Eight-year-old with passion for singing and musicals told he can no longer sing in choir

A young boy with a passion for singing and musicals has been told he would no longer be able to sing in a children’s choir because he was the only boy – and there was no-one to chaperone him.

Nicolas Willson, from Skewen, started singing with The Sound of Voices choir in November, 2018, just after he became old enough to join on his eighth birthday.

Soon after Nicolas took a leading role at the Neath Music Festival in July, his mum said she received an email from the choir’s committee.

She said it stated that because of “chaperoning and dressing room staffing difficulties,” Nicolas would no longer be able to sing in the choir.

A spokesperson for the choir said providing local authority-registered licensed chaperones to be with the children during all performances was a legal requirement.

But Nicolas’ mum, Viktoryia Willson, claimed it felt like “discrimination,” and she had been left shocked by the decision.

“He’s singing all the time and very musical, but now we’re struggling to find him somewhere to go,” she said. “It took a while to find this choir for him, he’ll just have to wait now until he can join an all-boys group.

There is an all-boys choir in Neath, Only Boys Aloud, but it only takes children from the age of 11, meaning Nicolas may have a three year wait to sing locally.

A spokesperson for the choir, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “As a voluntary not for profit organisation we have a duty of care to all the children involved and also to their parents.

“We legally have to have local authority registered licensed chaperones to be with the children during all performances.

“All our licensed chaperones are parent volunteers. When we hear that the local authority is running a course we let all parents know, but take-up is low because the courses and interviews are held on weekdays.”

They also added that because Nicolas was the only boy, they were legally required to provide a separate dressing area, although Mrs Willson said she would always take Nicolas to concerts dressed to perform.

“We were hoping to start a boys choir. We advertised this on Facebook during August but sadly there was no interest.”

They said that if there was future interest in a boys’ choir they would welcome Nicolas with open arms.

Neath Port Talbot Council uses the Welsh Government’s policy that when children of school age are in public performances they must be supervised at all times by a registered chaperone unless they are under the direct supervision of a parent.

A spokesman for the council said: “Every child taking part in a performance must be properly cared for and supervised at all times. This cannot always be done by their parents, so a chaperone is engaged in their place to safeguard, support and look after the child and their best interests.

“National regulations state that children who have attained the age of 5 must be provided with same-sex changing facilities when requiring to dress for a rehearsal or performance.

“The need for the number of chaperones and whether they are male or female will depend entirely on the individual circumstances of the children they are caring for, the venue and the risk assessment outcome.”

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