Jan DE Konings fair at Download Pilot Festival Donnington June 2021 photo
Jan de Koning’s fair at Download Pilot Festival at Donnington. Photo: Desmond FitzGerald

The Showmen’s Guild on the impact of Stage 4 delay and Event Research Programme results

The delay in moving to Stage 4 of the Government’s Roadmap has had a mixed impact on the Guild’s 2,500 operating members, the Showmen’s Guild reports.

The Guild has been studying the results of the Event Research Programme (ERP) and the delay in moving to Stage 4 of the Government’s Roadmap for their effects on the funfair business.

Between 12 April and 27 June, 468 fairs have taken place, with 112 more planned – this number is expected to increase. This compares with the 10,000 fairs that take place annually in normal times.

Smaller fairs are winning bids more frequently compared to larger fairs. For those fairs that have been able to get open, business has been holding up.

The Guild is still waiting for clarity from the Government and councils on the possibility of the larger fairs taking place, including major autumn fairs such as Oxford St Giles, Bridgwater St Matthews, Nottingham Goose Fair, Stratford, and Hull Fair.

Uncertainty remains over the operation of carnivals, air shows, corporate and other events that fairs support. Smaller organisations are tending to postpone or cancel altogether.

Hesitation among local authorities continues in some areas. Wales has had success in Caerphilly and Newport, but as with England the decisions on the historic fairs have been put back to mid-July at the earliest.

In Scotland, a limited number of fairs are opening, with Burntisland in Fife due to open shortly, but in Northern Ireland it is slower.

The plight of festivals headlines the issues Showmen face:

Fairs at music festivals are still in the balance as festival organisers battle it out with the Government on their Covid-cancellation insurance issue.

Lancashire Showman Jan de Koning presented a fair recently at the Download Pilot Festival – part of the Event Research Programme (ERP) – which was widely acclaimed as a model in Covid-mitigation compliance.

10,000 visitors attended the 3-day camping and live music event, with no social distancing or masks necessary. Proof of a negative test pre-entry was required, with a rigorous testing programme and working arrangements for staff throughout the show.

Fairs at Latitude, Leeds & Reading and the Isle of Wight amongst others stand to gain from this ERP experience at Donnington Racecourse, in unlocking the rollout of those festivals.

However, it’s too late for WOMAD (22-25 July) that was forced to cancel amid uncertainty about restrictions from 19 July and lack of cancellation insurance. The loss of its fair and catering opportunities affects Showmen.

Events Research Programme findings illuminating & positive, but inconclusive:

A leaked internal economic impact assessment produced by the ERP suggests the events industry will incur huge losses even if minimal Covid-19 restrictions remain in place beyond 19 July.

The data (seen initially by Politico London / Playbook) also reveals that the events industry as a whole is managing just 60 percent of its 2019 turnover under the current restrictions.

The ERP tried to find out why non-pharmaceutical measures, even relatively small ones like face masks, would have such a massive impact. They surveyed 3,810 adults, finding that all these interventions significantly decreased demand, with the exception of Covid testing, which actually boosts demand.

Mandatory COVID testing meant people were 15 percent more likely to attend an event. But face masks meant people were 28 percent less likely to go. A ban on food or drink meant people were 43 percent less likely to attend.

The ERP pilots didn’t result in a significant spike in Covid transmission but according to Playbook the modelling found that maintaining any Covid restrictions would cost the economy billions of pounds and see many businesses close.

On 25 June the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) delivered the report on the findings of Phase One of the ERP. A copy was sent to the Showmen’s Guild.

Amongst other positive, but fairly inconclusive findings, the study found ‘no substantial outbreaks’, but government scientists warned that lateral flow tests are not as effective as PCR tests. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/events-research-programme-phase-i-findings)

The Showmen’s Guild is studying the report, which it hopes will improve the chances of the large fairs taking place.

Overall, the Guild continues to work with the wider Events & Leisure Industry, national & local government and the public, to keep its members on the road and in business in all settings across the UK.

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