A world premiere provided a festive treat for 20 pensioners as they enjoyed a very special performance at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake.
The group enjoying last Friday’s outing were among more than 300 people who have so far taken part in Stagecoach’s Grand Days Out initiative, encouraging older people to make use of their free bus pass and explore Cumbria’s delights and attractions.
The most recent trip saw the pensioners, from Age UK Cockermouth, catch the bus to Keswick to watch the world premiere of A Little Princess adapted by Amanda Dalton from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The audience was taken on the magical and uplifting Christmas journey, following the tale of Sara Crewe and her voyage from India to a boarding school in northern England and the life she builds there.
Last Friday’s showing was a Relaxed Performance, which allows the audience to get up and go to the toilet or move around as they need – making it more accessible.
We were excited to welcome everyone back to one of our best-selling Relaxed Performances, which is great because it means word is getting out about how inclusive and welcoming we are.
As well as having these relaxed shows we have captioned, BSL and audio-described performances and have great accessible facilities on site.Rachel Kearns, the theatre’s marketing manager
Among those on board the bus for the Grand Day Out was Lynne Black, from Cockermouth. She said: “I thought the play was brilliant, really, really good.
“I liked the bit at the beginning where they explained who everyone was in the play and what they were wearing, which was great for anyone in the audience who is blind or had a visual impairment.”
Fellow traveller John Mintern had caught the bus from Workington: He said: “I thought the play was good and the puppetry was excellent. I would definitely recommend it. It’s been a great day out.”
The Grand Day Out initiative was launched by Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire in 2021 following the Covid pandemic, which saw the number of older people using the bus network plummet, with many fearful or uncertain about returning to public transport.
Since then, supported by Age UK and local businesses, there have now been 11 Grand Days Out with wonderful results.
A trip to Workington’s Parkway cinema saw 81-year-old Rita enjoy her first cinema trip for 50 years, while a separate visit to the same venue helped wartime children conjure up wartime memories. Trippers who enjoyed an outing to Maryport found themselves sharing lunch with a descendant of the Cumbrian hunting song star John Peel, while for others the outings were simply the push they needed to experience a day out of their own homes.
Ali Desovska, from Age UK Cockermouth, said: “This year’s Grand Days Out have been a wonderful collaboration between Age UK and Stagecoach, enabling our seniors to make the most of their NOW bus cards. Some have used theirs for the first time, some have only just applied for them, and most have used theirs more as a result.
“This initiative has given our seniors a new-found confidence in using the buses, especially those using mobility aids or with sight issues.”
She said that the day trips have helped develop stronger community links across Cumbria, with one bus trip even welcoming a member of staff from Cumberland Building Society on their volunteer placement day.
Ali added: “The Grand Days Out have become a cultural highlight of our seniors’ activities, broadened their horizons and taken them places they’d not visited in a long time – theatre, cinema, museum, cathedral, and they are already looking forward to what the new year will have in store.”