On 1 June I wrote a blog where I was optimistic that the latest relaxation in lockdown rules meant things were getting back to some kind of normal. When we heard that Boris Johnson was making a statement last Tuesday on further easing of restriction, my fellow entertainers and I were looking forward to being able to get back to work and put on some proper entertainment again.
With this in mind, we have been redesigning our acts so that we can perform live shows at a distance of two metres, with the audience itself socially distanced, without volunteers coming on stage, without party giveaways and prizes.
Put simply, we want to get back to work, and we’ll make whatever adjustments are necessary so that you can have safe, Covid-compliant entertainment for your children.
On Tuesday the PM announced that from 4 July the social distancing rule would be relaxed, from two metres to ‘one metre plus’. Pubs, cafes and restaurants could reopen, hairdressers could go back to work, and holiday accommodations could accept booking and welcome back holidaymakers. It seemed things were gradually returning to normal.
But there were some exceptions.
The entertainment industry was one.
For example, from 4 July theatres can re-open. But they can’t stage live performances. Pubs can reopen, but they cannot stage any entertainment – even recorded loud music – that would encourage singing or shouting (see page 25).
And Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), the association for community and village hall trustees, have issued guidance to their members stating that indoor children’s parties should be considered a high-risk activity. As a consequence, they will not be sanctioning such events until they receive specific instructions from central government (see page 17).
I assume they consider children’s parties high-risk because they have seen some ‘entertainers’ who consider that a children’s party should be loud, semi-controlled mayhem, with kids running around, dancing and shouting above nightclub-volume music.
Yep, I’d consider this to be high-risk too! But if you’ve been to one of my shows, I hope you’d agree that I have the children under control throughout the party. They have fun – loads of fun – but always under my control.
Sadly ACRE and the government can’t legislate for the very best performers; where health and safety are concerned, their rules and guidance must cater for worst-case scenarios. So I do understand. They are setting rules to keep us safe – children, parents and performers.
But it does mean that children’s entertainers have very limited options for returning to work.
I’m confident I could perform a Covid-safe one-hour children’s party in your local village hall. But will the village hall be prepared to open? If they do, how many people will they allow in to maintain social distancing. t’s now one metre plus, but that means that where two-metre distancing is not possible you are allowed to maintain a one-metre distance if you take other mitigating measures –e.g. sitting back-to back, wearing face coverings and so on. Organising a party in a village hall, the hall trustees may well feel that it is possible to maintain two metres distance by limiting bookings to small numbers.
Then there’s the question of cleanliness. Are village halls able to sanitise all frequently touched surfaces between bookings? Because to ensure a safe environment, they must. And if not, do you want to take your children and their friends into an building where strangers may have left their germs on work surfaces, furniture, door handles, toilets, etc?
And that’s if you can even find a hall that is willing to open for you.
It’s a minefield.
So it seems that children’s entertainers are pretty much limited to performing in your garden for now. But what are the rules there?
Since 1 June, a maximum of six people have been permitted to meet outdoors – say, in your garden – so long as they remained socially distanced. On Tuesday Mr Johnson relaxed that rule, and from 4 July you are allowed to invite as many people as you want from another household into your house or garden so long as they remain two metres (or one metre plus) apart. So, on the face of it, it seems you can hold bigger parties in your garden. But …
Somewhat surprisingly(?) I live in a household myself, as does every other entertainer. Therefore, if you book an entertainer to perform at your party, you have already invited someone from another household, so you can’t invite anyone else!
Okay, I hear you say, can’t we just bend that rule and ignore the entertainer?
Yes, I’m sure you can, and I’m sure there are plenty of less-scrupulous entertainers who will take the booking. But if they do, they won’t be insured. And neither will you. As a professional entertainer, I’m a member of Equity, the trade association for the performing arts. Most respectable performers are. And Equity provides our public liability insurance. This insurance protects us both – you and me. If anything untoward happens that results in accident, illness or damage to your property, my insurance will cover it – up to £10 million! But if I bend the rules, my insurance will be null and void. And you will have no protection for yourself or your guests.
So no, I’m afraid that as a respectable and professional performer, I can’t bend the rules. If I did, the consequences for both of us could be life-changing.
So there you have it. As things stand at the moment, if you’d like me to perform for your children either at home or in your garden, I’d love to. I’d absolutely LOVE TO! So please do take a look at the socially distanced show page on my website and give me a call.
If you already have a show booked with me, or if you have a show that you’ve postponed pending a relaxation in the rules, believe me I am watching all the announcements and taking whatever steps I can to get in my van, get on the road and perform the shows you and I love. As soon as I can, I will. Guaranteed!
Until then, please keep your fingers crossed for me – and for all performance artists (actors, dancers, comedians, musicians) everywhere – stay safe, and I hope I’ll see you soon.