Home Charity Even more children go to the pantomime thanks to Berkshire Freemasons

Even more children go to the pantomime thanks to Berkshire Freemasons

by Peter Wells

Across Berkshire over 700 children have, or will be, attending a variety of pantomimes this season.  Thanks to the Berkshire Freemasons’ Panto Project.

The project started in 2005 and aims to bring the joy of pantomime to children facing mental, physical or financial challenges.  The Project is funded principally by Freemasons throughout Berkshire together with a contribution from the Louis Baylis Trust.

On a chilly Windsor afternoon on 5 December, the Theatre Royal Windsor played host to the largest and longest established pantomime in the Project.  With over 360 seats given through Berkshires Freemasons, to deliver the seasonal joy of Pantomime.  These lucky children were able to be accompanied by siblings, parents, teachers or carers.  Some of the Leadership Team from Berkshire Freemasons (Left to Right: Mickey Labana – Charity Steward; Mark Heppelthwaite – Deputy PGM; Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE – PGM; Gerry Preston – Assistant PGM.) were in attendance to oversee the, “Oh no he isn’t,” that’s so essential for realism.  As well as the Freemason volunteers and their families, who make it happen annually.  Other helpers used their organising skills and an impressive array of rather questionable Christmas jumpers and Santa hats. 

The Windsor children were this year gripped by the tale of Aladdin.  Following his transformation from a poor boy working in his parents’ laundry.  Through to eventually becoming a Prince.  All thanks to some extremely good fortune and a great deal of help from the Genie of the lamp.  Worth a special mention is a very impressive special effect journey on a magic carpet (which is all done on-stage at Windsor’s Theatre Royal).  Santa was on hand to assist in giving out ice creams during the interval; generously funded by Beechdean. 

To reach out to more children, who are not able to cope with a trip outside of familiar surroundings, or are restricted by accessibility issues.  The very next day, a small touring pantomime called in at Addington School, Woodley. A school dedicated to children, aged 3 – 19, with special educational needs and disabilities, 

Through three performances held during the day, about 200 pupils, students, teachers and carers, were entertained by an adapted version of Snow White. Where they were encouraged to participate with singing, dancing and in particular, taking great pleasure booing, hissing and putting their thumbs down to the Wicked Queen whenever she made an appearance.

In addition, the Freemasons Panto Project has contributed £1,500.00 to the Corn Exchange, Newbury’s ‘Pay it Forward’ appeal.  Which aims to raise funds to provide an opportunity for those most in need in their community to enjoy a live pantomime performance at some time during the panto season.  

For more information about the Louis Baylis Trust: https://www.louisbaylistrust.org.uk

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