Little Red Panto - Making Panto Suitable for Very Young Children

November 23, 2023

As a small theatre company with no permanent staff, held together by a can-do attitude, several part time jobs, and a dose of grant funding - we are always having these discussions. How do we build our company right? With the now (and rightly so) constant pressure to be accessible, what is expected of us? Are we doing enough?

The first thing we have to say is - we don’t have all the answers. And simply, we can only do our best. And what ‘our best’ looks like is very different to what a multi-million pound company with disposable profits can do…

When we produced our first pantomime ROBYN HOOD we had a tiny budget (so little that the producer, writer, director and designer didn’t pay themselves….and yes that was also only one person…. And also the same person writing this blog… hiya!) But we also knew that we had an opportunity to experiment. Four shows at two small-ish venues by a new theatre company? The perfect recipe for trying things out. So we did! Half the shows that were performed were alternative, aiming at making audience members feel welcome at the theatre. Relaxed shows are commonplace in theatre now - often advertised during pantomime season. We did some research and copied some ideas from various theatre websites. We also spoke to some friends that work with adults with additional needs and they also suggested a book to aid with social stories. So we created one of those and it’s available for anyone who needs it.

A few years ago we had seen the show EMILIA advertise a baby friendly show which sold out; we contacted them to see if we could get some advice about running a similar show. Nay response. So we went to the next best thing; new parents. We messaged a load of friends and relatives that had babies and simply asked what do you want to see at the theatre that would encourage you to bring along your wee baby. From those responses we put together a mockup for a baby friendly show;

  • The sound is a little lower
  • No loud noises
  • Toddler friendly snacks available
  • Break out room available
  • Space for buggies
  • Free to leave and come back throughout the performance
  • Simply stating that if you “bring your baby - it's fine if they cry!”

It was a great success and so we’re doing it again this year! Our Baby Friendly performance of LITTLE RED is on 30th December @ 11.30am at Beecroft Gallery in Southend

We also have an unwavering awareness of the cost of living skyrocketing and looking at the prices of family tickets to the theatre makes our eyes water and our wallets snap shut. So we have a portion of PayWhatYouCan tickets at every performance. No questions asked. A few people have said what if people book them that can afford a full price ticket… well that’s on them. We’re only a small team so we just don’t have the capacity to monitor it. But just because we can’t monitor, it doesn’t mean we should take that offer away.. right?

We had a brilliant discussion with Rochford District council about the unreliability of the lift at the Rayleigh Mill Arts Centre, and they were keen to find a resolution. Together we have ensured that those with a physical disability will be able to see the show by moving the performance to the space on the ground floor. This wouldn’t have been possible without RDC engaging with us when we voiced our concerns.

Because we got grant funding (from ACE project grants and Rochford District Council) we were able to afford a BSL interpreter who will be attending the show on 4th January at the Small Gains Hall on Canvey.

And what about all the other people that we haven’t met the needs of? One of our team sent a photo of an article to the group chat about a dementia friendly arts group. Do we have capacity to add that into the mix? Not really. Will we have a dementia friendly performance this year? Probably not. But is it going on the list of things to achieve next year? Absolutely.

What we’re slowly learning is that although we might get things wrong, we are resolute in our attitude that we can do better. We don’t know what barriers people face when going to the theatre so all we can do is listen and then act accordingly and according to the capacity of the business.

We can’t possibly know and implement everything but we’re open to hearing from our audiences about how we can make their experience better for them.

Check out LITTLE RED from 29th December - 12th January at

Beecroft Gallery

Fri 29th December - 7pm

Sat 30th December - 11.30am (baby friendly)

Sat 30th December - 2.30pm

Small Gains Hall

Thurs 4th January - 7pm (BSL interpreted)

Hadleigh Old Fire Station

Fri 5th January - 7pm

Sat 6th January - 2.30pm (relaxed)

Sat 6th January - 7pm

Mill Arts Centre

Fri 12th January - 7pm (grown up only)

And email us on with your thoughts on what barriers you face stopping you enjoying theatre, and how to make it more accessible!


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