Best bit of Christmas has already happened
On Tuesday 20 December I had the best Christmas night I can remember in a long time. I had saved up my pay rise to take 50 local kids to a panto. Last night we did it. IT was great and THEY were amazing. I have to give the biggest thank you to A&M one of the best children’s charities in existence, for their support. I knew it was a logistical nightmare for my office to co-ordinate and so I asked A&M to get involved and they did. They sourced transport, staff, drivers, goodie bags and more importantly, KIDS! I don’t want to go into too much detail but we aimed this at kids who won’t often (or possibly ever) get to do this kind of thing.
A&M basically made our lives a lot easier. All we had to do was pay and even that was made easier because they got great prices for us. They did so much more than I had asked them to do and I am extremely grateful to them.
So, last night three buses picked up from Milton and Possilpark, from Barmulloch and Ruchazie and from Springburn and Blackhill. They delivered a very excited bunch of wee ones to the SECC and together we collected our goodie bags and trooped in to watch Aladdin.
The panto itself was brilliant. Corny jokes galore, hilarious characters, the baddie (Marti Pellow), fantastic costumes, acrobats, incredible lighting, audience participation, kids up on the stage, singalongs and the piece de resistance had to be the 3D element. Aladdin and his posse were heading to Egypt on a magic carpet. We were told to put on our 3D glasses and suddenly we were right there with them navigating the hazardous journey to Egypt, dodging explosions in front of our faces, fighting with huge serpents (well I was fighting, I think the kids were hiding under their seats), reaching out for shooting stars, it was really well done. I was transported to another fantastical land and I hope the kids were too.
But the highlight for me was the wee ones themselves. A teeny 5 year old boy approached me and said ‘are you Anne McLaughlin?’. I told him I was and he said ‘I’ve entered your photo competition and I’ve got the most likes so far’. Barry was referring to Changing the Image which you can read about here and which is all about saying that there is much to be proud of where we live. He lives in Possilpark and he is a wee star.
Then there was Eva who reminded myself and Annette (Office & Media Manager here) that we came to her school (St Martha’s) and when we were there she had told us that she had an Auntie Annette. She then asked me if I’d met the Queen. Kids often ask you that but they don’t often follow it up with ‘and did your mum nearly knock the queen over?’ to which I was able to say yes. That’s a story for another day but I didn’t understand how Eva knew this. Apparently I had told the story at the visit to their school. Hmmm, better watch what I’m saying in future.
I also met girls from Springburn who reminded me that we’d been at the same wedding a couple of months back. And another wee one who told me she’d had a sleep on the bus on the way to the panto and might well sleep in the theatre. I had her well warned that if I spotted her sleeping she’d be tickled till she woke up. She later announced that she’d not felt tired once during the panto.
Suffice to say the panto was great but the weans were amazing. When I was 6 I was taken on a coach trip to London (I lived in Hampshire at the time) to see Aladdin on Ice and I loved it so much that I fell asleep every night for months trying to make myself dream about it. I hope this panto visit has given the kids who came along, a night to remember for a long time to come. As an MP I will be working to do everything I can to tackle the reasons why, for so many, this kind of thing is a one off. Everybody should be able to afford a bit of fun at Christmas time and I hate the gaps between people that mean some live the life of Riley whilst others can barely survive.
But in the meantime, you have organisations like A&M doing everything they can to support families and we should all be grateful to them.