Parents in Southend On Sea have been describing their anger to Southend News Network after ‘barmy’ local council officials have told a popular local Father Christmas that he will not be allowed to wear a beard this year for ‘child safety reasons.’
Michael Jollington has been playing Santa in the traditional High Street Grotto every December since 1987, but he claims that he has received an email that orders him to leave the beard out of his usual costume.
Mr Jollington said: ‘I am outraged at the way that I have been treated. According to a well-known local busybody, it is no longer ‘safe or appropriate’ for a Father Christmas impersonator to be wearing a full-face white beard when meeting large numbers of children in public.’
‘They offered me the chance to wear a festive goatee instead, but I told them where they could shove their compromise. They will have to find someone else if they won’t give in.’
We contacted Southend Borough Council for a comment about the situation, and Public Protection Officer Roger Barbe responded with a statement on the issue.
He said: ‘In early November, we received an email from a parent who was concerned about her children meeting a Father Christmas actor who couldn’t be easily identified by CCTV and law enforcement agencies in the event of an inappropriate incident with a child. Our ruling is no worse than a bank asking motorcycle riders to remove their helmets before walking into a branch.’
‘Although all Southend-registered Father Christmas impersonators are subject to fully-enhanced DBS checks, there will always be a risk of a first offence occurring in the dark and secluded area of a grotto.’
‘Even though there is usually CCTV, super high-definition cameras are practically useless when an individual’s distinguishing features are covered with a novelty beard.’
It is thought that Southend child safeguarding officials are adopting an extra-cautious approach this year after an investigation revealed that the 2015 Hamlet Court Road Father Christmas was in fact convicted flasher Nigel Wallop, who is also known as the notorious ‘Priory Park Pervert.’