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Red tape forces child theatre chaperone to quit

PUBLISHED: 16:23 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:50 12 August 2010

AN AMATEUR theatre chaperone has decided to quit his licence after more than 10 years of volunteering due to silly bureaucracy . Tim Hinchcliffe, who acts, performs and directs at the Bromley Little Theatre and the Beckenham Theatre Centre, will refuse

AN AMATEUR theatre chaperone has decided to quit his licence after more than 10 years of volunteering due to 'silly bureaucracy'.

Tim Hinchcliffe, who acts, performs and directs at the Bromley Little Theatre and the Beckenham Theatre Centre, will refuse to renew his 'Matron' chaperone licence this year claiming that form-filling is putting pressure on voluntary organisations.

Photographer Mr Hinchcliffe, from Beckenham, says he even needs a licence for his own child to perform in a play under The Children (performances) Regulations 1968 which include amateur theatre companies.

He claims that this year's pantomimes have been blighted by rules that have included that young performers should each be licenced, sent home at 10pm and chaperones should man hazardous areas to avoid accidents.

He added: "We need licences for each child to perform, licences for our own child to perform on stage with us and more licences for chaperones to make sure their 'moral and physical health and welfare' is not under threat.

"It appears that they have started a new regime over the last 12 months because as far as I am aware last year's pantomime we didn't have to go through this 'pantomime'.

"We make just about enough to keep the roof on and now with more and more form-filling we are spending more time on bureaucracy then acting or performing when we managed to get by alright before."

Mr Hinchcliffe claims that the increase in pressures on voluntary organisations could deter adults from agreeing to run activities for children. He added: "It is like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I don't want to be sitting on a staircase like a glorified guard dog, the reason I volunteer is to act, direct or perform in activities that are good experiences for children.

"Local authorities are making it so difficult for voluntary organisations that some may simply say 'why should we do this when we are not being paid to be here?'"

A spokesman for Bromley council was unavailable to comment but confirmed that licences are needed for every child performer if they are in paid work or unpaid work for five days or more.

Licences should include a photograph and can take up to a month to process and local authorities should be satisfied that disruption to education is kept to a minimum and rehearsal and performance space is satisfactory.

* What do you think? Email Kate.mead@archant.co.uk

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