We need to lobby hard for the comedy scene we love | By David Elphick of the Live Comedy Association

We need to lobby hard for the comedy scene we love

By David Elphick of the Live Comedy Association

I first entered the world of live comedy in 2001 as General Manager at the Jongleurs comedy club in Nottingham and have been involved in the industry ever since. 

Ever since those heady days of four shows a week and meeting the future stars of comedy I have had a passion for the industry.  Memories include an amazing Christmas run with Patrice O'Neal and Micky Flanagan, an open spot from Michael McIntyre, and trying to get Lee Evans on stage as he was convinced no one would laugh at him!

Since those days I have owned clubs, managed venues and shows, worked with Jason Manford helping him set up Manford’s Comedy Clubs, had a stint as chief executive of the Leicester Comedy Festival and most recently I have set up my own brand,  Daves Comedy, and the associated Kick-Off comedy clubs across the UK. 

I have employed hundreds of people over the years and helped the careers of some household names in my own small way and I am very proud of that.

Once live comedy gets into your bloodstream it’s difficult to consider doing anything else and even after nearly 25 years in the industry I still get that buzz when a new act smashes it on stage and the audience leaves with smiles on their faces – and, boy, is that a precious thing these days.

When Covid-19 appeared on the scene, it sent the whole industry into meltdown. Venues closed overnight, shows were cancelled and all the people in the industry were suddenly without work and the future was totally unknown.

The Live Comedy Association was formed and I was honoured to be appointed to the board as a director with initial responsibility for liaising with promoters from across the UK and feeding back to the Board the opinions of promoters. The LCA campaigned fearlessly for live comedy to be recognised and supported as an artform and helped secure funding to keep the industry alive. Ut was an amazing achievement from everyone involved in the LCA.

After Covid, the industry slowly recovered and there was some inactivity from the LCA and it was on the verge of being closed. However, Jessica Toomey – managing director of Manchester’s Frog & Bucket – and I were passionate about the need for it to continue, and we took over last year.

Since then we have been slowly bringing the association back into its role of campaigning for and representing the live comedy sector. There is no bigger honour for me personally than to be co-chair of the Live Comedy Association alongside Jessica, a true champion of the industry.

Given the current economic and political landscape we are absolutely convinced that there needs to be continued support for live comedy as an art form and as an industry. The survey of the industry we are currently undertaking with the Centre for Comedy Studies Research at Brunel University London is the first step in a long term plan to keep live comedy at the front and centre of discussions and policy decisions around the arts industry.

The survey data is all being held securely and independently by Brunel University London and those taking part don’t have to provide any private or confidential information.  We need the data in order to speak on behalf of the sector and help fight the corner for people working across the UK.

The information we generate will really make a difference when decisions are made by central and local government.  We need to lobby harder to get decision-makers to include live comedy in their strategies and policies; in the same way in which they shout about live music, opera or theatre. 

I believe we need to do this in case support is ever needed should we face what we faced in Covid-19 or any other situation which threatens the industry we love and support. We already have interest from national media who are keen to report on the findings of the survey.  We are also discussing with politicians about what support might be needed but without knowing more about the size and scale of the sector, our work will be limited. 

As co-chair of the Live Comedy Association I personally implore as many people as possible, who work within the live comedy sector, to take five minutes out of your day to complete this survey – you will help make a real difference and a change . 

Just imagine what the arts and culture landscape would be like in the UK without a thriving live comedy industry -my opinion is it would be a rather dour and less exciting place.

• The survey is here and is open to responses only until Sunday.

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Published: 4 Jul 2024

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