Party clown's bubble act is burst by safety fears

Last updated at 22:00 13 June 2007

It has always been a popular part of Barney Baloney's party act.

When children chase multicoloured soap bubbles around the room, fits of giggles are guaranteed to follow.

But now the clown has been forced to stop using his bubblemaking machine - because of health and safety fears.

Barney, whose real name is Tony Turner, was refused public liability insurance because insurance companies said the bubbles might cause the children to slip and hurt themselves.

Father-of-three Mr Turner, 47, from Sheffield, contacted six insurers to arrange cover for his job as a children's entertainer.

Four turned him down over health and safety concerns and two said they did not have a suitable policy available.

He was even told a council had banned bubble-making machines because officials thought the soapy liquid was "lethal".

Now, after eight years as a professional entertainer, Mr Turner will have to rely solely on juggling and clowning to get the children laughing.

He said: "This whole health and safety business has gone too far.

Kids eat jelly and ice cream and that gets on the floor and is slippy. Does anyone want to stop them eating that?

"Nobody is bothered about the entertainment factor any more. The fun is being taken out of children's lives today by bureaucracy.

Bubble-making machines are not intended to make bubbles for people to slip on.

"They are there for kids to enjoy themselves. They have always been associated with fun and laughter and now I'm being told my machine is dangerous."

Ironically, it was the juggling and not the bubbles that prompted Mr Turner to improve his insurance cover. Anyone performing in public as a juggler must have public liability insurance.

The actors' union Equity did come to the rescue and insured his act for £5million for a premium of £125 a year.

But he was told the bubbles were a "grey area" and felt obliged to cut it from its slot near the end of his show.

"I have never had any problems with the bubble-making machine," he added. "Nobody has ever slipped on the bubbles. I hold it in my hands to spray the bubbles around the room so they are not coming from one position.

"Most of the bubbles anyway pop over the kids and they chase them around. It seems as if health and safety is taking over."

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said there may have been accidents in the past involving children slipping on floors, but it should still be possible to get insurance.

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