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Leeds Laughter Fest

5 October 2015
Leeds Laughter Fest
Leeds Laughter Fest is now in its third year, having evolved from the five days of stand up that 2013 presented. This year is all about presenting comedy that appeals to all, with each event offering a different style of comedy in a different but well-loved venue in Leeds including sketch, presentation, music and even 5-a-side football!

Leeds Laughter Fest Article 1 Photography by Mark Wheelwright

Ben Brown aka Ben Randm is setting his sights a little higher this time round, with ambitions to replicate the kind of community based success that other events such as the all day music festival Live at Leeds has garnered, including the multi-venue element: “Leeds is blessed to have loads of beautiful buildings and I’m trying build a bit of a community. If you look at Live at Leeds, that’s genius because it’s putting on bands at different venues, bringing that venue into their consciousness.” Ben uses the Corn Exchange as a good example of this; of late it has become a venue dedicated to independent retail space, but people might not consider the cavernous ‘pit’ a viable events space. But on the 5th of October, half way through proceedings, The Corn Exchange will host Bettakultcha’s dynamic live presentations where Mock the Week meets TedTalks, this time of course focusing on comedy. Each speaker will be given five minutes to talk about 20 slides with no doubt hilarious results. Ben tells me how his creative/off kilter side also tends to lead him to procrastination, but the idea behind the Bettakulcha slides gives an order to the chaos, a bit more regimentation. “Moving forward” Ben continues, “If I prove myself with this festival then I have another idea in the pipeline; it’ll give me a platform to introduce a few more ideas like this one,” his eyes twinkling.

Transforming the Corn Exchange into a venue allows more time for people to marvel and appreciate what a stunning building it actually is. Other celebrated venues that Ben has booked are places like Belgrave; “They’re my family are Belgrave; they’re nice people.” Another collaborator he’s brought in are Morning Gloryville who are responsible for the ‘morning raves’ held at Belgrave, which are far more wholesome than they sound, incorporating yoga, dancing, smoothies and street food.

Newer venue The Brunswick is also playing host to the festivities; “I’m creating the world’s first ever stand up bar crawl. It’s gonna be three venues: LAB where we’ve got two acts on, then food at Bar Soba with a drink on entry and then the final act at The Brunswick.” We chat about the various chaps who have clubbed together for the opening of the bar/dining room/events space from their respective locations (applauded venues like The Brudenell, Belgrave and Tall Boys). "That’s what it’s all about, guys helping each other out behind the scenes. A lot of those lads aren’t from Leeds, but they’ve settled here and brought their own little style, and that’s what’s good about Leeds”. We agree that rather than feeling overly exclusive Leeds takes new faces under its wing and lets people explore new avenues. Leeds’ diverse population means that people are always up for variety, so that competition amongst venues is really more about choice.

“I think that there is a lot of great comedy in this City but I’m quite avant garde, a bit of a splinter cell doing my own thing; I don’t believe there is a ‘comedy crowd’ as such. I don’t want to just go after the same people.” Ben’s vision centres completely on the idea of inclusivity; regardless of age, gender and race there is something intended to tickles everyone’s funny bones. “There’s a lot of people who used to go clubbing who don’t fancy that anymore”. The events are good ways to punctuate the week without it being a heavy drinking session, promoting the idea of seeing the venues as more than just occasional weekend visits. “I’d love this to be a prominent event on the comedy calendar if this goes well this year, and in the interim put on more ad hoc events, really build up the brand”. Ben points out that in eight years’ time, and ten years from when Leeds Laughter Fest first started, it will be 2023, the year that Leeds is bidding for the Capital of Culture. His longstanding ambition is for this event to be a part of that, alongside a few dream bookings that remain close to his chest. ‘Then when I’ve done that, I’ll just sort of quietly walk away and live on a beach somewhere.”

“Ultimately, I’m just trying to unite the folk together; I love this City…”

Laughter Fest Schedule 2015

Thursday 1st October

The Joint – 22:00 GET BAKED Presents ‘Gang Bang Karaoke Disco’

Friday 2nd October

Hifi Club – 19:00 The Not So Late Show with Ross & Josh

Saturday 3rd October

East Street Arts – All Day Family Fun Day

East Street Arts – 19:00 Get A Grip Wrestling Fans Gathering Extravaganza (In association with Freshly Ground Comedy)

Sunday 4th October

Hyde Park Picture House – 12:00 Hyde Park Picture House Short Film Showcase

Monday 5th October

Leeds Corn Exchange – 19:00 BettaKultcha

Tuesday 6th October

Northern Monk – 19:30 Sh!ts ‘N’ G!ggles with Paul Foot

Wednesday 7th October

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen – 6:30 Morning Gloryville Presents Service With A Smile

Oporto – 19:00 Performance & Cocktails

Thursday 8th October

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen – 19:30 Sounds Well Sketch!Eeee

Friday 9th October

Various Venues – 18:00 La’fter Work Drinks

Saturday 10th October

Hyde Park Picture House – 13:00 Clueless 20th Year Anniversary

Sunday 11th October

Venue and time to be announced 11-a-side Charity Football Match

Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.