News: Leicester Comedy Festival Carries Out Survey Assessing Impact Of Coronavirus On Comedy Industry

News: More Comedy Companies Receives Lifeline Grants

The Leicester Comedy Festival has revealed the results of their survey carried out to assess the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on the live comedy sector.

The live comedy sector may change beyond all recognition in the next 6 months if the Coronavirus lockdown continues much longer, according to the results of a survey published today. What’s more, very few comedians, promoters or industry businesses are receiving any government financial support, nor any relevant information which could help them during this time. These are the results of an industry survey carried out by registered charity Big Difference Company, producers of Leicester Comedy Festival, the longest running comedy festival in Europe. The most recent festival took place in February 2020, before the current UK lockdown situation began.

However, on a positive note a significant number (37%) of people responding to the survey have said whilst the impact will be significant on their businesses, they have confidence they will bounce back.  

Over 140 comedians, promoters, agents and those involved in the live comedy sector have responded to a survey carried out to assess the possible impact on the sector of the Coronavirus.  Big players in the sector, including Live Nation, Manfords Comedy Clubs, Get Comedy, IMWP and Frog and Bucket Comedy Club all contributed alongside comedians, including Arthur Smith, Phil Nichol, Robin Ince, Bilal Zafar, Charmian Hughes, Katie Pritchard and Harriet Braine.  Promoters and producers who took part included Alex Hylton, Tiernan Douieb, Hils Jago, Red Redmond and Brid Kirby. 

Of the 140 responses, 69% were comedians/performers, 18% were promoters and 4% agents/managers. Others included Festival Directors and venue owners. 97% of those who responded are based in the UK and the vast majority (98%) have had to cancel work as a result of the current situation. 

Leicester Comedy Festival Founding Director, Geoff Rowe, who put the survey together said “we were beginning to get an idea of how Coronavirus and the situation might impact on our business, and were putting together plans based on a few different scenarios.  However, we also thought we could take a lead on trying to find out what the impact has already been, and might be in the future, for our friends and colleagues involved in the live comedy sector. 

As a sector we don’t have a professional membership association, or anything similar, to speak on behalf of us all.  This does make it very difficult for people like the government to contact us collectively, or even view us as a significant sector.  We know Leicester Comedy Festival has a massive economic impact of over £3million each year, so if we combined the economic impact of the 140 businesses who have taken part in our survey, it would be massive.  This is another part of the economy which is being significantly negatively affected by the current situation.  It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that such a small number of businesses in our sector have been able to obtain financial grants and support to help them at this time.”

Robin Ince, who contributed to the survey, said “In times of anxiety and disorder, it can be forgotten, or even seem rather silly, to take time to examine what may seem to be frivolous delights for another time. I have seen how many people during isolation have been encouraged by how the comedy industry has found ways to create nonsense. We may have no skills, but at least we can try and make the people who actually have some tangible use, a little happier while they are using their skills. It's good to see that this report shows positive reactions in the comedy world and also that it has the foresight to examine how we can start working out how to secure a future for as many people in the comedy world as possible.”

Charmian Hughes, a comedian who contributed to the survey, said I have been massively impacted upon by the current situation, like many comedians, with international shows cancelled mid tour, UK gigs all gone, major festivals disappeared. But this also affects promoters, agencies and venues. So while I think the sector will bounce back at some point depending on how long social distancing will be kept in place, I do think the very nature of live comedy could change more than anyone has imagined.”

Between them, the people who responded to the survey claim they have lost in the region of £3million so far and also think the negative impact on the live comedy sector will be felt in excess of 6 months. Optimistically perhaps, the majority of the responders (36.5%) maintain that though the current lockdown situation has had some impact on their careers, they will bounce back. However, a very similar number of responders (36%) are saying it’s too early to say and the longer the situation goes on, the worse it will get.

Almost 30% (29%) of responders have said they could hibernate for 6 more months before they will have to consider their future in the sector. However, worryingly, 35% said they would have to consider their future if the situation goes on for as little as 3 more months. Over 50% (51%) have not received any government, or similar, support, and more than that they probably won’t bother seeking it in the future.  Only 15.3% have already secured some government financial support, while the remainder think they will probably try and get some support at some point. 

The majority of people responding to the survey have said they have not been able to generate any new income streams over the past few weeks. Most people (36%) are getting their information from friends and networks, with a similar number (29%) not really getting any information which is directly linked to their work. Only 8% have said they have found useful information on comedy related websites. However, 65% of people responding said they would absolutely benefit from having more information available which was directly relevant to the live comedy sector.




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