Everyone knows the comedy industry descends on Edinburgh every August for The Fringe, but did you know that November’s Nottingham Comedy Festival now features over 80 shows in just over a week? Ahead of this year’s festival we caught up with Helen Stead, the fesitval Director, to find out more about the upcoming event and the challenges involved in putting on the festival.
WeGotTickets: When Nottingham Comedy Festival kicks off this November it’ll be your 14th festival. Could you tell us a bit about it and what people can expect?
Helen Stead: The Nottingham Comedy Festival brings together a wide variety of acts at all stages of their careers. Expect to see stand-up, improvisation, podcasts, roast battles, musical comedy, sketch and even a show for children. With over 80 shows in 14 venues across Nottingham, there is something for everyone.
WGT: We’d usually ask how you got started in comedy promoting, but I think the cool phrasing now is to ask for your Origin Story. Have you always worked in comedy and/or events?
HS: I started working in comedy in 2009. I graduated from Lincoln University in 2008 with a degree in Media Production. As a way to meet new people myself and a friend started going to Improv workshops and we realised that Nottingham had a fantastic comedy scene. We felt that it deserved to be showcased and celebrated whilst also giving new talent an opportunity to perform. As recent graduates we decided to throw ourselves in the deep-end.
WGT: How did the pandemic affect the festival, and how have you coped? Has it changed the makeup of this year’s festival much or are you back to ‘normal’ now?
HS: 2020 was very difficult, we couldn’t run the festival as we normally would so tried to book in a few shows at just 2 venues in the hope we could go ahead. Right before the festival we went into another lock-down so all of our shows got cancelled. The improv shows went online and the stand-up were postponed until the following year. Last year we managed to get shows running again however people were slower booking tickets until the last minute so we had many panicked artists. It all worked out okay though.
This year we’re more or less back to normal, we’ve found that some people are still a bit wary but it is improving. The economic problems at the moment though are of concern and we do worry about the future impact with that. We’re trying to keep shows as cheap as possible so everyone can still enjoy themselves.
WGT: Of all the amazing shows on the bill, I’m probably most excited about Football Manager Therapy Live from the team behind the FMT Podcast. Do you have anything you’re particularly looking forward to at the festival, or any hot tips?
HS: There’s so many shows I’m looking forward to. Lauren Pattison was recently nominated for the Edinburgh Award. I didn’t make it up to The Fringe this year, so I can’t wait to see her award nominated show. We have many fantastic local acts that I’ve seen developing over the years and am looking forward to seeing their full hour shows – Edi Johnston, Jon Pearson, Katie Mitchell, George Coppen, Friz Frizzle, to name a few.
Comedy is very subjective so there is something out there for everyone. Go and see favourites but also take some gambles, you never know who may become the next big star.
WGT: Do you have any past favourite shows or particularly special memories from the festival over the years?
HS: There has been some fantastic shows and events over the past years. It’s hard to remember them all but a few years ago I saw Knightmare Live up in Edinburgh so brought that to Nottingham, that was a fun show filled with lots of childhood memories, everyone had a great time.
We’ve had acts such as Joe Lycett, Romesh Ranganathan, Maisie Adam and Gary Delaney who have all performed at small venues during the festival and have gone on to do great things. To say you were there at the beginning is always special.
WGT: Is there any advice you’d pass on to anyone looking to start putting on comedy shows?
HS: Get involved in the local comedy community and work together. It can be stressful at times but you get to meet many fantastic people and work with some incredible talent.
WGT: What does the future hold for Nottingham Comedy Festival. Do you have any big plans for the future or are you squarely focused on delivering this year’s event for now?
HS: Next year is our 15th year. I have a few things in mind but it’s very early days and with only a couple of weeks to go before this year’s festival my mind is very focused on making sure everything goes well.
Browse the full listings for this year’s Nottingham Comedy Festival here, and find out even more about them over on their website.