In 1994 Leicester started their own comedy festival, running 40 events in 23 venues. Now it’s listed in The Guardian as one of the top five comedy festivals in the world, alongside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Scotland’s flagship arts event, established in 1947 as a reaction to the International Festivals lack of an inclusive attitude.
These days the Edinburgh Fringe is in many people’s opinion the biggest arts event the world has to offer, with every top comedian in a 6×6 mile radius. The Camden Fringe started in 2003 and today a mere 6 years later they run 399 performances of 120 different shows and in 2009 sold 10,600 tickets. Brighton, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Greenwich, Bath, Lincoln, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle; the list literally goes on.
The fact is that in every major city, every major town and even in most major districts, you’re most likely to find a comedy festival. So why not Cardiff; the capital city of Wales?
Well, it does now. Attempts in the past have been made to create a comedy festival and the main reason they’ve come and gone is money. Trying to produce a festival selling one specific genre with enough events and variety to keep such high competition sustained takes a brave organiser or a particularly rich fan. Cardiff historically has always had a comedy scene but it’s been small and consisting of various unstable open mic gigs and The Glee/Jongleurs (who eventually left). Unlike places like Bristol, Manchester and even Swansea who have a scene of independent professional clubs, enough to bring on new local talent, to attract the big stars from the circuit and most importantly to remind the local comedy goers that comedy exists and it’s on their doorstep.
So what’s different about the current incarnation of the Cardiff Comedy Festival? And why now more than any other is it a good time to establish a Festival that will eventually rival the likes of Leicester and Edinburgh? One reason is the coming of Welsh comedy’s prodigal son Rhod Gilbert, who at the moment is one of the hottest properties in British comedy and a passionate Welshman to boot. Rhod not only revels in performing at Welsh venues but is keen to help the comedy industry in our country and more specifically committed to helping the Cardiff Comedy Festival attain a place in the canon of Britain’s best comedy fests. Cardiff is also a fast growing city. All eyes are not only on the recent developments in the city centre but also as to whether Cardiff can cope with such super fast growth.
A big contributing factor to the success of which has to be tourism. One of the arguments against running 20 shows over ten days attempting to draw in over 100 paying customers per day, is the simple fact that there just aren’t enough comedy fans in Cardiff to make it a success. However if you look at other successful festivals, specifically Edinburgh, almost 70% of the audience are tourists.
The big names are essential to any festival’s success and in 2010 Cardiff certainly has a plethora of modern day comedy superstars. Rhod Gilbert as already mentioned also featured in 2009, and this year he’s joined by the likes of Phil Nichol (Edinburgh, IF.com winner 2006), Lucy Porter (nominated in 2004 for a BAFTA for writing), Jo Caulfield (regular on ‘Never Mind The Buzzcock’s’ ‘Mock The Week’ and ‘Have I Got News For You’), Russell Kane (three time Edinburgh IF.com nominee and former presenter of ‘Big Brother’s Big Mouth’), Chris Corcoran (co-presenter on BBC Radio Wales and supported Rob Brydon on his national tour in 2009), Pappy’s (sketch troupe nominated for the IF.com in 2007) and many more.
With 12 Edinburgh previews at the 80 seater venue in O’Neill’s, Trinity St, 2 previews plus the semi finals and final of the Welsh Unsigned Stand-up Award at Nos Da Backpackers, previews and special local performances at the Cardiff Arts Institute, Comedy workshops for young aspiring comics at Cardiff Central Library, a charity gig for the British Heart Foundation at the Glee Club headlined by Lucy Porter, and not to mention the opening night on L3 at St David’s Hall as well as the Grand Gala Finale at St Davids Hall in front of 1600 people with the best of the fest hosted by the fantastic Rhod Gilbert.
16th – 26th July will contain 10 days of wall to wall, night to night comedy. If you fancy buying Porter a white wine spritzer or Rhod a pint of Guiness then the Cardiff Comedy Festival is the place to be. Where comedy comes Cardiff and hangs around for a week or so…… just for a bit of a chat.
Will you be going to the Cardiff Comedy Festival? Have you been in previous years? Who are you most looking forward to seeing? Let us know your stories in the comments below
This is a guest post from Scott Fitzgerald, part of the team behind the Cardiff Comedy Festival