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We’re having a laugh

by EN

One former GES EMEA employee and an exhibition photographer discuss how they’ve looking for laughs as a business survival strategy.

When the environment that has provided you with a career, business and livelihood is torn from you by a pandemic, there are very few options left. You can accept the inevitable, crumble under the pressure or take a massive leap of faith and do something unexpected.

This is how Dan Corderoy, former GES EMEA event production director and founder of Vista Events, providing plant hire for exhibitions, along with trade show photography Hannah Isted and comedian Alistair Barrie created the Clever Monkee Comedy Festival when other events were cancelling and the industry was grinding to a halt. These things usually begin with a phone call and this one is no exception.

Isted explains: “Alistair and I were discussing the rise of drive-in cinema and wondering if the same could be done for comedy. After speaking to a lighting and sound engineer friend, he warned of the challenges with the lack of audience feedback for the comedian. It was then I was called by Dan Corderoy, another old industry friend.”

Corderoy says: “I have always liked to keep in touch with industry friends and colleagues by calling them once in a while to check-in. During the pandemic I have been calling a little more often. Hannah and I chatted about the comedy idea and started to speak about more than just a drive-in. The conversation moved on to a night of comedy, then nights of comedy and we had the gem of an idea for a comedy festival. But could we make it happen?”

Comedian Barrie had earned the princely sum of £150 from live comedy since the start of lockdown and had traded stand-up for the role of stay at home dad.

He says: “I was supposed to be playing the New Zealand Comedy Festival, Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Festival so I was desperate to get back on stage. Organising a comedy festival with a bunch of friends sounded like a great idea.”

Isted takes up the story once more.

“The trail of phone calls continued. It was suggested that I speak to Dean Rees at the East of England Arena as he had hosted comedy and had successfully run two Covid 19 compliant events.”

Calls were made and The East of England Arena secured as the venue. Barrie worked his magic and brought together a line up of comedians to fill three slots on each of three evenings. The line-up was set – Alistair Barrie, Marcus Brigstocke, Sara Barron, Seann Walsh, Jen Brister, Daliso Chaponda, Ed Byrne, Chris McCausland, Sindhu Vee and Hal Cruttenden. Corderoy wraps the story: “This has been an amazing journey and an example of friends, family and excolleagues pitching in to help, every one of them keen to do what they can.

I have worked on events of all sizes and varying complexity but this has come together at speed, supported by so many people that we have got the Clever Monkee Comedy Festival ready from concept to launch in under a month. This has been done by a huge collaborative effort in the face of adversity. We are all buzzing with excitement, from a place where everything looked bleak, this has been atonic for the soul. Laughter is definitely the best medicine.”

The Clever Monkee Comedy Festival runs at the East of England Arena from 3-5 December.

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