Free trip to the panto and Christmas holiday clubs offered through the HAF scheme

Brighter Futures for Children & Reading Borough Council press release

Children will be able to enjoy a free trip to the pantomime and take part in fun holiday clubs through the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme in Reading this Christmas.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) and Reading Borough Council (RBC) are working together to provide the bumper package of activities for Reading children who are eligible for Pupil Premium free school meals.

The Hexagon is offering 400 free tickets for eligible children to see their pantomime, Beauty and the Beast, as part of this winter’s HAF programme. Each child will also receive a healthy meal and an activity pack from the theatre.

There are also seven exciting holiday clubs on offer across the borough to keep Reading’s children and young people active and well fed through the festive break.

The choice of activities on offer includes arts, crafts, games, music and dance and sport ranging from football to swimming and from gymnastics to tennis.

All the clubs are being run by trusted providers including Get Active, NS Sport, Sport in Mind, St Joseph’s, U-Sport, Premier Education and Reading Football Club.

BFfC co-ordinates the HAF, which is funded by the Department for Education, on behalf of the Council.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I am thrilled with the wonderful choice of activities available to Reading children through the HAF programme this Christmas. It is so important that all children have the chance to experience the special excitement of this time of year.

“There really will be something to suit every child and young person in the HAF scheme and parents can be assured their loved ones will be well looked after and receive a healthy, nutritious lunch.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “I am pleased the Council, working closely with our partners, looks for all opportunities to extend access to activities during schools breaks, but also, importantly, we make sure that no child goes hungry during the school holidays. We hope this scheme will make a difference to those children and their families over the difficult months ahead.”

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to partner with Brighter Futures for Children and support the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme with 400 free tickets for Hexagon’s panto this Christmas. It is important all children get the opportunity to experience the excitement of live theatre.

“The challenges we’ve faced over the past year have shone a light on how much we need the arts and culture as an antidote to the stresses, pressure and isolation we have faced during the pandemic. I hope all the children who get this opportunity to enjoy Beauty and the Beast, have a fabulous time and make happy memories to cherish.”

The Hexagon continues to have measures in place to ensure it is as COVID safe as possible. Theatregoers are strongly encouraged to use face coverings for all shows and to follow the theatre safety guidelines in place.

Details of the all the activities which are part of the Christmas HAF programme and how to register can be found at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/for-parents-carers/schools/haf/

NOTES TO EDITORS

· The HAF programme is available to those children and young people who are eligible for Pupil Premium free school meals. The free pantomime tickets are only on offer to those children in Reading borough who are eligible and registered on the HAF scheme.

· The Hexagon pantomime Beauty and the Beast, starring Justin Fletcher and Paul Morse, runs from 4 December – 3 January 2022. Visit https://whatsonreading.com/beauty-and-beast for details.

· The Hexagon team works closely with specialist Council health teams, expert contractors, promoters and industry bodies and have been guided by all current government guidelines to ensure the safety of both the performers and audiences. Safety measures are in place for the wellbeing of customers, staff and performers alike. The Council’s venues are also cleaned before every single performance and regularly disinfected.