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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Author backs children's theatre
Philip Pullman
Pullman is a patron of London's Unicorn Theatre for children
Prize-winning children's author Philip Pullman has said that children are being denied the experience of theatre while at school.

Pullman, who wrote the best-selling His Dark Materials trilogy, told Radio 4's Today programme that added pressures on teachers was a factor.

"There isn't as much theatre for children as there should be," he said.

"And the pressure on schools to keep their league table place means teachers are less able to take time out to give pupils the experience of theatre".

Pullman said that an increase in the number of exams was "squeezing the imagination out of the curriculum".

"The league tables and the SATs and the curriculums are all part of a managerial culture that comes from the fear of letting things flourish."

And he added that the cost and inaccessibility of live theatre also played a part.

"Live theatre is difficult to get to, it's expensive. It's a rare thing for children to have the experience of going to a live theatre and it's a very, very good thing".

Pullman is a patron of London's Unicorn Theatre for Children, which has launched an appeal to raise funds for a new venue.

"They're planning a new purpose-built venue for children," Pullman said.

"It will be a wonderful thing. It will more than double the amount of theatre that's available for children to go to."

Pullman won the Whitbread Prize in 2002 for the His Dark Materials trilogy, which has also made the BBC Big Read's top 21 shortlist.

A play based on the books is currently running at London's Olivier Theatre.

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