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Leicester Comedy Festival reveals dates for 2021 event – which will feature stand up from local MP

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Great news, comedy fans – Leicester Comedy Festival will return in 2021, and the dates of the event have today been revealed.

Big Difference Company, the charity that has produced Leicester Comedy Festival every February since 1994, and The UK Kids’ Comedy Festival since 2019, has announced that both festivals will be running from February 3 to 21, with special measures in place to comply with current government COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Big Difference has also announced a very special fundraising event, due to take place in June 2021, featuring Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jon Ashworth MP performing stand up comedy for the very first time. 

The Stand Up Challenge will feature the MP and contestants from the Leicester business community and aims to raise thousands of pounds for the festival and registered charity.

Comedians Angela Barnes, Ed Byrne, Larry Dean, Angelos Epithemou, Tez Ilyas, Rosie Jones, Tony Law, Stewart Lee, Zoe Lyons, Al Murray and Iain Stirling are among the 100+ names confirmed for Leicester Comedy Festival, with further acts and events announced over the coming months.

Zoe Lyons will be at next year’s event

Geoff Rowe, founder and Director of Leicester Comedy Festival and The UK Kids’ Comedy Festival said:We are frankly delighted to be back in 2021 with our two festival programmes.  Since the end of our most successful festival to date back in February this year, the world has changed beyond all belief and there have been times when, like many people, we weren’t sure what the future would hold. 

“The support we have received from venues, promoters, comedians and the entire festival community has been amazing and it feels so incredible to know we won’t be missing a year.  Whatever happens between now and February, the festivals will take place as we are developing a programme of live and online events.

“I know how painful it has been for colleagues and friends who have had to cancel shows and festivals over recent months and I’m incredibly grateful that we can continue to celebrate British comedy with our festivals.  Things may look a bit different in terms of what we are presenting but there will be the usual mix of household names, and the very best new and emerging comedians, appearing live and online under the festival banners.”

The 2021 festival will see a return of many of the festival’s trademark special events including Q&As with special guests, seminars and discussions, and the hugely popular UK Pun Championships and #UKPunday on Monday February 8. The UK Kids’ Comedy Festival will include workshops in schools across Leicester and Leicestershire, in addition to community events and performances.

The annual Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Competition is a traditional highlight of Leicester Comedy Festival but for 2021 the competition has been postponed until June.  For fans of the event, a ‘Best of Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year’ show on Saturday, February 22, will see past winners and nominees taking to the stage in front of a socially distanced audience.

Partners for 2021 include Union Jack Radio, De Montfort University and Leicester City Council.  New partners for 2021 include NextUp, the worldwide subscription video-on-demand platform specializing in stand-up. 

Big Difference Company was recently awarded funding as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The funding will help sustain the festival through the current crisis and will also allow the charity to work with more comedians who have seen bookings dry up over recent months.

The Stand Up Challenge fundraising event has taken place each year since 2015 and has raised significant amounts of money.  Participants receive mentoring from comedian Anthony King, who provides support with writing and rehearsing the 5-minute stand-up routines.  All participants are encouraged to raise money to help sustain the festival and the community projects delivered by Big Difference Company throughout the year.  Previous projects have included working with children and young people, people with disabilities and older people.

Jon Ashworth MP, said: “they laughed when I said I was going to do stand-up, well they ain’t laughing now ….I can’t believe I’ve agreed to do stand-up. But it’s all for charity and sitting opposite Boris Johnson in the Commons has given me plenty of material….”

Laura Arends, CEO of Big Difference Company, said, There is plenty of space available for more brave people to sign up for our Stand Up Challenge and join Jon and the other contestants in what is a unique opportunity to support our work.  We are thrilled to have already secured the support of such a range of people and we hope together we can raise plenty of money for our charity and Leicester Comedy Festival.  The project is a huge amount of fun, and we will remind all the contestants of this when they are standing at the side of the stage ready to perform on the night!  We are all genuinely in awe of those who take up the Challenge but we know from previous years that all the participants get a huge amount of support from each other as well as the audience on the night.

Leicester Comedy Festival regularly featuring more than 1,000 comedians, performing in more than 90 venues to an audience of 135,000. The festival also has an estimated economic impact of more than £3million per year to the local economy.

As part of the festival, the charity works closely with local community groups to ensure the smile spreads as widely as possible by organising workshops and activities, which engage hundreds of people each year.

The Leicester Comedy Festival 2021 programme will be available online from 12.30 today, Wednesday, November 4.



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