The wedding industry took a hit during the pandemic.

And for DJs and entertainers like Christopher Henderson or DJ Spoonzay, as he is called on the dance floor, funding and support were not easy to come by.

Christopher recently wrote to Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston about his concerns.

“In the last round of scholarship funding, I and of course those who are in a similar situation were deliberately excluded from it.

“Many providers in the wedding industry, which has been decimated by Covid-19, work from home.

“For our industry, you just don’t have to justify yourself with a business premise.

“We are often sole proprietorships and as such are not entitled to leave,” said Christopher.

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And even though the vacation schedule wasn’t available to him, he still had regular expenses to keep up with.

“Even though we work from home we still have overheads that can’t be paid, my equipment is worth around £ 10,000 that still needs insurance, professional association memberships, cellular contracts, the list goes on,” said Christopher.

The Middlesbrough Council investigated the issue and confirmed that Christopher will receive £ 467 from the Additional Restriction Grant, a program that has been available since the second national lockdown.

But Christopher is part of an ongoing battle, both for himself and others in his industry, for additional support.

Christopher Henderson aka DJ Spoonzay
(Image: Christopher Henderson)

“As a self-employed person, there are a lot of reimbursable expenses. I can claim back 25% rent and 50% phone bill, but that affected the amount of the grant, ”said Christopher.

To date, he has received three scholarships since March and is currently waiting for his fourth, with no date given as to when and how much he will receive.

“What is the point of paying social security and taxes, it should help you in times of crisis.

“I’m not fighting for it because I am entitled to it, but because we are all entitled.

“I’m just so lost and tired and frustrated, the home business has been forgotten, it borders on discrimination,” said Christopher.

Christopher, or DJ Spoonzay, has DJs and mobile nightclubs specializing in kitschy party music from the 1960s to the present day, with karaoke on request, as well as being a regular singer in local pubs.

He’s been a mobile DJ for nearly 14 years, originally working in Scarborough and then moving to Middlesbrough in 2019.

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Although he admits that it felt like he was “almost starting my career again,” he soon became a household name and a popular choice for weddings and special occasions.

DJ Spoonzay also sings a selection of ballads, country and rock and roll hits from the past six decades and quickly made a name for himself in Teesside for his love of music and entertainment, especially at weddings.

“It’s a job I love, there is no other job like it.

“I don’t just stand there and play music, I can shape or break the day.

“To be part of it is an enormous responsibility. They create lasting memories for people on the greatest day of their lives, ”said Christopher.

He joked that the dress, the food, and the party are the three things people remember from a good wedding, but there is a lot of preparation going on behind the scenes to make the day perfect for the happy couple.

“The wedding industry is worth billions of dollars to the economy; we have been deliberately ignored.

“This industry has given people so much joy, but we will forget,” said Christopher.

As a self-employed person, he works closely with the Stockton-based agency Magnum Entertainment for wedding bookings.

2020 should have been a jam-packed year with weddings and events all summer long, then Halloween was fully booked through New Year’s Eve with Christmas parties, but Christopher lost all of that work due to the ongoing crisis.

The last night he worked was on Friday, March 20, at The Buccaneer, North Ormesby, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs would have to close and he has not been able to work since.

Christopher struggles with PTSD, depression, and anxiety
(Image: Christopher Henderson)

Christopher is struggling with PTSD, depression, and anxiety, all of which have only been exacerbated by uncertainty about his income and livelihoods since March.

“I’ve managed to earn a full-time income from part-time, I can’t do 40 hours a week.

“It has affected my mental health so much that I am now at the end of my six month consultation.

“I think I’ve been mourning for a while, that’s the best way to see it.

“When you do occur, you are essentially a different person, all your worries go away, it’s therapeutic.

“To suddenly take that away, I was lost,” said Christopher.

And the free weekends were a novelty at first, but soon he felt stuck in purgatory.

Christopher speaks honestly and openly about his mental health to remove the stigma, and in the past few years he has completely changed his life.

Seven years ago he was homeless, now he has a roof over his head and this week he is celebrating his four-year anniversary with his partner.

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“I’ve been through so much in my life but I just can’t compare it to last year, it broke me as a person and the government ignored us for so long.

“I can’t lose the constant battle against my sanity,” said Christopher, and the battle for support was one of the things that kept him going during these difficult months.

Christopher has the feeling that in a state of restlessness he is constantly waiting for information until he is certain about his work.

“We have been encouraged by the government to take out a loan to diversify our business offerings,” said Christopher.

Thinking that social distancing would last for a longer period of time, and that a 200-seat venue could host 100-person weddings, Christopher used his credit to buy a “bigger and better” sound system that could be used in larger venues .

He also bought a 10 x 5 m inflatable nightclub with LED walls with changing colors inside, which he called Club Higher.

Christopher Henderson’s Club Higher
(Image: Christopher Henderson)

He hoped families would rent it for garden parties in the summer, but when restrictions prevented groups of 30 from mingling, he didn’t get a chance to rent a house.

“I was looking forward to earning a lot in the summer, I could have worked five nights a week,” said Christopher.

He took out the loan in mid-May 2020, but will soon have to repay it with no income.

“People have said if you need money, sell your equipment,” Christopher explained, but the only people in the market for specialty sound equipment are theirs and they are not, and he won’t have to buy it back until he returns back to work so that wouldn’t be viable.

During the national lockdowns that saw people spend more time at home, Christopher noted on Instagram that women were still dressing up with nowhere to go.

As a new business idea, he started his lingerie brand called Higher Baby, which he is currently launching.

Knowing that he will be back to work is what pulls him through these troubled times and he knows that his work will be in great demand once he can get back to what he loves most.

Christopher concluded, “It’s one of the little things that keep you going, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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