I live in Leicester. It is this little place that you may have heard of that is slap bang in the middle of England. We have a swish new shopping centre, two universities and an outstanding reputation for being slap bang in the middle of England. Oh, and we have a rather sizeable annual comedy festival in February, functionally named The Leicester Comedy Festival. In fact, it is now Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival after partnering up with the home of witty banter last year.
Not everything happens in London you know? Well, there is now a preview show in January that is held in London. But that’s neither here nor there. Actually technically, it is both here and there if you want to get into semantics.
As a festival veteran, I always look forward to February as every year brings new memories. A few years back I managed to get tickets for Tim Minchin before he really exploded onto the UK scene. This turned out to be a very intimate gig but for some reason, the audience was scattered all over the place. After his first song, Tim told everyone to forget what seats they were given and told the audience to fill any empty seats at the front because he wanted to see all of us. After a few minutes of co-ordinating the audience like his orchestra, we were treated to one of the greatest shows I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. It was one of those shows where you walk out of the venue complaining that your face hurts from smiling too much.
The festival started back in 1994, hosting 40 events over 7 days and attracted around 5000 people and generated some solid media attention and has been growing steadily ever since. It is now regarded as one of the top 5 comedy festivals in the world. That means it is up there with the shining lights (if not weather) of the Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne and Just for Laughs Montreal.
2012 saw Dave’s Comedy Festival hosting a staggering 410 shows at 50 venues over 17 days. This brought an estimated 75,000 visitors to the festival, with around 90,000 predicted for 2013. So when I said they were steadily growing earlier, I may have underplayed it a little.
As cliché as it sounds, there really is something for everyone. So if you enjoy laughing, you should probably try and come along. Like I mentioned before, Leicester’s in the middle of England, so it’s not like it’s difficult to reach. There is even a venue in a curry house, Dave’s Curry House, to be precise. In fact, there are venues everywhere. Including the world class Curve Theatre, De Montfort Hall, student unions, rooms above bars, restaurants, and even the wonderfully named Crumblin’ Cookie coffee shop.
Try thinking of a comedian on the circuit right now, chances are they have done or are still doing the Leicester comedy festival. It has starred the likes of Bill Bailey, Jimmy Car, Jo Brand, Alan Davies, Paul Merton, Barry Cryer, Simon Pegg, Harry Hill and Sarah Millican to name but a few.
Last year I was lucky enough to get tickets to see Greg Davies & Friends at De Montfort Hall. Greg Davies was the only confirmed act, but to our delight the friends he’d brought along were Russell Howard and Rhod Gilbert. Before his final 20 minute headline slot, we were warned that Rhod was severely hungover and still drunk from the night before. But an hour and several beers later, Rhod had obviously lost track of time and had performed his next national tour for us. We didn’t mind the slight overrun.
One of my personal favourite shows is Adam Buxton’s BUG show at Phoenix Square. Working with the same format as the show he had commissioned for Sky Atlantic, Adam showcases some of the most wonderful and unusual videos from the world of music complimented by the insane opinions of the world of YouTube comments. It’s not your normal standup comedy show, but it is full of laughs and a real treat. I even got to meet Adam after his first Leicester show two years ago and bought him a drink. As one of my comedy heroes, it ranks up there as one of my greatest highlights in eight years of attending the festival.
Finally, if you’re looking for a really unique experience, I would point you in the direction of Hotel D’Comedie. Set in a swanky hotel, you get to go on a tour and encounter and interact with four comedy acts set within the luxury suites. I believe one of the acts a few years ago performed in their pyjamas while in bed! Comedy in a onsie doesn’t get much more memorable than that.
The festival is held all over Leicester from the 8th February and the full listing of events is available on the Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival website. If you enjoy a good laugh, this is a 17-day holiday in comedy heaven.
**Sorry, this festival is over now. We know tons of other great places you could go though.**
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