They say that history goes around in circles. That we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past in an endless cycle. It’s not fun & it’s not fair.
Around 130 years ago the Van Dwellers Association was formed to protect the interests of travelling showmen. The impetus for this was a series of bills being enacted in parliament to restrict the ability of the showmen to travel around the country. It was postulated that they would spread disease and anarchy throughout the realm, putting an end, as one MP stated, to the ‘work of civilisation.’ The efforts of the association managed to stop this pernicious attack on the showmen’s way of life and the bill was defeated.
Eventually the association became the Showmen’s Guild and was recognised as the trade association for travelling funfairs. The organisation has worked since then to advance the rights and well being of the funfair industry as a whole.
So why the reference to history at the start of this post?
Well, here we are in the 21st century, and once again the life and business of the showman is under threat due to the impression that they will be travelling the country spreading disease and pestilence.
Unless you have been in a coma since the start of the year, you will be familiar with the current Covid crisis. Sweeping not only these sceptered isles, but pretty much the entire globe. Microbes that swarm and multiply unseen have ravaged the land, caused untold deaths and decimated much of the economy.
Quite rightly in the early days of the onslaught, we were all locked down. Facing an unseen enemy, that was little understood, but virulent and indiscriminate in its choice of victim.
Whatever the truth about the actual death rate from the illness, there is no argument that it has destroyed people’s lives and businesses. The support package provided by the chancellor helped many people, but as happens in such cases, left many more falling through the cracks with little or no support.
Easing The Restrictions
Eventually, as the rate of infection fell, the government started to ease the lockdown. They had little choice, the economy, already severely wounded, couldn’t take the blow of remaining closed much longer, lest the cure became worse than the disease..
Establishments were gradually brought back into operation, pubs, restaurants, most shops, you were even allowed a haircut.
Of course businesses had to become Covid secure, with hand sanitising facilities, anti microbial treatments on surfaces and social distancing becoming the “new normal.”
Travelling funfairs, for so long locked down, began to slowly re emerge into the brave new world we were living in. With rides operating at reduced capacity, all of the aforementioned Covid requirements being met, and the use of track and trace systems, the industry was labouring under a heavy load of restrictions.
A Step Back
It didn’t last long however. Within a scant few weeks, councils decided that funfairs were to be stopped. Despite the go ahead from the government, despite meeting and in many cases exceeding the Covid secure requirements, despite being held outdoors, with massively increased spacing between rides, the powers that be decided that, much like 130 years ago, showmen needed to be stopped.
Arguments can be made both for and against this decision. No one wants to be responsible for spreading the illness. Yet whilst a business such as a pub, which has its patrons locked into restricted indoor spaces smaller than an average funfair ride, is regarded as perfectly safe. A large funfair ride, operating at half capacity, in the middle of a field, outdoors is too dangerous to contemplate.
To add insult to injury, many of the councils banning travelling funfairs . Have expressly permitted ‘fixed funfairs’ such as theme parks. Hmmm, lets have a quick think. A typical theme park, has fixed rides that cannot be moved or spaced out. Everything is designed to maximise the space they have available. With guests queuing in proximity to each other. A travelling funfair, being set up from scratch, can either spread itself out for social distancing. Or operate with less attractions to achieve the same.
So why the discrepancy? Thus far, no one asked has been able to express a legitimate answer to this. Could it be that things have come full circle. Once again the showman are deemed to pose a threat to civilisation. After 130 years of supposed progress, are we once again to be considered pariahs in society.
Whatever the reason, its not fun, and it certainly ain’t fair.