It’s been less than two months since the launch of our flagship gig in Blyth and I am practically buzzing with excitement at the momentum this venture has developed in our community since my brother Gav got his hands on it.
As many of you may know I’ve ran Punch-Drunk Comedy gigs in Cramlington since 2009 and often filled the function room of Concordia Leisure centre, the place where I spent 9 fun-filled years working as a leisure attendant before the stand-up comedy whirlwind swept me up. That gig was more of a hobby to me and I just ran it sporadically, popping up a gig when I felt like it rather than it being a regular event. The gig saw some fantastic acts come through it’s doors such as Sarah Millican, Chris Ramsey, Nick Helm, Jason Cook, Rob Rouse, Mick Ferry, Justin Moorhouse, Daniel Sloss and Tom Stade… to name just a fraction of the talent that dropped by over the years.
As my own stand-up career filled my diary and took me to far away places like Australia for extended periods of time – not that I’m complaining – the Punch-Drunk gigs became less frequent and in September 2014 I was served with the news that the function room we’d found our residence in was being refurbished and would no longer be available for our purpose. I thought this was the end of Punch-Drunk Comedy but it was only just the start. It had been simmering for six years and it was just about to boil over.
At about the same time I lost my venue, Gav had quit his job in traffic management. A broken back no less had seen him on long term sick for the previous two years, after major spinal surgery and excruciating rehab Gav had returned to work to find out he was no longer physically capable of the laborious tasks required of him, so uttered the words “Fuck this” and in went his notice.
Over a few drinks and a doobie it all fell into place, we found a new venue in Blyth, Newsham Side Club, which was offered to me back in 2011 when I had neither the time nor the desire to run a second gig. We checked to see if the offer was still open even though four years had past, it was, it was that simple.
This venue is twice the size of Concordia’s and to go monthly wasn’t going to be an easy task, but with Gav putting in the leg-work to engage the community, correspond with the local press and juggle the administrative and production duties, the gig snowballed. He has pulled together our inner circle of friends to help with posters, tech set-up, box office and floor staff to give the gig a real sense of community. He has taken a full hands on approach towards managing the audience with some nice personal touches such as a welcome letter upon ticket collection and opening text communications for bookings to his personal phone, getting to know our audience not just herding them in like cattle. This approach has seen the gigs sell out within days of their release and developed a huge core of regulars.
We decided immediately that we’d use our reach in the community to support local charity “Princess Ellie’s Trust” a charity founded by Blyth’s own Rachel and Dan Long, which celebrates the legacy of their beautiful daughter and raises money for the meningitis research foundation and the paediatric intensive care unit at the RVI. Princess Ellie’s trust receive 10% of our ticket sales and have a stall at the back of the gigs where our guests can receive wrist bands, pens and the child hood snack of our generation ‘shit-balls’ for a small donation.
With the venue booming, our partner charity raising funds and awareness for a fantastic cause and the community coming together in force on a monthly basis, all it leaves me to deal with is the fun task of choosing my favourite comedians from all over the land and bring them to our uniquely wonderful, often forgotten town of Blyth. Challenge accepted.
I shall see you all on the 3rd Monday of every month.