Case study: Putting on a Panto


Around 60 young people, carers and foster carers took part in producing a pantomime which took place as part of the Isle of Wight Council’s project to deliver the Creativity4Health Programme South East which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund Wellbeing Programme and Arts Council. It took place at Shanklin Theatre on Tuesday 8 December 2009.

Young people in the care system, along with social services staff worked on every aspect of the pantomime from script writing and set design to making props and costumes. It took over a year of careful planning and preparation. The project was instigated and overseen by Elena Thomas the Young Peoples Training Co-ordinator who works within the ‘leaving care and young people’s team’ and grew out of regular sessions at the ‘Care Leaver and Young People Teams’ base in Newport. The project involved 21 Looked After Children, 6 Care Leavers  14 Foster Carers, 5 Siblings and 15 Staff.

Elena wanted to run a project that had the scope to draw in young people with little or no confidence and enable them to find a skill in an environment that would encourage them to develop this (designing the poster, set painting and design, costumes, make-up, music, dance, choreography, acting, singing, stage management).

Putting on a production is full of challenges and the team which grew as the project went on, all had to learn to be creative problem solvers to get round obstacles. Budget was one factor, although Elena was adamant that the venue for the performances had to be right, it was important that when it came to putting on the pantomime that the venue itself excited and stimulated the team to realise they had been involved in and produced something worthy of being performed in a ‘professional venue. It was also important for them to realise the value of all their work and achievement. Apart from the venue which provided a technician to run the lighting and sound and advise on technical staging, costumes were sourced from charity shops and people’s wardrobes, props and set begged, borrowed and improvised.

Over 150 invited guests consisting of friends, family, local dignitaries and people who had supported this project watched the performance, which followed Jack trying to obtain new qualifications and find work with help from characters from other well known pantos including Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.
Positive outcomes from this project have been:

  • The inclusion of foster carers’ family within the Pantomime. 
  • Foster carers’ feedback - family unit more stable/relationships between siblings and foster siblings improved.
  • A decision has been made to ensure that a Panto is produced and performed annually as a good vehicle for the engagement and involvement of young people, as well as raising aspirations for young people.
  • The linking in of the Panto project to other activities such as ‘The Star Awards’, creates a sense of ‘springboarding’ young people on to other activities which previously they would not have had the confidence or motivation to engage with. Participation in the pantomime enabled young people to perform at the Isle of Wight Councils’ Star Award Ceremony held in October 2009 and also to take part in Art and Meditation workshops run by a local artist during that summer. One young person has since joined a dance club, another has been receiving singing tuition, a young violinist has become more confident in playing for larger audiences, and to achieve his Grade 6 music exam and is performing for the Council Employee Awards Celebration and would like to perform at the Creative4Health Celebration Event in October 2010.  Another young person with disabilities who took part in the panto as a dancer,  has since participated more in activities, horse riding being one of them.

Cllr Dawn Cousins, Isle of Wight Council Cabinet Member responsible for Children said:

“The Pantomime was a huge success and everyone involved should feel extremely proud of their achievements.

“The project was designed to encourage and enable young people, their carers, families and support workers to take part in arts and creative activities to help them get fit as well as improve their emotional health and wellbeing.”