Statement from Pete O'Neill, recent Director - Not to be confused with that other P O'Neill!
You may be aware that I'm standing down as the Director of Belfast Comedy Festival having founded the festival in 2010 and managed 5 successful offerings. Having received a number of messages seeking clarification, I would like to put on record a number of points. This years festival has been the most successful in its history with 64 events (16 sold out) and audiences in excess of 6k. Not only are we solvent but governance-wise we are in good shape with a dedicated committee and supportive stakeholders. However I think its the right time for me to bow out in order to hopefully allow a new director to build on this success - I will however stay on the committee. I've enjoyed the experience of working with some extremely talented performers and learned alot - but running a festival of this size is not for the faint hearted! The festival board will examine possible options to replace this unpaid and busy position but I'm leaving to get my life back! I know this appointment won't be easy but perhaps with your help you can work with the committee to provide Belfast with the comedy festival it deserves.
I'm immensely proud to have helped develop the largest comedy arts festival in ireland, programming 227 events over 5 festivals with a total audience approaching 25k. Over £500,000 has been generated for the local economy from our average audience spend with in addition approx £100,000 spent on local contractors from our ticket sales and public grants. ACNI has estimated that every £1 of funding generates a return of £3.62 to the local economy. This would suggest that our income of approximately £100k generated over £360,000 for local venues, contractors and suppliers.
However despite this record and our ability to attract significant tourists and out of town visitors to Belfast, we haven't been able to attract significant funding from the private and public sectors - in fact we ran our recent fest on an annual budget of £14k which severely limited our ability to further develop it. Although we are grateful to the small grant support from BCC, ACNI & DSD/DfC, we have been unable to secure any core funding and have never been able to access Tourism NI funding (so much for supporting a city of festivals!). Funders specify that you need staff in place in order to be eligible to apply for core funding - but without core funding, we can't possibly employ staff. This Byzantine device effectively prevents relatively new festivals from ever becoming sustainable and reinforces the perception that the current set up is a closed shop.
Be that as it may, I think as a volunteer-led festival we made a pretty good job of putting Belfast on the comedy map and I would like to acknowledge the support of our committee members, but particularly the contribution of my comedy comrade Graeme Watson who worked with me and Gerard 'Shep' Sheppard in building the festival, bringing his unrivalled knowledge and support for the local comedy scene to bear. Other committee members such as Stephen Mullan, Don Leeson, Caroline Wilson, Eavan King, Dónal McBrien, Anthony Barrett and Lindsey Mitchell have made important contributions alongside previous members such as Nuala McKeever Julie Hastings, Eleanor Gill, Alan Irwin, and Paul McGarrity
I would also like to formally applaud the creative team behind the festival - Al Reddick and Beth Van Sistene at RV - and long term partners such as Pádraig Ó Tuama & Paul Doran at Tenx9; Richard Lavery at Accidental Theatre; Dawn Richardson at Framewerk Gallery, Donal McGilloway at Queens Comedy, Simon Magill now The Mac, Vicki Armstrong at Crazy Cat Comedy and others too numerous to mention. Sean Kelly at CQAF, Christine Osborne O'Toole at BCC, Sonya Whitefield at ACNI and Brian Young at Laganside grants have also been very supportive. Finally my long suffering partner, Tess, deserves applause for putting up with my all consuming 'hobby' and sharing the financial risks that often confronted the festival.
I'm probably biased but I think the festival has provided an important showcase for new / emerging comic talent and spurred ACNI to formally recognise comedy as a proper art form. We've also looked at serious issues such as comedy and the conflict, censorship and the support needed by local performers to develop their craft. Most importantly we entertained thousands of comedy fans and had a laugh!
So I think I have done my bit. The show will hopefully go on - I just won't be as involved as much........Thanks for reading this rather long post!
Sarah Kendall – Belfast Comedy Festival Review By Nerys Coleman • The Black Box • Thursday 06 October ’16: Why do we lie? What is that intangible desire to exaggerate, embellish, even invent stories? Is it really to make us appear more interesting? Or is it actually for the greater love of good, old-fashioned entertainment? The concept of reality versus fiction is the cornerstone of Kendall’s Edinburgh Fringe act 'Shaken'. Fortunately, in a world where fronting as a perfect human being with a perfect life has become an online epidemic, stand-up remains the dependable environment where we can openly relish the less aesthetic symptoms of the human condition. http://culturehubmagazine.co.uk/7720-2
That's all folks. Thanks to everyone who helped with this years offering and to Peter O'Neill who is retiring as director. We had 64 events, over 150 performers and 12 days of comedy mayhem. We couldn't have done this without loyal audience members; artists; volunteers; bookers; venues such as the Black Box, Belfast Barge and The MAC; partners such as Accidental Theatre, Crazy Cat Comedy, Framewerk & Queen's Comedy Club; our wonderful design and website contractor RV Brand and everyone else who helped us on our way. Final shout out to committee members Graeme Watson, Stephen Mullan, Dónal McBrien, Don Leeson, Eavan King, Anto Barrett, & Caroline Wilson. We may not be around next year but keep laughing!
A great finale tonight for our festival. Anton saved us and the Horne Section had us all conga'd out! Terrific performances. Thanks to everyone who attended. We will sign out on a high note. Festival round up later today
I really loved my short time in Belfast, thanks a lot to Alice McCullough for asking me to come and do the gig and to everyone who contributed to what felt like a night that had warmth to it. I will remember it for a long time. I will be back in Belfast for a short holiday soon I hope. All the best, Rob.
How lucky we are. Notorious performance artist ANTON flies into the Black Box for the 2016 Belfast Comedy Festival to deliver his sermon to save the city of Belfast. Using any means at his disposal, ANTON will probe, prod and provoke (in some cases literally) in his quest to find out what really makes Ulsterfolk tick, and help you help yourselves. He is the answer. He is the antidote. He is ANTON.
What the audiences say:
"I need to sit in a dark room for a little while"
"He made me do things"
with support from local 'comedian' Sean Tanuvasa
Here is the final (final?) bill for this festival. Hope you enjoyed the 60+events. Apologies if we over did the social media promo. We didn't really have a budget to use other advertising platforms so thanks for sticking with us. We've had a terrific programme of events this year (with the odd exception) but after 5 years we now face an uncertain future so this is probably our last bill. But what a great way to end with stand out gigs from Mr Mess Amadan and the Horne section Alex Horne, both at The MAC as well as Adam Turns as Anton in the Black Box and some lovely Laugher Yoga in the afternoon with Victoria E Armstrong. More details on belfastcomedyfestival.com. Thanks for your support
We have four great events to close out our festival tomorrow (Sunday) with a family show featuring the lovable Mr Mess in The MAC followed by the amazing Alex Horne in the evening slot. Anton is also coming to the Black Box with a spanking new show from Adam Turns and we even have some laughter yoga with Victoria E Armstrong to ease away all the stress from running this festival! Phew, we've had great some fun but the end is nigh!
We have a packed programme of 9 events for you today (Saturday 8 October) with a Music Hall walking tour, a fun workshop on comedy improv, a Kate Bush themed parody exercise (both in the Crescent Arts Centre) and some terrific comedy theatre and stand up later in the evening with Bec Hill in the Mac.
Its also the last chance to see our cartoon exhibition at Framewerk Gallery and catch Two Sore Legs at the Grand Opera House. Unfortunately Dancercise, Dr Nick's Travelling Circus, The Sick Sense and Paul Currie are sold out. We finish tomorrow, so this could be one of the last opportunities to sample our festival. More details at belfastcomedyfestival.com