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Pantomime producer accused of owing casts and crew more than £20k

Ben Anderson with the cast of Aladdin at Blackpool's North Pier Theatre Ben Anderson with the cast of Aladdin at Blackpool's North Pier Theatre in 2015
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A pantomime producer previously investigated for fraud has been accused of owing thousands of pounds to his 2015 casts and crew.

Ben Anderson’s company Strictly Productions produced four pantomimes last year, with people involved with three of them telling The Stage they are still owed more than £20,000 collectively.

Police looked into Anderson’s activities last year following claims he owed dance schools money after setting up an unaccredited exam board. At the time, the police did not proceed with their investigation.

However, claims of unpaid monies in relation to pantomimes Anderson produced have now emerged from cast and crew members on Jack and the Beanstalk at the Forum Theatre in Barrow-in-Furness, Aladdin at Blackpool’s North Pier Theatre, and Peter Pan at the Grange Theatre in Northwich – which featured reality stars Nikki Grahame and Christopher Maloney.

Among those yet to receive full payment is Grahame’s agency White Label Management, which claims it is owed around £3,000 in unpaid VAT.

A representative told The Stage everyone involved in the pantomime was due to be paid in weekly instalments, but the payments were “around four days late” each time. He said the agency had now been paid the fees due for Grahame’s appearance, but was still waiting on the VAT.

“When someone comes forward with what looks like professional pantomime, a reputable fee, an office… you don’t really see this kind of thing happening,” he told The Stage.

Grahame had been cast in the pantomime before The Stage revealed Anderson was being investigated by police for fraud in September 2015. The representative said he “had reservations” about her starring in the production after reading The Stage’s article, but added: “I think you always have to give someone another chance and nothing up to [the late payments] had been questionable.”

White said he last spoke to Anderson in February, after which he said the pantomime producer had stopped replying to emails and phone calls.

A crew member, who did not want to be named, worked on three of the pantomimes last year. He told The Stage he was waiting to be paid £9,000 – including his wages and expenses incurred while working on the production – which he claims Anderson said he would pay back.

Other people who said they have not received payments include Joe Purdy, who was hired as a production assistant on Aladdin at the North Pier Theatre and production manager on Jack and the Beanstalk at the Forum Theatre. Purdy claimed he loaned Anderson £7,500 towards the latter production, but is still owed £5,500.

The same pantomime’s star, Jade Meaney, told The Stage she is owed £4,250 in wages. She worked for both the Barrow-in-Furness festive show and the earlier pantomime Aladdin, staged over the October half term. Her Aladdin co-star Steven Hall, a Britain’s Got Talent finalist in 2011, claimed he was owed £500.

One source estimated that Anderson owed more than £30,000 to cast and crew members of the four pantomimes.

An attempt was made to dissolve Strictly Productions in April, but was halted after an objection by a creditor.

A few weeks earlier, Anderson had set up a new company: Majestical Theatrical Associates Limited.

Anderson could not be reached for comment.

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