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Home Canterbury News Article
The Theatrecraft production has taken place at the Kings Hall, in Herne Bay, for 48 years, with children from the Hasland Dance Studios regularly performing during the first act.
But they have been banned from next month's panto after a Kent County Council inspector ruled the seafront venue's changing rooms failed to meet the necessary standards.
Government legislation states young performers need their own toilets and a lockable door between changing rooms for adults and children – something not provided at the Kings Hall.
It means Theatrecraft was forced to decide between making the main adult cast prepare in a small upstairs room without mirrors, or cancelling the performance of young dancers in the first act.
The group's secretary Chris Railton said: "We are devastated, as the children always looked forward to being selected and receiving huge applause following their dances.
"The principal of the dancing school is equally saddened, but understanding of the decision Theatrecraft has been forced to make.
"Ticket sales will also be affected as many seats were sold to family and friends of the contributing dancers.
"The rules governing children in the theatre have meant a lot more administration work and attention to dressing room facilities and the use of chaperones.
"But we have been running the pantomime at the Kings Hall for many years, and we've never had any issues or problems."
She added: "The committee has come to the hardest decision we have ever made, that children from Hasland Dance Studio cannot be included.
"This was because the present rules and regulations governing children in the theatre could
not allow our cast to be accommodated given the lack of facilities."
Hasland principal Anna Greenhalgh said: "We're really disappointed that our young dancers can't take part this year as it's been a tradition for the Hasland students to take part in the panto for decades.
"It's been a lovely opportunity for our pupils and one which they always thoroughly enjoy, so it's a shame the tradition won't be continuing."
KCC spokeswoman Lindy Whitfield said: "The local authority has a duty for the health, safety and welfare of all children who take part in entertainment and performances.
"Where a licence is issued, production companies are responsible for ensuring that suitable arrangements and appropriate ratio of chaperones, dressing, toilet and washing facilities are in place.
"Following recommendations made by the local authority during an inspection in January 2013, the Kings Hall made sufficient adjustments to the facilities for the children which enabled the performance to proceed.
"While it is disappointing it has not been possible for suitable arrangements to be put in place this year, the safeguarding of children at all times must remain paramount.
"This is regrettable for the children but it is the responsibility of the theatre company to comply with the regulations governing children’s participation in theatre performance."
Theatrecraft's production of Beauty and the Beast will run from January 9 to January 12.
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