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Crawley’s youngsters miss out as Hawth panto chooses dancers from afar

No fairytale for Crawleys dancers in this years local pantomime as majority of cast are anything but local



We may be in the middle of summer but thoughts are already out there for this years Panto and with Crawley it is expected to be another fantastic production.

So it has come as a bit of a shock that when the list of young dancers who auditioned for a role in this years panto was announced, only one third of them were from Crawley itself.

24 dancers were chosen but only 8 actually live in the town while the rest live up to almost 40 miles away.

When the auditions took place the response from ‘local’ performers was immense with almost 200 youngsters turning up to audition.

A statement from the producer of the show said:

‘We had an incredible turn out at this year’s auditions, the standard was higher than ever. It’s almost a shame we only needed 24 dancers as I’m sure we could have cast many more from those who came along! Those who have been selected are the best of the best, they will be a real asset to the Aladdin cast’

But those who reside in the town have gone a step further and asked why so few of those cast are from the town itself.

“I dont think this is right” – Councillor Chris Mullins

One parent who asked to remain anonymous for fear of it affecting her daughters chances in the future said:

“Isn’t a local panto for the local people and that includes casting locals as well?  I’m not trying to stop other young children from having a chance to perform but don’t they have pantos in their own town?”

The full list of locations was released as a press release saying the performers were chosen from Crawley and the surrounding areas but as the list illustrates the term ‘surrounding’ appears to have lost its meaning.

Whilst Horsham, Horley, Balcombe and East Grinstead are considered local to the town, the locations outside of these the performers are from are (approx distance by car):

Brighton and Hove – 22 miles
Chislehurst – 31.4 miles
Bromley – 37.6 miles
Westerham – 21.4 miles
Heathfield – 27 miles
Carshalton – 21 miles
Coulsdon – 17 miles
Burgess Hill – 14.6
Sutton – 23.8
Shoreham-by Sea – 26.7
Southwick – 23.7

A spokesperson from The Hawth said:

“The Hawth’s pantomime is enjoyed by thousands of people from across the town and beyond, and this is reflected in those who come along to the producer’s open auditions each year.

Almost 200 youngsters danced their hearts out this year and the final 24’s talent really shone through on the day.

The producers select the dancers on merit and do not know where they are from while they are dancing, ensuring they choose the best possible dancers to create the high quality pantomime people expect from The Hawth.”

But questions are still being asked as to why the ‘open’ audition was available to such a wide geographical area.

Councilor Chris Mullins who is Cabinet Member for Wellbeing said:

“I’m very surprised that they didn’t run local auditions for local kids and they would have easily have got the quality of dancers that were needed. “

“What they have done is effectively forced parents from a long way away to bring their child all the way down to our town which surely is not good for the environment or even for the children.”

I think our local dancers put a lot of time and energy and perhaps money into learning the skills they have got and I feel as though they may have been overlooked and I dont think this is right.”

“I would call surrounding areas Horley and Balcombe but the others are no-where near us!”

A spokesperson from Evolution Productions who is producing the panto this year was unavailable for comment.



West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service search for on-call firefighters

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service launch a new drive to increase its number of on-call firefighters.



Over recent years the number of people available ‘on-call’ to the emergency service has declined. The fire service is now looking to reverse this with a new call to action of ‘Your Community Needs You’.

On-call – formerly known as retained – firefighters are a vital part of the emergency service.

More news: Crawley Borough Council award grants to two local businesses

As a rural county, the service relies on on-call crews to be available to react in their local areas. Fourteen of West Sussex’s 25 fire stations are crewed solely by an on-call workforce.

Debbie Kennard, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, said:

“We are calling on communities to help support our work by asking people who live or work within close proximity to your local fire station to find out more about becoming an on-call firefighter.

“On-call firefighters can come from every walk of life, including builders, plumbers, farmers, office staff, together with people who are not currently employed. Previous experience is not required thanks to the comprehensive training programme.”

On-call firefighters carry out the same role as a wholetime firefighter including fires, road traffic collisions, flooding incidents or raising fire safety awareness in the community.

The nine West Sussex fire stations in most urgent need of new recruits are:

• Storrington
• Partridge Green
• Turners Hill
• Petworth
• Hurstpierpoint
• Steyning
• East Grinstead
• East Preston
• Lancing

On-call firefighters may have another job but can be called out via an alerter which gets activated when they are paged to respond to an emergency.

Mum-of-two Katie Gray, is an on-call firefighter at East Preston Fire Station. She said:

“Being able to help the community in such a varied role and the adrenaline of not knowing what we are going to is great. There is a steep learning curve when joining the role because of the wide variety of jobs that we get, such as community events as well as operational calls.”

Steven Philby, is an on-call firefighter in Storrington and also a wholetime fighter at Chichester Fire Station. He said: “I was surprised about how quickly you become part of a team and make a difference within the local area; the local community get to know that you are an on-call firefighter.”

As part of the drive, fitness sessions will be held in some areas for people to see what level of fitness is required for the role and to find out more about the role. The first session has been organised by Storrington Fire Station and will be held on Saturday 29 September at Impulse Leisure, Chanctonbury from 11.30am to 1.30pm.

To find out more about becoming an on-call firefighter visit and select ‘Fire & Rescue recruitment’ or follow West Sussex Fire & Rescue on Facebook & Twitter for updates on events.

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