Graham Simpson, unsung hero

Jan 29 2024 | By More

Festival Theatre usher surprised at Night of Musicals

Graham Simpson, who has been an usher at the Festival Theatre for 30 years, was the surprise winner of the Unsung Hero Award at The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals 2024.

Graham’s nomination was kept secret and he was taken to the Manchester AO Arena under the guise of representing Capital Theatres at the industry event, which was broadcast on the BBC on Saturday 27 January 2024.

Graham Simpson. Æ Screengrab from the BBC Big Night of Musicals

Graham was visibly shocked when host Jason Manford suddenly turned to him while walking through the audience to tell he him had won the award.

Friends and colleagues, including the likes of Brian Cox, Honorary Patron of the King’s Theatre, appeared on screen to congratulate Graham.

Besides his role as an usher, Graham is one of the Festival Theatre’s tour guides, showing public and schools groups round its backstage nooks and crannies. Colleagues described his tours as “legendary”, and one teacher told of their continuing inspiration to her class of primary school pupils.


“I’m really overcome…” said Graham in response to the accolades. Before revealing: “I really didn’t think we were going to get here tonight, because of the weather, then Kim [colleague, Kim McKenna] drove us down… Now I see why!”

Graham’s contribution of 30 years of service to the theatre has been marked with a commemorative plaque displayed on the back of seat 38 in row F of the Festival Theatre stalls.

Graham Simpson (centre) with Craig Revel Horwood (left) and Jason Manford (right). Pic BBC Big Night of Musicals

However, as the actual plaque could not be at the ceremony, he was brought his own seat by choreographer, director and Strictly judge, Craig Revel Horwood.

Away from the Festival Theatre, Graham performs under the name of Graham Crammond and is a well-recognised pantomime dame, having appeared for several years in Kirkcaldy in the early noughties and more recently at the Brunton. You can read reviews where he is mentioned here.

Reflecting on the award, Graham said: “It’s a real privilege to be recognised as an Unsung Hero of theatre. The whole experience was surreal, and it was such a surprise on the night, I’m glad I didn’t twig! Capital Theatres is such a massive part of my life, it has been for the last 30 years and will be for many more. A massive thank you to the National Lottery for a special night.”


Fiona Gibson, CEO of Capital Theatres, added: “We are all thrilled that Graham’s dedication to Scottish theatre across the last thirty years has been recognised through the Unsung Hero Award at the National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals 2024.

The event, recorded in front of an audience of 12,000 musical theatre fans at the Manchester Arena, also featured 12 of the UK’s West End and Touring productions including Hamilton and A Chorus Line which will tour to the Festival Theatre later this year.

“We are incredibly proud of Graham and the phenomenal impact he has made in bringing care and joy to so many through all the fantastic work he does for Capital Theatres. The Unsung Hero Award, of which there is only one, really shines a light on the sheer variety of remarkable activity that takes place both on and off our stages.”

The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals 2024 is available to watch here on iPlayer until January 2025.

Graham is introduced one hour and six minutes into the hour-and-half long show, straight after the cast of Mrs Doubtfire perform Make Me A Woman and before Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.


The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals 2024.
Available on iPlayer here: until January 26 2025.
Graham appears  around one hour five minutes in.

Reviews of Graham (as Graham Crammond)
Posts tagged Graham Crammond and Review:

Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT.
Wed 28 Feb – Sat 27 April 2024
Mon – Sat: 7.30pm; Matinees Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm (+Tue 3 April)
Tickets and details: Book here.

A Chorus Line
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT.
Tue 24 – Sat 28 Sept 2024 
Evening: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Graham’s plaque: Row F, seat 38 in the Festival theatre.


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