There are points in my life when I become acutely aware of the fact I’m a single parent. The dread I feel at the idea of going to my daughter’s school’s family ceilidh, when the Parent Teacher Council organise photographers to take family portraits to raise funds, and when a family ticket for anything only ever covers two adults and two children.
It’s pretty standard across the UK that families are seen as two adults and two children for events, attractions and transport. Yet at the same time the idea of the nuclear family is really an aberration within the history of family. If you think back before the mass use of antibiotics many people died early deaths. At the same time women were most likely to die in childbirth (this is still an issue). Add to this the large amount of men who would die in war, or from poor working conditions etc, then what you have is a lot of children who lose one or both parents. The lone parent would remarry, or move in with siblings, or parents, the children were sometimes given to other relatives to bring up. In some cultures there has been a strong tradition of Levirate marriage. The idea of the blended family appears very modern, but it is in fact very, very old. The only difference now is that often the blended family has happened because at some point one parent chose to leave a relationship that could no longer thrive or survive healthily, rather than the catalyst of change being death.
Today I was discussing with a friend booking tickets for the Cameo’s Studio Ghibli Season. My daughter has got massively into anime this year, and we’re quite excited to see some of the best being shown on Edinburgh big screens. Attending a season is expensive. While my friend has chosen to go for a Cameo membership to keep costs down, there is no children’s membership and being a one adult one child family there is no family ticket that suits me.
I’ve spent some of the afternoon emailing Picturehouses who own the Cameo, and several other independent cinemas across the UK. I have to say their customer service was first class as the staff member I communicated with wanted to genuinely help me find an option that may work out for me. Unfortunately there isn’t one.
Rather than admit defeat, and give into the feeling I so often get that my family isn’t a “proper” family (and all the guilt and shame that carries with it) I decided to make another suggestion. The Cameo has a membership option of Adult + 1. It could be possible to have an adult membership (transferable between two adults) at the normal price of £45, but on which the adults could then add as many children on to that membership at whatever cost the Cameo thought was appropriate. I’d suggest something like £20 per child, some people have four kids after all.
The staff member I spoke to is now going to take this idea to her managers for them to consider. They might not make a decision in time for My Neighbour Totoro on Saturday, but I’m really hopeful that we may be able to achieve a better, more flexible deal for families.
If you think that this is a good idea, and you’d like to see Picturehouses introduce it, then you can show your support by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t have to be a parent to believe families could have better access, or have your own children to believe that services, attractions and entertainment can find ways to acknowledge all our families and their different shapes and sizes.