He runs one of the best barber shops in Toon and Patrick Forster has his scissors at the ready to cut the locks of the Newcastle United footballers.

And as the 37-year-old opened his doors on July 4 as lockdown rules ease, his appointment book is jammed packed with clients desperate for a chop.

From 7.30am on Saturday, customers have been turning up for their slot at Patrick Foster Barber & Shop, based on High Bridge in Newcastlecity centre.

The phone has been “going ballistic” for the past month and his appointment book is full until July 21.

Patrick Forster cuts a customer's hair

And Magpie winger Matt Ritchie is first in line of his teammates to get a trim.

“Matt Richie is desperate to get his hair cut. He says his hair is so long and he has booked in, but not today,” said Patrick.

Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie

“I do the Newcastle United football team and I have said they can either come into the shop after we close or I can go to their houses. The club doctor has even booked an appointment.

“They have to stay safe as if one gets coronavirus, they could bring the whole team down. We still have to be very careful.”

For the rest of the general public appointments are also very different from now on with limited contact with stylists, staggered arrival times and not a magazine in sight.

Patrick Forster, of Patrick Forster Barbers on High Bridge Street, Newcastle.
Patrick Forster, of Patrick Forster Barbers on High Bridge Street, Newcastle.

Staff are wearing protective clothing, including visors, but customers must bring their own face masks. The coffee machine has been moved, for now, to make way for extra cleaning equipment.

Appointments are for 45 minutes instead of half an hour, to allow for thorough cleaning and the possibility haircuts will take longer than before, as it has been a while since many customers have had one and there may be some DIY trims to fix.

“The staff are wearing visors, while the customers wear masks,” said Patrick, of Low Fell,Gateshead.

“We tried wearing masks but they got too hot and got covered in hair so the visors are actually OK and we are getting used to them.

“Today is our first day and we started at 7.30am. We are going right through until 6.30pm. We aren’t even having a lunch break. We have 15 minutes in between each client so we can clean chairs and spaces down, so we will grab something to eat during one of those times, when we can.

“We have had to get rid of one seat due to social distancing and we have three staff in today, when we usually have five. The other two are on the next shift so we are rotating the staff.”

Richard, who is known as Dickie, was one of the first customers. He said: “It’s great to be back in the chair. This place is always just a nice place to come, it’s fun and has good banter, And it’s just nice to get away from the missus for a bit.”

Patrick Forster, of Patrick Forster Barbers on High Bridge Street, Newcastle
Patrick Forster, of Patrick Forster Barbers on High Bridge Street, Newcastle,

Usually, customers are offered a beer or coffee while they are waiting to be seated, but Patrick isn’t serving drinks for the first week at least, although the boss says he is looking into an arrangement with a nearby bar and cafe, Horticulture, to offer coffees to customers while they wait outside.

An online survey launched by Patrick on Twitter indicated around a quarter of clients want to keep some of their ‘lockdown hair’, a quarter will go shorter than before, 15% will try a new style and 35% will be asking for their usual.

Patrick, who has had the business for almost eight years, added: “One of our first clients this morning wanted to keep his long hair, he quite liked it but another wanted it cut really short as he said he wanted as much off as possible in case there was another lockdown.

“We are all having a laugh as we get to work under the new rules, you have to. It’s good to be back.”