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News Report Page 5 of 10
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MP pleased to see work begin on installing new lifts at Hillside Station in Southport

NEW lifts will begin to be installed at Hillside Station in Southport in May, finally giving passengers step free access to the platforms. Southport's Conservative MP, Damien Moore is delighted to see work taking place after campaigning for the scheme in Parliament. The Railway Station is on the Northern Line of the Merseyrail network between Southport and Liverpool.

Lifts at Hillside will be built thanks to funding through the Department for Transport (DfT)'s Access For All Scheme with additional funding through the Combined Authority (CA) Transforming Cities Fund. The building work is expected to be completed later this year.

The upgrades will improve access for disabled passengers and those with prams and bikes. Hillside Station is situated close to a number of local Schools including:- Greenbank High School and Birkdale High School. It is also near golf courses including Royal Birkdale, which regularly hosts the Open Golf championship and other major tournaments; attracting visitors to Southport from all over the world.

Southport MP Damien Moore has lobbied hard in recent months for the Station to become accessible for all, whilst his casework team has raised numerous concerns on behalf of local residents directly with the Department for Transport. Earlier this year Sefton Council officially approved a planning application by Network Rail for the installation of lifts, new staircases and associated works to improve access to both Station platforms at Hillside Station, on Waterloo Road in Southport.

Damien Moore successfully lobbied the Government for Hillside Station to receive funding for the scheme through the 6th round of the Depart for Transport's ₤300million Access for All programme. The funding was confirmed in April 2020. Nusrat Ghani, who was Transport Minister, at the time, said:- "Damien Moore MP has been campaigning to make Hillside step free so it is safer for all passengers, especially those with restricted mobility or parents with pushchairs and I'm delighted to be able to announce that their hard campaigning work has again paid off for the people of Southport."

Since his election, the Southport MP has consistently been a champion for Stations across the constituency to be accessible for all of his constituents and will be continuing with the campaign so that all residents are able to use the rail network in a safe and comfortable manner.

The Station platforms at Hillside are currently only accessible via steep concrete steps on either side of the Railway Station. Southport MP Damien Moore said:- "Everyone living in Southport and the many visitors who come to our Town should be able to access our rail network. I am pleased to see that work on this important scheme will now begin this May thanks to the Government's Access For All Scheme. I would like to thank Network Rail for progressing the plans. For too long, Hillside Station has been inaccessible for people in wheelchairs, parents with prams or pushchairs, those who are elderly, and people with disabilities of all kinds. I would like to thank local people for their patience and understanding while this work takes place."

Southport Dukes Ward Councillor, Sir Ron Watson CBE, also campaigned for the scheme. He said:- "I am delighted that all of our efforts to ensure that people with disability issues will soon be able to access Hillside Railway Station. As a Ward Councillor, having raised the issue particularly with our Member of Parliament, Damien Moore, I am really grateful for the significant level of support he and his caseworkers have given to the proposals. I know there will be some slight inconvenience as such an important project is developed but I am equally confident that all passengers using Hillside Station will fully understand what has been achieved and the support we have been able to give to this important part of our community."

The upgrades will support the introduction of the new fleet of Merseyrail trains offering pioneering sliding step technology making Merseyrail the most accessible rail network in the country.

Southport Actor starring in Sleeping Beauty in Liverpool with Gareth Gates excited to see Theatres reopen

SOUTHPORT Actor Emma Grace Arends is looking to make a splash when she stars in the Sleeping Beauty pantomime next month. Emma, who starred as the only live character Daisy, in Peppa Pig; My 1st Cinema Experience, will be appearing in panto alongside pop star Gareth Gates and others. It is a hugely exciting return to the Theatre for families in the Region, who have missed out on live performances during the last few months of Covid Lockdowns. The show is running between 29 May and 5 June 2021, at the M&S Bank Arena, in Liverpool. Emma said:- "I am just so happy that Theatres and other venues are finally reopening and productions are getting things going again. It is so positive. This is a really big step for the Theatre companies. Some tried to reopen last December, but then suddenly had to close again when Covid cases started to rise. It has taken a long time to happen. I'm proud of the production companies that are taking that leap of faith."

After more than a year of closures, there is much anticipation over Theatres finally being able to open their doors again. When Emma Grace Arends stars in Sleeping Beauty, it will be her 1st Post Lockdown live performance. When the Evil Carabosse curses Princess Beauty to die on her 21st birthday, Beauty's Fairy ensures she only falls into a deep sleep which can be broken with a kiss from her true love. A handsome Prince must come to her rescue and save the day. The show also features a live band, beautiful scenery and costumes, special effects, and lots of laughs. Emma is best known as the only live character Daisy, in Peppa Pig; My 1st Cinema Experience and has travelled the world with the show. She performed in:- Sydney's Opera House and 2 UK No. 1 Tours with 4 Christmas West End residencies including:- The Duke of Yorks Theatre, The Criterion and The Phoenix Theatre.

To lift spirits during the 1st wave of the Pandemic, Emma dressed up as Daisy and surprised her fans with safe garden visits; with social distance measures in place; and personalised videos. All the proceeds went to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool. She said:- "It has been a bit of a roller coaster these last few months. I was on a tour that got cancelled due to Covid. I decided to leave London and come back up North to Southport with my Mum and Dad and we all locked down together. We have all been super careful. It has been really nice to be with family during Lockdown and my heart goes out to people who might not have had that support during this time. Our mental health this year; this Pandemic is going to affect people massively and we just need to take each day step by step and not put too much pressure on ourselves or others. So many people have been out of work, worried about money / jobs / how long this Pandemic and Lockdowns will last which has been hard but on the flip side it was quite nice to just stop rushing around and enjoy a slower pace of life for a little while and just breath; which was probably quite nice; enjoying the nature around us. We have been out for walks at the Marine Lake, Hesketh Park, the Botanic Gardens, along Lord Street, and lots of other lovely places in Southport. I think we have been so lucky being here during Lockdown. I just started doing Lockdown videos and visits to cheer people up, I was so in awe of the NHS I wanted to be able to give something back in my own field of work. I have enjoyed doing them."

It has been a long wait, for both Actors / production crews, and for audiences to be able to get back to enjoying live performances again. It is something which has been a lifelong passion for Emma.

Emma grew up in Southport and fell in love with performing at an early age. At 16, Emma attended London's Arts Ed 6th Form, as a compromise with her mum to finish off her studies. She then went on to the 3 year BA honours degree at Arts Ed Drama School and has toured with Open Air Shakespeare companies playing roles such as:- Hermia, Juliet and Hero. She also performed at The Liverpool Empire years ago as Young Helen in Twopence to Cross the Mersey. Emma worked on ITV's Cilla as the choreographer in Liverpool with our national treasure Sheridan Smith. Before the Pandemic Emma starred in a TV pilot in Los Angeles called:- 'Across The Pond' and has been seen all year in the Galbani Television advert.

Many children in the audience at Sleeping Beauty will recognise her as Daisy from Peppa Pig; My 1st Cinema Experience. Emma said:- "It really was a lovely thing to do! I had never done kids' TV before Peppa Pig; My 1st Cinema Experience. Since appearing in the film I have had some lovely messages from children and parents who have enjoyed watching it and something even telling me how their children have improved with their speech or development; which just melts my heart."

She grew up in Southport, a place which is pantomime crazy. The Town has historically staged pantos at Southport Little Theatre, The Atkinson and Southport Theatre every year.

Sadly the pantos were all cancelled last year due to the Pandemic and Emma is hoping that families will now be able to enjoy watching Sleeping Beauty in Liverpool this May and June 2021. She said:- "I was in the panto at Southport Theatre in 2019, and used to love watching pantos in Southport when I was growing up. Southport is panto mad! I used to appear in the All Souls panto productions, and in the Little Theatre shows. We used to go and see the big ones at the Floral Hall. I used to go to Miss Bambers dance School in Southport, I was one of the 'Bambers Babes'. I loved it, I have very fond memories. Sleeping Beauty looks like it is going to do really well. People are really keen to be back in, and tickets are selling really well already. It has been a really positive reaction. All of my friends are bringing their kids! The Pandemic has been so hard for children these past few months. They have not been able to see their friends, they have not been able to go to School, they have not been able to enjoy days out or do things like seeing live performances. Being able to come back into the Theatre and seeing them interact with the cast is going to be so exciting. When I was younger, I loved going to the Theatre to watch shows, and I used to think 'that is what I want to do when I'm older'! For the past year children have not been able to go out, play football, experience Theatre, get involved in new activities and find a passion for what they might want to do when they're older, whatever that might be."

Rehearsals come next, as well as meeting her new co-stars. The buzz of live shows is something Emma has missed. So is being out at all, and getting back to enjoying some of the things that people used to do before Lockdowns. Things will be done with safety 1st in mind. The seating capacity at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool has been reduced from 1,350 to under 500 for Sleeping Beauty.

There will be 1 Metre+ social distancing in the auditorium, with a 1 way system in place around the venue with hand sanitiser stations available throughout. Hopefully, by the time Sleeping Beauty wakes up, she won't even know there's been a Pandemic... Emma said:- "I can't wait to start doing things again. One of the 1st things I wanted to do when things open up again , was to go out for a meal, I can't wait to go back to Bistrot Verite, in Birkdale Village, Southport. I love it there. The food is gorgeous and there is always a really lovely atmosphere. It is really nice for small businesses to be back open again."

Emma is now looking forward to starring in Sleeping Beauty alongside pop star Gareth Gates. Gareth was the runner up in the series of the ITV talent show Pop Idol in 2002 and has sold over 3.5 million records in the UK. Emma said:- "I have not met Gareth yet, so I am looking forward to meeting him. I remember the whole thing with Pop Idol, and watching the show with my Mum. It is very exciting! I'm looking forward to being back in rehearsals with other Actors and can't wait for the shows to begin."

Just to recap... Sleeping Beauty starring Emma Grace Arends and Gareth Gates takes place at The Auditorium, at the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, from Saturday, 29 May 2021 to Saturday, 5 June 2021, 2021. For tickets please visit:- MandSBankArena.Com.

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