East Midlands Dominates The 2015 Comedy Awards
Veteran comics Tom Binns and Barry Dodds walked away with the top prizes at this year’s Midlands Comedy Awards, as East Midlands clubs and comedians dominated proceedings at a prize-giving show in Birmingham today (20th January 2016).
However, the biggest surprise of the night was Voodoo Stands Up, from the sleepy Lincolnshire village of Stamford, besting regional heavyweights like Just The Tonic and The Glee Club to secure the Best Comedy Club gong.
Birmingham acts and clubs featured heavily in the list of winners last year. However, this year saw a huge turnaround with seven of the eleven prizes being awarded to East Midlands acts and clubs.
Derbyshire-based Tom Binns beat off stiff competition from Birmingham’s Barbara Nice and Andy White to win Best Act. While Barry Dodds, based in Nottinghamshire, pushed last year’s winner Andy Robinson into second place for the Best MC prize.
Nottingham’s Scott Bennett took home the Best Live Show award, commenting: “The comedy scene in the Midlands is currently going from strength to strength. There is a rich and diverse range of comedy talent and well promoted, well attended comedy clubs that offer every genre of live comedy. It’s a great privilege to be amongst such talented people.”
For the second year in a row, Warwickshire native Josh Pugh was recognised as Best New Act – a prize he had to share with fellow newcomer Tom Christian last year. While Leicester-based Lucy Thompson, who is relatively new on the scene, beat several very experienced finalists to secure the Breakthrough Act award, pushing Brummie pun-smith Masai Graham into second place. Graham also placed second in the Best Live Show category, but didn’t go away empty handed as he won the newly-created Online Comedy prize, as voted for by the public.
The Alternative Act award, another new category introduced for this year, went to Shropshire prop-meister Roger Swift, with Black Country favourite Johnny Sorrow as runner-up.
Also new this year was the Best Small Club prize, which was a two-way fight between a couple of independent comedy club chains, with the long-established Funhouse Comedy pushing tenderfoot FAF Comedy into second place to secure the title.
The Best Open Mic Show award was a three-way battle, with The Holly Bush, well known for being a comedian favourite and home of the World’s Smallest Comedy Festival, eventually winning the category. Honourable mentions went to the runner-up, Birmingham’s Roadhouse Comedy, and the third placed NCF Canal House show in Nottingham.
Black Country chain CAN Comedy, run by brothers Andrew and Paul Nightingale, was runner-up in the Best Comedy Club category and subsequently received recognition with the subsidiary title of Best West Midlands Club. And NCF (Nottingham Comedy Festival) who run a monthly gig at Nottingham’s Canal House won the subsidiary title of Best East Midlands Open Mic Show.
The final award of the evening went to Suzanne Rowland from Leicester Fridge, who received the Outstanding Contribution prize for dedication to her local grassroots comedy scene.
Introducing her to the stage, Alex Hylton, from The Exchange Comedy Club, explained: “Suzanne is at the very heart of the growing Leicester scene and is very much an unsung hero. She’s in the background of almost every comedy night in Leicester, be that as show manager, promoter, sound tech, accountant, or very occasionally as a performer. She is the beating heart of Leicester’s comedy scene.”
Comedian Ian Hall, who runs Club Smashing, said: “Suzanne is just relentlessly supportive. That goes from the ideas and input into Leicester Fridge meetings to actually making it happen i.e. taking to the streets in costume to promote it, front of house, tech-ing, keeping performers informed about what’s happening, even accounting! She’s a fab performer and is happy on stage but selfless in putting others first. She’s always enthusiastic, and always there when you need her. Basically, if Sooz is involved, you know things will run real smooth.”
Dave McGuckin, from the Comedy & Cocktails club, added: “Suzanne Rowland is the invisible heart and soul of Leicester’s comedy scene (and probably most of the brains as well). She has been at the forefront of some of the best comedic entertainment in this city for years; currently taking the form of her work with the Leicester Fridge, which simply wouldn’t function without her. She demands no thanks or recognition for the effort she puts in, which is exactly why she deserves it more than anyone else. She has dedicated herself to making people laugh in everything she does – be it through the organisation of comedy events, or attending a funeral in a chicken costume, Leicester’s comedy scene in 2015 has been supported, advised or organised by Suzanne at nearly every turn.”
Brummie comedian Jay Islaam, who heads up the Awards Committee, commented: “The Midlands Comedy Awards were established to recognise the huge number of hard working and talented people in our regional comedy community. These are the individuals who bring laughter to thousands across the Midlands and beyond every year, and this Awards Gala is our big annual celebration for the regional scene.
“The inaugural awards last year were very well supported by the industry and the public, with more than 1000 votes cast, which was amazing. However, this year has far exceeded all of our expectations. In total we received more than 4000 votes, which is truly astonishing, and it’s wonderful that so many people have taken part.
“This year, we introduced a handful of new categories, including the Online Comedy award and the Best Live Show award, as well as a separate category recognising the Best Small Clubs in the Midlands.
“It’s been a very exciting night, with performances by some exceptionally gifted comedians, and a wonderful celebration of the huge amount of comedy talent across the Midlands region. I’d like to congratulate all of the winners. I’d also like to thank the hundreds of people in the comedy industry, as well as the wider public, who took part in selecting the finalists and deciding the final results.”
The Awards gala was hosted by Barry Dodds, and featured performances by award nominees Scott Bennett, Johnny Sorrow, Phil Pagett, Josh Pugh, Lucy Thompson, Masai Graham, Stevie Gray and Bruce Edhouse.