Interview with Glasgow Live International Comedy Festival Sarah Watson

2017 will mark the 15th Anniversary of the festival (well done!) How have you managed to sustain the longevity and growth over the years?

Thank you! Growing the festival and doing different things every year has always been important to us. We are a small dedicated team of true comedy fans (some of us have been here since the festival started) and year on year we put a lot of energy into discovering new acts, strengthening the festival’s relationship with venues across the city and finding out more about what our audiences want to see. We are lucky to be supported by our new title sponsor Glasgow Live along with Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and Event Scotland and that is also vital to our growth in the long term. Glasgow audiences are well renowned for their love of comedy, but how much of the audiences made up of nearby visitors and tourists? You’re right that the Glaswegian crowds are legendary and the great atmosphere at gigs is something that we know comedians from further afield really enjoy playing to and is one of the reasons that they visit and come back again and again. The independent evaluation we commission shows us that about half of our audience are now coming from out with Glasgow which is great, as it’s always been our intention to promote Glasgow as an exciting destination. We’ve also maintained a really strong local support in the city which has been so important to the overall growth. We hope that for some people the festival means a gig popping up in their local bar, and for others a big stadium show will be the reason they make the trip to Glasgow.

You’re right next door to the city that hosts the biggest arts and comedy festival in the world. Does that in anyway impact on potentially growing the GLICF?

We don’t think about the Fringe in that way, it’s a very different type of festival and takes place at more or less the other end of the year so it doesn’t really affect what we do, plus we focus purely on comedy in all its forms which isn’t the remit of the Fringe. The fact a huge proportion of the comedy industry arrives on our doorstep in August is actually hugely beneficial as it creates a hugely diverse showcase we can access really easily. There’s room in Scotland for a huge variety of arts and culture events and I like to think we are all part of the same ecosystem and add to each other rather than having a negative impact. It’s often commented upon how the Edinburgh Fringe that Scottish acts are somewhat over shadowed, does the GICF give homegrown talent a better platform to shine? We don’t compare ourselves with the Fringe, but giving a platform to local talent is a huge part of what we do. The West of Scotland has a great comedy pedigree producing acts such as Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges, and we’ve always been really committed to putting the huge local talent centre stage. This year we have big names like Susan Calman, Fred MacAulay, Des Clarke, Craig Hill, Janey Godley, Iain Connell and Robert Florence, and a whole host of shows from up and coming acts like Richard Gadd, Fern Brady, Darren Connell, Ashley Storrie, Scott Gibson, Larry Dean, Scott Agnew and Jamie Dalgleish, plus a residency at McPhabbs with the collective CHUNKS. We have a track record of showcasing people early on in their careers and it’s always rewarding to see those acts develop and start playing bigger and bigger rooms. There’s an impressive line up of big name acts and those looking to break out, how do you attract the bigger names and who is responsible for the programming? We’re very proud of this year’s programme, and it’s great to be bringing people like Jimmy Carr, Al Murray, Stewart Lee, Russell Howard, Bridget Christie, Omid Djalili and Sue Perkins to the city. People know that the festival offers superb quality – being in such good company and playing Glasgow’s outstanding venues is a big draw for comedians. The programming is done by the Festival Director and the Festival Manager and it is a year round job – as soon as GICF 2017 is finished we will start planning for 2018!

Has the GICF had a wider impact on the comedy scene in Glasgow outside of the festival period?

We like to think the festival has a positive impact on Glasgow’s comedy scene – it has certainly grown since we started out fifteen years ago. The festival encourages people who might not have ever gone to a stand up gig to take a punt on a show that’s nearby and doesn’t cost too much, it helps venues who might not have put on comedy before to give it a go, and it inspires people who have never taken to the stage to try performing for themselves – I think all of those things can only be good for comedy in Glasgow year-round.

What do you recommend visitors to see and do before their comedy ventures in the evening?

On the weekends there are shows from lunchtime onwards so I would recommend people seek them out and go for a full day of laughs! Check out venues like Yesbar, McPhabbs, Hug & Pint and the Stand Comedy Club and you’ll find shows at all times of the day. Get on twitter and check @glasgowcomedy you might pick up a cheeky ticket offer for the evening’s show. You might also pick up an offer from a festival partner for a pre show meal.

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