POORLY children will be given some Christmas cheer when a panto comes to their hospital ward – in what’s believed to be a world first.
Aladdin will be screened free to patients in Sunderland Royal Hospital, the Eye Infirmary, Ryhope Hospital and Monkwearmouth Hospital as part of a scheme to sprinkle some festive magic.
Hundreds will get the chance to see the pantomime being performed at Theatre Royal Newcastle when it is broadcast on 6,500 hospital bed TV screens.
The screening has been two years in the planning and is a unique collaboration between NHS North East, Newcastle Theatre Royal and Hospedia, the hospital broadcast network.
It is the brainchild of Theatre Royal Trustee Howard Tait and everyone working on the project is giving their services for free – including care systems provider Hospedia, Dene Films, the pantomime cast and crew and all hospitals across the North East.
All children will have the opportunity to watch the show from their hospital beds at 2pm on December 15, with repeat screenings at 4pm and 6pm.
Howard, who is chief executive of Newcastle advertising agency Martin Tait Redheads, said: “We are often able to bring a small number of more mobile kids to the show, and seeing the children’s faces light up just made me wonder how we could extend this magic to many more children unable to leave their beds.
“As far as we are aware this has never been done before, anywhere in the world.
“It’s been a long time in the planning and with 17 different stakeholders involved, no easy feat. I’m so pleased we got there in the end. For many this will be a dream come true.”
Theatre Royal chief executive Philip Bernays said: “To be able to screen the show to so many hospitalised children is nothing short of remarkable.
“Howard has worked very hard on making this happen and we are delighted with what he has achieved.
“Our panto really is one of the best in the world, and we are extremely proud of it.”
Julie Marsh, of NHS North East, said: “It is fantastic to have all our hospitals involved and to bring some traditional festive cheer right to the bedsides of so many children.
“Any time of year is difficult for children to be in hospital but it’s great that we’re able to give them something different, with a ‘wow’ factor, to enjoy with their families and the hospital staff.”
Anne Stewart, operations manager at Hospedia, added: “We are delighted to play our part in spreading some joy. Keeping patients happy while they are in hospital is our business.”