'We need help to sustain this success' | Melbourne Comedy Festival chief issues a warning © Nick Robertson

'We need help to sustain this success'

Melbourne Comedy Festival chief issues a warning

Organisers of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival have warned  the event’s success is at risk from spiralling costs.

This year’s festival was the biggest yet – but bosses say they need extra government and commercial backing to maintain its scale.

The 26-day festival – the world’s biggest event dedicated solely to comedy – drew to an end last weekend, with a final tally showing that more than 800 performers took part in more than 8,000 performances of 689 across 185 stages.

A total of 245 extra performances were added due to demand and 38 shows moved into bigger rooms to accommodate audiences. 

Festival chairman Bill Shannon said the extra visitors to the city centre provided a vital economic boost, which may be at risk without extra help.

He said: ‘With an average ticket price just over $30 (£15.70)  the Melbourne International Comedy Festival remains one of the most accessible events the city has to offer. It’s exactly what people need given the financial strain many are experiencing. 

‘We know it’s a very challenging time for many arts and music festivals and it’s evident with our event too - the escalating production and presentation costs make it challenging for the festival to survive. 

‘We may be the largest comedy festival globally but without partnership and government support it’s going to be very difficult to sustain our leading creative status and the significant economic impact we deliver for Melbourne and Victoria.’

His comments come after Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival collapsed, and amid rising fears for the future of the Edinburgh Fringe, with performers finding it increasingly difficult to meet spiralling accommodation costs.

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Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp, said: ‘I take my hat off to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for another successful year, delivering laughs and cheers to more venues than ever before. 

‘The festival draws hundreds of thousands of people into the city, with our footfall sensors recording an increase in pedestrian activity throughout the festival period, compared to last year.

‘Comedy creates an occasion for people to come into the city, catch a show and grab a meal or a drink - adding to the famed Melbourne vibe while supporting our local businesses.’

Comedian Rhys Nicholson summed up the Festival at the end of their show each night, with these words: ‘Things are a bit scary in live entertainment at the moment and festivals like this, in fact this festival in particular, are the backbone of entertainment in Australia. We need the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.’

British comic Sarah Keyworth won the award for most outstanding show at the festival.

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Published: 25 Apr 2024

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