Two much-loved south east London venues are opening their doors again after closing due to the Covid-19 crisis, bringing live comedy back to the area.
The Amersham Arms, a haunt for students and locals in New Cross, reopened last night and is hosting its first live Happy Mondays comedy night event this Monday, with a programme of socially distanced gigs planned for the autumn. A short distance away, Greenwich’s popular comedy club, Up the Creek is opening its doors on Thursday, with events planned every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Covid-19 has been very tough for the Amersham Arms, which usually hosts over 250 gigs and events a year at the back of the pub, as well as putting on exhibitions in its Take Courage art gallery.
“For over a decade we have been a creative hub for everyone from musicians, songwriters and DJs to comedians and artists, and we doesn’t just attract audiences from the local London area but from far beyond the capital, so closing our doors has had a huge impact’, explains Andy Palmer, its general manager.
Andy sought help from the Music Venue Trust, the charity campaigning to help save the UK’s independent grassroots venues from imminent closure. He says it was a “a huge shot in the arm” when he heard that the instrumental post-rock trio Public Service Broadcasting were offering to play at the Amersham as part of a series of one-off intimate fundraisers by some of the UK’s biggest bands, including Elbow and Everything Everything.
“It was such a great piece of news when we heard that Public Service Broadcasting had asked to do a gig here and it has given us hope that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. They usually play big festivals, and have even played the Royal Albert Hall, so we can’t wait to have them play our stage here in New Cross.”
A crowdfunding campaign was launched in mid-August to give people the chance to win tickets to see the gig. Within a fortnight, 1,160 supporters had pledged £11,213. The money raised has been split between the Amersham Arms and the Music Venue Trust Crisis Fund.
“It is wonderful that people are prepared to help and that gives us hope for the future,” says Andy.
The Public Service Broadcasting gig will take place next year, but for now the Amersham Arms has an eclectic mix of socially distanced events planned varying from Big Smoke Bass UK doing Brasseoke (with guest singers rather than audience members) on Friday to two nights by Mark Morriss, who made his name fronting indie outfit The Bluetones, who will be showcasing new material on October 16th and 17th. The Happy Mondays comedy nights, whose gigs took place via Zoom during lockdown, will now have events every week rather than every other week.
To meet Covid-19 guidelines tickets will only be available in advance, there will be table service and a limit of 90 people.
“It will be different from how it was, but it is so great to have live events back,” says Andy.
Up the Creek is reopening on Thursday with interactive comedy night The Blackout, hosted by Luke Toulson, where 15 comedians get five minutes each and the audience decide who makes the cut. Its Friday Night Show will feature comedians including Ria Lina and Ray Badran and the Saturday Night Comedy line-up will include Russell Hicks and Emmanuel Sonubi.
As with the Amersham, all events will be socially -distanced with the audience seated at tables. Tickets can only be purchased for pairs or groups of four.
Christian Dennis, the general manager, said: “Everyone at Up the Creek is really looking forward to getting our doors back open. It’s been a lot of planning but we can’t wait to get the acts back on stage and enjoy some live comedy again.
“Initially we will be opening at a slight loss but it’s a call we’ve had to make to get our business back up and running and support the comedy sector as a whole. We are opening our full Thursday – Sunday shows straight away. In March, when we had to close, we had just finished working on a fuller schedule which opened the venue up to other art forms and events so we’re looking forward to a point where we can look at those again too.”
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