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Laughter Lines - Leeds Comedy Festival

leedscomedyfestival // Thu 19 Apr 2012 08:45 am

My name is Patrick Turpin, and along with Natasha Rosenthall, am one of the two organisers of Laughter Lines | Leeds Comedy Festival. The launch of the festival is just 10 days away so it's all hands on deck in terms of putting in place our final promotional drive. Natasha and I are two 23 year-old Leeds Uni graduates, and so we don't have an endless amount of experience when it comes to putting on city-wide events on this scale. What I do believe however is that we have the know-how to stage a fantastic event and anything lost due to our lack of experience we more than make up for with the enthusiasm and passion we share for both live comedy and the city.

John Barran's recent eulogy to the Leeds Guide in Issue 7 of The Leeds Debacle was both a fantastic tribute to an organisation heavily routed in the Leeds community and a sad reminder of how damaging this current period of austerity can be. I arrived as a student in 2007, a wide-eyed 19 year-old Southern-fairy. At the time, Leeds struck me as a city with a real spring in its step and this seems to have continued despite the inevitable economic knock-backs that this decade has seen. This is something no doubt bolstered by the fantastic roster of independent businesses and hidden treasures that really have the city's interests at heart. Places like Jumbo Records, Hyde Park Picture House, Brudenell Social Club, and Seven Arts are fantastic for Leeds, and it seems as though the community really values them (as much as they value us).

And here we are trying to kick-start our own piece of new creative enterprise, whilst stand-up comedy dominates our TV screens. The current television stand-up comedy boom has gone hand-in-hand with the collective belt-tightening that has gone on across the arts. Stand-up comedy is traditionally cheap to put on and this has led to producers clamoring to televise the latest live stand-up sensation. Yet, there is something slightly soulless and ubiquitious about a lot of the stand-up regularly broadcast into our living rooms.

For us, this festival is about filling a cultural gap as opposed to a commerical one. It was our goal when programming this year's event to stage the kinds of shows that can't be seen every night of the week in any city around the country, and a big part of that was putting together a roster of the best venues our city has to offer. We're really pleased to have been able to spread our shows across Leeds and have performances in rooms that don't typically see comedy. Natasha and I spent a long time chatting about what shows would offer a broad programme. Comedy Club 4 Kids (Carriageworks | 28th April | 4pm) is just one of our shows that could be a fantastic way of widening the reach of the festival, and taking brilliant comedy beyond the stereotypical boozey Saturday night out, providing we get the audiences that is.

A few friends have commented that Laughter Lines | Leeds Comedy Festival is very much an alternative comedy festival, and you can call a lot of our programming alternative, but staging a festival with some of the most exciting and dynamic live acts around is likely to head down a slightly alternative route, and we're thrilled about the range of performers we have put together. We have selected acts that offer a balance of both variety and appeal, but what's important to remember is that a huge part of our future success is the level of trust our audience places in us to select some of the best new comedy around. We need to earn that trust, and this year's festival is about doing precisely that.

It would be wonderful if, over the next few years, we can become an organisation that the people of Leeds really value and hold in high esteem. We held our first festival last year as part of a student project, and just as Leicester Comedy Festival started in 1994 as a student event and went on to become the country's largest comedy festival, who knows what the future holds for Laughter Lines | Leeds Comedy Festival?

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