Curtain will fall on beloved children’s panto

Falkirk Youth Theatre perform Sleeping Beauty in 2016
Falkirk Youth Theatre perform Sleeping Beauty in 2016

A traditional children’s pantomime staged in Falkirk Town Hall for almost half a century is facing the axe.

Meanwhile, another popular Christmas concert is looking for a new home after organisers were told that they will not be able to use the town centre venue in December 2018.

Bob Tait

Bob Tait

This week Falkirk Community Trust (FCT) revealed plans to work with a professional company to stage the panto Cinderella at the town hall throughout December 2018.

The move is part of an attempt by the organisation to increase income.

However, this will mean that this year’s Falkirk Youth Theatre festive show Peter Pan will be the cast’s last panto – 47 years after talented youngsters from across the district first took to the stage to delight audiences.

A Bairns’ Christmas, a production of festive music featuring Falkirk Caledonia Choir and Falkirk Festival Chorus, along with Tryst orchestra, which for 34 years has taken place on a Sunday in December, will host its final two shows in the town hall this year.

After being informed they could no longer have a let of the building in December 2018, committee members are now urgently looking for an alternative venue for the popular event.

It is understood that St Mungo’s High School and Grangemouth Town Hall are being considered, although according to one of those involved neither is “particularly attractive for one reason or another”.

There was also a suggestion that trust officials suggested an alternative date in November could be considered for the Christmas show.

Lesley O’Hare, culture and libraries manager with FCT said next year’s production would boast “a celebrity performer, professional actors and dancers, 16 local children, fabulous sets, spectacular costumes and amazing special effects”.

She added: “We’re delighted to be working with Imagine Theatre who will bring a wealth of panto experience from across the UK.

“They’re familiar with the uniqueness of traditional Scottish panto having produced shows for The Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock; The Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock; and the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy.”

Cinderella will have a preview on December 6, 2018 and run through till Christmas Eve with a total of 25 performances including matinees.

Tickets will be priced from £15 and go on sale later this year.

Over the years Falkirk Youth Theatre has been the starting point for many young people to go on to a professional career in the West End, including Ashley Russell, Kieran Brown and Adam Lake.

The pantomime was a regular sellout for ten shows and for several years was broadcast by STV on New Year’s Day.

Bob Tait, who helped set up A Bairns’ Christmas and who until earlier this year was a board member of FCT, said he could see appreciate the reasons behind the decision, but acknowledged it might not be popular with some.

He said: “I just heard about this recently and I must admit it came as a bit of a shock. However, having been a director of the community trust I can see where they are coming from. The income they receive from the council is reduced from the original £12 million it received when they were set up.

“The only way they can make any money is to increase income from people going to gyms, sports centres and through box offices at venues such as the Hippodrome and Falkirk Town Hall.

“This will be the first year my wife Christine and I are not involved in A Bairns’ Christmas so that is change. Life moves on and changes happen. Whether Falkirk audiences will like the changes remains to be seen.”

A trust spokeswoman said: “We are currently working with the Bairns Christmas Committee members to identify a suitable alternative venue for their 2018 Concert.”