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Panto villains have a change of heart over Bridport show
PANTO villains turned into fairy godmothers after a last minute change of heart by county council chiefs.
Officials had pulled the curtain down on talented young dancers’ hoping to star in a Thursday matinee performance of the Bridport panto – a tradition that dates back generations.
This year Dorset County Council insisted the youngsters must be licensed and issued with passport identification to allow them to tread the boards – and that couldn’t be done in time for the February production.
Some 30 youngsters have been rehearsing since September to appear in the Bridport Pantomime Player’s production of Aladdin on February 6 to 9.
They were due to appear in a special Thursday afternoon matinee as well as evening shows and a Saturday afternoon slot.
Usually Dorset County Council grants an exemption to allow the pupils to miss school for the afternoon to take part in the Thursday production.
But dance teachers were told that this year the exemption would not be granted and the county council was going to uphold the letter of the law.
Teresa Grinter of the Lyric School of Dancing and Rebecca Mather of the Rhythm Dance Centre have been teaching youngsters routines.
Teresa said the council told her the law about licensing had been in force since 1968.
She said she could understand child protection issues but that many heads and parents saw the participation as an educational opportunity.
She added: “It is the first time we have had any trouble with this. We fill in the same forms every year and we have a licensing exemption because they are performing on a stage where people are paying money to see them. Thursday afternoon is different because they have to be off school to do it.
“Although the schools do see it as an educational opportunity.”
She said the council insisted they fill in complicated forms, sent pictures and birth certificates and that would take three weeks to process.
She said: “The forms were more suitable for someone taking part in a film rather than taking two hours off.
“We understand this is to keep the children safe, but it seemed a bit severe in the circumstances.
“But on Monday they agreed we can fill out an abridged version of the form and email photos so they can whizz them through.
Children from Bridport Primary School, Symondbury, Salway Ash, St Mary’s and Colfox are among those involved.
Teresa, who is CRB checked and a qualified dance teacher who can be responsible for young people, said: “On Friday it was no, full stop but I spoke to someone different on Monday.”
Helen Cheleda, Dorset County Council’s business support and development manager for children’s services, said: “As it stands, if a show or rehearsal is due to take place during the school day, then the organiser must apply for a licence for every child that is due to take part in that particular performance and any other show as part of the production. This is a legal requirement.
“However, we have spoken with the school of dancing and assured them if they can get the applications emailed to us as soon as possible, we will process them, so that the February 7, matinee can go ahead.”
- Aladdin takes place from February 6 to 9 at the Electric Palace, Bridport, at 7.30pm with a matinee on the Thursday at 1.30pm and Saturday at 2pm. Tickets are available from Bridport’s TIC at £8, concessions £6. See Seven Days on Page 40.