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High court ruling allows Michael Jackson tribute act to join rival Blackpool show

Michael Jackson impersonator Craig Harrison

A Michael Jackson tribute act has won a high court ruling allowing him to continue working in Blackpool, despite a previous contract that stated he could not appear with rival companies for a year.

Craig Harrison performed as one of several acts at Trevor Chance’s Legends show in the town’s Sands Venue, before leaving at the end of the summer season in 2015.

He then took up employment with rival show Kings and Queen of Rock, Pop ’n’ Roll at the Central Pier Showbar in January 2016 – despite a covenant in his previous contract that said he would not work for companies in competition with Trevor Chance’s Legends for 12 months after the contract expired in December 2015.

In a legal battle that went all the way up to the high court, Trevor Chance’s Legends insisted that Harrison was breaching his contract by taking on a role at the rival show.

But on July 12 a high court judge dismissed the claim for an injunction on Harrison’s performances at Central Pier.

Mr Justice Edis ruled that, while the clause in the contract was valid, legal proceedings, which started in May, had been delayed by the Sands Venue until the cusp of the lucrative summer season “as a weapon… to cause avoidable damage, loss, and disruption to Central Pier”.

He said that he would have granted the injunction if proceedings had started in March, when Harrison was originally threatened with legal action, and said that if Central Pier were forced to drop Harrison three months beforehand “they would have been able to cope”.

But he said Chance had provided no explanation of why legal proceedings had not started sooner, and claimed staff at Central Pier would be harmed if the injunction was granted now.

Harrison took the new job on the advice of Equity, which backed him and the proceeding court case.

But the judge made clear that Harrison had performed in breach of his contract.

He said that while it was reasonable for Harrison to seek advice from his union – who told him the clause was legally questionable – it was not reasonable for a business such as Kings and Queen of Rock, Pop ’n’ Roll to employ him based on this second-hand advice.

Harrison told The Stage he was “more than happy” with the verdict.

He explained: “It is a relief. It could have gone the other way. If they hadn’t [started legal action] at the last minute and had done it before, we wouldn’t have been in court because there would have been more time for them to sort the show out – get somebody else or work around it. But they left it impossible for Kings and Queen to recast the show.”

“I’m so happy now, I can get on with what I’ve always wanted to do, which is work, and perform to the best of my ability,” he added.