OPINION: The Comedy Capital of the North - Harrogate Theatre’s David Bown

Earlier this week we hosted Michael McIntyre, 10 years on from his first appearance here at the theatre.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 3:16 pm
Maisie Adam
Maisie Adam

On his previous visit he created a great atmosphere over two days developing material for his stadium tour utilising feedback from our staff and audiences.

He was also fantastic with my young son and spent much time talking to him about being a comedian.

Harrogate Theatre has gained an enviable reputation as a development hub for some of the most high-profile comics in the country.

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Our annual Comedy Festival was launched back in 2009 and we soon gained national recognition as the perfect stopping off place post-Edinburgh Fringe, acquiring the title Comedy Capital of the North.

It all started with a visit from Noel Fielding and The Mighty Boosh, test driving material before a huge UK tour.

The excitement was tangible, there was almost hysteria around town and it provoked interest from many other comedians.

Not long after The Boosh, we received a phone call from Eddie Izzard (who identifies as ‘she /her’), who said she was in the mood for a number of impromptu gigs and did we have any availability the following week?

We agreed simple terms and conditions and the show sold out online in minutes.

I’ll never forget watching her sound check as she improvised material by having conversations with the cherubs on our circle facade. Very funny and pure genius.

Lee Evans came along one Sunday armed with a stack of A4 sheets, which had one joke written on each sheet.

If the joke got a laugh he put it to one side, if not, he screwed the paper up and threw it on the floor.

The audience felt complicit in shaping his next show.

John Bishop made his Harrogate debut at our Comedy Festival back in 2009, playing to around 200 people and now he returns to generate new material for his stadium tours.

Back in 2014 he paid us a visit to do just that, and I asked him if he knew what he was going to talk about, he said, “Not a clue - have you got a copy of the local newspaper?”

I found him one and he created a two-hour set based on stories from The Harrogate Advertiser, to a full house.

Over the past decade and more, there has been a constant flow of some of the very best talent from the world of comedy here in Harrogate.

Our range of auditoriums genuinely allows for the measured development of talent, from the 60 seat studio to the 500 seat main auditorium at the theatre, through to the 1,000 seat Royal Hall and the 2,000 seat Convention Centre.

Sarah Millican, John Richardson and James Acaster have all become very successful stars in entertainment but started their careers performing in our studio space.

Sarah Millican still returns to that space to develop work.

Finally, there is our own Maisie Adam.

Maisie was born in Pannal, attended St Aiden’s and Harrogate Youth Theatre and says that the Comedy Festival was her inspiration for wanting to become a comedian.

It’s hard to believe that she only got her first real success back in 2017, as she is now on so many TV shows.

It was great to see her as a BBC pundit on the build up to the FA Cup Final this month.

Maisie will be part of our Comedy Festival this year and steps up from the studio to the main house.

She really is brilliant and will continue to rise, grab your tickets while you can for her gig here in October.