished getting them all up on our Facebook page!