And the award for most unfortunate tarring of a reputation goes to...

Andrew Kay of Latest Media says his Brighton gongs are a cause for celebration

This is a response to Sameena Zehra, who was told she was a nominee in Latest magazine's Brighton Fringe award – but when she attended the awards, she discovered she wasn't in the final three, as we reported here.

At Latest magazine, we have been running our Brighton Festival and Festival Fringe Awards for many years, over which time they have become much respected. Many previous winners have gone on to find fame and along the way have used their award as testimonial to what they have achieved.

Our award party has always been a fun climax to the festivals and in previous years they have been hosted by comedians such as Seann Walsh and Jimmy Carr, and with guest performances by many others.

With free drinks and food at the start of the evening and live music we see it very much as a celebratory event and not a ceremony. Our venue, by its nature is busy and noisy, and with a heatwave this week it was hotter than ever. For many, it is all part of Latest Musicbar’s charm, a fact that many a comedy act will no doubt verify. We are a cabaret venue, not The Royal Albert Hall.

With the increasing success and size of the two festivals we have this year created a new voting system for our awards, in which we have embraced public opinion by asking audiences to both nominate and vote for the shows and events that they liked.

The website voting system had over 1,000 events listed and despite the scale of that, it has proved to be an excellent way of gauging public opinion.

Given that this was the first time we had run this system we have been delighted by the scale of audience engagement in the awards and also by the performer and producer engagement as they used social media as well as conventional publicity channels to promote what they were doing.

It was interesting to see that Fringe audiences were far more likely to nominate and to vote than those going to Brighton Festival shows, and next year we will be working very hard to increase audience engagement across all the events.

By the last Friday in the festival we were already getting a clear indication of how the voting was going, and before the process was closed, some performers and venues were contacted and invited to attend. These were meant to be people who, at that point ,were in the top five within a category.

Unfortunately this seems to have been misrepresented, which is at the root of the complaints about the awards made by Sameena Zehra and reported by Chortle. When she was contacted it was not made clear that she was at that point in the top five but not necessarily the top three. This is clearly our mistake and we are sorry that she was subsequently not in the final top three. But to suggest that our action was intentionally cruel is both unfair and untrue. 

Sameena Zehra’s show was one of the many that we reviewed this year. Our reviewer Kenton Hadley gave it five stars and said: ‘Sameena finds humour in almost every strand of her life so far and tells her story fantastically. I was left wanting the next chapter.’

These are hardly the words of a company intent on being cruel or unkind and clearly in the view of Kenton, Sameena’s show was award material, but given that we had decided to use a public vote the year, this was not to be.

We also gave her a preview on our Festival TV programme.

Latest Media has for nearly two decades been at the forefront of publishing here in Brighton and we dedicate a great deal of time and money to the promotion of all kinds of entertainment.

We get no public funding whatsoever, and have no cover charge, so we are proud of what we achieve and our obvious success. We are lucky to be a strong enough business to be able to sustain our presence and to promote these awards and it saddens us that this year the goodwill that we have invested in them has been marred by this unfortunate incident and subsequent coverage.

I have today already received a message of thanks and congratulations from a producer/director whose cast member had won the award for best female performer, and one from a venue expressing their delight at having won their category. There are clearly people who enjoyed the event, and value their awards.

We apologise that in our efforts do do something good something like this has happened. We remain committed to the awards and we will continue to make them better and better, year on year.

  • Andrew Kay is creative director of Latest Media

Published: 31 May 2012

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.