Child regulations ‘jeopardising shows’
OVER-THE-TOP child legislation is signalling the death knell for many amateur dramatic societies, claims the director of a theatre group.
Joe Graham of the Woodchurch Players spoke out after a visit from a Kent County Council inspector to review the procedures for his forthcoming production of Puss In Boots left him feeling beleaguered.
Mr Graham says preparations for the January production at the village’s memorial hall are being affected by restrictive rules concerning the 20 children, aged from seven to 15, in the panto cast.
Criminal Records Bureau checks, chaperones to accompany the children and making sure that the youngsters are out of the hall by 10pm are unnecessary and costly, he says.
Mr Graham added: “Our performances usually finish by 9.45pm, so the cut-off is very close.
“But the kids won’t get to do the walk down when they take their bow.
“On the last night we have a party in the village hall, but they won’t be able to come to that unless they go home and come back with their parents.
“We have to have paperwork to cover illness and allergies and no child can go to the toilet unless a chaperone goes with them and stands outside.”
“I understand what they think they are trying to achieve, but I think they are doing the very opposite.”
He has been forced to erect a screen in the group’s tiny dressing room so no adults are seen in a state of undress, which he says is an unlikely occurrence in any case.
Mr Graham, who works for a residential care home and has been CRB checked as a result, understands that such rules may be necessary for professional productions, but worries for amateur groups.
He said: “The legislation has the best of intentions, but it is the way it is being interpreted on the ground – people are saying ‘we have had enough of this’.
“It is jeopardising future productions for all sorts of people.”
He added: “If I was convinced it was happening to improve the safety of those children, I would be all for it.”
Kent County Council spokesman Ian Tucker said: “We are responsible for administering child performance licences.
“The aim of the regulation is not to prevent children and young people taking part in performances such as panto- mimes. We want them to enjoy such opportunities, but have to make sure they get the benefits without it affecting their health, education, safety and wellbeing.”
Puss In Boots is being staged at Woodchurch Memorial Hall on Friday, January 15, from 7.30pm; Saturday, January 16, from 2.30pm and 7.30pm; Thursday, January 21, and Friday, January 22, from 7.30pm and Saturday, January 23, from 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are available from Woodchurch post office and by calling Val Smith on 01233 860245.
Director Joe Graham with children in the cast of the Woodchurch Players panto Puss In Boots