Philip Paris speaks

STATEMENT BY THE SHOWMEN’S GUILD PRESIDENT PHILIP PARIS

22/09/2020

Dear Members, 

It has been some time now since my last statement to the Guild membership.

We find ourselves in unprecedented times. It has been a year like no other.

I am aware that there is a great deal of anger and frustration being expressed which is understandable.

 However, there are an increasing amount of unfounded statements being placed on social media, which I hope to address within this statement.

There is a perception that The Guild or Central Office has not been doing anything during this crisis.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

I & the two Vice Presidents have been working non-stop, supported by the General Secretary Joe Mercer, The National Treasurer John Edwards, Desmond FitzGerald & Teresa Taylor.

We have been involved in:

14 Management Meetings by either phone or Zoom [there are usually 2 per year] – we took the decision at the start of the pandemic to have as many Management Meetings as were needed. Some are called by Central Office & some have been requested by Section Committees. On average these meetings are 4 to 5 hours long.

16 Officials’ Zoom meetings [the Presidents, the General Secretary, the National Treasurer].

6 Zoom meetings with other travelling organisations. [SIRPS, AIS, ACES, ACP].

2 meetings with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

2 meetings with HM Treasury representatives regarding RED DIESEL

1 Westminster All Party Group meeting [ next one is scheduled for 23rd Sept].

1 Scottish All Party Group meeting.

1 meeting with BALPPA.

1 meeting with BACTA.

2 AIPS directors’ meetings.

3 ADSC meetings including 1 at Drayton Manor.

I also took part in:

3 Scottish Section Committee Meetings.

1 London section Committee Meeting.

3 Guild Secretaries’ meetings.

On 4th of June I did 6 separate radio interviews for BBC regional stations.

The Snr Vice President John Thurston & Jnr Vice Keith Carroll along with the General Secretary, Joe Mercer & the National Treasurer, John Edwards were also involved in these and many other meetings and we all have taken countless calls from concerned members as well as other parties.

Communication to Members:

Desmond FitzGerald has been putting out information for the members since this crisis started.

I must commend him for his hard work.

There has been information on the Guild app and on the Section Facebook pages.

We are working on a system called MAILCHIMP – if you make sure that the Guild has your email address you will receive regular newsletters and other important information.

It is increasingly likely that all or large parts of the country may go back into lockdown.

This will further hinder the operation of Travelling Fairs.

 We at Central Office will continue to fight on your behalf and will seek to obtain funding for our membership who for the most part have been overlooked.

We must fight now to ensure that Fairs will be able to open next season.

We intend to gather information from experts like virologists and health professionals in order to prove that outdoor Funfairs do not pose a threat.

We will continue to press for meetings with government officials in order to put our case forward.

There is no doubt that both our business and our community are suffering discrimination and prejudice, as never before.

Travelling Funfairs have been singled out and either closed-down or not been given permission to operate at all.

Showmen have not been given the opportunity to demonstrate how they intend to make the fairs Covid – 19 secure.

All the while other venues such as Static Funfairs, Theme Parks, Boot Sales  & a host of similar businesses have been allowed to operate.

Yet, travelling Fairs which have been allowed to open have been given glowing reports by visiting health officials.

I have seen comments following Local Newspaper articles on Travelling Fairs which have in my opinion been racist and I am quite sure that if the same abuse were used against other minorities in this country action would have been taken.

I would urge every member to contact your MP and make your feelings clear about the way we are being treated.

In Scotland when they do the next census there will be a box to register as a Showman or Show woman.

The General Secretary & I had a meeting last year in Westminster with the relevant Minister where we asked for the same to be put in place for the English census.

Unfortunately, we were told that it was too late but they did offer that if members do the online version of the census there will be a dropdown box saying OTHER and if you click on that they would include SHOW PERSON as an option.

It has not been possible to hold Guild meetings in the usual manner during this time, the situation is constantly changing which makes planning ahead almost impossible.

It has thus been necessary to put emergency measures in place.

For instance, it was decided by Management in March to reduce the Guild Fees by 90% and to extend the payment period until the end of September.

Management also decided to go ahead with the £9+1 million excess PLI Policy as members who managed to get open would need it.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to reduce the cost of the Excess PLI to the members as funds are needed to pay the insurance company.  

Management have also put into place a system to elect Section Committees as it may not be possible to hold the usual AGMs in some areas.

A ballot box will be placed in Section offices for a period before the AGM date and members will be able to vote.

If the AGM is held the ballot box will be available to those members who have not already voted.

It has also been decided by Management that the number to serve on the new committee will be the same as voted by the section members last year.

New committees will elect their Chairman etc. in the usual manner.

Central Council has been booked in the Union Jack Club London for January 2021, but we have no way of knowing at present if it will be able to go ahead.

For the avoidance of doubt the Government have issued information which gives Companies, Charities & Organisations such as the Guild the ability to take special measures where it is not possible to follow their rules due to the pandemic.

We have worked with DCMS and the HSE on the Fairground Industry Guidance with the other fairground associations.

We then produced a comprehensive ‘Reopening Package’ for all members on getting re-opened, including sample risk assessments.

We also developed QR codes to assist with track and trace requirements.

Latest advice on track and trace is being circulated to all sections.

We communicated all this to the Local Government Association (LGA) and

individually to many authorities across the country at members’ request.

We also supported Sections and members in their difficulties in their dialogue with senior council officials.

The Westminster Government passed responsibility to local authorities to oversee the Covid-19 restrictions in their areas making it difficult to address the issue across the board.  

The devolved national parliaments have adopted separate measures.

 All of this has created a complex political situation and Central Office has fought for consistency in the way local authorities act.

We wrote to the Local Government Association (LGA) and its devolved nation equivalents to urge their members to permit fairs to operate emphasising the stringent operating guidelines we had agreed with the DCMS and the HSE.

We have written to the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland regarding our need to operate and to

receive funding and compensation.

We have encouraged parliamentary questions in both the Westminster and

Holyrood parliaments providing significant information on our issues and demands.

We have participated in HM Treasury information requests on our financial issues. 

We are working with Westminster parliamentarians in a campaign to the Treasury Select Committee.

We have joined forces with the wider events industry; 

including the Events Industry Forum (EIF) to lobby on common areas and to have a collective voice for the Events Industry –

to remind government that in combination we contribute £74 billion to the UK economy.

There have been three meetings of the ADSC Committee.

Chairman Robert Kluth has been replaced by Richard Parrot on a temporary basis, and the election of a permanent Chairman will take place at the December ADSC meeting.

The Guild made a complaint to the ADSC regarding the comments made on TV by BALPPA representative Paul Kelly.

Mr Kelly did email an apology to me the morning after he was on the STV news.

BALPPA have resigned from the ADSC, we are not aware of the reason, but they state that they remain committed to the ADIPS system.

BACTA appear to be undecided at the moment.

During this time, we have had several meetings with the other organisations representing  Travelling Showmen 

ACES, SIRPS & AIS as well as the ACP who represent Circuses

 this is because we have common problems like the RED DIESEL issue and the testing of equipment.

We intend to continue the good relationship we have with them.

My next item is intended to put the record straight regarding the President’s Honoraria.

I am not an avid user of Facebook, but I have seen a number of inaccurate statements recently.

The daily expenses for attending meetings is currently £125 per day.

Travel allowance is 45p per mile

Sections pay for their own delegates hotel room.

I would like to point out that, as all the Guild’s meetings have been held remotely since March, no expenses have been claimed or paid out; with the exception of the recent ADSC meeting which was held in Drayton Manor Park.

The three Presidents & the National Treasurer each receive a yearly Honoraria.

The amount paid is decided in their absence by the Management Committee.

At the end of the President’s three-year term he usually receives a leaving gift.

This is usually made up from a contribution from each Section and the remainder paid by Central Office.

Again, the amount is decided by the Management Committee.

Past Presidents do not receive any further payment other than expenses for attending the Central Council.

It has been stated by Past Presidents that being away from their business over the nine-year term cost them a great deal more than any monies they received.

Being away also puts extra strain on to our wives & families.

To insinuate that current and past office bearers are only

 doing it for the money is quite frankly a complete insult.

I have been told that many members do not know who the Showmen’s Guild President is.

So please let me introduce myself: –

I am Philip Paris.

I am an operating Travelling Showman.

My parents were both from Scottish show business families, my mother’s maiden name being Codona.

I have been a member of the Scottish Section since I was 18 and I was first elected on the Scottish Section Committee in 1984 when I was 25.

With only a 2-year gap in the 80’s I have served the Guild ever since now totalling 34 years.

I am proud to have served as the Scottish Section Chairman for 10 years 2001 to  2011 and that during that time, the Section made many strives forward, culminating in with the setting up of a Cross-Party Group for Fairs & Showpeople in the Scottish Parliament. This was only possible after a great deal of hard work and this group has been of great assistance to Scottish Showmen.

I was elected by Central Council to be Jnr Vice President and spent 3 years dealing with planning and the £9+1 million PLI.

I also assisted with setting up a meeting between The Northern Section Committee & The Freemen of Newcastle during the period where there were difficulties with the Town Moor Fair.

I served 3 years as Snr Vice President which involved being the Guild’s Chairman of Safety.

That was a challenging time during which there were several accidents to deal with, including a theme park accident which caused many members to have their equipment retested.

Also, during that time, the Guild was being investigated by the CMA.

I was heavily involved in this and travelled to countless meetings in London, from Glasgow & other parts of Scotland.

The Officials & Central Office received a lot of stick during that time from the membership, but we did come through it.

I have now served 1 year & 7 months as the National President.

It is a great honour to hold this post and to represent the community I am part of.

All during my 34 years’ service to the Guild I have been an operating member.

I am not a Lessee or for that matter an adult ride operator.

I am in showmen’s language a side stuff man.

I travelled an arcade and hooplas for many years and now have funhouses & a juvenile.

The last time I was opened was in January at the SECC Carnival in Glasgow.

I spent the winter working on and spending money on my equipment which has not moved off the yard this year.

I put my lorries through the MOT in January & had my equipment tested in July.

I have paid my Guild fees including the 9 over 1 million PLI.

Bills come in which must be paid.

The point I’m making is that we are all in the same boat at present.

Now is not the time to criticise but to come together and support those who are doing their best to deal with the situation we all find ourselves in.

I would like to congratulate all the Showmen who have managed to get open during this pandemic and congratulate those who have tried but have not been successful.   

Well Done to you all.

This Guild was started 131 years ago to speak up for Travelling Showmen and their families it is not perfect, but it is the best that we have.

 I would point out that apart from us in Central Office there are over 130 Chairmen and Committee members throughout the country –  We are all one Guild!

We need to be working together now more than ever; our members need a strong Showmen’s Guild like never before.

Philip Paris.

President.

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