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The Brunels at Cribbs for ship's voting challenge

Finalists for the role of ‘Mr Brunel’ are performing for votes at Cribbs Causeway on Wednesday (April 13).     

‘The challenge’ is taking place at The Mall, on the Upper Floor, facing the café and restaurant area, from 11am, and could turn into a Victorian-styled battle of the sexes.

It follows an initial interview or ‘audition’ which featured six men and a woman in the visitor attraction’s search for a Mr Brunel with ‘x-factor’.

Voting through the website opens on April 9 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s 205th birthday.

And there is going to be a surprise addition… a ‘Mrs Brunel’. Staff members at Brunel’s ss Great Britain were delighted to meet ‘Mary Brunel’ when she arrived for the first audition on April 7. The actress impressed the interview panel when she told them she was inspired by the ‘audacious’ genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and felt strongly that she had played a key role in her husband’s success.

The finalists are ‘Brunel 1’ Julian Landau; ‘Brunel 2’ Harry Mottram; ‘Brunel 3’ Theresa Roche; and ‘Brunel 4’ Simon Strain, whose performance has already been videoed as he will be unable to make the challenge on April 13.

The challenge is being compered by presenter from local radio station Jack FM, Ian Downs – best known to listeners as ‘Downsy’. The actors are given five minutes each to persuade the public to vote for them. Performances will be videoed and placed online at

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer who created the vision for the ss Great Britain, liked competition, had a strong sense of fair play and during the Bristol riots volunteered as a special constable. Therefore the only rules to the challenge are:

  • Finalists can not vote for themselves;
  • Multiple votes from one person will be discounted;
  • Candidates must respect the laws of the land.

Recruitment materials state that the Brunel ‘x-factor’ was more important than strict authenticity, stressing there would be no height restrictions (the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was five foot two inches). Engineering skills are also optional.

The candidates with the least votes, when voting closes on April 20, will be knocked out, with judges making the final decision on which ‘Brunel’ to appoint. Their decision will be based on ability, a positive visitor-oriented attitude, and willingness to learn about the engineer and the ss Great Britain.

‘Downsy’, from Jack FM’s ‘That Morning Thing’ and a big fan of I.K. Brunel, said: “It is so exciting, and I am pleased to be involved as a judge and compere. It’s going to be brilliant to see the finalists in action in The Mall at Cribbs Causeway.”

Director of Development for the ss Great Britain Trust, Vanessa Edwards, said: “We have been impressed by the candidates for the position of ‘Mr Brunel’ at Brunel’s ss Great Britain, and were charmed by Mrs Mary Brunel who took everyone by surprise.

“We want to find the ‘Brunel’ who has the ‘x-factor’, as it is so important to the visitor experience. Candidates will be encouraged to use their own initiative to generate support and votes, through word of mouth and online social networking sites. We want people to get involved and cast their vote at

“With the ‘Mr Brunels’ and a ‘Mrs Brunel’ it really could turn into a battle of the sexes – even if it is a relatively well-mannered Victorian battle of the sexes!”

She added: “The interest and support we have received to date has been tremendous, from Ian Downs, the media, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, Stage Electrics, and the general public.”