Scotland business

Magic moments: Life in the entertainment business

Raintown in concert Image copyright Hels Bells Photography
Image caption Contemporary country band Raintown built up a grassroots following through social media

With Christmas not too far away, this is the season of parties. Scotland's clubs and pubs are busy too. Business Scotland has been speaking to people involved in the entertainment industry about how they make their living.

"You're instantly recognisable as a clown if you've a red nose," says Celine Harland, also known as Tickles the clown.

With her crazy hairdo and oversized shoes, she's every inch the clown, but a deliberately, very friendly-looking one.

Tickles started out 15 years ago when her then five-year-old son wanted a clown for his party, and now her main work is at children's parties and other family occasions. She also does work in hospitals.

Despite drama training, she says it is not an easy job.

"Parents meet us and they think 'Oh, I could do that'," she explains. "We do make it look easy, it's not easy at all, but it's the most fun you'll have at your work."

After a decade of clowning for charity with no paid work, she went to clown school in the United States and that led to her going professional five years ago. Three years ago she quit her job to do clowning full-time, a decision she describes as "terrifying".

Image copyright Other
Image caption '"Tickles" says it's not easy playing the role of a clown

Christmas is a busy time of year for Tickles but children obviously have birthdays all year round. For her a dip can come during the school holidays when parents may be wary of booking a party.

But despite the fun in the foreground this is a small business and, like any other, it has its challenges and costs - insurances, disclosure checks, clothes, travel. Yet for Celine the decision to clown for a living has been a good one.

She says: "From a business point of view, from a parent point of view, the last thing that we stop spending money on is our children on special occasions.

"Parents will stop doing other things. They'll stop going out, they'll stop having a drink at the weekend. They'll stop having their luxuries before they stop their children having theirs.

"I haven't seen a huge difference. If anything it's maybe gone from instead of having me for a two-hour party, they'll have me for an hour. They're still going to do something."

For others though, making a living from the entertainment or variety business may be more of a slog.

Linda Rifkind is Equity's Scottish variety branch secretary. It represents more than 500 members in Scotland, covering jobs such as magicians, children's entertainers and singers.

She says it has to be "in the blood" because it is not an easy path.

"We have a wealth of untapped, experienced talent here working in hotels, clubs, anywhere that they possibly can work, but that to me is not a stable living," she adds.

'Gradual process'

Magician Mark Walbank has his eye on a long-term, stable living and alongside his magic work, which he has been doing for the past seven years, he has set up an agency which specialises in circus-style performers - stilt walkers, jugglers, clowns and so on.

"When I started out I didn't think 'I'm going to be a full-time magician'," he says. "It was a gradual process and now I just wouldn't look back, it's a terrific career.

"People are really pleased to see you when you walk in the room," he continues. "The hardest trick is the first trick but as soon as you hit them with a really great magic trick, the applause starts and it spreads round the room. It's such a lovely feeling."

Image copyright Other
Image caption Magician Mark Walbank says the hardest trick is the first one

Mark explains that as a magician you are not going to make "mega bucks" unless you end up regularly on television. He says most working magicians end up making "an average salary". As well as performing, throughout the week entertainers have to chase work and market themselves.

He hopes that as time goes on the agency will become a more important part of his living.

But do companies still have budgets to hire entertainers?

"It's not anywhere near as extravagant as it used to be," he says.

"But companies still need to launch products, they still need to have their Christmas parties to keep their workers happy."

He adds: "They have to be careful, especially if they're prominent banks or something, that they're not seeming to be too extravagant."

Party organiser

Organising parties has always been a passion for Lynsey Crean - and now it is her business. She has done everything from first birthdays to engagement parties, weddings, baby showers and even provided balloons for a divorce party.

When I visit her in her Glasgow shop a customer comes in to discuss an arrangement of balloons to take to hospital to celebrate the birth of twins, much along the lines of a bunch of flowers. The shop is stacked high with balloons in many different colours and shades.

For staff at Party Plan-it With Lynsey, the week starts in earnest with preparation on Wednesday, loading the van on Thursday and by Friday they are ready for the weekend.

By that point her clients have already made decisions on napkins, balloons, seat covers and more.

Image copyright other
Image caption Lynsey Crean spends her working life organising parties

She enjoys what she does but says it is a tough way to make a living.

"People think we're only blowing up balloons but there's a lot of other things you don't see. It is hard work and we're out crazy hours and there's not much social life. We'll go and put on 100 chair covers and then five hours later we go and take them all off again."

What about if your voice is your living?

"Anyone who starts out in music always starts out with the passion for writing music, performing music to your fans," says Claire McArthur of the contemporary country band Raintown.

"But then you have to look logistically at how can you make this work for a living," she says.

Raintown did that by looking at building a grassroots following through social media and the like.

They began playing at open mic nights, playing for free, anything to get their music out there. Gradually they began putting on their own shows, charging for tickets, and from there it has built up.

The pair were also part of the business accelerator, Entrepreneurial Spark, an experience which the other part of the band, Paul Bain, says taught them valuable lessons.

He says: "Nobody's coming to the door and chapping it and saying you're the greatest thing ever. You have to go out and show people what your talents are."

You can hear Business Scotland after the news at 10:00 on Sunday and later on the BBC iPlayer or by free download.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites