Your Place Comedy debut is a stream dream of a Yorkshire living room hit

Stream team: Your Place Comedy compere Tim FitzHigham, left, and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson on screen during April 19’s online gig

REASONS to be cheerful part one. The first Your Place Comedy night, streamed live from Mark Watson and Lucy Beaumont’s living rooms to yours, was a big success.

Compered by Tim FitzHigham, Sunday’s online fundraiser for ten small, independent northern venues in Coronavirus shutdown drew more than 3,500 viewers.

“That’s considerably more than their combined capacities,” says a delighted event co-ordinator Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer, who manages the Selby Town Hall arts centre.

“The show went even better than we had imagined, to say the whole project was put together from scratch in the space of two weeks by three people with no live streaming experience!” 

Reasons to be cheerful part two. “The show was free to watch on Facebook and YouTube, with an option to donate. We received £3,500 in donations, which will now be split between the venues,” says Chris.

Joining together in this rolling initiative to put the fun into fundraising are Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and  Rotherham Theatres.

“In a nutshell, I was frustrated that the traditional relationship between venue, artist and audience – the venue providing the artist with income and the audience with entertainment – has been has been eroded for the foreseeable future by Covid-19 and I wanted to find a way to re-create that,” says Chris.

“So, at a time of huge uncertainty and upheaval in the Coronavirus lockdown, including for the live entertainment industry, I got these venues from around Yorkshire and the Humber to come together to provide our audiences with some much-needed laughter during these difficult times, each chipping in a small amount of money to put on Sunday’s live stream.

Lucy Beaumont: “Rather bizarre bedtime story”

“Their contributions to Your Place Comedy go towards paying the artists a guaranteed fee at a time when all live income has been taken away, and, in exchange, venues get a show to sell to their own audiences as one of their own, helping maintain those vital relationships with audiences they have nurtured over the years.”

Reasons to be cheerful part three. “Both Lucy and Mark were fantastic. Mark is relatively experienced when it comes to live streaming and was comfortable enough with the format to perform in his pyjamas,” says Chris.

“For Lucy, it was a first foray into ‘audience-free’ comedy, but her set was pitch perfect – even featuring a rather bizarre bedtime story! – and broadcast live from the pub that her husband, [comedian] Jon Richardson, has built in their house.”

How did the format work, Chris? “We were very aware that one of the limitations of live streamed comedy was a lack of audience interaction, so we devised a function that allowed viewers to send messages directly to the acts,” he says.

“This worked incredibly well and really gave the show that extra feeling of intimacy and warmth that you get from watching comedy in a small venue environment.”

Before Sunday’s inaugural show, Chris said: “If the first one is a success and this looks like a sustainable model, I would hope to do several more through the lockdown period and possibly beyond.”

Reasons to be cheerful part four. “We’re now planning a second show, tentatively scheduled for Sunday, May 3, with two new acts on the bill,” he says. “Watch this space.” Then watch when the line-up is confirmed.

Should you still be wondering what exactly was Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont’s “rather bizarre bedtime story”…, you should have been watching!