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  • Lisa Austin

Benson’s Christmas Letter – Week 2 TEAM HARRY


A Northerner, west country bumpkin and a Londoner take on 9 shows in 8 days in Week 2, and what fun we had Roadtripping with Katie’s car filled to the brim – banana essence wafting and 3 very chatty puppets. We couldn’t be apart from Team Benson for long so we jumped in for them where we had fun at C4K Trustee Gareth’s old school, had a big snowball fight & being my 2nd year there, had the same teacher as last year play the snowman! Poor guy, but he seemed to have fun and we all couldn’t stop laughing. I’m playing the role of Benson this year and being my 3rd year with this amazing charity, I am honoured to be the first person to use our new ginger Benson ( Ed Sheeran we call him) in the show. Oh and what a little flirt he is, very cheeky little boy, eating the children’s bananas, nurses giving him compliments and he was given more attention and hugs and kisses than anyone else.

We started with Guildford, the lovely senior carer Barbie had a magical family room perfect for the set up of our show. We were introduced to 14 year old Lily; she helped us set up the show, got to know us personally and was joining in with all the songs and finished off my sentences. Did I mention this fantastic girl was also blind?! None of that stopped her and as each scene unravelled we explained what the scene looked like. It was like she knew our show, it made it so amazing seeing her face light up, bringing her into our story through her imagination and ours.

Every hospice made us feel so at home: from Arundel, Sheffield and Leicestershire, names such as Rainbows, Bluebells and Treehouse and all three of the EACH (East Anglia Children’s Hospice) Hospices. They were very individual and we were looked after very well by the staff and the children. We got to visit the young peoples centre as well, it was like a teenagers paradise: cool paintings, TVs and different sensory parts dotted around for the older ones to enjoy too. The second part of the week consisted of Christmas Parties, mince pies and tea, being spoilt by the children’s mum’s (and that was just my fellow actor George); Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge, but we cant complain as the puppets did most of the work (so we let them believe) and we got put up in some fabulous hotels with fancy beds.

One of my fondest memories would be the show at our very first hospital – UCLH! As soon as that lift door opened on the eleventh floor, ding – it was filled with animal paintings, bright colours, great atmosphere, care and most importantly love. Some of the show had to be altered in the wards as some of the patients were very poorly, but a few of the children were able to join in with our show as we wanted to give them something for Christmas.

A special 12 year old, Sian pulled at my heart strings, not because she was ill – because she was so brave! We spoke about us both loving dancing, she told me all about the elves that each child got given on their drips to keep them safe and also her Build a Bear reindeer, Twinkle (that later appeared in our Rudolf song). The special thing about her was she was so resilient, so positive like all in the ward. Not only did Twinkle end up in the show, each scene in Benson’s story seemed to come with a toy that she already had that fitted in perfectly. A reindeer, a Rudolf, a snowman & a few more cuddly toys to help make Benson feel more at home. My favourite part was watching her face light up when we used our magic colouring book.

After the show finished we visited a couple of children that were not able to come out of the ward, giving each child a special finger light to keep to make their special wish and to sing a few Christmas and Disney songs. One little girl even showed us her fantastic paintings she had been doing since being in the Hospital. I think the magic finger light stars are such a hit and every year that section gets a little bit more special.

A lot of my friends and other people have seen the photos and videos of what we do and have been like, “Oh I could never do what you do, working with children in Hospices”. I think the children, nurses and families are the courageous ones! You know why I’ve been involved for 3 years and would continue to go back again and again? Because what you see when you walk in is a building full of love, strong children, amazing carers and their smiles.

I believe in this show – bringing something to help make everyone’s day better, a magical escape and that each child can get something out of. Whether it’s the soothing music, or something to make them smile; the jokes and the silly puppets or the fact that they can all be involved with the performance too with bits to touch and see. One of the nurses loved our interactive sleigh ride scene so much, she had planned to do the exact same with the children on the sleigh with the bells on Christmas Eve.

We all are so pleased that they loved our adventure and I am so looking forward to the last leg of the Tour – what exciting adventures we have in store for us at my favourite time of year, we will HAVE to find out!

#children #hospice #touring #singing #drama #actors #puppets #theatre #puppetry #disability #childrenshospice #hospicecare #C4K #charity

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