Zoom and online magic - how lockdown changed children's entertainment
- Credit: Nick Moore
Lockdown measures that have made birthday parties a no-go have left Norfolk’s children’s entertainers are facing tough times.
From party hosts to magicians and clowns – the entertainers who usually have diaries booked full of parties have been left without work for months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Norwich-based children’s party entertainer Stephen Wiley, who performs as Steve Sausage, is typical in seeing hundreds of bookings dry up to a trickle.
“I normally do about 45 shows over three weeks at Christmas but I literally did three online. The last nine months have been very hard,” he said.
Graham Whitear - aka Charlie Cheesecake, who has been providing party fun for 28 years, and normally employs several freelance children's entertainers, has been forced to put his Norwich-based business on hold.
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He said: “We have just paused our business at the moment. We have actually started a logistics company for Amazon instead.
“Everything stopped with the first lockdown but when it eased we were able to do some work for places like garden centres and some Zoom video parties. But with the second lockdown everything has paused again.
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“It’s been dreadful but the government help for self-employed really did help.”
With children unable to celebrate in person with friends and family, the people who usually dedicate their lives to keeping them entertained have been forced to turn to alternative means of keeping the fun flowing.
Nick Moore, who counts himself lucky in balancing being an entertainer with having a day job at Aviva, has transformed his shows into Moore Madness Digi-Parties.
He said: “When coronavirus hit it literally went from every single weekend to just nothing. It just completely stopped. That was very strange for me to have nothing in my diary because I’ve always been in the entertainment business.
“I know lots of people entertainers, singers, magicians, who are struggling or who have had to go into a totally different line of work, delivering parcels things like that, just to earn a living through the pandemic.
“I started to think about all those kids out there who are cancelling their parties. I have two daughters aged six and nine myself and I know they hate not seeing their friends, so I thought why does it need to stop?”
Hosting parties via Zoom from his Taverham home means he is able to take bookings from further afield and accommodate friends and family who would not be able to attend parties even in normal times.
He also delivers party packs to guests under Covid restrictions using gloves, hygiene measures and social distancing
He said: “All the games that they play via Zoom the bags contain everything that they need so it is really hassle free. I had to think about which of the games that I do in the real world which could be adapted to a Zoom party.
“It seems to be working really well. Kids can get just as much fun through it online and the feedback I’ve had is that it's just like being at a party.”
Mr Wiley, who has previously hosted parties for celebrity clients including Jamie Oliver and the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire, has also turned online providing online magic shows and tutorials under the name The Unpredictable Stephen B Wiley.
“You just to make sure people know that you are still around. Once people see you’re doing online shows it generates interest,” he said.
“I have worked on eight different shows during lockdown and I have loads of new material, so it has been good that way to have the time to do that, but I just want it to go back to normal as soon as possible so I can go back to paying my bills.”
Mr Whitear added: “We have everything in place ready to restart as soon as possible, everything has been restocked and all the entertainers have had new training, we are just waiting for the OK from the government then we are back.”