Following day-to day working and lobbying with the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the local authority Event Guidance is clear now, with Showmen’s Guild input enshrined within it and the Guild namechecked in the list of Industry Stakeholders.
200 fairs have taken place since 12 April, with a further 115+ planned, as of 19th May.
But local councils decide on operations and we face greater pressure than fixed businesses, in gaining council approval.
Across London several fairs opened, but in the North East & West it is harder; in Yorkshire the team effort gained results. The picture is mixed elsewhere.
Following our request via our APPG on Fairs & Showgrounds, the Local Government Association (LGA) highlighted us in their Tourism Bulletin to members. We have had further dialogue with the LGA this week.
As the Indian variant spreads to 86 local authorities across the UK and following the various Pilot Test Events that took place nationally, a positive discussion was chaired by the Cabinet Office with DCMS on Tuesday, on the possibilities of Covid Certification for events.
The Showmen’s Guild explained the impact on the free-flow of visitors to the larger events. This view was echoed by the wider outdoor event and activity industry, whilst understanding that it may be a necessity in some settings.
It was welcomed by indoor event operators, where full houses are essential for viability, without social distancing.
Outdoor wi-fi connection availability is a concern, as is insistence on a sunset clause in Covid Certification plans.
In Wales, fairs officially opened from 26th. However, confusion arose, with fairs classed as ‘events’, the definition of which, in the Welsh Alert Level 2, would severely restrict adult attendance figures.
The alternative way of operating, via the operator’s risk assessment, limiting numbers, with appropriate Covid mitigations, had worked previously.
The Guild’s South Wales Section is urgently seeking clarity from the Welsh Assembly and Visit Wales Tourism Development on this and they’re progressing their dialogue with the Welsh LGA for a risk-based, practical approach to the guidance, so fairs can operate in parity with other visitor attractions.
Elsewhere, the Guild’s Scottish Section held advanced talks with Holyrood ministers; these continuing since the recent election, producing Guidance matching England’s, within the Scottish framework for Hospitality & Tourism Sectors.
This is being refined, but the timelines of the Scottish Licensing system will impact opening plans this summer.
Meanwhile, the Guild and its Showmen operators are assessing the impact of the Covid Indian variant on current plans. Some Scottish Showmen are operating south of the border where possible, including in London.
In Northern Ireland, the Showmen’s Guild team and operators are liaising with the newly elected members of Northern Ireland Executive on the reopening plans.
Stormont are looking to approve a raft of restriction lifting, agreed last week, with all eyes on the outcome of the Stormont Executive’s agreement for spectators at the Irish Cup final test event, for emerging out of lockdown.