UK cabaret managing editor Mark Ritchie takes a trip to the Canary Island which has become a mecca for cabaret fans. While some performers have chosen Tenerife seemingly to semi-retire, others are working every single night.
With a rapidly rising population of over 880,000 inhabitants, the holiday Island of Tenerife is currently rammed full of British tourists, with hotel operators on the Island reportedly expecting to top an average 98 per-cent occupancy level during most of 2016.
Troubles in Eastern European hot-spots, such as Turkey and parts of Southern Greece, have pointed eager sun-worshippers elsewhere and the Canary Islands are booming. Additionally, some holiday hot-spots such as Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and Sousse in Tunisia are no longer an option for many.
Aside from the budget airlines and charter flights, there are even new airlines who are connecting even more Brits with a holiday or a longer stay in the sun. The airline Vueling is set to connect Birmingham and Manchester with the smaller of Tenerife’s two airports at Los Rodeos in the North of the Island.
I headed, for the umpteenth time, to the popular Costa Adeje area, where I could work and holiday at pretty much the same time. On my way to the resort, in my fractured Spanglish, I asked a taxi driver if it was a good idea to look for a home on the Island. He replied in the type of simple Spanish, that I can actually follow and join in with,’ Come for holidays, but please don’t move here- we’re full’.
The traffic jams that occur with tedious regularity around certain coastal resorts are now testament to the fact that, at any one time, approaching one million residents and car-hiring holiday-makers are clogging the roads.
The growth is showing no sign of diminishing, as Chinese and Italian investors continue to build and some would say over-develop many parts of the Island. A major new look for the main street though the Island’s largest resort, Playa de las Americas is currently under construction and there is much more to come.
So what of the UK ex-pat community of entertainers, who ply their trade?
The South of the Island contains the biggest concentration of singers, comedians and tribute performers, who have upped sticks and headed for the sun. Costa Del Silencio and Golf Del Sur are two massive concentrations of housing, which are heavily favoured by British acts. The most sheltered South West of the Island is by far the most popular area and as a result cabaret bars, or in some cases, bars featuring forms of cabaret, are mushrooming. I make the distinction as in many of the bars there are some excellent facilities, while others are more like performing at a pretty poor UK pub gig. It really depends what the individual acts are used to.
One of the many problems for newly arriving British entertainers is actually establishing yourself as available for work. Regular weekly slots are jealously guarded and coveted by those already living in Tenerife. Those who want to simply turn up and do a few nights to pay for a free holiday, may well find the going pretty heavy.
During a month-long stay, which I have just returned from on April 17, I managed to cut through the persuasive arguments of many UK ex-pat entertainers to find out if the scene is well and truly saturated, or if there is still scope for more notable additions to the resident entertainment fraternity.
It seems that quality comedy is in very short supply on Tenerife. However, there are also, in my view, a lack of suitable venues in which cabaret comedians could perform properly and effectively in. In one bar I watched in horror and I have to say, some disagree of amusement, when one Tenerife comedy luminary performed, whilst a member of bar staff was rolling a barrel of lager past his feet and in the general direction of the bar. At other bars, slot machines were rattling away, while comedians will trying to perform. Something as simple as noise or music from adjacent and/or neighbouring bars, made working conditions for the relatively few stand-up comedians plying their trade on the Island, very tough.
On other pages in this issue of UK Cabaret our readers will find reviews of comedy stars Billy Porter, George King and Antony Scott. Aside from these fine chaps, there are other people trying to perform comedy on Tenerife, including an incredibly funny comedy Elvis show.
If anyone is reading this piece and considering upping sticks and heading for a life in Tenerife, or elsewhere. I would urge extreme caution. Aside from regulations and obligations to the internal government departments of the country you plan to move to, you really ought to be aware that the Canary Isles provide a year round climate and many hundreds of entertainers, who have already made the move, have already made the contacts and established themselves.
On another recent visit, I was asked to join in at a day-time fund-raising event for a poorly member of the UK entertainment fraternity who happens to be an old friend of mine. The venue was a bar called The Albatross in Costa Silencio and I was one of only two comedy based artistes on the 20 act strong bill. The other comedian was Billy Porter, who certainly has a very different style to yours truly. There were one or two excellent solo artistes on the bill, such as solo singers Cy Benson and Gordon King, as well as the superb Shirley Bassey tribute artiste Jacqui Peters. However, in all sincerity most were, in my view, little better than glorified karaoke singers.
The difference is of course that all the acts on the bill, bar myself obviously, as I have no desire to forge a new life and career on Tenerife permanently, had already established themselves and secured regular work.
As Tenerife continues to bulge, the opportunities for entertainers will surely continue to be taken well in advance by those already firmly ensconced, who dry out on the Canary Islands sunshine all year round.