The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, representing the majority of the UK’s 2500 Showmen and women has been raising, significantly, the profile of the Fairground and Show industry, in Parliament, as well as in the national media this week and in the last month; with more profile-raising parliamentary and media involvement planned to follow.
Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West and Chair of the All-PartyParliamentary Group (APPG) on Fairs and Showgrounds managed to secure the opportunity to table an early question in the Business Industry and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Department Select Committee meeting,onThursday 22nd October 2020; being the fourth question of the session.
His question, addressed to the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg highlighted the problems that Travelling Showmen and women face with operating fairs andalternatively accessing grants, where increasingly that they cannot; among the issues that they face. Additionally, Sir David highlighted the challenges that the proposed withdrawal of the tax concession on ‘Red Diesel’ ,that fuels the Showmen’s electricity generators, would have and urged support for the Guild’s and colleagues’ submissions to the Treasury’s recent consultation on the matter.
The Leader of the House responded, highlighting the current tax status of the use of ‘Red Diesel’ and the concessions that exist; adding that he “hoped that fairs could continue to flourish” and spoke of his pleasant experiences at fairs in his locality with his children.
It was good that fairs are discussed in this way, in an important debate of the Business (BEIS) department, with their responsibilities that involve Showmen; not least in their administering the Guidance to Local Authorities on Local Restrictions Support Grants (Tier 2); where it is important for Showmen to be included, to enable their access to some funds while not being allowed to operate.
Sir David’s Business question comes as the latest support for Showmen, in his capacity as Chair of the Fairs and Showgrounds APPG, following a successful meeting of the Group with industry representatives; including the Showmen’s Guild with colleague trade associations, AIS; ACES; SIRP and ACP for Circus and the support has included two similar questions in the House of Lords from Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate OBE, Co-Chair of the APPG.
Also there wasa detailed speech in the House of Commons on 8th October, fromDavid Linden, MP for Glasgow East and Secretary& Treasurer of the APPG, during the debate on spending, of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; on support measures for the DCMS sectors during and after the covid-19 pandemic. Within this, Mr Linden spoke of the on the urgency of the Showmen’s Guild being offered a direct contact within the DCMS, to resolve the Fairground Industry’s ongoing operating with local councils and significant funding to see it through the current phase of the coronavirus pandemic .
On Thursday; a few hours before Sir David Ames’ Question in the House of Commons, Showmen’s Guild President, Philip Paris took to the airwaves with an interview on BBC Business News with their agenda-setting programme early in the morning that was simultaneously broadcaston BBC World; the BBC News Channel and BBC 1.
In this Mr Paris highlighted the issues of 90% of fairs having been cancelled since March; with the ongoing forced closure at a local level; the cost to the 25000 Show families in preparations for opening, including Covid-19 mitigations on-site and funding from DCMS for the industry and the showmen themselves to get them through the winter months; ahead of a hoped-for reopening in time for Easter. Mr Paris reminded viewers that the industry is worth £100 million to the economy and is certainly viable, if only Showmen can be allowed to do what they do best in entertaining families nationwide with fairs at the rate of 100 a week.
There are also similar initiatives that are taking place north of the border at Holyrood and over in the Northern Irish Assembly; with action planned also in the Welsh Assembly; all parts of the UK where the issues Showmen and women face are equally acute.