A WESTBURY family running an eighth generation funfair which lost tens of thousands of pounds during lockdown, fear the latest Covid-19 announcement could end the livelihood they and their forefathers have worked so hard for.
John Jennings and Son Funfair are based at a yard in Hawkeridge Road and estimate they have lost £20,000-£30,000 so far this year, being unable to go out to events.
In recent weeks they had begun operating again, having spent hundreds of pounds on required safety equipment and precautions. But now they are worried that they could once again be stopped by the most recent restriction under which fairs up and down the country are being told to close and dismantle.
In an average 12 months, the fair would be out and operating at public and private events from February onwards. This year it went out just twice before the country was put into lockdown.
The company is jointly run by John and Leah Jennings, John’s parents – who are now semi-retired – and John and Leah’s children, their son “Little’ John (18) who is the eighth generation, and daughter, Ruby (16).
“We are really trying hard to keep the eighth generation up,” Leah told White Horse News, “All our forefathers have worked so hard to build this up.
“We are expecting a call anytime to shut what little we have got open. Although theme parks, piers, bootsales, markets, playgrounds, even circuses are allowed to stay open!
“If these new restrictions are in force for six months that will take us to March next year, so we will also miss Valentine’s fairs.”
The family is now constantly on edge waiting for ‘that” phonecall, Leah said.
“We have lost so much this year that any little coming in was better than nothing and just to be out doing what we do has been beneficial to our mental health.
“So many showmen will not survive, it’s such a shame as all showmen fairs have been handed down through the generations.
“I just hope that we as a family can keep going so we can hand it down to our children.”
As they are self-employed they had to wait until June for the government’s announcement about financial help for self-employed workers who had lost their income.
“We were last on the list, which we think was the sane for every self-employed person” said Leah.
“We’ve had a couple of payouts under the furlough scheme, but it was nothing compared to what we would normally make.”
The Showmans’ Guild has been dealing with the issue for the travelling community and keeping them up-to-date with the latest Coronavirus announcements and guidelines.
But now, in September, the family has effectively lost the best part of a year’s earnings, with no future date for when they can get back on the road.
Leah said, “All our machines have to be tested annually – mechanical and structural, crack tests and a visual inspection – and we got that done before lockdown, but they wouldn’t suspend that for when we could get back out.
“It was a lot of expense at the beginning of the year but usually we always make that back.
“And we’ll have to have all that done again at the start of next year.”
For safety precautions, the family had to buy a set of fences to go around the fair, sanitation stations and a long lasting hand sanitiser which cost £155 per pot.
Leah said, “It’s just not financially viable for us as we won’t be earning enough.
“It’s such a worry. It’s the uncertainty of if and when you can operate.
“It’s just day-to-day for us at the moment because the guidelines are always changing and no-one can say when we’ll be able to go out normally again.
“We had been due to go to an event recently but it was cancelled the day before – so for the rest of the year we just don’t know.
“It’s been very stressful and of course there’s no official date as to when it will all be back to normal for anybody.”
Before moving to Westbury, the fair was based in Devizes, where John’s father was mayor for a time, and the family ownership dates back to at least 1906, when the Jennings family had a fair in Trowbridge Park.