Social distancing no laughing matter for Newcastle comedy club

By Sharuna Sagar
BBC Look North

  • Published
The Strand
Image caption,
Due to social distancing the venue will not be able to fill its 300-capacity venue

Comedians have rallied round to support a comedy club in danger of closure due to Covid-19.

The Stand in Newcastle reopens after five months on Friday with a reduced capacity due to social distancing.

But smaller crowds will affect its profits and it is looking at making two thirds of its workforce redundant with the loss of around 14 jobs.

Simon Donald, co-creator of the adult comic Viz, said it was a "tragedy" and Lost Voice Guy called it "devastating".

The Stand, which has sister venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow, has received a £25,000 grant and used the government's job retention scheme, which is due to end in October.

Richard Turner, manager of the Newcastle venue, said: "It's very bad now, we have reached the next stage in the consultation process so we are looking at redundancies across the board."

The club's owners predict it will have made losses of £400,000 across all three venues by March.

Mike Jones, managing director, said the company was surviving on its cash reserves.

"Newcastle in particular was a really successful venue but the business does require funding," he added.

"At some point simply the cash runs out and in Newcastle we would have to shut the venue."

The club, in High Bridge, put on live shows online during lockdown and performed in its courtyard with a limited capacity of 34.

Pre-Covid 19 the club, which opened in 2011, could house an audience of 300.

Image caption,
Simon Donald, who performs at The Stand, called for more tailored support for the comedy industry

Mr Donald, who performs a routine with his brother Chris called Donald Trumps, about their sibling rivalry, said it was a difficult time for comedians.

"The trouble right now is to find a large enough audience to generate sufficient atmosphere," he said.

"It's really difficult, for a lot of the comics who work here it's their only source of income."

Lost Voice Guy - real name Lee Ridley - from Consett, County Durham, performed one of his first gigs at the venue which he described as "a community".

"I genuinely believe that the country needs places like this more than ever right now," he said.

"So the thought of The Stand closing is something that I don't want to think about."

The owners are applying for support from the government's £1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund but say they are not eligible for other arts funding.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "We are also working closely with the sector to understand any issues they may have on reopening and looking at ways we can offer further assistance."

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