Council plans new Royal Greenwich Comedy Festival

Greenwich Comedy Festival853 exclusive: Greenwich Council is canvassing arts groups on holding a new comedy festival to replace the Greenwich Comedy Festival, which has moved to Spitalfields.

The GCF will now be known as the Brick Lane Comedy Festival after switching to Allen Gardens, next to the old Shoreditch Tube station.

The organisation which runs the Old Royal Naval College, the Greenwich Foundation, decided it wanted to concentrate on smaller events and no longer wanted to play host to the GCF’s large marquee; however, organisers are planning to run events in Greenwich later in the year.

Greenwich Comedy Festival also lost its funding from Greenwich Council (it got £15,000 in 2010) – it’s not known whether Tower Hamlets is funding the new Brick Lane event, although its logo appears on publicity for it.

But now Greenwich Council has asked arts groups if they are interested in holding a replacement event. An email sent to various organisation reads:

The Royal Greenwich Comedy Festival will provide an exciting and distinctive offer. We are looking for an outstanding organisation or individual to curate, develop and deliver a programme of innovative and high quality Comedy events in Royal Greenwich.

The Royal Greenwich Comedy Festival will include a diverse range of Comedy programmed in July or September 2013.

The Key Aims of the programme will be to:

– deliver a high quality sustainable comedy festival offering a mix of free and ticketed entertainment for members of the public
– contribute to the economic development of the borough by developing awareness of `brand Royal Greenwich’, boosting tourism and generating inward investment
– maximise benefit to local businesses and the visitor economy
– maximise benefit for the local creative economy

In addition the events will make a strong statement about Royal Greenwich:

– as a place for high quality arts, venues and cultural activities
– as a place of heritage unrivalled elsewhere
– as a place where interesting things happen in unusual place

For full details, fee and contract terms please see the information pack.

I haven’t been able to get confirmation of whether the council is funding the planned festival. That said, just saying “brand Royal Greenwich” on stage might attract a few giggles…

One thing that the GCF’s withdrawal from Greenwich highlighted to me is just how poor Greenwich’s day-to-day arts scene actually is. It’s all very well having big showpiece events in the Naval College grounds, but what legacy does the GCF leave, especially since it was getting council funding?

Admittedly, Greenwich does have (the fairly pricey) Up The Creek, but there’s very few venues regularly putting on music or comedy in the town centre – I can only think of the Lord Hood and Oliver’s jazz bar for anything worthwhile in terms of music (plus the Pelton Arms in east Greenwich), although the Greenwich Tavern – recently freed from the clutches of Inc Group – is showing signs of imagination (incidentally, the The Greenwich Series tonight is worth a look).

Plus, obviously, there’s much more to the borough than Greenwich – in the 80s the Woolwich Tramshed was a famous comedy venue, but Comedy on the Common has been trooping on in Plumstead for a few years now without much recognition. In short, it does seem odd to have concentrated all that effort on a one-off event in the north-west corner of a large borough. Maybe whoever takes on the Royal Greenwich Comedy Festival will change things. Should be interesting to watch.


  1. I do think it’s a shame that this event is moving elsewhere (although they’ve told me to ‘watch-this-space’ as they are hoping to host something in Greenwich later in the year) but I did feel when I went last year that it was more of an ‘import’ than truly greenwich focussed. Apart from the Meantime beer a lot of the food stalls weren’t Greenwich based and it was rather too large to have that ‘local’ feel.

    I’d have to disagree about the local comedy scene being poor though – Up The Creek often has big names practicing new material before tours. I went to their Sunday Special last night and enjoyed Ardal o’ Hanlon (Father Ted) and Adam Bloom for just £6!

  2. My thoughts exactly, the Greenwich Comedy Festival is just not Greenwichy enough maybe, I wonder what would make it Greenchy enough?

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