Customs House reveals panto charity for 2017-18

Peter Lathan

South Shields Customs House has revealed the charity it will support during this year’s panto season.

Every year, during the run of the panto, the theatre organises a collection for its chosen charity as audiences leave the theatre after the show. Last year, more than £10,000 was raised for the NSPCC as it celebrated the 30th anniversary of its children’s counselling service, Childline.

In the 2017–2018 season, the chosen charity will be the Charlie Cookson Foundation, a local charity set up in 2013 by Sarah and Christopher Cookson from South Shields in memory of their son, Charlie, who died that same year, aged two-and-a-half, and had fought a number of health battles from birth. The community rallied around the family as doctors tried to pin down a diagnosis and the Cooksons set up the Foundation to provide financial support to the parents of seriously ill children with life-limiting conditions that require 24/7 care or specialist nursing facilities.

The aim is to support one family a month, so parents can focus on caring for their child without having to worry about taking time off work or paying the bills.

Last year’s panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, raised a record amount and the theatre hopes to break that record yet again during the run of The Lambton Worm, from 28 November to 6 January.

Ray Spencer MBE, executive director of The Customs House, who also writes, directs and stars in the panto, said, “every year we are just astonished by people’s generosity and our audience always dig deep to raise an impressive amount.

“We’re delighted to be helping the Charlie Cookson Foundation this year, which in turn will help relieve the distress of worried parents at the most difficult time in their lives. We hope our panto audience give generously to this great cause.”

“We are absolutely delighted that our foundation has been selected by The Customs House to be their chosen charity throughout the pantomime season,” said Sarah Cookson. “We are very overwhelmed and extremely grateful for the support.

“This a great opportunity to raise awareness for our unique foundation and raise much-needed funds. We are looking forward to being actively involved in promoting our foundation and the work we do throughout the very busy panto season.”