The show goes on as News steps in to save panto trip

IT’S A WAY of bringing a smile to the faces of city children who have suffered the most challenging personal situations.

Yet dozens of children in care were on the brink of missing out on a free visit to the pantomime this year after a campaign to raise money for their tickets by councillors and council officials fell hundreds of pounds short.

But now the show will go on after the Evening News stepped in to find a company that was willing to make up the £640 shortfall and save the event.

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Jansons Property – the company that revived the stalled SoCo development – has agreed to put up the cash to allow all of the children that had been promised tickets to go along to the show.

The initial appeal by education leader Marilyne MacLaren had raised enough to take 220 children along to see either The King And I at the Festival Theatre or Cinderella at the King’s. But the shortfall meant that another 75 children would have missed out on the Christmas treat before the Evening News put Cllr MacLaren in touch with Jansons.

Andy Jansons, chief executive of Jansons Property, said: “Jansons are delighted to step in and make this possible. Christmas is a time when everybody is thinking about children and we think it is very worthwhile to make this pantomime experience happen.

“It would not have been appropriate to make this donation before the planning permission [for SoCo] had been granted but, now that it has gone through on Wednesday, we do not have a problem donating this.”

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Last year was the first time an internal council campaign took place to raise the money to take “looked-after children” to the pantomime, when all fostered children were invited.

This year, it was “kinship children” – those who are looked after by family or friends because their natural parents are unable to, but are still the responsibility of the council – that were invited. Cllr MacLaren, who chairs the city’s corporate parenting group, said: “This is great news. As long as there is no conflict of interests then it will mean that some more children will be able to go along this year.

“We have already allocated the tickets but now have this shortfall, so it is really great that we’ve got some help.”

The shortfall emerged yesterday when the fundraising campaign ended. It was to be extended into next week, with children likely to be taken along in January, before the News and Jansons stepped in.

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One kinship carer, who has already taken her two grandchildren, aged 11 and 12, along to Cinderella, said she was pleased that others will now be able to enjoy the show as well.

Laura, who didn’t want her surname used so that the children were not identified, said: “It is fantastic for the kids. I don’t think we’d have been able to take them without the council’s help so it was really important for us that they were able to get the money together. It is great for the kids and they really enjoyed it, and they were up singing.”

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