Panto is more than a performance

Posted on: 8 February 2018

Question: When is a pantomime not just a pantomime? Answer: When it can actually mean something else as well.

This winter, we arranged a trip to the theatre for children who are in our care and their foster families. It was Dick Whittington, at the Northcott Theatre.

It was always going to be a winner, especially with the younger children, and if nothing else it’s an evening out as a family to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

But it wasn’t just the rags to riches tale of Dick Whittington and his rodent-hungry cat that inspired the audience – although the story was very well done – it was the experience of the evening, the normal-ness, for children who may not have enjoyed normal lives to date, that meant so much.

So says David, foster carer, who along with wife Marion, has been providing a foster home to children for nearly 14 years.

Like every parent, your own enjoyment of an evening like this is dictated by your child’s own enjoyment. But rest assured, Dick and his cat were always going to bring the house down.

“I loved being able to choose to sit on the front row and watch the musicians,” says 16 year old Daniel, who until this year hadn’t been to a pantomime. “It was great that my (foster) carers’ two year old granddaughter was invited to come with us. I really enjoyed the whole evening from start to finish.”

But asked how he felt about being there with an audience of children and young people in care, like him, and their foster carers and their children, and the answer is telling.

“Yes, I loved talking to the other teenage boys at half time as I have just come into care and am living in a different part of Devon. In fact, three weeks later, I am meeting a friend that I made on that evening, as our backgrounds are similar.”

And there it is.

Now, every child is different, and one child’s Mother Goose is another child’s gander, and all. So not every child in care that evening perhaps took home with them the same comfort, the same reassurance in knowing that actually they’re not alone in their experience. But some, like Daniel, possibly did.

“The whole theatre was ‘our family’,” says David. “Every adult, every child was really happy to be there.

“It’s very difficult, in our experience, for children to avoid the ‘stigma’ of being in care, and live a ‘normal’ life. I think it has helped Daniel enormously for him to meet others in his situation, alongside birth children and grand-children of foster families. It’s all part of the ‘normalising’ process.

“He was really proud to be introduced to other carers, and for me to tell them how much a part of our family he has quickly become.

“And events like this are good for me too. I rely on the knowledge of other foster carers, to help, among other things, to find contacts for Daniel’s hobbies and interests.

“I’m delighted that he’s meeting up with one of the other young lads he was chatting to that evening. And I’m thankful that the fostering service continues to arrange events like this – they make me feel part of a ‘fostering family’, with a single goal to change young lives. We’re already looking forward to the next one.”

If you are interested in fostering, or would like information about being a foster carer, visit www.fosteringindevon.org.uk.

3 comments on “Panto is more than a performance

  1. David Lewis says:

    I agree with Laurence entirely. We hear far too much about how dreadful you are, and not nearly enough about the really valuable work you continue to do in straitened circumstances. Thank you.

  2. Laurence Halliwell says:

    What a heart-warming story for so many reasons. We are all aware of how strapped for cash local authorities are but how glad are we that events such as this can still be supported. It made me feel better, appreciative of what others (foster-carers) do for those less fortunate and it made a difference to those it was targeted at. That’s what I call value for money. Well done DCC.

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