For many of us, memories of Christmas are inextricably linked to the boos, cheers and laughter of a trip to the panto. At Macrobert Arts Centre this is one of our busiest times of year, with some 28,000 people expected to join us for 61 performances of Weans in the Wood. It’s everything you’d wish for from a Christmas panto – glitzy, irreverent, packed to the rafters with pop songs and a classic battle between good and evil.
Many of our audience members who leave the auditorium each evening, full of ice cream and Christmas cheer, have chosen to help us spread the festive fun even more widely by donating to our Christmas Appeal. This is the fifth year we’ve run the appeal and thanks to generous people and organisations across Scotland, we’ll be donating more than 1,000 panto tickets to children, families and older people who would otherwise be unable to join in the fun. Working with some 20 charities across the Forth Valley, these tickets are distributed to those most in need – people dealing with issues like disability, illness, domestic violence and poverty this Christmas. This year, our community has been more generous than ever, enabling us to donate a record number of tickets, and to work with new charities supporting refugees, single parents, and older people.
At Macrobert, the Christmas Appeal helps us to realise our mission of “making active connections” – using the power of creative experiences to enrich lives and enhance wellbeing. A trip to the panto is such a simple treat, but one that can have an impact far greater than might be expected. A group of pensioners who joined us thanks to the appeal wrote to say that “it is kindness like this that makes one wonder why we hear so much about loneliness in the elderly, when people like yourselves do your best to eradicate some of it, by such a gesture”. Children who’ve been recently bereaved have told us that the panto reminds them it’s possible to feel happy again, and one child dictated a note to his mum saying he felt his disability “had flown away”. Last year one mum wrote to us to say how much the family had loved spending “happy time” together, and that she’d “forgotten what that felt like”. These sorts of stories remind us why creativity matters.
This year, in our quest to include as many people as possible, we’ve added new branches to our Christmas Appeal. We’ve made appeal tickets available not only to the panto, but also to How to Be a Christmas Tree, our show for younger children. And, supported by sponsorship from Stirling-based management consultancy Projects on Track, we’ve launched a Christmas Appeal Film Tour – taking festive films out and about to people who would be unable to join us at the Arts Centre in person. This inaugural year, we’ll be hosting five screenings of White Christmas at Strathcarron Hospice, and a day of screenings of Arthur Christmas in the children’s ward of Forth Valley Hospital. Daycare patients at Strathcarron Hospice have life-limiting conditions and many find it difficult to get out and about, particularly to the cinema. The Christmas Film Tour means all daycare and inpatients at the hospice will get the opportunity to be part of a cinema experience, complete with popcorn and ice cream.
Each year, demand for the Christmas Appeal grows, and we’re thrilled that donations this year have enabled us to meet more requests for tickets than ever before. Many donors have given loyally each year, and we’ve secured some donations from companies to continue to increase the numbers of people we can support. Mackie’s of Scotland have been longstanding supporters of the appeal – donating a free ice cream to go along with each appeal ticket.
Each year, though, we’re also reliant on finding new donors to help us to meet the incredible demand for tickets from families and charities, and to develop new plans like the Christmas Appeal Film Tour. That’s why we’ve set up an annual giving plan, which asks donors to support the Christmas Appeal on a regular basis each year. Each donation of £15 means we can give a ticket to someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to share in the fun of Christmas, and spread festive cheer to children and families across Scotland.
Kathryn Welch is Development Manager, Macrobert Arts Centre. Donations to Macrobert Arts Centre’s Christmas Appeal can be made at www.macrobertartscentre.org