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A third of comedy venues say they’ll close within the next six months

The government’s £1.57bn emergency fund for the UK culture sector doesn’t appear to factor in comedy, when the majority of the scene’s venues are at risk

Written by
Katie McCabe

At the beginning of this week, culture secretary Oliver Dowden and chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government would be releasing a £1.57bn emergency fund to support the UK culture sector. Sounds like good news, right? But here’s the rub: while the government’s statement claims the funds will be used to bail out museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues, there is not one single mention of comedy.  

The omission is not an uncommon one, for example, the comedy industry has never received public funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Music, and Sport (DCMS). But like all other areas of the UK’s culture sector, independent comedy clubs and artists have been badly hit by the lockdown. Today the Live Comedy Association (LCA), which was set up just eight weeks ago, released a report stating that a third of the UK’s comedy venues could close within the next six months, while 77.8 percent of live comedy venues are facing closure within the next year. 

The results of the report are taken from the Live Comedy Association’s survey of 663 individuals working across the UK’s comedy industry. It also revealed that more than three quarters of performers have earnt less than 5 percent of their pre-lockdown estimated income from online performances, and 45 percent of respondents have given serious thought to leaving comedy altogether.   

In response to the report, the LCA has launched the #SaveLiveComedy campaign, calling for culture secretary Oliver Dowden and Rishi Sunak to make the comedy industry eligible for some of that £1.57bn emergency funding. 

Speaking about the report, comedian Kiri Pritchard-McLean said: ‘We risk extinguishing an entire generation of comedic voices unless the government provides financial support. Comedy has been far better at providing representation than other art forms, we are accessible for audiences and performers alike but if you take away our stages and our ability to earn money the accessibility goes and only the richest survive. I don’t think I trust the richest and most privileged in society to be writing the policy and the jokes.’ Comic Nish Kumar added: ‘This report is a sobering and important read for the entire comedy industry. I hope that this can convince the relevant parties of the need to intervene and provide assistance where needed.’

So how can you help? You can start by signing the LCA’s open letter to the UK and national governments demanding funding. When that’s done, scroll through your camera roll for the last memorable comedy gig you went to and share a pic along with the hashtag #SaveLiveComedy on Twitter or Instagram to help bolster the campaign. Post a photo of a performer owning a heckler, your favourite comedy club or your friend’s first comedy set – whatever you can find. Saving ‘crown jewels’ like the Royal Albert Hall is important, but £5 comedy gigs in London’s dank basement venues need protecting too – so share #SaveLiveComedy as much as you can. 

Confused about which venues in London have reopened? Find out more here

The arts sector is getting a £1.57bn government bailout – but what does it all mean?

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