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‘It’s a struggle’ - Coming out of lockdown in Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 11:46 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:52 21 May 2020

Clockwise from top left: Steve Farrell, creator of web series 'Our Town'; Jack Jay, chairman of Great Yarmouth Town FC; Tony Norman, coach at Spartans Amateur Boxing Club; Jason Silom, who runs a paving and landscaping business. Picture: Steve Farrell/Submitted/Joseph Norton/Jason Silom.

Clockwise from top left: Steve Farrell, creator of web series 'Our Town'; Jack Jay, chairman of Great Yarmouth Town FC; Tony Norman, coach at Spartans Amateur Boxing Club; Jason Silom, who runs a paving and landscaping business. Picture: Steve Farrell/Submitted/Joseph Norton/Jason Silom.

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A plan for easing the country out of lockdown has been published - but for some businesses and groups in Great Yarmouth, the future is still up in the air.

The centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. 
While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: staffThe centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: staff

We spoke to five people in the town who have been dealing with the outbreak in different ways but each face the same question: how and when will they start working again?

‘There are no days or times anymore’

In late March, after the Prime Minister announced the lockdown, Jason Silom, 47, shut his paving and landscaping business for a month.

“Suppliers all shut down, so I couldn’t get materials,” he says.

Jason Silom, 47, had to shut his paving and landscaping business for over a month during lockdown. Picture: Jason Silom.Jason Silom, 47, had to shut his paving and landscaping business for over a month during lockdown. Picture: Jason Silom.

“I started back up again about three to four weeks ago, but it’s been a struggle.”

A lack of concrete has put some jobs on hold.

His suppliers, Silverton Aggregates on Southtown Road, which opened again this week, had been doing delivery only.

“Now you can drive in but you can’t walk around the yard like you used to. We’ve just got to bear with it.”

The centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. 
While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: StaffThe centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: Staff

Since the easing of restrictions last week there has been “a lot more traffic on the road”.

“But the work hasn’t got any quicker,” he added.

A job that would have taken a fortnight now takes between three to three and a half weeks.

Another challenge is pricing up a job, having to follow a potential client around their garden while maintaining the required two metres distance.

The centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. 
While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: StaffThe centre of Great Yarmouth resembled a ghost town on the hottest day of the year as its market place was deserted and its main drag of Regent Road was empty of large numbers of people. While there were queues at some shops, market and chip stalls were empty and at lunchtime there were only appeared to be only a few families visiting the resort and its Golden Mile. Picture: Staff

“Luckily I’m a one-man band, but it’s slow progress, there are no days or times anymore, you just get up and do what you can.”

‘It’s a struggle’

Tony Norman, who runs Spartans Amateur Boxing Club, has been putting measures in place for when the gym can reopen - with no date yet fixed.

“We won’t be doing any sparring,” he says.

Tony Norman, 36, who runs Spartans boxing group at Legends Gym in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Joseph NortonTony Norman, 36, who runs Spartans boxing group at Legends Gym in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Joseph Norton

Other precautions include the tape, now a familiar sight, marking out boundaries on the floor to ensure social distancing, while class sizes will be cut from 40 to 16.

The club, based at Legends Gym on Steam Mill Lane, has been closed for eight weeks, with lockdown taking some of the classes online.

More recently he started training again on a one to one basis outdoors at Beaconsfield, and on Wednesday evening (May 20) he took his first small group session, with five junior boxers, all three metres apart.

“It’s more of a morale boost. All the kids are really missing the gym.

Steve Farrell, writer and director of  'Our Town', a web series set in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Courtesy of Steve Farrell.Steve Farrell, writer and director of 'Our Town', a web series set in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Courtesy of Steve Farrell.

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“We have no idea yet on opening up in the future. We’re waiting for government guidance because we need to be back in the gym as soon as possible, because we’re self-funded.

“It is a worrying time but I think we will come out of it okay.”

‘An alternate reality’

The cast of 'Our Town', a web series set in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Steve Farrell. The cast of 'Our Town', a web series set in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Steve Farrell.

Steve Farrell, 36, writes and directs ‘Our Town’, a soap opera filmed in Great Yarmouth and broadcast on YouTube.

Lockdown suspended filming in late March - but when shooting resumes, in late June at the earliest, the characters will continue living as if the outbreak had never happened.

“I’ve decided to keep it in an alternate reality where coronavirus doesn’t exist,” says Mr Farrell. “Because for continuity with what was filmed before lockdown, it wouldn’t be realistic that some characters are in lockdown while others are freely roaming around.”

Actors will maintain social distancing but it will be filmed to make it look like they are not.

MOM Payton Swatman receiving a bottle of bubbly from Chairman Jack JayMOM Payton Swatman receiving a bottle of bubbly from Chairman Jack Jay

“Since lockdown was declared everything has been on hold, with no light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.

“It’s quite confusing as there is no guidance,” he added.

‘We need community spirit to thrive’

Jack Jay, chairman of Great Yarmouth Town FC, said the club’s size, and because it has no contracted players, puts it in “a slightly better position”.

“When everything shut down we didn’t lose out too much,” he says.

“The big thing for us, the thing that would be happening, we’d be looking for sponsors,” he adds.

“That’s one of the most difficult things now.

“We don’t feel it’s appropriate to send emails to businesses that are closed or just reopened to ask for sponsorship.”

The club, which rents its ground from the borough council, does not make enough money from attendances to survive.

“It’s the sponsorship that keeps us going, so we will have to be creative,” said Mr Jay.

“Our hope is once we come out the other side the sense of community is still there, we’ll need some of that community spirit to thrive.”


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