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Heartbreak for Hippodrome, but surge in seaside bookings for many as lockdown relaxed

PUBLISHED: 19:47 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 19:47 24 June 2020

Peter Jay, owner of Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is appealing to the government to make a special case for his circus which has been locked out of the lockdown easing  Picture: Nick Warner

Peter Jay, owner of Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is appealing to the government to make a special case for his circus which has been locked out of the lockdown easing Picture: Nick Warner

Archant

Circus boss Peter Jay is calling for an urgent rethink on “ridiculous” rules that mean he can open his circus - but not stage a live show.

Many of the acts taking part in the opening sequence of the Hippodrome Circus Summer Show at Great Yarmouth 2018. There are fears it wont go ahead this year unless the Government says it can host live performances Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMany of the acts taking part in the opening sequence of the Hippodrome Circus Summer Show at Great Yarmouth 2018. There are fears it wont go ahead this year unless the Government says it can host live performances Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The government gave cinemas, galleries, museums, pubs, restaurants, bars, hotels, hairdressers and more the green light to reopen from July 4.

But while theatres and music venues can reopen, they can only deliver screened, not live performance.

Mr Jay said all the acts were booked when the announcement came.

And after months of Covid-ready planning there was the prospect of not being able to open until 2021, missing Easter, summer, Halloween, and winter seasons.

Paul Garrod of The Furzedown Hotel which has seen a surge in bookings ahead of the July 4 lockdown lifting Picture: James BassPaul Garrod of The Furzedown Hotel which has seen a surge in bookings ahead of the July 4 lockdown lifting Picture: James Bass

“I thought it was ridiculous to be told we can open and not do live performances.

“One of the things they were scared about was if there’s a big show and 50 people all on stage singing.

“But here everyone is in the ring and we weren’t going to sell the front row.

“We were absolutely gutted.

The three glamping pods at Millview Meadow Camping in Runham are fully booked for the summer following the July 4 lockdown lifting announcement Picture: Victoria PertusaThe three glamping pods at Millview Meadow Camping in Runham are fully booked for the summer following the July 4 lockdown lifting announcement Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“We were waiting for this and preparing to open on July 25.”

Mr Jay has written to Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis seeking more clarity for circuses and some theatres.

In the letter he outlines how the vintage venue can be made Covid-secure by various measures including selling every other row and not having an interval.

He goes on: “The industry needs more clarification.

New glamping pods in Runham have uninterrupted views of the mill-dotted Norfolk landscape. They are fully booked for summer 2020 after the Government said restrictions would be lifted from July 4 Picture: Victoria PertusaNew glamping pods in Runham have uninterrupted views of the mill-dotted Norfolk landscape. They are fully booked for summer 2020 after the Government said restrictions would be lifted from July 4 Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“I do not see that our Hippodrome is any different to the cinemas as we have more gangways and can easily separate the family groups safely within the one metre rule.

“The Hippodrome is in a unique position as it has a theatre licence but operates as a circus and its layout is unique as it was built as a purpose built circus and is the last surviving of its kind in Britain.”

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In response Mr Lewis said he would raise the issue with ministers adding: “I know that many across Great Yarmouth and our visitors will be looking forward to visiting the wonderful Hippodrome as soon as they can and as soon as guidelines allow.”

The duo behind the Yankee Traveller in King Street, Great Yarmouth, outside their authentic Airstream vehicle. The restaurant has seen a flurry of bookings ahead of July 4 when the Government says it can reopen Picture: Yankee TravellerThe duo behind the Yankee Traveller in King Street, Great Yarmouth, outside their authentic Airstream vehicle. The restaurant has seen a flurry of bookings ahead of July 4 when the Government says it can reopen Picture: Yankee Traveller

Mr Jay said the family-own circus would survive but some theatres might not.

“I have spent the last 40 years of my life doing this and am happy just to break even if it means not disappointing people,” he said.

“I think Yarmouth is going to be packed.

“In this great spell of weather you do not feel you need to rush off anywhere warm.

Gary and Julie Smith who run Kilbrannan Guest House, Trafalgar Road, Great Yarmouth.  Things are looking up at the award-winning B&B now lockdown is being eased and guests rush back Picture: James BassGary and Julie Smith who run Kilbrannan Guest House, Trafalgar Road, Great Yarmouth. Things are looking up at the award-winning B&B now lockdown is being eased and guests rush back Picture: James Bass

“It could be a great summer.”

Meanwhile other businesses in the resort have reported a surge in bookings following Tuesday’s unlocking announcement.

At the Furzedown Hotel in North Drive Paul Garrod said he had seen a flurry of bookings, at least 20 in the first few hours all for the early part of July.

He said he wasn’t sure how the public would react but was heartened so far by the response.

Those picking up the phone had been a mixture of returning customers who hadn’t stopped thinking about their seaside break as well as new people who were fed up with lockdown and wanted to get away.

At the Yankee Traveller in King Street owner Oliver Hurren said the phone had been “ringing and ringing” and that the first week after July 4 was almost fully booked.

The Kilbrannan Guest House in Trafalgar Road also reported brisk bookings.

Gary Smith said: “We are very fortunate to have so many return guests who were just waiting for the time we can open and as a result the first two weeks are almost fully booked for us. There have also been internet bookings come through since yesterday for August.

“On the other side of it, we are still having cancellations for later in the year because they don’t think things will be open or they may be nervous about crowds of people outside.”

Millview Meadow Glamping in Runham was also looking forward to greeting guests and were now fully booked for the entire summer they said.


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