Entertainers in Blackpool say they are being put at risk at night by over zealous parking officials.
The performers, mostly women, say they are struggling to get to bookings at hotels and venues across the town because they are being targeted when they park outside to unload their gear.
They say they need to be close to the venues at night because the musical gear they need such as amplifiers, speakers, instruments and lighting and DJ gear, is heavy.
And because they are mainly women, dressed up for performance, they say that using car parks some distance away at night puts them in danger and has resulted in several being harassed. Some have even reported attempted robberies.
They are asking the council to give them some leeway over parking outside venues when performing or introduce permits for them.
Singer and dancer Jane Dean, who has performed all over the world including five years in Las Vegas, but returned home to Blackpool in recent years, said the situation is becoming impossible.
She said: “We are performing a service for the town. The visitors who come to the hotels expect entertainment. But this is making things difficult and dangerous.
“I was up at Gynn Square and four men tried to rob me. I had all my equipment going back to the car park after 10.30pm. I ended up lying flat on the floor behind a car to escape them.
“Another entertainer had drunken men harassing her as she carried her equipment back to the car park. It is not safe late at night, especially when we are all dressed up.”
Singer Shelley has been a performer for 15 years. She said getting a parking ticket from one of the wardens wiped out a whole night’s earnings.
She said: “We are self employed and when it happens you end up working for nothing. We have families to care for. I was at Ma Kelly’s North and with the road works there was simply nowhere else to park. It was 1.30am and I parked opposite. The wardens must have been waiting. The bouncer even tried to tell them I was just inside getting my equipment, but they still gave me a ticket.
“It is ridiculous. There was no traffic at that time, no buses, I was not causing an obstruction. It was the closest place I could get to and I was only inside getting my things. It is making things really hard. Sometimes we have more than one booking in a day and have to go venue to venue.”
Singer Natalie Daniels from St Annes said: “Finding places to park close enough to the venue is important especially when you are a woman all dressed up.
“The equipment is heavy, big speakers, lights and it is a security issue. So many times men have offered to ‘give me a hand’. Sometimes they are drunk. It is not a good situation late at night.
“We are serving the town and helping to bring business and visitors in. We don’t get paid a massive amount so when you get a ticket it wipes all that out. I understand the council is strapped for cash but they are giving out tickets in the middle of the night when there are hardly any traffic problems.”
DJ and singer Chelsea Stevens said: “ We just want to be able to go to work safely and do our jobs.”
Singer Hannah Delaney said: “At 1am it can be a very threatening situation walking from street to street especially when you are carrying cash because many venues pay in cash. When there is no traffic and there are spaces available outside the hotels I don’t see why it is a problem to park there for 45 minutes while we do our set or unload our gear. There are no deliveries at that time.”
Jane Dean added: “We just want to be given a bit of leeway. Why are they patrolling late at night? Outside the Lyndene Hotel for example which can have three different acts on a night, you often see three wardens patrolling.
“We have to work all year round up to seven nights a week providing a service to the people who come to Blackpool. We need some sort of permit, maybe like builders have when they are working at a hotel.”
A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “The safety of our residents and visitors is of course a high priority.
“Builders permits are normally issued when full traffic management and paid parking requirements apply.
“Performers are allowed a brief time to unload and reload their equipment on yellow lines but they must be actively be seen to be doing this. Before a performance the vehicle must be moved to a legal parking space as per normal parking regulations so that other road users or pedestrians have clear access.
“After 6pm many streets across Blackpool offer free parking in Pay and Display parking spaces.”
Leader of the Conservatives at Blackpool Council, Coun Tony Williams, said: “I was recently made aware of the problem by a musician colleague. Loading gear in and out of venues has always been an issue with many venue owners not giving much thought to access when positioning their stage and dressing rooms but it would seem the problem has been made worse for entertainers who are now getting ticketed whilst they load in for their gigs. Pay for local entertainers has never been that high in Blackpool and a £60 parking fine could mean some artistes working for next to nothing.
“I have suggested that venues should be able to apply for a temporary loading permit which entertainers can display when they get to the gig and whilst loading and unloading. That way it won’t be misused and allow adequate time to get their gear into and out of the property.
“Entertainment is the core business of Blackpool and the council should be encouraging it instead of penalising hard working, talented people. I have written to the head of service and our parking chief to see if they can get the council to agree to this permit.”