Child reg­u­la­tions ‘jeop­ar­dis­ing shows’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

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.

Pic­ture: Gary Browne PD1656382

Di­rec­tor Joe Gra­ham with chil­dren in the cast of the Wood­church Play­ers panto Puss In Boots

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