DERBY EVENING TELEGRAPH - DERBYSHIRE, UK - 7TH APRIL 1976
MR SAFETY MAKES ROAD DRILL FUN FOR CHILDREN
By Lucy Orgill
THREE years ago, after witnessing a road accident involving a child, out-of-work actor Jason Conrad decided to combine his theatrical expertise with the serious procedure of the Green Cross Code.
The result is a highly imaginative and successful road safety show which has so far entertained and instructed nearly one million children all over the country - from an idea which at its launching, was expected to last three months.
Instigator and star of the show as Mr Safety, Jason Conrad spends five days a week with his team, touring schools and camps, putting the message over to children mainly in the five - nine years age group - and to mums and dads. His weekends and free time are taken up with personal appearances.
"I've had tremendous support and commendations from the police and from road safety officers and teachers, who have acclaimed the show as the ideal format for instructing children in road safety," said Jason at his delightful home at Starkholmes near Matlock.
"We perform an audience participation pantomime where the children are invited to play the parts of policemen, lollipop people, pedestrians and drivers, and this involvement, and the fun of it all, means it stays in their minds.
"There is never a shortage of actors," he added.
Jason, a father of five, is backed by an international drinks firm, and the Cresta Bear - of "It's frothy, man" TV advertisement fame - appears as one of the characters in the pantomime.
The act lasts 45 minutes, and props include miniature vehicles and traffic features. The children are shown the dangers or parked vehicles, the use of pedestrian crossings, use of safety belts in cars, how and when to cross the road, and how to play in safety.
"We're working on back-up shows showing other aspects of safety , but they are still in the pipeline," he said.
Jason, whose career has covered the Malayan police force, printing, engineering, travel agent and footballer, took up acting only six years ago, and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
he has appeared in a number of TV series, including Department S, The Protectors and Shirley's World, and also in films. "But I've always been happiest in front of a live audience - and I love working with children."
His involvement with this unique show has taken Jason to America, at the invitation of singer Frankie Laine who was fascinated by the road safety show during the tour of England.
"The result is top level talks with a view to using the show's format in the USA - and a terrific personal friendship developing between Frankie Laine's family and my own," Jason said.
He originates from Yorkshire, and his father and grandfather were both professional footballers. "I should have followed on, but I reached the England youth team and I was too lazy to pursue a career in football."
He now concentrates his enthusiasm for the game by supporting Matlock Town.
He moved to his stone-built house a couple of years ago after he had seen the view across the fields to Riber Castle from the back window.
He lives there with his pretty wife, Jill, who until recently combined motherhood with appearing in the show, and their five children, Alsion (13), Amanda (12), Naomi (9), Rebecca (8) and Simon (6). A Lotus Elite stands outside the front door, but that's not entirely part of the trappings of success.
"It was voted by RoSPA the safest car of 1975 - and it all helps to get the message over," Jason said.
"National acclaim on the most successful, the most sensible and the most proven, teaching concept for Child Safety in the country."
The Institute Of Road Safety Officers