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Could ship's next Mr Brunel be a Ms?

Brunel’s ss Great Britain is ‘auditioning’ seven men for the acting role of ‘Mr Brunel’… and one woman.

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. 

Few, however, expected a woman to apply and one has now made the short-list.

The eight short-listed candidates will have an initial ‘audition’ on April 7 where they will have a chance to explore the visitor attraction ‘Brunel’s ss Great Britain’ and meet the visitor services team. They will learn more about the Brunel role, which involves welcoming visitors to ‘his’ historic Victorian ship, answering questions from visitors, as well as occasional corporate venue hire, publicity and media work.

The best candidates will go through to the next round when they will receive a stove pipe hat, a Victorian-style jacket and a challenge in a red envelope. Their profiles and pictures will be uploaded onto and the public vote opens on April 9.

Finalist ‘Mr Brunels’ will go forward to the ‘challenge’ stage on April 13, where they will perform at 11am at The Mall in Cribbs Causeway, in a bid to encourage the public to cast their votes.

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 – male or female – 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. The actor, or actress, will crucially need to have a sense of fun and be a team player.

‘Judges’ include local radio presenter Ian Downs, better known to his listeners as ‘Downsy’, from Jack FM’s ‘That Morning Thing’. Downsy, a big fan of I.K. Brunel, said: “It is great news that eight strong candidates will be auditioning for the role of  

‘Mr Brunel’, and especially that one is a woman. That should be really interesting!”

The presenter, who has been encouraging his Bristol listeners to get behind the campaign to find a new Mr Brunel, added: “It is so exciting, and I am pleased to be involved as 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 want to find a ‘Mr Brunel’ for this role who has the ‘x-factor’, as it is so important to the visitor experience. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds really did enjoy meeting our last ‘Mr Brunel’, when they visited during the school holidays.

“The candidates will be encouraged to use their own initiative to generate support, from family and friends as well as the general public, through word of mouth and online social networking sites. The two candidates with most public votes will go through to the final stage where judges will reach their decision based on votes, how the candidates perform and interact with the public who are all potential visitors.”

She added: “Brunel’s ss Great Britain is grateful for all the support received to date, from Ian Downs, the media, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, Stage Electrics, and the general public.”

Last updated: 6 April 2011