‘Safety rules are driv­ing young per­form­ers away’

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By Alan Smith aj­smith@thek­m­group.co.uk @aj­smithKM

Chil­dren are turn­ing away from am­a­teur dra­mat­ics due to strict safe­guard­ing rules that make them “feel like pris­on­ers”, a drama coach has warned.

While ac­cept­ing the need to keep young­sters safe, Tu­dor Price thinks the reg­u­la­tions, which re­quire young per­form­ers to be es­corted by a chap­er­one wher­ever they go back stage, are now in dan­ger of go­ing too far.

Mr Price, who reg­u­larly di­rects Wa­ter­ing­bury’s an­nual pan­tomime at the vil­lage hall, in Bow Road, said: “We only had four young per­form­ers this year.

“They’re fed up with be­ing shut up in the chang­ing room the whole time and es­corted ev­ery­where.”

Mr Price said the reg­u­la­tions were also im­pos­ing a heavy bur­den on the­atre groups who had to find suf­fi­cient trained re­spon­si­ble adults will­ing to act as chap­er­ones.

He said: “In one scene in our Camelot panto this year, our four child ac­tors had to leave from four dif­fer­ent points on the stage.

“That meant we had to have four adults wait­ing in the wings to meet them as they must all be es­corted the mo­ment they leave the stage.”

Each chap­er­one has to un­dergo a web-based train­ing pro­gramme be­fore they can be ap­proved.

Un­der the Child Per­for­mance Reg­u­la­tions, drama and per­for­mance groups in Kent have to ap­ply to Kent County Coun­cil for a Body Of Per­sons Ap­proval (BOPA) and may be sub­ject to an unan­nounced in­spec­tion at any time dur­ing re­hearsal or per­for­mance to en­sure their safe­guard­ing pro­ce­dures are be­ing ad­hered to.

Mr Price said: “I had one ab­surd ex­am­ple, where a child came on stage in re­hearsal and realised he’d left his trum­pet in the chang­ing room.

“I couldn’t just send him back to get it. We had to wait for a chap­er­one to es­cort him.

“It’s putting kids off – they tell me they feel like pris­on­ers.”

San­dra Ram­sey, the owner of the JAG Dance Academy in Camp­bell Road, Maid­stone, said it was some­times dif­fi­cult to find chap­er­ones, but wel­comed the leg­is­la­tion.

She said: “Things have got tighter in the past cou­ple of years, but it is essen­tial that the safety and well be­ing of our young per­form­ers is our first con­cern.”

Tu­dor Price reg­u­larly di­rects Wa­ter­ing­bury’s an­nual pan­tomime at the vil­lage hall

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