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Panto king Ian's legacy to find new home at MAC.

Byline: Graham Young Features Staffgraham.young?trinitymirror.com

A CHILDREN'S theatre group founded by late panto king Ian Sandy is set to move out of the Birmingham Hippodrome af-mingham after 13 years.

BSS Showbiz has always relied on using the Hippodrome's pre-show empty foyer spaces for Saturday morning rehearsals, before staging productions at the in-house Patrick Centre, the New Alexandra Theatre and Birmingham Town Hall.

But from January 3, it will be based in purposebuilt rehearsal facilities at the PS15 million MAC Birmingham in Cannon Hill Park, with the option of putting on shows either there or in the city centre.

Actor, agent and impresario Ian Sandy could have been celebrating his 25th anniversary as the Birmingham Hippodrome's panto company manager this Christmas.

But the 6ft 1in, 20-stone gentle giant died aged just 48 on December 23, 2012, following a short illness.

In May 2013, an all-star cast staged a charity-fundraising Sunday Night At the Hippodrome variety show in his memory.

With a cast including Malcolm Stent, Don Maclean, Paul Zerdin, Lesley Joseph, Ceri Dupree, Joe Pasquale and Brian Conley, it was the biggest show of its kind at the Hippodrome since The Queen attended the Royal Variety Show at the old theatre in 1999.

The late Lynda Bellingham introduced the night saying: "In 44 years of acting I had never won an award - until Ian gave me one of his own, for 'best newcomer in panto'. " Brian Conley added: "I wasn't topping the bill - I was closing the show."

BSS Showbiz began life in 2001 when Ian joined forces with accountant and business adviser Brian Foster.

"I still think of Ian every day because he introduced me to so many people who became clients," said Brian.

"I ended up not having the time to run Spotlight full-time so the name was changed to BSS Showbiz after I left, but we always kept in touch." BSS Showbiz artistic director Daniel Chen has continued to run the company, which has more than 150 members aged from five to 18.

Former member Kia Pegg recently won a Children's BAFTA nomination for the CBBC series The Dumping Ground.

Daniel said: "We are aware that BSS Showbiz has been at the Hippodrome for a long time, but the theatre is undergoing a period of substantial refurbishment which means that many of the rehearsal spaces we would normally use will be unavailable.

"We do not intend to make any substantial changes to the school when we move to MAC Birmingham, where we will be able to use their professional studios and rooms, while parents can enjoy free wi-fi and parking.

"It will be business as usual, in an exciting new venue. Rest assured, the show must go on!" ? For more details about BSS Showbiz, visit www.bssshowbiz.co.uk or call 0121 706 3141.

'' I had never won an acting award until Ian gave me one. LYNDA BELLINGHAM

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BSS Showbiz shows over the years n

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 27, 2014
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