Emma Razi: Oh yes you can help caring kids see a panto

Emma Razi (Development Manager) & Fairy Contrary (Keith McLeish) from Sleepin Cutie.
Emma Razi (Development Manager) & Fairy Contrary (Keith McLeish) from Sleepin Cutie.
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Wait, please let me explain. I’ve just taken on the role of development manager at Macrobert Arts Centre, and one of my first lessons was that here, Christmas starts in August. But for good reason, as there is an awful lot that needs to be done between now and then.

First and foremost we need a lot of time to get ready for our panto. There are scripts to learn, sets to build, Dames to tame and the list goes on. As development manager, none of that falls under my remit.

But I have a huge amount of respect to the incredibly talented team that produce the “best panto in Scotland” (Guardian). My job in the run-up to Christmas is to raise money to pay for free tickets for up to 800 local children and families to attend.

The Christmas Panto was never part of my family tradition as a child. We lived in a rural area, miles from the nearest city and it was pretty pricey for a family of five.

So I’ll admit, as an adult I never really ‘got’ panto until my first real experience watching The Little Mermaid at Macrobert Arts Centre with my own children a few years ago. We were all completely blown away by the colour, the noise, the lights and the energy.

I remember crying with laughter as the Dame cavorted around the stage bleating her version of Sia’s hit Chandelier whilst swathed in a gold cat suit.

This sealed the deal. From that moment, we created a new family tradition – Christmas meant panto!

We are so lucky to be able to join the hordes every year. We usually go with aunts, uncles and cousins and it’s absolute mayhem. Kids getting lost in the crowd, someone needing the loo just as the curtain drops, tears when we realise we’re one ice cream short.

But then the show starts and we all laugh for two solid hours until our faces ache.

What I love about panto is that everyone gets it. Big kids laugh at flatulence gags, little kids love the slap-stick, grown-ups guffaw over the limitless innuendos and toddlers stare spellbound by the lights. It’s a gaudy, custard pie frenzy, binding generations across our funny little island. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky. The panto costs from £14.50 per ticket. With an ice cream on top it’s not a cheap night out for a family of four.

Part of my role as development manager is to work with local businesses and residents and try and raise enough cash to pay for tickets for those who for health, social or financial reasons, would otherwise miss out on a trip to the panto.

This is Macrobert Art Centre’s annual Christmas Appeal. It has been running since 2012 and we have given away just under 5,000 free panto tickets since then.

I work closely with local charities in order to identify the children and families who would benefit from our support. Charities include those representing our elderly population, our “looked after” children, disability organisations and many others.

We have a long-standing relationship with many of these organisations and the feedback we get every year about how their groups have benefitted from attending the panto is incredible.

Zoe from Stirling Carers Centre told me that the panto gives their young people a real break from their caring role, and a chance to join other young people and get swept up in the Christmas spirit.

She explained that many wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise as their families simply couldn’t afford it. Ian Morris from Start Up Stirling feels that a free trip to the panto really takes the pressure off many of the families his organisation supports over the festive period.

Now for my big ask. Before you forget about Christmas for another few weeks, please can you give a little gift and make a donation to Macrobert Arts Centre’s Christmas Appeal?

Please donate via our website and help spread the glitter and giggles this Christmas. Everyone deserves some fun during the festive period, and panto should be for all, not just for those who can afford it. Just like every panto story, let’s make kindness prevail this year.

Emma Razi, development manager, MacRobert Art Centre