Festival in crisis

Funding dries up for London event

London’s Comedy Festival is on the verge of collapse after  its funding all but dried up.

The fourth annual event kicks off today, but organisers fear it will be the last unless new sponsors can be found.

It had been hoped the Royal Bank Of Scotland would back this year's event, but changed its mind at short notice.

Festival director Mick Bateman said: “"It's not viable in its present form. It costs a lot of money to do anything in London, and unless people are willing to put their hands in their pockets and fund it, it won't go on."

Bateman says the nature of comedy is a factor when attracting support, too, as comics cannot be relied on not to mock the brands involved.

He said: “Comedy is a risky one for many brands. Comedians take the piss out of everything. If you are going to sponsor comedy you have to go along with that."

More significantly, the festival has failed to capture the imagination of Londoners. With a thriving comedy scene all year round, and without the investment to stage headline-grabbing shows, the festival struggles to stand out.

Bateman concedes: “It is difficult to establish yourself as something indispensable in London. There is a lot of stand-up, and it's hard to deliver something on top of that."

He says it’s now “make-or-break time” for the event: unless a sponsor for 2005 can be found in the next few weeks, it’s future looks shaky. "It has to stand on its own two feet,” he said.

Published: 13 May 2004

Today's comedy-on demand picks


The charity fundraiser, usually held at the Comedy Store, launches an online version, with Mick Ferry as host.

The bill comprises fellow circuit favourites  Eleanor Tiernan, Laura Lexx, Nathan Caton, Rob Deering and  Russell Kane, plus Paul Sinha, and Vicar Of Dibley writer Paul Mayhew-Archer, both of whom have the condition.

Click for more suggestions
... including the Good Ship comedy club and the return of Radio Wales panel show The Leak.

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