He thinks it's all over

Shock as Lee Hurst shuts Backyard club

Lee Hurst has unexpectedly closed his East London comedy club after almost a decade in business.

The Backyard Club in Bethnal Green has suddenly declared that Saturday’s shows were to be the last, and the club staff say the venue is unlikely to reopen.

A notice published on the club’s website says simply: ‘Due to reasons beyond our control, the Backyard Club is closing down. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.’

It asked ticket-holders for future shows to contact the box office, and recommended the Comedy Café in Shoreditch as an alternative club.

A box officer worker told Chortle: ‘Lee didn’t want to do the shows any more. I can’t give you any more information.’

The closure comes ahead of the traditionally lucrative pre-Christmas period, when larger comedy clubs can charge a premium for office parties. The club had been offering £30-a-head packages on Thursdays and Fridays in December.

Hurst opened the club in 1998, the same year he left the BBC One comedy sports quiz They Think It’s All Over. Its interior was custom-built for comedy, and Hurst himself laid the floor using skills he learned as a builder.

He regularly compered there, and performed occasional one-man shows. His next was due to take place on January 20 – but it was targeted by thieves who stole 35 of the £12 advance tickets.

The Backyard was under threat in 2003 when a proposed redevelopment would have meant the building being demolished. Hurst launched a campaign to become mayor of London in the following year’s election, partly in protest at the plans.

Hurst, 45, suffers from a debilitating form of arthritis in his spine, called ankylosing spondylitis. Last year he made a tearful phone call to a newspaper, threatening to kill himself because of his anguish at the way his dying father was being treated in hospital.

Published: 19 Nov 2007

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