I wrote this in response to someone’s little rant on Facebook. They had all my sympathy as there’s nothing worse than going to a concert of a play or a film and being distracted by sweets and popcorn and talking and in one case in my experience a couple trying to make love next to us in the theatre. Granted, the play was called Shopping and F..king, but no one else interpreted it as an invitation. There was nothing to buy, anyway. ( I won’t count the programme or the interval ice creams!
So what I did was a very risky enterprise: a couple of years ago a friend of mine had organised an event in the South Bank and I really wanted to go. It was the occasion of the recommissioning of the Chopin monument outside the Festival Hall. My head said I could go, provided I took some children with me! They were self-chosen in that they wanted to go, but none of them had been to any sort of concert before. They all had different learning difficulties and were between twelve and fourteen.
I prepared them by letting them listen to bits of Chopin in class and by reminding them that in a public place there would be no eating , drinking, chewing or talking – no going out to the loo or looking at phones or loud sighing or yawning. I had to be very explicit.
The concert took about an hour. It was excellent; my children had behaved brilliantly. They clapped in all the right places. But then the rest of the audience decided they wanted an encore and the pianist Alexander Ardakov, was ready. I took one look at my kids and their faces were desperate. They had had well and truly enough. So I relented and we filed out as quietly as possible. They then told me that they had had a brilliant time. This was after standing and listening to all the speeches, most of which were in Polish. Excruciating for the uninitiated!
One of the most exciting moments for the girls was meeting Rula Lenska in the loo. She very kindly allowed herself to have her photo taken with them against the delightful background of white tiles and taps!
So. It can be done, even with “difficult” children. But I would say preparation is the key and an easy access to an escape route if necessary.