From 25 May to 2 June, visitors to Brunel’s SS Great Britain can enjoy a first-of-its-kind performance experience at the visitor attraction as students from Bristol Institute of Performing Arts (BIPA) bring passenger stories to life.

To create the Passenger Takeover experience, 20 students from BIPA worked with the SS Great Britain Trust and Bristol Improv Theatre. The students learnt specialist improv skills and developed characters inspired by individuals who travelled on the SS Great Britain.

As one of the fastest ships of its day, the SS Great Britain was a popular choice for people from all walks of life who wanted to emigrate to the other side of the world. In the Passenger Takeover experience, BIPA students will depict many of these historical figures - including merchants, farmers, botanists and scoundrels.

The cast will perform their Passenger Takeover enactments throughout the day every day during the half-term holiday throughout the ship and dockyard – so keep your eyes peeled for costumed characters to discover their stories!

As well as the Passenger Takeover, visitors can uncover the ship’s history, sights, sounds, smells, and living exhibits. They can also learn more about the ship’s fascinating creator in the Being Brunel Museum.

Simon Strain, Head of Living History at Brunel’s SS Great Britain, said: “Passenger Takeover is a family-friendly immersive experience which showcases the best of Bristol’s performing arts students. It’s been wonderful to work alongside Bristol Improv Theatre and the Bristol Institute of Performing Arts (BIPA) to really delve into Victorian passenger stories and bring them to life as never before. The students have been so creative in their approach, and the in-situ performances around the ship during the half-term holidays will add another dimension to the sounds, sights, and smells the SS Great Britain is known for. With costumes sourced from Bristol Costume Services, who also provide costumes for leading West End Theatre and TV productions, the attention to detail and level of authentic storytelling makes this May half term very special.”


Passenger Takeover is part of the SS Great Britain Trust’s groundbreaking Fully Dressed Project which is developing new approaches to authentic costumed interpretation. The project has received funding from Arts Council England.


The SS Great Britain Trust is renowned for its STEM learning outreach projects, including the award-winning Future Brunels programme, and regularly collaborates with educational and community partners throughout Bristol. The Passenger Takeover project exemplifies the Trust’s commitment to investing in local talent, and extends the collaborative approach to partner with creative arts organisations for the first time at this scale.

Find out more and book tickets in advance at