Panto helps needy children - oh yes it does!

Wave of excitement: Anthony Hinchliffe with cast members and grateful children at Sheffield City hall.
Wave of excitement: Anthony Hinchliffe with cast members and grateful children at Sheffield City hall.
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IT’S a panto story that reads like a fairy tale...

Some 2,000 disadvantaged children saw Dick Whittington at Sheffield’s City Hall for free yesterday thanks to the generosity of one city businessman and a host of supporters. And they loved it - oh yes they did!

The delighted crowd shouted their appreciation as Manor Operatic Society staged their final show of the season.

But the smiles were already in place before they sat down - each child was given a goody bag as they entered the building.

The event was funded by Ant Kids charity, set up by Anthony Hinchliffe, chief executive of Sheffield-based telemarketing firm Ant Marketing,

Sheffield International Venues donated the City Hall free and businesses donated chocolate, crisps and even football shirts for the goody bag.

Layla Ahmed, of Darnall, who attended with youngsters Aayah Mohammed and Najat Alshaby, said the tickets were offered to children at Darnall Children’s Centre.

Najat’s father, Ahmed, said: “We’ve never been to the panto before so it was nice to have the opportunity.”

Anthony Mclaine, of Westfield, was with his children Karl, seven, and four-year-old Jessica.

He said their former support worker had offered them tickets.

“I think it’s a great idea as a lot of people can’t afford it,” he said.

Karl said: “I love the songs and the jokes.”

Cast member Chris Hanlon, who played shipmate Scupper, said it was the last of a 16-show run - and his favourite performance of all.

He said: “I loved the reaction from the kids, they were so excited.”

It is the third year the panto has been sponsored by Ant Kids.

Mr Hinchliffe said he had brought his children to Manor Operatic Society panto for 10 years and wanted all youngsters to get the chance to see how wonderful it was.

“It was fantastic to see so many Sheffield children enjoying themselves,” he said.

“From the moment they came into the City Hall they were made to feel very special, with a goody bag of toys and educational equipment as well as treats.

“To see the smiles on their faces means the world to me and my charity team.

“We don’t need any more motivation to do it again, but this has certainly encouraged us to be even more determined to make this an annual event.”

As well as sponsorship, a raffle and ‘dress down’ day held at Ant Marketing helped raise the £15,000 needed to put on the show.

Mr Hinchliffe said: “In these tough economic times the generosity of our sponsors this year is to be appreciated.

“TW Wards, Barclays and the P&A Partnership have been key to ensuring the shows in 2011.”