Sheffield helium shortage no laughing matter

Barney Baloney, otherwise known as entertainer Tony Turner, of Gleadless, whose balloons won't stay afloat because of a lack of helium.
Barney Baloney, otherwise known as entertainer Tony Turner, of Gleadless, whose balloons won't stay afloat because of a lack of helium.
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SHEFFIELD children’s entertainer Tony Turner is feeling more than a little bit deflated.

That’s because he fears his balloon blowing business could burst - and he’s not clowning about. He simply cannot get hold of helium to blow up his balloons.

Tony, who makes animal balloons to entertain kids and supplies wedding parties, is a victim of inflation as a global shortage of helium sends prices soaring.

Tony, of Briarfield Crescent, Gleadless, said prices were going up and up.

He said: “The rise in price was bad enough but now my supplier has run out and I just can’t get it anywhere.

“People might think I’m joking, but this is no laughing matter. It’s just not funny.

“Helium is probably the most abundant gas in the entire universe. But it seems you can’t get it on earth, at least I can’t.

“Thankfully I have a finger in quite a few pies, custard pies to be exact.

“I have my magic show to fall back on. Then there’s my puppets, and circus skills to keep the kids entertained.

“But a party just isn’t a party without balloons.”

Industry experts say almost all the world’s supplies of helium come from a handful of industrial plants in the United States which have been undergoing maintenance. The rest comes from the oil fields currently affected by conflict.

Most of the natural resources are hard to get to - and demands from the science, medical and technology sectors mean the fate of the humble balloon is up in the air.

A spokesman for SG Balloons, of Rotherham, which supplies the trade, said: “We are limiting customers to one cylinder at a time and on a first to pay gets the cylinder basis.

“We advise customers who are desperate for gas to ring regularly as things change and we cannot reserve cylinders until we have them in.

“Due to us obtaining stocks at much higher costs than usual, we have had to temporarily increase our price on the steel 200 bar cylinders.

“There is no increase on Air Products lightweights but there is very limited supply.

“We are currently not accepting new customers as we struggle to supply existing gas customers.”

But Design Studios shop, which sells cards, gifts and balloons from its premises in Ecclesall Road, has a sign in the window stating it is not affected by the shortage.

Owner Chris Lawrance, who supplies parties from balls at Chatsworth to private birthday bashes, said: “I’ve been a customer of my supplier for 20 years and every time I place an order they come up with the goods.”