It’s nearly time for the summer holidays which means peak holiday park season (and probably peak rainy season) is about to start! Here’s my list of the pros and cons of working as a visiting cabaret act at holiday parks.
This is probably my favourite thing about performing at holiday parks, they’re all over the country so I get to see loads of sights and landmarks. A lot of the time I just get to see them while I drive past or it’s a quick stop off on the way but there’s also plenty of times where I’ll be doing a run of shows in one area so I’ll stay there for a few days. I basically get paid to have a little holiday and all I’ve got to do is spend 45 minutes showing off and having a laugh onstage every night. I’ve even taken my family away with me quite a few times and been able to enjoy the facilities at whatever park I’m performing at. I’m hoping it doesn’t spoil the mystique when I’m being all magical and they realise I’m the bald bloke who screamed as he came hurtling down the water slide with his shorts up round his chin earlier that afternoon!
- Amazing Entertainment Teams
Whether they’re called funstars, troupers, redcoats, bluecoats or just entertainers, the resident entertainment teams are always amazing! They work their socks off doing activities through the day and shows on the stage in the evening, but they also bend over backwards to make the visiting acts feel welcome (not like that you perv!) and provide everything they need. They’re almost always friendly, fun, very talented and they make the few hours that I’m at their park an absolute pleasure.
- It Hones Your Material
I’ve heard a lot of entertainers say that if you can entertain at a holiday park you can entertain anywhere! The audience is certainly varied and it can be difficult to find material that’s going to keep everyone entertained especially since most people aren’t really there specifically to see entertainment, they’re just there to have a few drinks and entertainment just happens to be on. The material in my first ever holiday park show had worked quite well at weddings and Camelot Theme Park but I died on my arse the first time I did it at a holiday park (Braddicks in Westward Ho! 2013 in case you were wondering). The show was quickly trimmed and tweaked dramatically and has since evolved into a show that kills (although hopefully not when I’m doing my knife throwing routine), no matter who I’m performing for or what the situation.
- Regular Work
The majority of my work is one-off bookings or events that happen just once or twice a year so it’s nice to have a regular source of work which fills a lot of dates, particularly when a lot of those dates are week days which I may otherwise struggle to fill with anything other than watching Judge Rinder and writing blogs.
Okay I know I said this was my favourite thing about performing at holiday parks but it has its drawbacks too! Petrol is pretty pricey (although actually it’s still cheaper than bottled water so it’s not that bad when you think about it, especially since one falls from the sky on a regular basis and the other has to be found, drilled out of the ground, refined etc…) as is service station food. If it’s a one-off show rather than a string of shows in one area quite often I’ll have to set off in the middle of the afternoon and only get back at about 3am so it can be a pretty long and lonely day (thank god for podcasts and 24 hour McDonalds!). Thankfully navigation is a lot easier these days thanks to Sat Nav, that is until you actually get to the park. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country and arrived at the park on time only to get lost in a maze of identical caravans trying to find the stage door which is NEVER signposted!
- Low Pay
The pay-per-night for performing at holiday parks isn’t great when you compare it to performing for corporate events or weddings, and this is made worse by the amount of money that has to be spent on petrol, food and accommodation. Some parks will allow you to sell merchandise (that’s not slang from an 80s cop film, dealing drugs after a show would probably be frowned upon!) to boost the pay packet a little but not all of them, and even if they do a good night of sales might just about cover the cost of petrol.
- Getting Changed In a Cupboard
Most holiday parks have backstage facilities that range from good to great! But there are still a significant minority who expect you to get ready in what can only be described as a cupboard. Not an empty cupboard either, a cupboard which is already full with costumes, props and quite often other people! This is probably ok if you are a singer and you’ve only got an outfit and a microphone, or if you’re a contortionist and used to tight spaces, but if you’ve got any props that need to be prepared it’s going to be a real pain. I’ve only got a table, a case and a bird cage but it has still been a struggle at times even for me.
- Keeping it Simple
When I was a resident magician I could do whatever I wanted in my show as I could get the theatre set up however was needed, I had a sound engineer who I could rehearse with beforehand and was doing the show with me every day and I could store large props in the theatre. Now I’m doing holiday parks it has to be possible for my show to be performed anywhere, whatever equipment they’ve got and whatever the experience level or availability of their staff. This means that I’m limited about what lighting and sound I can use in my show as I have it keep it simple. My props also have to be easy to transport (in an Astra!) and set up.
On this list there are the same amount of pros and cons but the pros still outweigh the cons on how happy they make me. Travelling’s great despite the time and cost, the pay’s still better than most jobs, backstage facilities are usually at least okay and having to keep my show simple isn’t that much of a burden, it might even help me focus on making my routines stronger as I can’t always rely on sound and lighting to create the desired emotions. What do you think? Do you agree with my list? Can you think of any more pros or cons? Let me know in the comments. As always please like and share, and remember: six star hotels are overrated.