In the past week, Oliver Dowden’s miraculous £1.57 billion for the arts has received more praise than he knows what to do with. Yet there is one sub-section of the sector that remains concerned. In the words of Tristram Fane Saunders “the funny business is in serious trouble.”
The ban on all indoor performances will close an estimated three quarters of comedy venues by the end of the year, according to a recent study by the Live Comedy Association. Individual performers have estimated they now earn under five per cent of what they would under more normal conditions.
This is no laughing matter. In an average year comedy brings in £300 million on a local level for just one festival. Saunders muses: “At the Edinburgh Fringe – the largest cultural festival on earth – comedy gigs outnumber every other kind of show.”
He continues that comedy is the most lucrative of performances, considering: “You may not like Monday night’s beery stand-up comic, but they’re bankrolling Tuesday’s Chekhov.” For almost 50 per cent of arts venues surveyed by the Live Comedy Association, comedy outperforms all other genres financially.
For Kiri Pritchard-McLean, the UK’s most respected MC, the time to be worried is now, tweeting: "We churn out some of the best comedians in the world because we have a thriving live circuit like nowhere else. Gigs in every corner of the country, multiple gigs a night in cities. This is about to turn to ash."
An open letter, written as part of the Live Comedy Association concluded: “We have one simple request, to be treated like the rest of the performing arts”.