It’s almost December and that can only mean one thing – the return of the hospice Christmas Panto!
For those who haven’t yet experienced it, you’re in for a treat. At Christmas, we have Pantos at the hospice every week on Monday and Friday. This year, they’re from 2 December right up until 21 December. So plenty of opportunities for you to get involved.
Why do we do them? Because it provides children with a visit from Father Christmas and a party atmosphere. We go completely over the top because it might be a child’s last Christmas – or only Christmas – and we want to make it extra special and fun for them.
We now get our corporate supporters involved too because it allows us to give something back to them. It can help us work in partnership with corporates because it’s fun and a team event, getting them out of their comfort zone. It allows them to see where their money is going. And for the children and families, it’s about having the Christmassy feeling and for parents to see how their children respond. Some are in wheelchairs and beds and it’s not easy to take them to see Santa.
How did I get involved? Because I can sew! I help make the costumes with volunteers from our shops and the hospice and retail operations manager Penny Collins. We ask the shops to help us get the material and old clothes to make the costumes.
The Panto is run within the community team as a combined event. The music is usually done by Play Worker Paul Fisher and Dads Group Coordinator Gareth Jenkins, and Tracey Hill and myself organise the Panto. I sew and she bosses everybody about! She is the event organiser on the day. We play the lead roles because we have to be here every Monday and Friday to gee everybody up and we have to be larger than life. The other roles get cast among staff, corporates and celebrity guests – last year we had rugby star Ian Gough in a nightie and blonde wig as Wendy from Peter Pan and stage star Connie Fisher as a Cowboy!
This year’s Panto theme is The Sith that Stole Christmas and is about Darth Vader stealing Christmas. Princess Leia and her ugly sisters will be played by men from the corporates. They always really enjoy it. Staff from the hospice and Head Office all get involved. It used to be all staff but one year we didn’t have enough people available and corporates were coming in to watch the Panto so we invited them to take part – and they loved it. So now they’re part of it every Christmas. It’s lovely to see the children’s faces light up when they’re watching the Panto. And our community team works hard to gather all the presents for the children to receive from Santa. We have the real Santa Claus – he’s absolutely magical and brilliant with the kids.
If you’re visiting the hospice this Christmas, let us choose your fancy dress costume and play a part in our Christmas panto – the children love it and so will you!
In the spirit of this year’s Star Wars theme…
May the Christmas Panto’s Force Be With You!