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Pay dispute over Maidstone panto that collapsed ‘due to bad weather’

Francine Lewis and Ben James-Ellis Francine Lewis and Ben James-Ellis, two of the artists affected
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Cast members, workers and suppliers involved with a collapsed pantomime in Kent claim they have been left tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket by the show’s production company.

Maidstone Panto’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was due to run throughout December at the Friars in Aylesford, however closed two weeks early, with organisers claiming at the time that bad weather and a “select few [who were] not willing to make it work” had contributed to the collapse.

Kent panto cancels entire run blaming bad weather in November

Maidstone Panto denies owing any money to cast and crew, and has claimed that the production ended due to actions by an unnamed third party, which are now the subject of legal proceedings.

Suppliers EventHire Group told The Stage they were paid a total of £18,200, but claim to be owed a further total of about £60,000 for toilet hire, heating and power supply.

Director of EventHire Frederick Mansfield said the company removed toilets and heating from the event a week before it was cancelled due to the financial dispute.

Lead cast members Francine Lewis and Ben James-Ellis told The Stage they were each paid for two weeks of work, but claim to each be owed thousands for a third week they worked.

Lewis said she was “devastated” as she had been relying on the money to pay bills, while James-Ellis said the collapse of the show had been a “big shock” and warned actors to “be wary” when working with smaller production companies.

David Hahn, managing director of Celeb Agents, which manages Lewis and James-Ellis, said: “I don’t believe anyone sets out to go bust or not pay their artists.

“Unfortunately people think putting on a panto is the easiest thing in the world, but it’s actually one of the hardest.”

Another worker on the show, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had been paid for some of the work but was left owed £975.

Maidstone Panto, which lists Danny Wright as its director on Companies House, said it could not comment fully on the claims due to ongoing legal action.

A spokesman said: “We’re working with all contractors and our investors that are aware of the situation and why it ended.

“In regards to Ben James-Ellis, Francine Lewis, and all the cast, crew and those involved with the production, I have been in full communication with both artists mentioned, their agents and all the company, and they know they are legally and contractually not owed any money due to the nature of how the event ended.”

The spokesman denied EventHire Group was owed any money and said the company had already been paid in full.

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