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Gale's View - 19/12/2013



December 19th 2013 

I write, for the benefit of the UK Ex-Pat community, a monthly and politically incorrect  “Westminster” column. The handful of local people that have picked up on it on my website will know that it contains an element entitled “Ballswatch”,  which was named for the Shadow Chancellor and takes a light-hearted swipe at some of the greater idiocies of European,  national and local government and bureaucracy.  The saga of the ban on the Hasland Dance Studios kids from the Theatrecraft  Kings Hall pantomime is a must for the December edition.

Yes, I know that “government makes the laws” and I have been waiting, at the behest of local amateur theatre groups, to see what effect more stringent  `elf `n safety regulations would have upon some excellent local productions.  Now we know!  A KCC spokesthing is quoted as saying that “The local authority has a duty for the health, safety and welfare of all children who take part in entertainment and performances” and that “production companies are responsible for ensuring that suitable arrangements and an appropriate ratio of chaperones, dressing, toilet and washing facilities are in place”.

Don`t misunderstand me. Child protection is important. But so, also, is the opportunity to take part in wider community activities, such as amateur stage performances, that are enjoyable, character-building and educational.

The Bay`s young people have been taking part, so far as I am aware without harm or serious incident, in productions such as Theatrecraft`s, for the best part of fifty years. If, as we are told, the Kings Hall made “adjustments”, following a local authority inspection in January, that were  adequate to allow performances to proceed then what, please, has changed in the intervening eleven months that now makes those same facilities unacceptable?

A young, budding, actor followed in the footsteps of Dame Sybil Thorndike and played St. Joan in Bernard Shaw`s play of the same name. The performance was given in a school gymnasium converted in a ramshackle sort of way for the occasion into a stage with a proscenium arch and an auditorium.  The lighting board would have caused Elf N Safety to have had a nervous breakdown and the juxtaposition of changing and lavatory facilities left, shall we say, a certain amount to be desired. Fortunately, care, dedication and, most of all common sense, prevailed.  The performances were judged to be a success and the young actor went on to graduate from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama,  to become a Television Producer and Director and is currently the Member of Parliament for Herne Bay.  Under today`s obsessive and claustrophobic regime it is more than likely  that the opportunities that were available to me and to my chums would have been denied us.

I feel for the kids who have had the opportunity to shine at the Kings Hall snatched away from them this year. I trust that the relevant authorities will now cast austerity aside and find the money and grant the planning consents to enable the necessary changes  to be made to ensure that the men with clipboards are satisfied that all of the boxes are ticked and that once again the young hoofers of Herne Bay will be allowed to strut their stuff.

In the meantime, Christmas? Humbug! But Suzy and I send you all our very best wishes for a good, a healthy and a peaceful one.

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