PANTOMIME characters dropped in to the children’s unit at Colchester General Hospital to give patients a festive treat.

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The cast of this year’s Mercury Theatre pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk handed out presents to the youngsters who were too unwell to spend Christmas at home this year.

The gifts were paid for from donations at the theatre’s carol concert held on December 19, which is one of Colchester’s most popular Christmas traditions.

The eight actors included Jai Vethamony who plays Jack and Christine Absalom, who is playing Queen Marj.

Lynda Pearce, matron for children’s services, said: “Here on the children’s unit we are big believers in celebrating all 12 days of Christmas and the visit helped us do just that.

“This is the 21st consecutive year that cast members from the Mercury’s panto have come to see us. We would like to thank them for their continued support. The children, parents and staff all looked forward to it.”

At the end of the free carol concert, people had the chance to make donations and take part in a raffle.

A total of £853.11 was raised, half of which was spent on buying presents for the children’s unit with the remainder going to Sparks, a leading children’s medical research charity. Tony Casement, associate director at Mercury Theatre, said: “Like many staff here at the theatre, I’m a dad, and we feel particularly struck at this time of year to want to support children and families in need of a little extra help.”

The children’s unit serves children up to 15 from all over Colchester, Tendring and Halstead and the Colne Valley.

Jack and the Beanstalk ends its five-week run on January 12.

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