All we need is a level playing field, literally and metaphorically, from local authorities – then we’re ‘Good to go’.
The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, as the largest trade association for the £100 Million Travelling Fairground industry and its similarly-sized supply-chain; with 90% of the its operators as members; has been in the frontline of negotiating operation of fairs and festive activities since the reopening of the country in July.
Working with sister associations, the AIS; ACES and SIRP; the Guild successfully negotiated achievable Guidance with DCMS in government and with assistance from HSE, who regulate safe operation of the industry
The ground rules of operating fairs under HSG175 already control the layout; queue management and containment of passengers on rides, among many other regulations, so moving to Covid-Secure operation and implementing Covid-19 Mitigations was a straightforward and achievable overlay.
The difficulty has been in convincing some local authorities and more recently regional health chiefs of this success and the Covid-safe operation, that the industry has achieved across the country; with no reported infections at any of the fairs that have taken place.
Fairs benefit from taking place outdoors in the fresh air where, as Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England acknowledges that “It is absolutely categorically clear that outdoor spaces with higher degrees of ventilation are less problematic environments for transmission than indoor spaces.”
Thus, has been our developing season in 2020 with less than 20percent of fairs not operating; with, understandably, the larger historic Charter Fairs taking place
A confusion between ‘Fairs’, more akin to markets, being classed as ‘Events’ by councils overall, with administratively complicated SAG meetings and ‘CSI-style’ scrutiny at county council level, more appropriate for Glastonbury Festival than Great Notley Village Fete (both cancelled this year), has effectively thwarted the national government’s best intentions of allowing 80% fairs to operate.
Meanwhile; all other entertainment operators have been allowed to operate by local authorities in the same towns, without question, hindrance or scrutiny.
Therefore, the new Targeted Approach from the government, with the forecasted more-restrictive Tier-system planned, will be, for the Fairground Industry, “more of the same” in terms of the varying framework within to attempt to trade.
Some of the mooted-Tiers will be impossible to operate within; with others more feasible. We don’t know yet where these will be, nor how frequently they will change in each geographical area concerned.
The public have responded very positively and supportively to the operators’ fairs that have taken place this year and we are hopeful that the now-closer dialogue with the DCMS and, through them the Local Government Association, will encourage the remaining over-cautious of the local authorities to allow Covid-Secure fairs to take place within their boroughs and importantly in their parks and streets where appropriate; within the emerging Tiered system.
We hope that the rollout of vaccines will be successful and thus a return to larger-scale operations; but meanwhile, for many fairs, we remain”Good to go”
The Showmen’s Guild members are very adaptable, and that skill has proved essential this year, through all their hardships; they, their supply-chain and the Showmen’s Guild are hoping for a better trading season in 2021; enjoying positive partnerships with regional stakeholders; so as to continue entertaining the British public nationwide.