Wigan balloon seller's future uncertain after learning he can no longer work at council parks
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A Wigan dad renowned for selling balloons at the borough’s parks is lamenting his future after being told he can no longer sell his wares on Council-owned land.
Andrew Christy was a regular face at parks and events across the borough for several years, particularly at Haigh Hall where he often sold his colourful helium balloons to excited children. He was so popular in fact that his young son even held hopes of taking over his dad’s business when he grew up.
The dad-of-two from Swinley took several months off work following the murder of his brother Lee in late 2018, a tragedy which badly affected his mental health. Several weeks ago he decided he wanted to start working again and, before the second national lockdown was announced, he was eagerly waiting for the Covid-19 restrictions enforced across Greater Manchester to end. But he was dealt a blow when he learned that he would no longer be allowed to sell his balloons at any location owned by Wigan Council.
Mr Christy, 41, said: “I had a license, I had insurance, I had risk assessments done. I had everything in place.
“I had some tragedy in my life, so I didn’t work for a bit. I was very depressed. I didn’t work for about two years.”
He was on the verge of returning to work last month but, after contacting the town hall to check if he could start trading again, was informed that he would be breaking the law if he started selling balloons again.
“It prevents me from working, it’s just frustrating,” Mr Christy said.
“I’ve sold balloons for about six or seven years. I think balloons are one of the safest things to sell. And I always make sure I sell them with weights on, because there’s nothing worse than when a child lets go of a balloon, they get really upset and I always replace it. So they would never float into the air.
“People had been asking me why I wasn’t attending events like the fairs at Haigh Hall. I’ve explained to them why, and everyone has been saying it’s wrong. When I think about it, it’s my career finished.”
He added: “I could go out of town and sell balloons when events start happening again, nationwide, but I think it’s very sad when you have to do that.”
Mr Christy had also purchased an inflatable slide to set up at country parks, in a bid to generate alternative income, but was also told that he could not do this, even several months before the Tier 3 rules were imposed, and despite other inflatables being placed at Haigh Hall during fun fairs.
“If it was a nationwide thing, and every council in the country had done it, then obviously you’d understand,” he said.
Mr Christy went on: “I have two children. And with Christmas coming up, it’s just a lot of worry and stress. Where does my future lie now?”
He finished by thanking all of his customers over the years, adding that he hoped to see them all again soon at events across the North West.
A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “The intentional release of lanterns and balloons is banned on all council-owned land and any connected events. This is due to the fire risk they pose and potential damage to the wider environment.
“While there is no specific policy on inflatable slides, the restrictions that the borough is under means soft play areas are unable to open due to the possibility of Covid-19 transmission. We understand these are difficult times for businesses so we encourage anyone to get in touch for support and advice we can provide.”
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