Can Entertainment Bring Families Together in a Time of Austerity

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In this serious grown up world of austerity, have families lost the ability to be playful, or do we come together to laugh in the face of adversity? Acting the Party is trying to engage the latter.

Christmas and Birthday celebrations are often conceived as a social imperative, a time for families to enjoy each other’s company, be playful, and have ‘quality time’ together. It is often said that ‘you discover more about a person in a hour of play than in a year of conversation.’ But are emotional and financial pressures overshadowing the elements of frivolity and play?

And so too now, it seems, the simple evening out. Take an evening of ten-pin bowling for instance; an average £10 per head. Likewise the cinema; a family of five can pay about £40, include drinks or snacks it could easily reach £60 or more. West End theatre tickets have always been premium, but even local venues are becoming too expensive for families. A nice meal accompanying a lovely day out (that doesn’t involve chicken nuggets) is now often denied.

So how does a family spend their time together in the current financial climate?

Perhaps, staying in is the new going out. Families curled up enjoying a film on TV, Netflix, or DVD, or perhaps playing computer games. However, with this entertainment the level of interaction between family members is reduced. Board games have the added bonus of possibly educating as well as entertaining but these are not suitable for all ages, and many competitive games can lead to friction, especially between siblings. Nonetheless play, of different kinds, to a family can have much worth.

In his paper 'The Importance of Play', Dr David Whitebread, (University of Cambridge) - play can be divided into five broad types:

“Physical play, play with objects, symbolic play, pretence/ socio-dramatic play and games with rules. Although each type of play has a main developmental function or focus, arguably all of them support aspects of physical, intellectual and social-emotional growth. From all the available evidence, a balance of experience of each of these types of play is likely to be beneficial to children’s development.”

Claire Hainstock, founder of a new business: Acting the Party, recognised that play, light-hearted teasing, banter and the ability to laugh can be affirming and a wonderful way to bring a family together, and created a product that provides alternative entertainment for families and children’s birthday parties.

Acting the Party produces audio fantasy stories for children to role-play and perform along to. “Think ‘Peter and the Wolf’ or a radio drama, with gentle prompts for actions,” says Claire.

“I wanted parents to manage their children’s party entertainment at home, keeping the costs down, but then went on to produce entertainment for the whole family to join in. ”

The family game, entitled “The Infamous Gathering” is narrated by Graham Seed, better known as Nigel Pargetter in The Archers on BBC Radio 4.

‘The Infamous Gathering’ was written with the basic Cinderella theme in mind.

“I wanted to write something that could entertain young and old alike and I realised that Pantomimes tend to be enjoyed by all ages, keeping the subtle cynical overtone that pantomimes do so well - jokes over the heads of children - whilst keeping adults entertained. And from my own family’s experience, Christmas time is we tend to play games.”

As well as the audio, “The Infamous Gathering” contains themed games, riddles, singing, dancing and a treasure hunt for the whole family to participate. Complementing the narration are sound effects and music all on a small, re-usable USB memory stick.

So you can enjoy being playfully interactive whilst at the same time helping your family’s development too. Not bad for less than half the price of one West End theatre ticket.

“The Infamous Gathering” and other titles can currently be purchased at Follow Claire on Twitter @actingtheparty

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Claire Hainstock

Claire Hainstock
Acting the Party
+44 1400254041
since: 06/2009
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since: 08/2010
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