Birmingham Comedy Festival

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Birmingham Comedy Festival
Location(s)Birmingham, West Midlands, England
Attendancec. 10,000+

Birmingham Comedy Festival is an annual arts festival in the city of Birmingham. The festival takes place throughout the city for 10 days during October. While primarily focused on stand-up comedy, it also includes films, theatre, cabaret, visual arts, spoken word, music, dance.[1]


Birmingham Comedy Festival has been drawing attention to the city's vibrant (and often unsung) comedy scene since 2001 when the debut festival hit the road running thanks to appearances from Peter Kay and Sean Lock. Since then, the festival has grown into one of the largest independent arts festivals in the region. [2]

BBC Birmingham reported that 86,000 people attended the festival in 2009[3] - the same year Michael McIntyre headlined with a run of shows at the city's National Indoor Arena.[4]

Over the years the festival has attracted some of the biggest names in comedy, including Lenny Henry, Michael McIntyre, Lee Evans, Peter Kay, Jimmy Carr, and Sarah Millican.[5]

Acts from the city and surrounding area are a key focus for the festival [6], with repeat appearances from such local comics as Joe Lycett, Janice Connolly aka Mrs Barbara Nice, Jo Enright, James Cook, Josh Pugh, Gareth Berliner, Andy White, and others.

Key venues include The Glee Club, Birmingham Town Hall, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, mac (Birmingham), Old Rep, Old Joint Stock Theatre, Cherry Reds, The Victoria pub, The Electric, Birmingham and comedy clubs around the city.

Regular events include the Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award and the Birmingham Comedy Festival Free Half-Dayers, introduced in 2015 and running across two venues in John Bright Street. [7]

In 2019 the festival won two What's On Readers' Awards, for Best Midlands Arts/ Cultural Festival 2019 (covering West Midlands county, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Worcestershire) and Best Birmingham Arts Festival 2019.

Breaking Talent Award[edit]

The Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award was introduced in 2014 and is open to new, emerging and early career acts from the West Midlands. Inclusion is by invitation-only and the competition takes place on the first Friday of the festival at The Glee Club. The annual competition aims to recognise and support 'breaking talent' from the region, offering the winner a vital step-up on the comedy career ladder.[8]

Josh Pugh, who won the title in 2015, went on to be crowned English Comedian Of The Year in 2016. [9]

Winners are as follows:

2014: Andrew McBurney [10]

2015: Josh Pugh [11]

2016: Harvey Hawkins [12]

2017: Kai Samra [13]

2018: Laura Monmoth [14]

Awards and Nominations[edit]

  • 2019: What's On Readers' Awards: Best Midlands Arts/ Cultural Festival - Winner [15]
  • 2019: What's On Readers' Awards: Best Birmingham Arts Festival - Winner [15]
  • 2018: What's On Readers' Awards: Best Midlands Arts/ Cultural Festival + Best Birmingham Arts Festival - Shortlisted (two categories)
  • 2017: What's On Readers' Awards: Best Midlands Arts Festival - Winner [16]
  • 2017: What's On Readers' Awards: Best Festival In Birmingham - Runner Up
  • 2016: What's On Readers' Awards: Best Arts Festival - Runner Up [17]


In 2014, the festival company performed a script-in-hand stage adaptation of The Goon Show featuring two scripts by Spike Milligan. [18]

The company revived The Goons in 2017 for a Midlands tour which included two sell-out performances at Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham. The tour focused on two episodes, The House of Teeth and Jet Propelled Guided NAAFI. [19]

The same year the company premiered two lost 1950s radio scripts written for Tony Hancock by comedy writer Larry Stephens as The Lost Hancocks: Vacant Lot.[20] The "genteel comedy" was described as "wonderful" by the Express and Star. [21] Further performances have followed including a sell-out appearance at The British Library in 2018. [22] [23]


  1. ^ Birmingham Comedy Festival: About, retrieved 9 Feb 2018,
  2. ^ Visit Birmingham, retrieved 9 Feb 2018,
  3. ^ BBC Birmingham: Comedy Festival - What's So Funny About Birmingham? 1 October 2010 (accessed 12 Feb 2018)
  4. ^ Birmingham Mail, Michael McIntrye Tops Bill (21 Aug 2009)
  5. ^ TimeOut
  6. ^ Birmingham Living
  7. ^ What's On, Birmingham Comedy Festival announces free half-dayers, accessed 9 Feb 2018,
  8. ^ What's On, breaking Talent Award 2016, accessed 9 Feb 2018,
  9. ^ Chortle, English Comedian Of The Year 2016 (5 Jul 2016) by Steve Bennett
  10. ^ British Comedy Guide, Andrew McBurney wins Birmingham Breaking Talent Award, 7 Oct 2014
  11. ^ TamworthInformed, Atherstone man is Breaking Talent award winner, 5 Oct 2015,
  12. ^ Chortle, Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award 2016 review by Steve Bennett, 8 Oct 2016,
  13. ^ Chortle, Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award 2017 review by Steve Bennett, 7 Oct 2017,
  14. ^ British Comedy Guide, Laura Monmoth wins Birmingham's Breaking Talent Award 2018, 6 Oct 2018,
  15. ^ a b [1]Birmingham What's On Winner Announced ... via Facebook, 15 March 2019
  16. ^ [2]What's On Readers' Awards Winners 2017
  17. ^ [3]What's On Readers' Awards Winners 2016
  18. ^ Birmingham Mail: Birmingham Comedy Festival gets under way with a recreation of The Goon Show by Roz Laws, 24 Sept 2014
  19. ^ BirminghamReview
  20. ^ Express and Star, Lost Hancock scripts brought back to life, 7 Oct 2017,
  21. ^ Express and Star, Lost Tony Hancock Scripts, 6 Nov 2017,
  22. ^ What's On Stage, The Lost Hancocks, Sept 2018,
  23. ^ Tony Hancock Society, New Performance of Vacant Lot, circa summer 2018,

External links[edit]