Suzi Clark from experiential events company Kit and Caboodle asks, “Do you make adequate provision for children at your event?”
National Children’s Day took place on the 14 May. It’s all about the importance of a healthy childhood and protecting the rights and freedoms of children and teenagers so they can grow into happy, healthy adults. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, a child is someone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday.
For those involved in the professional creative development, production and management of events, more care needs to be taken than ever before regarding child protection following a flurry of scandals involving well-known celebrities and organisations.
Provision for children at an event should always be a consideration, even if the event hasn’t been aimed specifically at them. They may accompany family members and while they are in the care of a responsible adult, those of us who organise events need to consider elements of child protection such as:
- Are dedicated play area activities assessed for Health and Safety?
- Have the staff been Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checked i.e. vetted for suitability?
- Has any equipment e.g. rides or outdoor play inflatables been fully checked for Health and Safety?
- Has provision been made for lost children?
- Have the needs of vulnerable adults been taken into account?
We had to take all these, and other, factors into consideration when we were invited by Battersea Power Station to stage its first Eggshibition over the Easter weekend this year. Battersea Power Station was particularly keen to involve the local community and, while there was insufficient time to develop an art project with local schoolchildren on this occasion, we were able to work with artists in the local community who developed beautiful original artwork on the “canvas” of a series of giant eggs, to the delight of the thousands of people who visited the site over the Easter weekend.
I was particularly pleased to see that Chickenshed Theatre was performing at the Battersea Power Station Village Hall performance area in the days before we opened the Eggshibition. I was formerly head of development at that brilliant theatre company, and gained a lot of experience and understanding about the rigorous Health and Safety needs involved in engaging literally hundreds of children in performance activities. Although, to be fair, I do remember feeling slightly panicky when I saw a sign saying “Lost Children This Way” outside my office one year. It turned out to be related to the Christmas performance of Peter Pan…
Although at Kit and Caboodle we have designed and staged other outdoor family events, such as a staff “Mela” for Dishoom, a staff family party for Facebook etc., we had never previously developed and delivered an Easter Bunny Trail, so it was a learning curve all round! After internal discussion about the shape of a bunny paw, not to mention all of us becoming “Eggsperts” on the comparative size of a velociraptor’s egg against that of an emu… we did our homework in the anticipation of hordes of under-age ‘Bunny Trailers’.
As well as referring to our own Health and Safety consultants, Stallard Kane, for best practice guidance we also found the Save the Children site very useful for general dos and don’ts. The government’s advisory document ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ also makes useful contributions regarding the role of voluntary and private sector organisations (p.63).
Issues we tackled included protecting the identity of the children who participated in the Easter Bunny Trail who might win a prize, so that any contact afterwards by the client or the media came via the responsible adult.
Our staff were briefed in advance never to take care of a child on their own, but always in a pair. They were reminded to follow agreed procedures for lost children or in the case of requiring First Aid assistance.
We regretted not being able to provide chocolate eggs at the successful conclusion of the trail, but after taking advice we realised the potential difficulties of coping with possible food allergies so instead, with the client’s agreement, we opted to give out colourful stickers. We briefed staff not to try to put the stickers onto children once they had been peeled off the main sheet… no touching is the rule.
One of the participating organisations had a hugely successful mini-farm area run by Sharky and George. Luckily, neither of their llamas did a poo on the astro-turf. Our client provided hand-washing facilities on the day so that children who couldn’t resist petting the animals could be sure of having clean hands before stuffing themselves at one of the many food outlets.
While fulfilling the final “get-in” at Battersea, we coped with the additional challenges of road and bridge closures linked to the Extinction Rebellion civil actions across London. We had lively discussion about how, as a team, we believe that youth are our future and we are concerned that their needs and opinions are often ignored. We would love to work with a corporate client on developing a series of youth clubs to play a critical role during a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood, to provide a safe space beyond education and home, for example.
We found out that London has lost at least 104 youth centres since the 2011 riots. Between 2010 and 2016, £387 milion has been cut from youth spending budgets. (Sian Berry (FOI – The London Assembly). What’s going on?
Meanwhile, with the proposed introduction of T Levels in September 2020, which will prepare children of 16+ post GCSE-level, for the world of work, a host of issues need to be tackled by employers. Government current guidance says that employers will not need to carry out DBS checks on staff (including freelancers) supervising young people on work placement, for example – but is this best practice? Events managers who are involved with cultural heritage or visitor attractions, which is one of the new T Level categories of study, will need to brush up on their own learning.
At a professional level we are determined to prioritise proper consideration to protect the rights of children and young adults who might attend any events for which we have responsibility.
Meanwhile… we hope to attract clients who share our enthusiasm and passion for working within London communities to develop entertainment-based youth projects that are authentic, sustainable, and culturally on-trend. National Children’s Day reminds us of the importance of this.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzi Clark is director of Kit and Caboodle, and experiential events agency working with brands and celebrating creativity, innovation, loyalty, teamwork, collaboration, work-life balance, enjoyment, inspiration and knowledge. firstname.lastname@example.org