Circus stranded in Morecambe since Covid-19 lockdown began makes desperate appeal for support

The circus stranded in Morecambe since the start of lockdown is appealing for further help in the wake of failed funding bids.

Friday, 10th July 2020, 3:20 pm

The Big Kid Circus artists say they have "literally got nothing" and are struggling to survive from day to day.

The circus usually travels across the UK and south east Asia, but has been on Morecambe prom since March after the government's coronavirus lockdown restrictions meant they were unable to perform.

During this time, the troupe has been supported by the generous people of Lancaster and Morecambe, as well as Morecambe Bay Foodbank, as they have had no income coming in to support the 35 adults, four children and four dogs that make up the Big Kid Circus family.

The Big Kid Circus artists currently stranded in Morecambe. Photo by Big Kid Circus

In April we reported how tough life had become for the group - aged between two and 92 - since lockdown was enforced.

They didn't even get to put on a show for the resort, as the coronavirus restrictions were brought in just days after they arrived in town.

The artists are not eligible for any government support as they are not EU or UK citizens.

And despite paying tax, they are not eligible for any help as they don't have a property that they pay rent on.

Big Kid Circus are currently stranded on Morecambe prom due to Covid-19 restrictions.

They were allowed to stay in Morecambe by Lancaster City Council, who also provided them with electricity, running water and refuse collections.

And the artists - many of whom are from Cuba, as well as other performers from across Europe - are now appealing for support through a crowdfunding page after being told they had failed in a recent bid for a grant to help them out.

The artists are currently unable to return home due to borders being closed and a lack of funds for air fares.

They have no money to pay for insurance or MOTs for their vehicles, and their visas will soon need renewing at a cost of up to £17,000.

The issue is a national problem for circuses, and this week the national Guardian reported a warning from the Association of Circus Proprietors that Britain’s 250-year-old circus tradition could see many companies go bust within just two weeks without help.

Monday’s announcement that a £1.57bn culture lifeline was to be given to the arts made no reference to circuses.

Many artists visited Downing Street this week to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the urgent reopening of venues after lockdown before “a great British institution is lost forever”.

Big Kid Circus ringmistress Olympia Posirca said it is frustrating being turned back at every attempt to gain help.

"Every grant that comes up for the arts we are not eligible for," she said. "It can be because we don't have a premises or we are not in a theatre, there's never just one reason.

"All we are being told is that we are falling through the cracks - we have had to turn it into a joke now.

"There are about 35 different circuses in England and we are all in the same boat, but we are the only one that has 100 per cent of its artists still in this situation.

"We had saved some money to pay for flights for when the borders open, but we had to make the decision to spend some of it for them to live.

"We have literally got nothing. It's got to the point where we are having to do a crowdfunding page because if we are suddenly allowed to work again we won't be able to afford to move.

"As a rule we hate begging but we are having to ask people to please help us out if they can.

"We don't like asking for money but it has turned into a necessity."

Olympia said they have been trying to liaise with immigration officers about the artists' visas, which are due to run out in December despite having not been used.

It is hoped they might be able to have them refunded or deferred, which would save them thousands of pounds in renewal fees.

In the meantime, the strict visa guidelines have meant they have had to turn down offers of work from within the Morecambe community.

Olympia said Lancaster City Council has been helping them as much as possible.

"Obviously it's unchartered territory for the council as well but we are working really closely with them, and any kind of grants or loans or funding they become aware of, they contact us to see if they can help," she said.

"We genuinely wouldn't have survived if it wasn't for the city council and we cannot thank them enough."

Other help has recently come in the form of a large donation of fresh food by staff at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, who had a surplus from donations of their own.

"The foodbank has also been brilliant," Olympia said. "People here have been amazing, bringing us food and clothes."As soon as we can open we will have the biggest celebration ever for Morecambe."

Coun Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “The city council has been supporting Big Kid Circus since the start of the pandemic. The land they occupy is owned by the city council and we have ensured there are facilities available for them, including water and electricity, throughout their stay. They have also benefited from our partnership with Morecambe Bay Foodbank, with regular deliveries of fresh provisions.

“Unfortunately, as far as funding is concerned, they do not qualify for the discretionary grant scheme because they are not a local business, being registered in Crewe, nor do they meet the eligibility requirements for the other government schemes.

"They are unfortunately not alone, with the circus industry as a whole facing a desperate situation, and we need the government to act and find a national solution.

“We’re eager to help as far as we are able and if they would like to contact us again at [email protected] our Business Support Hub may be able to assist further.”

To donate to the circus, go online hereThe artists are also holding a small circus workshop and salsa lessons on Morecambe prom from 2pm on Saturday July 11 and Sunday July 12.