A THEATRE left reeling by a ban on school panto trips has responded by staging a special performance for a community rocked by a huge gas explosion last month.

The show for the people of Kincaidston in Ayr is one of the initiatives from the town’s Gaiety Theatre which, along with many other venues in Scotland, has been hit hard by the sudden decision of some councils to ban the school trips.

There has been such a generous response to the Gaiety’s Christmas Appeal that more than 400 people from Kincaidston, where a family was injured in the blast, will be able to see the special show.

Chief executive Jeremy Wyatt said that along with the Kincaidston performance, tickets would also be provided during the panto run for those who could not otherwise afford to go, thanks to the response to the appeal.

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The Worksmart company, which was among those to donate, said it was delighted its £1250 donation would be used to offer the Kincaidston community an opportunity to attend a night at the panto.

“The panto is an excellent day out for families and we are pleased to be able to support our friends at the Gaiety in giving the community of Kincaidston a night to remember following recent events,’’ said Worksmart’s Steve Neilson.

Wyatt added: “Money matters but what we’re really here for is to engage with as many people as we can and give them a fantastic time and that’s what we’re determined to do.”

However, he said that when the three Ayrshire councils announced their ban it was still “a shock” and had “serious financial implications”.

Kilmarnock’s Palace Theatre has also been badly affected and has had to cut its panto run by a fortnight.

In Inverness, Eden Court has cited losses of around £30,000 after Highland Council imposed a ban, while 60 teenagers from Broughton High in Edinburgh were left disappointed when a scheduled panto trip to the Playhouse was cancelled at short notice.

The decision by Edinburgh City Council to ban the panto trips has also affected the Lyceum Theatre which said it had not been able to plan for the ban as it was at such short notice.

The National: Covid-hit theatre puts on show
for community after gas blast

Pre-Covid, the Gaiety in Ayr hosted around 9000 children on school panto trips, but Wyatt said that although the ban was a shock, the team had planned for every eventuality and was working hard to handle the situation.

“We’ve put on some additional, quieter matinees for people who want to come but only if there is distancing, and 4pm shows for parents to bring their kids to,” he said. “And we are also not only livestreaming but we are making a high-quality film which will be released on a streaming platform so anyone around the world will be able to pay a modest sum and see the Gaiety panto.

“In addition we are creating a special version of that for schools and an educational pack to go with it.”

The Lyceum Theatre said it was still working on the impact of the decision on audiences and income.

A spokesperson said: “We do understand theatre trips and transport may bring specific additional logistical complications for schools while Covid rules are still in place in educational settings.

“However, this decision has come late in the day so we have not been able to plan for this and, along with other theatres across Scotland, have been offering school performances for which schools have booked.

“This will certainly mean some children will miss Christmas shows they had been looking forward to attending and this will also have an impact on audience and income for theatres across Edinburgh just as we start to get back on our feet after 18 months of closure through the pandemic.”

The National: Covid-hit theatre puts on show
for community after gas blast

A spokesperson for East Ayrshire Council said that along with North and South Ayrshire Education Services, it had taken an Ayrshire-wide approach to panto attendance.

They said: “Our schools are following Scottish Government guidance, which currently prohibits large gatherings of pupils including assemblies in keeping with the retention of existing mitigations, and this would therefore include pantomimes and theatre performances.

“The council’s priority throughout the pandemic has been to protect our children and young people and ensure that they remain in school.”

A HIGHLAND Council spokesperson said the safety and wellbeing of pupils and staff remained a priority amid high Covid-19 rates in schools and communities.

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B“Our current position is that Highland schools should not undertake class visits to any indoor venues where there are large gatherings such as the pantomime,” said the spokesperson.

“We are however working with Eden Court Theatre to discuss digital streaming, so pupils can experience this year’s pantomime performance safely from school.

“We remain hopeful that by keeping festive activities school-based again this year, we can reduce the spread of the virus and enjoy time with family and friends during the festive period.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council said: “We really appreciate that young people and their families are disappointed by this situation but it’s very important that we keep the spread of Covid in the community as low as possible.”