Comedy venues fight for their lives as 77 per cent face closure

Friday, 14th August 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 14th August 2020, 10:33 am

Live comedy faces a crisis unless more is done to support it.

That is the stark warning from a new report which has warned that 77.8 per cent of live comedy venues face closure in the next year.

It is now asking the UK and national governments to ensure that comedy is made explicitly eligible for the government’s recently announced emergency arts funding.

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Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has already said that grants and loans would aim to preserve “crown jewels” in the arts sector. But there is grave concern within the industry that comedy will be overlooked when allocations are being considered.

Nish Kumar

Responding to a study by theLive Comedy Association, detailing the threat faced by the industry, comedian Nish Kumar said: “This report is a sobering and important read for the entire comedy industry.

“I hope that this can convince the relevant parties of the need to intervene and provide assistance where needed.”

Other comics have joined in the association’s call for help.

Kiri Pritchard-McLean said: “We risk extinguishing an entire generation of comedic voices unless the government provides financial support. Comedy has been far better at providing representation than other art forms. We are accessible for audiences and performers alike but if you take away our stages and our ability to earn money the accessibility goes and only the richest survive.

Fellow comedian Fern Brady added: “Stand-up has long been dismissed and ignored by arts funding bodies despite being one of the most engaging, exciting and popular forms of live theatre we have.”

The association asserts that comedy has a long history of being overlooked as an artform, having never received any public funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Music and Sport. Comedy has never been officially recognised as an artistic endeavour by the arts funding bodies across the nations of the UK - the same bodies that will be distributing £1.57 billion for the arts.

A spokesperson for the association said: “Comedy is a grassroots creative industry, which is accessible and inclusive to all, no matter your income, where you live, or your sense of humour.

“Ticket prices are cheaper than almost any other artform, and comedy takes places in every nation and region of the country, in dedicated spaces but also in pubs, music venues, and theatres in every town and city.”

The association conducted a survey in June to analyse the effect of the current pandemic on the industry. Some 663 responses were gathered from individuals working all over the country and across the comedy industry - comics, club owners, promoters, stage management, arts venue programmers, agents, publicists, photographers, producers, and many more.

It found that a third of comedy venues believe they will be forced to close within the next six months with 77.8 per cent facing closure within the next year.

A spokesperson for the association said: “At risk are the venues that have been the bedrock of our grassroots comedy landscape for the last 40 years, the promoters that have championed all of our current household names, and the next generation of comic voices who will go on to tour arenas worldwide and have their shows distributed by international streaming platforms. Without assistance our venues will go bankrupt, jobs will be lost, comics will quit and many will never come back again.”

The association has launched a campaign, called #SaveLiveComedy. Visit savelivecomedy.co.uk for details.

* This article is part of The Show Must Go On, JPIMedia's campaign to support live arts venues