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Comedy awards back - but without a sponsor

The Edinburgh Fringe’s biggest comedy awards are to go ahead this year – despite failing to attract a sponsor.

The awards, known as the Perriers for 25 years, have been rebranded the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and producer Nica Burns vows that they will never change their name again.

‘We can’t do it again, so the name has to stick,’ she said. Any future sponsor’s name would be incorporated in the title.

The awards had been named after sponsor Intelligent Finance for the past three years, but the company – owned by bailed-out bank HBOS – did not renew the deal.

Burns said she had found a sponsor willing to back the 2009 awards, but that she had to turn it down because it was ‘not a good fit’ with the ethos of the comedy awards.

She added that she did not consider going back to Perrier because protests against parent company Nestle’s practices in promoting powdered baby milk to Third World mothers gave a ‘horrible’ feeling to what should have been a celebration of comedy.

‘Who we associate with is critical,’ she said. ‘Comedians are political and mostly ethical and have strong opinions. We had to turn down money, which was difficult but the right thing to do.’

Much about the award will remain the same as previous years, including the judging process and the prizes: £8,000 for the main prize and £4,000 for both best newcomer and the panel prize.

In addition the winner of the best comedy show will be invited to perform at the Just for Laughs comedy festivals in Montreal, Toronto and Chicago.

Burns added: ‘The Montreal festival in particular is famous as an extraordinary showcase for comedians in North America and we are delighted to offer this opportunity for the winner.’

However, in one change the winner will no longer be announced shortly after midnight on the last Saturday of the Fringe – but at a lunchtime ceremony. Burns said the move was designed to ensure more coverage for the awards and the winner in the Sunday papers, for whom the late-night announcement was too late.

Burns also said she was considering the future of the West End showcases of the winners and nominees, now that more venues offer slots to the best Edinburgh shows.

‘We may have lost our unique selling point,’ she said. ‘We are no longer the only game in town. But I’d like to hear what the comedy world feels about it.’

Theatre owner Burns insisted she was confident a sponsor would be found for the 2010 awards, so the cost of staging this year’s event, which she is currently funding herself, could be spread over future years.

The awards new website is at comedyawards.co.uk, and any comments about the London showcases should be emailed to info@comedyawards.co.uk.

Posted: 3 Jun 2009

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