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Maria Kempinska MBE established and opened the first Jongleurs club in 1983 in Battersea, London. In 1985 Kempinska met her business partner John Davy, and together they built the Jongleurs brand. The company evolved into a corporate brand, specialising in entertaining larger parties.
By 2000, there were eight Jongleurs venues across the UK. Regent Inns plc, the owners of Walkabout, bought the clubs. Kempinska and Davy retained certain rights to the brand name, as well as creative control over booking acts.
With Regent Inns in financial trouble, the Cardiff venue was closed in January 2009 and in October that year, Regent Inns went into prepacked administration, allowing for a management buy-out which resulted in the formation of Intertain UK. As a result of this administration, Jongleurs venues in Southampton, Nottingham, Bristol, Oxford and Bow (London) all closed. The sites in Oxford and Nottingham were later reopened by rival chain The Glee Club. As a result of the management buy out, Intertain UK decided to end its relationship with Jongleurs and all the remaining clubs were rebranded as Highlight in January 2010.
Kempinska and Davy set about building a new chain of Jongleurs clubs. Hammersmith opened a month after the Regent Inns collapse and Bournemouth, Notting Hill and Clacton followed shortly after. The advertising campaign for the new Bournemouth club attracted criticism and legal action for featuring images of Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre and Jimmy Carr without their consent. Momo Leisure secured a franchise and opened a new club in Nottingham in 2010. They recently[when?] secured a £2m investment planned for new Jongleurs clubs throughout the country. Jongleurs Blackpool opened at The Winter Gardens, Blackpool on October 15, 2010 but closed[when?]. In September 2010 they opened a new venue at Novus Leisure club Sway in Covent Garden and three more in Tiger Tiger venues.
Nightclub operators Luminar licensed the brand to 12 of their venues around the country in 2011. Later in the year, Luminar was put into administration and although all the clubs hosting Jongleurs nights avoided the first wave of closures, Swansea, Basildon, Birmingham, Newcastle upon Tyne and Norwich were all closed by February 2012.
Jongleurs currently operates 8 Venues:
Birmingham Bar Risa, Bristol The Cuban, Cardiff Oceana, Glasgow Mansion House, London: Covent Garden Sway, Camden Lock17, Leeds Maluko, Nottingham Oceana, Portsmouth Tiger Tiger, Reading The Bowery District, Southampton Oceana, Watford The Walkabout,
There have been several television programmes which have featured Jongleurs comedy clubs, including Cabaret at the Jongleurs on the BBC and Live at Jongleurs on ITV. Live At Jongleurs was later syndicated to the Paramount Comedy Channel featuring performances filmed at the Camden venue in the mid 90's. Comedians to have featured on Jongleurs TV shows include: Jo Brand, Rory Bremner, Julian Clary, Phil Cool, Steve Coogan, Jack Dee, Michael Mcintyre, Peter Kay, Ruby Wax, and Paul Chowdhry.
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- BBC News: "Bristol's Jongleurs to Close Down"
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- Chortle: "Lee Evans Sues Jongleurs"
- Morning Advertiser: "Elphick wins Jongleurs Nottingham franchise"
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