Morecambe woman sets up extra-ordinary pathway to work

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When ITV drama The Bay was filmed outside Janet Hampson’s home, the idea for a business was born which could benefit the people of Morecambe.

Janet, a casting director for 10 years, was approached by local people wanting to know how they could appear in the programme so she set up Bay Casting, a new business 
supplying background artists – or extras – for television and film.

And she wants people from the Morecambe area, especially the West End, to have their share of the limelight.

“Extra work in and around Morecambe is currently being undertaken by people from further afield but local people could definitely do it,” said Janet, originally from Lancaster.

She is thrilled to have received a £500 grant from West End Million(WEM), the organisation set up to improve the lives of people in the West End.

This will support and pay for 10 residents to have the necessary DBS check, photograph and biography required before joining her books.

“Working as a background artist is one of the few jobs where your CV or lack of qualifications doesn’t matter, neither does your age or ethnicity, ” said Janet.

Unlike some other agencies, Bay Casting has no registration fee and charges less commission. Day rates for extras vary but usually start at £80.

The Bay has already been watched by millions of people in this country and been sold abroad so Janet hopes that if there’s a second series, Morecambe residents will appear in it.

Janet is currently in discussions with producers of shows in Cumbria and Manchester – including one of the UK’s best loved soaps - and knows that there are lots of other opportunities in Liverpool and Manchester for those able to travel for work.

Janet is also planning to represent extras with disabilities following a conversation with her friend, Morecambe’s Cherylee Houston, who plays Izzy Armstrong in Coronation Street.

“If you’re sitting at home watching tv, why not be a part of what’s on television instead? ” Janet said.

“Being a background artist gets you out meeting different people and it’s a good way of discovering what it’s like to be on a set and the careers it can offer.

“It might be just the eye-opener that someone needs to put them on a pathway to full-time work. ”

As a professional actor, Janet’s stage and screen work included appearing in a tv drama starring Anthony Hopkins and it was while on the film set of Brazil, she realised just how many behind the scenes opportunities were available.

“If you don’t live in a big city where filming is often the norm, you just don’t know about these sort of jobs, ” Janet said.

She has already recruited more than 50 local people and is now looking particularly for those aged 16-25.

Anyone interested, should apply at www.baycasting.co.uk Janet is also planning a second recruitment event in Morecambe soon.

The Bay Casting grant came from WEM’s Community Chest.

Anyone interested in applying should visit www.westendmillion.co.uk