Since writing this post I have been in contact with the entertainer in question, and my sons’ nursery.
Firstly the entertainer has apologised for any offence he may have caused. He apologised for upsetting Toby and assured me it was in no way intentional and I have accepted this apology.
He has also assured me that he is no way racist and as such I have removed references to racism from the post, although I still don’t agree that making a joke of someone’s accent or where they come from is acceptable.
However, the entertainer explained to me that he has a very successful business, he has been doing the same act for 20 years and has never had any complaints previously. He told me that although he had listened to my concerns he does not believe there is an issue and will not be changing his act. He sees his job as being to entertain the parents as well as the children and because the comments that I found unacceptable go over the children’s heads then there is no issue with making them.
I have also spoken to the manager at Toby’s nursery. Apparently they have been using this entertainer for years and will continue to do so. They have consulted some of the other parents who were at the party and none of them had any issue with the material used on the day.
Clearly, I am not entirely happy with the outcome here. Although I have received an apology which I have accepted, I am disappointed that neither the entertainer, nor the nursery feel that my concerns are valid. However, I have decided that it isn’t really in anyone’s interests for me to pursue this matter any further. I will just be making sure I avoid this particular entertainer in future. I will also now be closing comments on this post as I don’t think there is really any more to be said. Thank you to everyone who has commented and shown me support .
Today was Toby’s nursery leavers’ party, even though he’s not actually leaving until the end of the summer. I expected party games and a few sandwiches. What we got was something entirely different.
We arrived a few minutes after the party had started and the children’s entertainer was already in full swing. As the kids arrived he made an effort to find out their names and used them throughout the party. He made balloon animals, span plates and got them all dancing. That was all great. What wasn’t so great was how, from the minute they arrived, he made jokes at their expense to get cheap laughs from the adults.
The entertainer in question came from a company in Blackpool (and I think I’ve come across someone else from the same agency at a christening/ birthday party that we went to a few months ago – I can’t be 100% certain but they definitely seemed to be following the same script). Now I know Blackpool is renowned for its end of the pier shows with ‘a bit of blue for the dads’ as Peter Kay put it. It may be the spiritual home of Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, but that doesn’t mean I expect innuendo, comments mocking someone’s accent, or unashamed sexism when I go to a party for four year olds.
It was like this guy was a wannabe stand up who was trying to his best to get laughs from the parents, and if the kids were entertained as a side effect then that would do too. Now, I don’t know if I’m being unreasonable here but at a kid’s party then I expect the entertainer to entertain the kids. I couldn’t care less if I’m entertained, that’s not why we’re there.
And so when the entertainer is mocking kids for their clothes or their hair, when he is asking them to do things that they don’t understand to get a laugh from the parents then I’m not really impressed.
A few examples for you –
A few minutes after we arrived he said ‘Toby, in a minute we’re all going to put a few quid in a hat then cut your hair for charity’. Toby just turned four this week, he believes what adults say and was genuinely horrified.
He asked the kids to come up and tell a joke, but then would keep interrupting and not let them speak, when they were nervous and just trying their best.
He got some of the boys and girls to ‘dance’ together, he told them to cuddle, he told the boys (Toby included) to kiss the girl then said ‘ooh, not on the lips, that’s dirty, you don’t know what you might catch’. I mean seriously, to a four year old?! I’m not sure how comfortable I am with my son being told to kiss a girl in the first place but what sort of message does that comment send.
One of the girls was lifting her dress up a bit, as little girls do when they’re wearing party dresses. He said ‘put your dress down, that’s dirty.’ Pause for effect. ‘Just like your mother’.
I just, I have no words.
He told one of the boys he liked his t-shirt. It was one of those with the sequins that change to a different picture when you brush them the other way. Which is fine. But then he added ‘I saw a girl with a dress like that the other day. She was 22. It was a bad night. Less said about that the better. The hangover.’
Just what? How is that funny? Or relevant? Or in any way appropriate?
Then there was the sexism…
He asked one of the girls what she would like to be when she grew up. His suggestions? A teacher, a nurse, a princess, someone who looks after animals – not even a vet FFS! When he asked a boy his suggestions were a fireman, a policeman or Spiderman.
I mean, I know this might not be important in the grand scheme of things but how can we challenge everyday sexism when this is the sort of crap they are faced with?
And of course he said he would make balloon flowers for the girls and swords for the boys. (Although I was pleased to see at the end that most of the girls had asked for swords anyway!)
Oh, and there was the moment he put a balloon sword between his legs, looked at it suggestively then said ‘oops, better not put that there’.
It gets worse though, for me at least. As part of his balloon modelling act he made a balloon dog. Pretty standard stuff. Then he started, very seriously, telling a story about a little boy who got bitten by a dog, who had to go to hospital to get checked out and then he started barking and shoving the dog into the kids’ faces. And my son, you remember the one who just turned four and believes what adults say? Well he is also terrified of dogs. I saw him trying to back away but I couldn’t see his face, and I couldn’t get to him, until he turned round to me with tears streaming down his face and came over and clung to me. It took me taking him outside for 10 minutes to get him to calm down. And I know it was just a balloon dog, but if that guy had been paying the slightest bit of attention to his audience, his actual audience of children then I’m pretty sure he would have seen the distress on Toby’s face before it turned into a full on meltdown.
But perhaps he just didn’t care. When one of the other boys was crying at the end of the party because he wanted a balloon octopus like the one he had made Toby (I’m guessing by way of apology), he told him to ‘man up’.
Then there was mocking a parent because of her accent. One of the mums sent her elder son to his brother to tell him to take his fingers out of his mouth. The entertainer noticed and asked her what she had told him. She answered with a strong Irish accent. His response ‘sorry? Is there anyone here who can translate? To be sure.’ And it got a laugh.
But if that had been a black or Asian mum with a strong accent would it still have been seen as acceptable?
I don’t know if I’m overreacting about all this. I mean none of the other parents seemed bothered, they were certainly giving this guy the laughs he was craving. The nursery staff didn’t seem concerned either. I’m guessing they’ve used this entertainment company before and probably will again.
It takes a lot to offend me. But today I was offended. Everyone has their own line of acceptability and today that line was crossed for me.
I don’t know what to do next – what would you do? Should I complain to the entertainment company? Should I let nursery know what I thought? Or should I just rant about it on the internet and leave it there?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – tell me if you’d be offended too or am I just taking life too seriously?